A big orchestral sound for West My Friend

The Evergreen Cultural Centre in Coquitlam is West My Friend’s only tour date with an orchestra.


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A decade ago, Eden Oliver, Alex Rempel and Jeff Poynter were music undergrads at UVic when they formed West My Friend.

The trio, which describes itself as a “Cascadian folk outfit,” toured extensively over the years — including playing in Coquitlam — and produced three albums.

But for its fourth collection, the classically trained musicians wanted to go back to their roots and add more punch to their sound.

On previous pieces, they had some brass and string elements but, for In Constellation — the title of their EP that came out in September — they recruited a 53-person orchestra, an ensemble the trio put together themselves.

Tonight (Wednesday), the group will launch its fall/winter tour at the OMSI Planetarium in Portland, Ore., to promote In Constellation.

And its matinee at Coquitlam’s Evergreen Cultural Centre on Sunday will be its only stop where they’ll backed by an orchestra: the Pacific Symphonic Wind Ensemble (PSWE).

Poynter, a Langley native who plays saxophone, accordion, clarinet, celesta and piano on the album, said West My Friend’s collaboration with the 45-member PSWE was the suggestion of David Mann, the performing arts manager at Evergreen.

The trio had not previously heard of PSWE, Poynter said, but he remembered PSWE’s music director and conductor, David Branter, adjudicating him at a Vancouver Kiwanis Music Festival about 15 years ago.

Recently, Oliver travelled to Vancouver to meet with Branter about the seven orchestral tracks arranged by Adrian Dolan while, last month, Branter visited Victoria to get a handle on the tunes’ tempos and transitions.

Thursday, West My Friend is set to rehearse with the PSWE musicians in Vancouver — just after their Portland gig and prior to two Seattle dates.

For the Evergreen program, Poynter said it won’t be just West My Friend on stage as PSWE will also showcase some pieces in its wind repertoire for its season concert opener.

As for the rest of the month, the band will work with schools — including with students at Walton elementary in Coquitlam on Nov. 21 — as part of its music education outreach.

And, in the new year, Poynter said they’ll get back to writing new material and touring North America and Europe.

To see West My Friend perform with PSWE at the Evergreen Cultural Centre (1205 Pinetree Way) on Nov. 10 at 3 p.m., call 604-927-6555 or visit evergreenculturalcentre.ca

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