On Thursday, April 11, dozens of locals seated themselves in the pews of Agassiz’s Christian Reformed Church for an evening of music.
Some were white-haired, others not even out of elementary school. All burst into applause when Argentinian pianist Nelson Goerner stepped into the room, walked on stage and sat down at the grand piano. A hush fell over the room as he looked down at the keys, and began to play.
First it was Johannes Brahms “Klavierstucke, Opus 119.” Then the music of Beethoven’s “Sonata, Opus 57” filled the room, reverberating off the walls and into the minds of the members of the Cheam Vista Classical Concert Society.
“The calibre of musicians we get, typically you would have to go to Vancouver” to see them, said John Zuidhof, president of the society.
Zuidhof was one of the first members of the society, which started in the fall of 2016 under the vision of local pianist Kirill Bolshakov.
The idea at the time, Zuidhof said, was to bring high-calibre concerts to the community. But they didn’t have much time to bring it together.
The first meeting of the society was in early November, 2016. The first concert was in January 2017.
“Until the middle of December, we just went for it, advertising, selling memberships,” Zuidhof said. “All of our performers were kind of on hold until we were guaranteed enough revenue.”
That revenue would come from a subscriptions, a model that Zuidhof said works best for small concert societies “because then you don’t have to work hard four times a year to sell enough tickets.”
Adult subscriptions for the season are $100, while seniors and students pay less. In the first year, the society sold enough subscriptions to get the concerts going. By the second season, it was sold out at 190 subscriptions (the capacity of the church) with people even coming from outside of Agassiz.
The reason the concerts became so popular, Zuidhof said, was because something like it had never been in Agassiz before.
“Harrison has their folk music, international music and so on. But we’ve never had a venue that’s given classical concerts,” he said.
The success of the society’s first three years means it isn’t going away any time soon.
Currently the Cheam Vista Classical Concert Society is saving up to buy its own grand piano — right now, it rents a piano from Tom Lee Music — but it also wants to continue seeing more classical music enter Agassiz.
We just want “a great, vibrant flow of high-calibre musicians who can continue to excite the community,” Zuidhof said. “The last concert we had … people were just bubbling with excitement. It was just such a positive experience.”
Goerner’s April 11 concert was the second-to-last concert of the season for the sold-out society. The final concert will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 8 with Quatrom.
Subscriptions for the 2019-2020 season — which will feature a return of the Atlantic String Machine and the Elmer Iseler Singers, as well as a duet between Olivia Ritchey on the harp and Sarah Hahn on the flute — will be sold at the Oct. 8 concert and at the Agassiz library.