Innovative technology helped Stephen Robb guide his young musicians through the pandemic over the past two years. Yet there is nothing like the real thing and the timing couldn’t be better.
The Richmond Delta Youth Orchestra is celebrating its 50th year and is now working towards a special anniversary concert on May 7 at UBC’s Chan Centre for the Performing Arts. The students were actually back performing in front of a live audience on March 5 at Genesis Theatre in Ladner.
“It was nice to see us get back to that point where people are feeling safe again. I think having the vaccine mandates and people in masks helps reassure everybody's comfort zone,” said Robb, RDYO’s music director, who previously led his students through a couple of years worth of virtual concerts. “We were hoping that we were back to normal (last fall) then in January, we were back online. So it's kind of amazing that we did a concert in March, after four weeks of online rehearsals and four weeks of in person, with a blend of people online and in person.”
Even as COVID restrictions were eased, many regular RDYO venues, such as churches, are not comfortable yet with booking outside events. That was okay with Robb and the RDYO board of directors who wanted do something special for the anniversary concert.
“Back in November the orchestra was hired to be extras for this film project at the Orpheum. The kids were just so excited to be on the stage at the Orpheum, taking selfies and everything. That’s when we realized we should be doing one of these bigger halls. It’s very expensive and that’s why we normally don’t do it.
“I view this as creating memories for our students. Where I can phone them up 10 years from now and they'll tell me about these great moments in their life that have happened because of what we did creating these kind of experiences for them.”
Founded in 1971, the Delta Youth Orchestra operated in Ladner for more than 40 years. It was nine years ago when the name changed to the Richmond Delta Youth Orchestra to reflect its growing membership from the City of Richmond. Today, RDYO comprises eight divisions and enrolls more than 160 young musicians from all over Metro Vancouver.
Robb promises the anniversary concert will be a special evening featuring all RDYO’s divisions as well as alumni being invited back to perform. Ticket prices are $25, and $18 for seniors and children under 12. More information can be found the RDYO website: www.rdyo.ca.