A Union Club Presence for The Royal and McPherson Theatre Society

The Royal and McPherson Theatre Society (RMTS) is a not-for-profit organization that manages all operational aspects of the Royal Theatre and the McPherson Playhouse.

The Royal and McPherson Theatre Society Board of Directors is made up of three Municipal Councillors, six Elected Directors, and four Appointed Directors. The Board works to maintain, preserve, and further develop the Royal Theatre and McPherson Playhouse by providing governance and management of the organization’s resources.

Union Club Past President Lorne DeLarge (above) has recently been elected as President of the Royal and McPherson Theatre Society.

Former Union Club General Committee Member Iain Hooey (above) was also appointed by the CRD to become a RMTS Director.

Congratulations gentlemen!  Knowing what both Lorne DeLarge and Iain Hooey have contributed to the Union Club, it is safe to say that The Royal and McPherson Theatre Society is in great hands!

For more information on RMTS, please visit: http://www.rmts.bc.ca/ 

Coming Soon: A Historic Evening

A Historic Evening

Saturday, May 20, 2017, 6 pm

The Union Club of British Columbia – 805 Gordon Street, Victoria

Celebrating the Union Club’s Designation as a National Historic Site
and the Inauguration of the newly renovated Centennial Ballroom.

Enjoy a delicious three-course dinner with wine and an exceptional evening full of song and dance!

Featuring performances from Pacific Opera Victoria and dancing to The Midnights.

Wine included with dinner.  Chit bar with dancing.

Tickets: $199
(with $75 tax receipt)

Patron Tickets: $1,500
(includes two tickets, special recognition at the event, a welcome cocktail with the President, and a substantial tax receipt)

Union Club members
Please reserve your space through the Union Club – 250.384.1151 (ext. 0)

Dress Code: Black Tie & Formal Attire

Proceeds will benefit Pacific Opera Victoria

UC Presence at Pacific Opera/Victoria Symphony Fundraiser

Union Club members were present as Tania Miller feted at fundraiser for Pacific Opera Victoria and Victoria Symphony…

The following article originally appeared in the April 2, 2017 Times Colonist.

Union Club member & Brian Butler joins Trish Lortie, Grania Litwin and Robert Milne during the Tania Miller farewell gala at the Victoria Conference Centre.   Photograph By DARREN STONE, Times Colonist

Union Club members Stephen Ison and Rebekah Hutchison join Valerie Raymond and Tom de Faye during the Tania Miller farewell gala at the Victoria Conference Centre.   Photograph By DARREN STONE, Times Colonist 

Friday night’s posh black-tie gala at Victoria Conference Centre wasn’t just another joint fundraiser for Pacific Opera Victoria and Victoria Symphony.

The swanky event doubled as a high-class love-in, with Victoria Symphony’s outgoing music director Tania Miller as the large, well-heeled crowd’s object of affection.

Tribute to Tania, which attracted nearly 300 guests who paid $300-a-ticket, was part of a long goodbye to the beloved maestra whose 14-year tenure ends in May.

If Miller were to shed a tear by night’s end, she said it would be mostly because she’d miss the camaraderie with her creative collaborators.

“I might cry just because I love everybody, not because it’s a sad thing,” she said before dinner. “It’s a happy thing to have had 14 years here and shared so many musical memories with the orchestra and this community.”

While the lithe, articulate maestra will return as guest conductor, she said the timing felt right for her to move on — first as a “freelancer,” and then with another music directorship somewhere down the road.

“It’s been a long tenure for a music director,” she acknowledged. “But with every orchestra you want to hit that golden time where there’s still growth, enthusiasm and things we’re sharing anew together.”

She said her enthusiasm over being able to pursue other opportunities was matched by excitement that the symphony can also evolve and move in new directions.

“You need new ideas and [with incoming music director Christian Kluxen] they have this new European experience coming to them, with such a fresh perspective.”

Gala co-chair Trish Lortie described the event honouring Miller’s imminent departure as a “bittersweet” celebration.

“She has made such a contribution to the arts in the city, and we have to be grateful for the 14 years we’ve had her,” she said. “We also have to understand that all good things come to an end.”

The guest of honour could barely make her way through a crowd of well-wishers during a cocktail reception.

“Tania has been outstanding and we’re delighted to be here to bid her farewell,” said Valerie Raymond, auction committee co-chair and former ambassador to the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Raymond and her husband, retired Maj.-Gen.Tom de Faye, have been ardent supporters of POV and the symphony since the couple moved here from Prague over four years ago.

“We knew Victoria was a beautiful city, but we were pleasantly surprised to find the rich cultural fabric that spreads all over it,” said de Faye. “There is so much here for a city this size.”

While both the symphony and opera company hold separate fundraisers, their annual gala fundraiser affords them a unique opportunity to creatively combine their resources, said POV board president Bob Milne.

“If there’s an occasion to celebrate together, we’re always happy to do that because the symphony is the opera’s ‘house band,’ of course,” quipped Milne.

Teaming up for a fundraiser of this magnitude helps reduce each organization’s workload and potentially enlarges their respective audiences, added symphony board president Brian Butler.

“There is obviously crossover between symphony and opera audiences, but there are also distinct differences,” Butler said. “By joining together, we draw from a much bigger pool of potential clients.”

Gala highlights included philanthropist Eric Charman’s flair during a live auction of items, including a luxury European river cruise and a Montreal VIP opera weekend; veteran POV artistic director Timothy Vernon’s tongue-in-cheek remarks about Miller getting a tribute after only 14 years on the job; and guests dressed to the nines dancing to Strauss waltzes with maestro Giuseppe Pietraroia holding the baton.

Also noticeable was the presence of a new generation of opera and symphony lovers like Ainslee Jessiman, 29, the POV box-office manager who assisted guests using digital tablets to place silent auction bids.

“I work for the opera because of its connection to community,” she said. “I believe the arts have a positive impact on the community and I want to help the next generation connect, engage and explore this timeless art form.”

UC Member Proud to Release His Second Children’s Book

Union Club member Henri van Bentum is proud to announce that, fresh on the heels of his first publication, he has released his second children’s book!

Henri’s charming new children’s fable, featuring two garden gnomes, is titled “Nimbert and Tirwinkle in an Enchanted Flower Garden”.  These stories (including Henri’s first book) were written during his convalescence with cancer.  At the time, Henri crafted these stories not only for children, but for the “youngster” in all of us.

I write these fairy tales not only for the young, but to re-kindle the youngsters in us all.  Fairy tales or fables reflect eternal archetypes of the human family. 

If, somehow one day, all the existing fairy tales in the world were to disappear, soon new fables and tales would appear since their themes are universal.”

For further information on this wonderful creation (including the ability to “Look Inside” the book), or to obtain your own copy, please click here.


Stephen Lowe – the Artist Who Bridged Two Cultures in Unique Style

As originally appeared in January 29, 2017’s Times Colonist newspaper…

The Guangzhou Museum of Art, in a city of 13 million people in the south of China, recently hosted a month-long exhibition for Stephen Lowe (1938-1975).

Lowe was born in Quangdong and was long a resident of Victoria before his death from lymphoma at the age of 37. The Lowe family, of Calgary and Victoria, spent 2016 in China, preparing three exhibitions there, and culminating in the recent publication of the long-awaited and definitive book on Stephen Lowe’s life and art.

Lowe spent most of his life in Victoria, beloved by students and collectors here. It’s inexplicable how he achieved such skill and produced so much in the short time he had. And it is even more surprising to realize that his work and his example are enormously appreciated in the burgeoning world of Chinese art.

Lowe’s grandfather, Liu Chang, emigrated from Taishan village in Quangdong to work in the coal mines in Cumberland in the early 1900s. When the turmoil of civil war swept over south China in the late 1940s, his family was stripped of most of its possessions.

Stephen, the eldest of five children, made his way to Hong Kong at age 17, and his determination to study art led him to Zhao Shaoang, leading exponent of the “Lingnan school,” a progressive and atmospheric style of painting that is the distinctive expression of South China. At the request of his grandfather, Lowe emigrated to Canada in 1956, at 18 years of age. He arrived to find his grandfather living in a lean-to in a ghost town, one of the few surviving emigrés still living in Cumberland.

Lowe’s talent and personality brought him valuable support in Victoria. Through connections from his first job, as a room steward at the Union Club, he was sponsored for a year in Hong Kong, where he continued his studies and met Eunice, his wife-to-be.

On his return, he began teaching painting at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. The persuasive artist and designer Allan Edwards championed Lowe, and arranged work for him in Eaton’s department store display department. Exhibitions at the provincial library and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (with Lawren Harris) followed, remarkable accomplishments for an artist then just 23 years old.

Skipping forward, we note his huge exhibition at the newly opened Royal B.C. Museum in 1971, and the opening of the Stephen Lowe Gallery on the Humboldt Street side of the Empress Hotel — provided rent-free by the hotel. An exhibition was later held at the United Nations building in New York, and Edwards commissioned 66 originals for the new Skyline Park Hotel in London.

Then, in the fall of 1974, Lowe was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma. After summoning up the energy for his 23rd solo exhibition, he died within a year.

Lowe’s supporters insisted that his wife Eunice continue the Stephen Lowe Gallery, for many years a bright spot in Victoria’s art world. In her tiny shop, and later in the prestigious corner location of the Victoria Conference Centre, she brought unique Chinese antiques and works of art to an international clientele.

The family opened another branch in Calgary in 1979. The Victoria gallery closed in 2006, though the Calgary store managed by daughter Anna flourishes, with a focus on contemporary painting.

In 1985, just as China opened to the West, Eunice took 129 Stephen Lowe paintings for an exhibition at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing, followed by subsequent showings in Nanjing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The president of the Chinese Artists Association, Wu Zuoren, personally inscribed the banner for the opening.

This was a moment when the older generation of artists, long marginalized by the Cultural Revolution, came out in the light of day for the first time. Their approval of this previously unknown artist was overwhelming.

While to Canadian eyes Lowe’s paintings are certainly Chinese, in his homeland, this art spoke with a new accent. Here was an artist who emigrated but did not lose his roots — a message of profound importance to the Chinese of that day.

When the Lowe family returned to Victoria in 1986, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria presented a retrospective of 75 of the paintings, curated by Barry Till. In my review at the time, I wrote: “Lowe’s all-night painting sessions, his speed of execution and his ever-expanding range of subjects are legendary. He painted to challenge the limits of the acceptable and to continue the progress of Lingnan.”

Eunice Lowe has been working since 2005 to create the new, and definitive, book on her husband. Last week, she and her son, David, presented me with a copy. But first they told of their past year.

In 2016, Lowe’s paintings were chosen as a “bridge between cultures,” for the opening of the new Canadian Consulate offices in Guangzhou. Simultaneously, a prestigious show of Lowe’s work opened at the Guangzhou Museum of Art, which is a shrine to the masters of Lingnan-style painting.

It’s hard to express the importance of this event. The Lowe family have decided to donate their collection of paintings by Lingnan masters, and some Stephen Lowe originals, to that seminal collection.

The book is a delight. The 330 pages include reproductions of 125 paintings in colour, some of the reproductions 50 centimetres across. The Chinese-language version has been published by the People’s Fine Art Publishing House of China, and the English-version, privately published, will be available soon in Victoria. The quality of layout, paper stock and binding are beyond anything available in this country.

For information, contact stephenloweartgallery.ca.

What a story: A penniless immigrant lad, with nothing but native talent and the support of Victorians, created a timeless body of work in a few short years, far from home. And now Stephen Lowe’s reputation is reaching heights we just can’t imagine. Victoria’s art culture is rich.