Dal Richards at 95

How I met Dal Richards

Dal Richards

Dal Richards (Photo credit: Michael Kwan (Freelancer))

The day before the Paralympics Opening Ceremony, I’d thought I’d received a request to volunteer at the BC Place for the Opening Ceremony (which was true but I was supposed to show up later, if not the day after, as an usher). Since no one really knew what to do, they decided they’d keep me as an assistant. My role was to lead my assigned artists to the waiting lounge (before their performance) and, if needed, to escort some to the exit at the end of the rehearsal / opening ceremony. One of these artists I was assigned to was Dal Richards. Except, I’m embarrassed to say, I did not know who he was so I wasn’t even sure what I could ask him about (without looking stupid for not knowing). I remember him as a sweet gentleman who was grateful someone could accompany him around the confusing BC Place maze. Having lost both of my grandfathers by 2008, I immediately saw him as another grandfather.

It wasn’t until after the Paralympic Opening Ceremony that I realised that I liked Dal’s music! I wished then that I could have gone back in time to tell him how much I’d enjoyed his band! My second chance came along in 2011 at the Vancouver Christmas Market, when the Dal Richard’s band was playing that day. As soon as they went on a break, I went up to Dal to tell him that I enjoyed the performance and that I’d met him before at the Paralympics Opening Ceremony. He was delighted to hear it (one of his band members remembered me!) and I snapped a photo with him before he went back on stage.

Last summer, I decided to visit the PNE with my Dad when, suddenly, I spotted the Dal Richard’s Band playing on stage (I had no idea this was an annual thing!). Imagine my delight to see Dal again! This was also the first time I’d heard him sing ‘As Time Goes By’ and I was so in awe, I think my jaw dropped. I bought his book and CD (Musically Yours) – both autographed by him – and immediately played the CD when I got home. I’m really glad Dal’s able to find like-minded people to share in his love of big band music.

The Concert

I was very lucky to secure an All-Access Pass (for those < 30 y.o.) tickets at $15 for the Dal Richards at 95 concert just a few days ago. This time, I sat upstairs in the balcony in the Orpheum, rather than on the main floor. Ironically, though the upper floors are where the ‘cheap seats’ are, they also offer the best acoustics under the dome! I don’t know if it’s because the performance was from 4-6PM, but I also found that I was less likely to want to close my eyes.

I was one of the few younger attendees (there were a few children around too) in the dominantly senior-filled auditorium. Nonetheless, being very old-fashioned and quite unlike my peers, I enjoyed being surrounded by them. I think the majority were bussed from their care homes. Must have been such a wonderful outing!

The first part of the performance was led by British conductor and Music Director of VSO, Maestro Bramwell Tovey, who, by the way, has a marvellous sense of humour! We are very blessed to have him lead VSO! The following selections were played by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra:

  • Finlandia
  • Tchaikovsky‘s The Nutcracker
    • The March
    • Arabian Dance
    • Reed pipes
    • Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy
    • Russian T

Next came 2 opera selections from the UBC‘s Opera Ensemble:

Why were these selected? Mr Tovey explained that he went through the VSO archives to find something that was played the year Dal Richards was born in (1918), only to find that there were none, as Dal had been born 1 year before (VSO is now 94)! Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker was performed in 1919 and it’s interesting to note that it was only from the 1960’s that the ballet became a traditional Christmas favourite!

I can’t quite remember the introduction to why Verdi had been selected except for the fact that he had been born just over 100 years before Dal (in 1913). Both of these are 2 of my favourites from Verdi!

After the intermission, we were entertained with several performances!

  • piano melody from Dal’s nephew and another pianist (forgot her name!)
  • Dal Richards Band and songs from Dal’s Girls
  • As Time Goes By sung by Dal!

Everyone was beyond impressed with Dal’s vocal range as he sang, ‘goes…. by!’ and we simply had to give him the standing ovation that he deserved! We were saddened that his farewell tune would come next and that we’d have to bid farewell once again to our beloved guy.

Yet just before the performance was over, we were delightfully surprised to see Mayor Gregor Robertson come out with his tuba (I had no idea he played an instrument!). As he played Happy Birthday on his tuba, everyone sang to Dal before we ended with a final applause. Everyone rose to their feet once more to give Dal a standing ovation for his 75 years in musically entertaining the public. The performance was supposed to end at 6PM but it was around 6:30PM when we left the auditorium.

I shall never forget this performance nor the memories of meeting Dal three times (2010, 2011, 2012).

Best wishes to you Dal! God bless you!