BY LORNE ECKERSLEY
We sat in our chairs at Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery on Saturday night, a hint of a breeze making the air comfortable in this often uncomfortable heat wave, and the same thought kept rolling through my mind like a mantra. How lucky we are. Lucky to be in this place at this time for this event.
Last summer we were out of town for Victoria Tilling’s public performance debut, and her family had shown great kindness in organizing this latest concert on a night that we expected to be in Creston. I am an unabashed fan of Victoria’s songwriting, singing and piano-playing, so I considered it an honour to able to attend. Throw in the fact that my friend Mark Koenig had assembled a fine group of musicians to fill out the evening’s entertainment and the makings of a fine event were all in place.
But one thing had niggled away at me all week. Why, on this particular night, were there two other musical events scheduled, both of which I would also have happily attended? It’s an indication, of course, that Creston is bursting at the seams with talent, and are we all the luckier for it. I was relieved earlier when we arrived at the winery and John Solly, in his role as a parking attendant, greeted me with a thank you. Thank you? Yes, he said, fewer than half of the tickets had sold until my story about the concert came out in the paper, and it was now sold out. I was thrilled and relieved.
Admittedly, the setting made a large contribution to the evening’s success. Who else, I asked Victoria later, gets to perform on a stage with the Skimmerhorn mountains providing a breathtaking backdrop? The bright blue sky gave way to the setting sun as the evening progressed, and the scene just got more and more beautiful. Victoria’s opening set was stunning. Whether performing solo, or with veteran trumpet master Donnie Clark or her sister Cassidy on violin, Victoria’s music soared through the evening air, her very personal and poignant songs delivered by a sensitive and powerful voice that belies the fact that she has really only been singing and writing songs for about 18 months.
In the second set, Koenig was joined by his son and daughter-in-law, Adam and Jen, on drums and vocals respectively, Clark, and two other master musicians, Gary Koliger on guitar and Jeff Fahie on double bass. I never pass up an opportunity to hear Mark perform, and was once again thrilled by his amazing songs and rich voice. Sitting on the winery lawn, glass of Recolte Rouge in hand, the busy-ness of a week looking after our two youngest grandchildren melted away and we were transported into a state of complete satisfaction.
The next morning, we rose early and headed out for a morning of huckleberry picking with our friends Joe and Katherine Fraser, and another reason to feel thankful for this place and time. As I plunked myself down in a patch rich with large and tasty berries my thoughts drifted toward the many, many people in our province affected by wildfires. To this point—keeping in mind we are early in the typical fire season—we in the Creston Valley have been fortunate. But we keep our more distant neighbours in our hearts, and feel only gratitude for the thousands of firefighters and the countless volunteers who have risen to the occasion.
When the smoke from those fires rolled into the valley on Monday at noon, we got a reminder of how vulnerable our personal environment is to the power of nature. That afternoon I had a phone chat with Canyon-Lister fire chief Glenn Guthrie and learned about the close call he and his fellow firefighters had attended on Sunday afternoon. He spoke of racing toward a fire first reported as being in the Arrow Creek watershed—the last thing anyone in this valley wants to hear—before learning the blaze was further north in the Iron Range. It was out of the local fire service area, but quick approval was given by Area B director Tanya Wall and Town of Creston authorities to proceed with taking on the job of dowsing the fire before it could become a danger to our community.
Hearing Guthrie talk about the joint effort by Creston Valley fire services, the BC Forest Service and the RCMP made me grateful to know that co-operation had helped the effort succeed. The blaze, started by a vehicle that caught fire, was extinguished within several hours. It was a close call, and yet more proof that we are lucky to have such great people working on our behalf.