Leo Le Couteur photo Members of the White Rock Community Orchestra play at Peace Arch Hospital’s Weatherby Pavilion.

White Rock Community Orchestra pays tribute to local composer

Christmas concert features piece by the late Walter O’Keeffe, former proprietor of the Chit-Chat Cafe

When White Rock Community Orchestra, directed by Maestra Paula DeWit, presents its annual Christmas concert this Saturday (Dec. 2 , 7 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 1480 George St.), the program will feature many seasonal-appropriate pieces.

But one notable inclusion is a work for all seasons with a strong White Rock connection – The Vancouver Waltz, written by late city resident Walter O’Keeffe.

Though he died a decade ago, at the age of 77, it’s likely that longtime White Rock residents will remember the composer as the former proprietor of the Chit Chat Cafe, on Marine Drive, in the 1970s.

“It burned down in 1979 and he was the last owner,” said daughter Toni O’Keeffe. “There’s still a little plaque down there.

“As kids working there, we remember he used to go sit by the train tracks and write music and poetry. It’s amazing that the White Rock Community Orchestra will be playing his music in the 10th year of his passing in a place that he loved.”

The former Burnaby City worker fathered seven children in all – including White Rock singer and show producer Jeanette O’Keeffe (Mooncoin Productions) – and also left behind hundreds of poems, carvings and scores for original pieces of music, one of which, The Vancouver Waltz, was brought to the WRCO recently by his widow, Monica.

“We’re incredibly pleased and absolutely thrilled that they wanted to play it,” Toni said.

Born in Mooncoin, County Kilkenny, Ireland in 1930, O’Keefe was noted for his closeness to nature, as manifest in the many shrubs, flowers, plants, fruit trees and vines he planted and nurtured over the years.

“He was such an interesting individual, my father,” Toni said.

“He had this creative brilliance – he could pick up any instrument and play it, he was very poetic, he did carvings. He was such a strong creative spirit.”

His life had been marked by struggles from an early age, she said – as a child left in care, he survived years of inhumane treatment, a story that was shared with the world only weeks before his death, through the publication of a book she wrote, Those Who Trespass Against Us, which created a media stir in Britain, Ireland and North America.

“His parents died when he was young and he and his siblings were split up. He was at an orphanage where he was allowed to join the band – it was the first flowering of his musical talent.”

At the age of 14, he was so noted as a cornetist with the band, Toni said, that a famous British orchestra leader attempted to recruit him.

“But they wouldn’t let him go because they needed him to work in the kitchen,” she said.

“It was one of the great missed opportunities of his life. That’s why it’s so wonderful that the White Rock orchestra is playing his composition – it would have meant the world to him.”

Special guest performers at the concert will be Maria Moularas (harp), mezzo-soprano Ingrid Mapson and the Chilliwack Children’s Choir.

Tickets (including post-concert refreshments) are $15 (children 12 and under free), and are available at the door, from orchestra members, or online at wrco.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey councillor says McCallum, city sent letter to Uber to cease operations

Ridesharing company told to cease operations by 9 p.m. Friday within Surrey

Man killed in fall from Civic Hotel balcony in Surrey

Heavy emergency services presence in plaza at the skyscraper, at 13475 Central Ave.

Outdoor skating rink at free Winter Festival in Surrey, with food trucks and more

At Guildford Town Centre, hit the ice for free with your own skates or rent some for donation

Ride-hailing arrives in North Delta

Uber’s picking up passengers in North Delta, Ladner, but Tsawwassen is still waiting for the service

Plans for apartments on Strawberry Hill shopping site coming to Surrey council

It would be near the library, and include 123 rental units

VIDEO: Mass coronavirus quarantines seen in China won’t happen in Canada, authorities say

‘If a case comes here, and it is probably … it will still be business as normal’

Province’s oldest practising lawyer shares advice at her 100th birthday party

Firefighters bring Constance Isherwood a cake with 100 birthday candles

Vernon woman suing McDonald’s for spilled coffee

Woman seeking nearly $10K, says employee failed to put lid on properly

5 things you need to know to start using ridesharing in Metro Vancouver

From how to get started to where drivers can take you, heres all you need to know

Diners’ health tax not catching on in B.C., restaurant group says

Small businesses look for options to cover employer health tax

B.C. comic wins judgment after club owner slaps cellphone out of his hands

Incident happened last summer when Garrett Clark was performing in Abbotsford

Mayors call for ‘calmness’ as highway rockslide cuts Tofino, Ucluelet off from supplies

Ministry of transportation expects to open road for “essential travel only” from noon-8 p.m. Friday.

Owner surrenders dog suffering from days-old gunshot wound to B.C. SPCA

The dog was also found to be emaciated and suffering from a flea infestation

Most Read