As good as it gets

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Last week I couldn’t stop thinking about the concert we would attend at Prince Charles Auditorium on Friday evening. I had written a little story about it in the last issue, along with a photo.

Planned as a fundraiser for the Trails for Creston Valley Society, it was put together by Mark Koenig, and would feature a cast of local talent—if we are still allowed to refer to Amanda Anderson as local.

Koenig was a natural to respond to a need for money by the trails group. He’s spent much of his life climbing mountains and working as a guide, and he is a superb singer/songwriter who counts Ian Tyson among the performers he has played with. I’ve known him since he and his lovely wife Vicky moved from Invermere to Lister, where they bought property on Phillips Road, where we lived for a couple of decades.

It was no surprise that he called upon Carl Sommerfeld to perform. Sommerfeld grew up, seemingly, with a violin in his hands. In his professional life he is a forester, so there was yet another link between music and the great outdoors. Sommerfeld seems to be able to step in and play with just about anyone, and he’s a fine vocalist, too.

That music-outdoor connection just got stronger when Koenig informed me that he had recruited Anderson to play. In an Advance feature story earlier this summer, we learned that she was back in Creston on a one-year sabbatical from her work as cellist with a symphony in Hanover, Germany, and had taken a temporary job with the Ministry of Forests, which basically paid her to hike, she joked.

The final major piece of the puzzle would include a rising star, as Koenig describes Victoria Tilling. I was particularly pleased at this news because I have been working on a feature story about this young woman who had delayed entry to a career in accounting after being involved in two car accidents. Tilling has been playing violin since she was four and in Grade 11 found herself tiring of “playing classical sheet music.” She called Carl Sommerfeld and asked “if he would teach me to play fiddle.”

Tilling moved back home last fall and has immersed herself in songwriting and learning to play piano, upon which she composes music to the lyrics she has written.

I have listened to the CDs she gave me numerous times, and cannot find any reason to argue with Koenig, who says she could be the next Sarah McLachlan. I attended a rehearsal at Koenig’s and loved what I heard—his own songs sounded even more wonderful when his voice and guitar accompanied by violin and cello. And Tilling was breath-takingly good.

We pulled into the PCSS parking lot on Friday at 7 p.m. and about 100 people were already waiting to get in. By the time we filed into the building at least another 100 were behind us.

When the music began, I was transported by what I heard. Koenig has struggled with voice and health problems in recent years, but he seems completely healthy now and his singing is better than I have ever heard it. And it was a joy to see him flanked between Anderson and Sommerfeld, whose easy communication was evident from the start. The audience responded with enthusiasm, justifiably so.

After intermission, Tilling took a seat at the grand piano and played one beautiful number, and was then joined by the trio, along with Adam and Jenn Koenig, Mark’s son and daughter-in-law, who sang backup. I was transfixed by the beauty of the sound, by Tilling’s rich, warm and confident voice, and her musicianship that put her in good company with her co-performers.

A nearly full auditorium was treated to as good a concert as we had any right to hope for, and these were our friends and neighbours, not a high-priced, intensely rehearsed travelling roadshow. All week I had been encouraging others to attend, and they raved about the show afterward.

You can’t be an expert unless you come from at least 100 miles away, someone once told me as a way of explaining why we bring in speakers and lecturers and facilitators from afar. I think we often think the same thing about performing artists—if they come from a distance it means they must be good. On Friday evening we got a lesson that taught us how easy it is to overlook what we have right in our back yard. I would not have wanted to be anywhere else on the planet at that moment in time.