Sea to Sky Orchestra makes its Whistler debut

The new group of string musicians will perform at Millennium Place on Feb. 6

Whistler’s performing arts scene has a new string to its bow: the Sea to Sky Orchestra.

After five months of rehearsals at Spruce Grove Field House, the new group of string musicians will make its debut at Millennium Place on Feb. 6, with an “Extreme Classics” concert featuring music from Handel, Bach, Vivaldi and Corelli.

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“I’m excited about this upcoming event,” said the orchestra’s founder Yuko Iwanaga. “I want this sporty community to see what (musical) passion we also have, besides playing hard in the beautiful wilderness.”

Between 10 and 11 musicians from Whistler, Pemberton and Squamish will be playing the cello, viola and violin at the show. The concert will feature Handel’s “Bouree from Suite in D,” Vivaldi’s

“Concerto for Two Violins in A Minor,” with soloists Barb Cooke and Izumi Inoue, Bach’s “Double Violin Concerto in D Minor (first movement),” with soloists Barb Cooke and Yuko Iwanaga and Corelli’s “Concerto Grosso No. 8.”

Iwanaga has been teaching the violin for eight years in Whistler, Pemberton and Squamish, and studied the Suzuki Method of teaching music in Japan, completing Post Graduate No 4 (the highest degree in the Suzuki Method). After performing in both a quartet and a string orchestra on the violin and viola in Tokyo, she missed playing in a string orchestra and decided to search for people to play with. She formed the orchestra after advertising in a local newspaper, at Quest University and by word of mouth last spring.

Finding musicians wasn’t difficult, with the Sea to Sky corridor brimming with musical talent. Many of the musicians have played in ensembles or orchestras around the world, including the U.K., New Zealand, Hawaii, Japan and Europe. A wealth of musical experience and a passion for playing bonded the group together, with rehearsals starting last fall.

“Some (members) started learning strings when we were young, some started in their later childhood, or even adulthood,” Iwanaga said. “We all have different life priorities, but with this opportunity we can pick up instruments again and make music. Music brings lots of life memories back to me. I want people to see what fun we have.”

The Whistler Waldorf Seniors strings class will accompany the orchestra for the opening number, and all proceeds from the concert will be donated to the Whistler Waldorf School music program. “With the Waldorf School allowing us to rehearse in their space, and with a Waldorf teacher and four ‘Waldorf parents’ involved in the orchestra, it seemed to make sense that we thank the school with any proceeds, and to invite their Senior Strings class to perform with us,” said concert organizer and cellist Helen Van Spronsen.

Van Spronsen has been playing music since she was seven, and has a degree in clarinet performance and an extensive musical training background. With final rehearsals underway she is looking forward to playing the cello on the evening. “I’m feeling pretty keen, pretty excited about it — it’s always good, the push before the concert where we’re all sure we’re getting that extra practice in.”

She encourages the Whistler community to attend the concert, and thinks that in any community it’s important that there is a balance of activities. “Alongside the excitement of the extreme sports and events and the popular music and nightclub scene, there should also be opportunities for the enjoyment of classical music, as I know there are many people in all three communities — Pemberton, Whistler and Squamish — who enjoy that as well. Look how many people turn up when the VSO come to town!” she said.

They are hoping to organize another concert in the spring, she said. “Musicians love playing music, so it only makes sense that we should seek each other out and come together with our instruments. And why rehearse and not share our love and enjoyment of the music we are making?”

Tickets are available online at, Millennium Place, and the Whistler Waldorf School. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the concert starts at 7:30 p.m. at Millennium Place.

Musicians interested in joining the orchestra can contact Yuko Iwanaga at

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