Monday, July 9, 2012

My Mission Statement

Today I thought I'd invite you to visit a very well known part of Kelowna: the Mission Creek Greenway.    Over the nearly seventeen years that we've lived here, I think I've traversed 80 percent of the seventeen kilometre trail.  My favourite stretch is the section at the far end of Hollywood Road South.  It's the most challenging for me with some steep hills to climb but the views and the incredible variety of landscapes and vegetation make it well worth the effort.  I've only done it once, but hope to try again later this summer and post the photos here.

Today Max, Pitou and I walked our most travelled section of the creek. It's a 2.5 km loop that starts at the Mission Sports Field entrance, one of 15 access points to the trail.  We usually head east and then cross over the creek at Casorso Road heading west on the north bank of the creek until we cross back over again at Gordon Drive and continue back to where we started on the south side.  

Some sections of the greenway that are farther east are fairly close to Highway 97 and you'll can hear the sounds of the traffic as it rushes past.  Along this loop, there are a few spots where you can see through the trees and notice the trail travels through agricultural land, golf courses and ball diamonds.  The rushing sound you hear is the creek and other than the twittering of birds you can be assured of a fairly peaceful walk.

This year I've seen more wild flowers and swallow tailed butterflies than I can remember. Squirrels, robins, red winged blackbirds, sparrows, and quail are also plentiful and though I can't seem to capture the flickers with my camera, their presence is evident.
With more than 1,000 people using the greenway each day, you might think it would be a sea of people jogging walking and cycling past you, but I find I can stop and look east...

...and then west...and not see or hear a soul.

You will surely encounter a few people..

...families, seniors, cyclists, joggers, runners, pole walkers and dog walkers, all enjoying this oasis in the middle of our busy city.

And if you greet them with a smile and a "Good morning" you are very likely to receive an equally cheerful reply as you continue on your merry way.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Concerts

There are many opportunities to attend outdoor concerts if you find yourself in the Okanagan Valley this summer.  Parks Alive puts on two or three free concerts a week in Kelowna, Festivals Kelowna has a great line up at the Keloha Festival happening in Waterfront Park July 6th to 8th. I even know of a few people who hold jazz and blues jams in their back yards, but I think the best venues in the valley for sound and beauty are the wineries.  Imagine yourself in a low slung chair with green grass tickling your toes.  The evening is warm, and grape vines and mountains surround you as you sip a citrusy rosé or an aromatic gerwertz.  

If you're looking for something casual, East Kelowna's Vibrant Vine hosts local musicians starting at 3:00 on Saturdays. If you head out Lakeshore Road Cedar Creek Winery provides a spectacular view of the sun setting behind the mountains as you listen to Chantel Kreviazuk or Andrew Allen this year.  Head south some time to the Naramata Bench where a number wineries host musical events including Sunday Sounds at Elephant Island winery.  If country music is more your style Township 7 is celebrating the Calgary Stampede's 100th anniversary with great wine, food and music July 6th.

Lyle Lovett and Chris Isaacs are scheduled to rock the Mission Hill Amphitheatre July 19th and 27th respectively and last night I was lucky enough to attend Chris Botti's performance there, along with the 899 other souls who prayed away the threatening rain (to paraphrase our host Ingo Grady). 

When I purchased my tickets in March it was more for the enjoyment of a romantic night out with my husband, drinking wine in a  beautiful outdoor venue.  My impression of Chris Botti was of an easy listening, albeit talented musician who played the type of jazz overheard as you walk through the mall.   The impression was strengthened as Botti started with a ballad whose name escapes me.  He did up it a notch when he threw in a few what I call "look what I can do" riffs, delivering rapid notes that reached impressive heights.  He transitioned seamlessly into the very recognizable When I fall in Love.  This only served to further support my expectations, but once the piano player  took off with his first solo, I knew it was going to be a night of real jazz.   Damn he's good!  I thought and was then embarrassed when Botti introduced him and I discovered I hadn't recognized ten time nominated, four time Grammy winner Billy Childs.   

Chris Botti more than met the bar set by Childs and the rest of the band was spectacular with Richie Goods on bass, drummer Billy Kilson, Brazillian Guitarist Leonardo Amuedo and a synth player whose name I'm sad to say I didn't catch.  

I wasn't expecting any other performers but after the second tune we were treated to our first guest. Swathed in a glittering violet gown, pale skin bathed in matching floodlights, virtuoso violinist Carolyn Campbell was outstanding.  She joined the band on several tunes and stood in for the orchestra on Botti's version of the Miles Davis classic En Aranjuez con Tu Amor. Her dynamic, passionate playing filled the amphitheatre.

I was thrilled they performed this piece as it beautifully illustrates the very definition of jazz through inspiration, improvisation and cooperation.  Miles Davis recorded his version in 1959, influenced by a concerto for guitar written by Joaquin Rodrigo in 1939.  Perhaps as a result of time spent in Davis's band, in 1972 Chic Chorea was inspired to create his iconic Spain.  I regret I was not at his performance at the Vancouver Jazz Festival a few years ago when the audience traded fours with Chorea through one verse.  Lastly Chic Chorea's version led to the inclusion of lyrics by Al Jarreau.

Lisa Fischer, who toured with the Rolling Stones for 19 years, was the next guest.  She was an inspiring vocalist with a range that blew my mind.  Fischer matched Botti on many of the high notes and harmonized beautifully with him on others.  I basked in the liquid warmth of her bass notes on Italia and her notes that reached the stratosphere were still full and sweet with none of the harsh strain that cause many singers to fail in the high registers.

The energy of the band and the crowd was truly invigorating and audience members gave well deserved standing ovations throughout the night.  Early in the evening Botti had spoken to a young musician in the crowd named Eric and he invited him up on stage to play the drums during the first encore.

With Eric, Billy Kilson and a roadie on the drum kit, they brought Nessun Dorma to a dramatic conclusion.  And speaking of drummers I really enjoyed Billy Kilson who Sting referred to as "badass".  I find most drum solos boring, kind of like a car chase in a movie - they're fast, furious and end with a crash. Kilson was very cool.  He showed speed, technique and dynamics tempered with thought, making me pay attention as he lowered the volume of his playing...before ending with a crash. I loved how he supported his bandmates with his body's constant motion and appreciative facial expressions, unlike some guys I've seen who stare blankly into thin air or seem to be sharing some mocking secret with the piano player.

For me the true talent of musicianship comes in knowing when to keep it simple.  Chris Botti ended the night with a perfect illustration of his genius by dismissing six of his seven band members.  He and Billy Childs then gave a haunting, subdued version of My Funny Valentine, where notes were pure and meaningful.   Towards the end of the piece Childs ran his fingers over the taut piano wires, sending shivers down my spine.  The arrangement was the perfect romantic ending to the evening.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Park It!

While running some errands downtown last week I decided to wander over to Stuart Park to see what was happening.   The outdoor ice rink that opened last winter has been getting rave reviews from my friends and neighbours and I was keen to check it out.

I picked a perfect day.  It was crisp, clear and sunny and the park, located right next to Kelowna Yacht Club on Okanagan Lake, was a hive of activity.  Not having brought my skates, I had to be content watching people of all ages, from children to seniors glide around a sheet of ice as smooth as glass.

A particularly cute couple caught my attention as they skated around the rink holding hands, while Taylor Swifts "Fifteen" played over the P.A.

On the lakeside promenade, skaters of a different sort sped along the boardwalk, some on roller blades, some on skateboards, dogs trotting happily along with them. Between docks in the Yacht Club Marina, a flock of feathered skaters toddled along the ice surface, appearing to walk on water.

Overseeing it all, was the Kelowna Bear, a lovely sculpture in my opinion, that looks quite stunning at night when the park is lit up.  The Bear has had it's controversy for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the artist is from Rhode Island, and not the Okanagan.

Whatever your thoughts on the bear, Kelowna's Stuart Park is part of a very vibrant area just north of the downtown core across from City Hall.  It's worth a visit in all seasons, but particularly in the winter when the ice rink draws the community and tourists together.

Afterwards a visit to Giobean Espresso,  just up the street for a warming latte would top off an afternoon of skating perfectly!  In fact, if you began your afternoon at the nearby Kelowna Art Gallery, you'd have yourself one heck of a date.

In the summer,  I've strolled by the park a number of times and watched the Okanagan Derby Dolls doing their thing.  Looks like fun, but I think it's a little out of my league.  For now I'll be storing my figure skates in the car, so I'm prepared the next time I find myself driving past.