Yaletown String Quartet
When it comes to arranging the most symbolic days in life – weddings, baptisms, coming of age rituals, anniversaries – it is reassuring to know that you can find local talent to help you create the day you are seeking. In Vancouver, we are lucky to have so many skilled artists on the event-ready: designers, florists, hair stylists, chefs, musicians, photographers, videographers.
Some of the toughest planning comes around the weightiest of days: the funeral. You want to create a day that brings comfort and release for family and friends. Above all, you want to respect the life and legacy of the person who has died. You may have a clear vision for the day but, at some point, you must hand it over to others to realize.
In our house, music was central. Dad was a writer, composer and classical music producer at CBC. He had an encyclopedic musical knowledge and hosted musical luminaries in our living room.
Musical Luminary: “Is that your piano, Elizabeth?”
Nurse Mum sang in choirs and volunteered at my childhood goings on – piano festivals, orchestras. She was President of the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra long after my violin was lonely in its case.
When Dad died in 2011 and Mum a year ago March, it was clear that their funerals would have to be deeply rooted in music. There would be much Bach for both, Saint-Seans for Dad, Schubert for Mum and a collection of their favourite hymns.
Finding the right musical collaborators could have been a nightmare. But, thankfully, we were able to hire the Yaletown String Quartet.
With pedigree from Julliard and Yale University and heaps of performing experience, this is an enormously talented group. They play classical, of course, but also jazz, blues, rock and cross-cultural music. Right now, the group is some combination of Mark Ferris and Cam Wilson on violins, Marcus Takizawa and Henry Lee on Violas and Finn Manniche on cello.
Our contact was with Mark Ferris, one of their founding members and a long-time family friend. When Mark was a member of the CBC Radio Music Orchestra, he and Dad had the chance to work together professionally. Mum and Mrs. Ferris were like sisters. We were in good hands.
Mark and the Quartet worked closely with us to create musical programs that Mum and Dad would have loved. It was easy to find string arrangements for some of Dad’s favourite pieces. But, one of Mum’s proved tricky: You’ll Never Walk Alone, from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel.
If you pressed Mum for a favourite song, You’ll Never Walk Alone was it. She would ask Dad to cue up the record and they would listen to it a little too loud – Mum singing along, Dad smiling and nodding in time.
It was important to bring Rodgers and Hammerstein to the funeral, but in a live version that fit the St. Mary’s setting. Luckily, we were able to commission composer Mark to arrange it for strings. Here it is performed by Mark Ferris and Domagoj Ivanovic on violins, Henry Lee on viola and Finn Manniche on cello. It was a beautiful moment. Mum and Dad would be singing and smiling.
Written by Elizabeth Newton