The Day It All Began

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Exactly 40 years ago today, on July 12, 1983, eight people gathered for a meeting in the home of Paul Moritz on Ware Avenue. This was the first formal step in the formation of what we now know as The Valley Concert Society.

Clearly some work had already been done as the first item of business was the adoption of the Constitution and Bylaws of the society.

The election of officers followed:

  • President: Paul Moritz
  • Vice-President: Sam Morrison
  • Secretary: Neill Brown
  • Treasurer: Daphne Clift

Also in attendance were Freddy Latham, Peter Froese, Marjorie J. Nixon, and Eileen Balden.

The discussion turned to the program of concerts for the season, every one of which involved the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. The first concert was planned for November 29 and was to feature the symphony’s concertmaster violinist Gerald Jarvis along with a pianist. There was to be a concert with the full symphony in January, a woodwind ensemble from the orchestra in February, and the full symphony again in March. That was not exactly how it turned out in the end.

The involvement of the VSO becomes clear given the background to this meeting. The symphony had been reaching out to various communities including Abbotsford for several years. The performances had taken place in the Clearbrook Community Centre. A local committee had been assisting with promotion, ticket sales, and physical arrangements.

It became increasingly difficult to generate an audience large enough to support these concerts. Rather than cancel the outreach, the symphony suggested that a local society be formed to present these concerts at which the VSO would perform for a fixed fee. This meeting was the result.

Without going through all the business carried on that evening, it will suffice to note a few items of interest. Sam Morrison advised the group that he would investigate obtaining the loan of a concert grand piano from a local resident for the first concert.

The committee set the ambitious goal of selling 95% of all season subscriptions by the end of September. The desired total was never specified, but we can make some estimates with the knowledge that the planned venue was the Abby Arts Centre which had a capacity of about 700. Much of the story of the society’s first months of existence revolved about the struggle to achieve that goal.

One of the last items of business that evening was the appointment of Freddy Latham as Co-ordinator of the Society. While the minutes do not report it, a later history of the society notes that this was a paid position with Freddy receiving a small stipend for her work in this capacity.

We are grateful to this talented and hard-working group of people for their vision in undertaking this bold venture and their persistence in working through considerable challenges to create the organization that continues to bring outstanding music to the community. Two of these individuals were later recognized for their contributions when the society created two bursaries for music students in the names of Paul Moritz and Marjorie Nixon.

We look forward to celebrating this anniversary with our season-opening concert on Sunday, October 22, at 3:00 p.m.

John Wiebe - President
The Valley Concert Society