Activities in Vancouver for the Old-Fashioned and the Cultural Lovers

Last year, I ranted about how Vancouver, BC, Canada is not for the old-fashioned. We’re a true misfit and minority if we love heritage buildings (by my terms, I mean protected and unprotected historically ‘old’ buildings), vintage and antique clothing, antiques, operas, plays, ballets (with costumes fitting the eras), and period dramas. In 2011, I dreaded thinking of having to spend the next few years in my hometown (Vancouver being my hometown is the only reason I’m back here, by the way), deprived of all that culturally enriches and delights me. I just wanted to be back in Europe where I belong!

Luckily during the last few years, I’ve found a few activities and events in Vancouver that will allow us to escape into another time and world. So fret not!

Performing Arts


We need our Shakespeare dosage. Thankfully, young adults and students under 25 are entitled to discounted tickets at $27 rather than $33-47. This year, more special events have been added, including Vancouver Symphony Orchestra at the Bard, Will Shakespeare’s ImprovMusical, and Academie Duello’s Fight Night. My personal favourite special event is UBC Opera’s Operas & Arias. These students are talented!

This year, Bard on the Beach will be performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, Cymbeline, and Equivocation (by Bill Cain).

Price: $27 (for youth 6-25 year-olds)
Seating: I believe they changed it this year to assigned seating (please confirm with them) :/ That said, instead of waiting in the queue to pick the best seat, you’ll want to buy your tickets ASAP!
Book: Online, by phone or at box office.
Venue: Vanier Park. There are 2 tents: main (view of water & mountains) and studio (no view)
Facebook: Bardonthebeach


  • Ballet company tours

I’m not saying that BC Ballet is bad but the style simply isn’t mine. I’m sure the dancers are superb and maybe one day I’ll watch one of their performances. Unfortunately for them, if there aren’t pretty tutus, classical music, or classical ballet, I’m just not interested. 😦

In the last two years, I’ve been blessed to be able to attend the Mikhailovsky Theatre‘s Swan Lake and Cuban National Ballet’s Don Quixote, thanks to the discounted tickets from Tickets Tonight. I’ve also seen three versions of The Nutcracker from Goh Ballet, BC & Alberta Ballet, and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. My one regret is that I missed RWB’s Romeo & Juliet this year. RWB’s ballets usually feature the most beautiful costumes.

Learn and dance to contradances and English country dances for $12 and to live fiddle music! I keep missing the chance to attend one but I’m hoping to try again this autumn. Take a look at the schedule here.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am for this society in Vancouver! I had taken two Baroque dance lessons in Munich but had to drop it due to limited finances. Imagine my delight when I found out I could learn Baroque dancing in Vancouver! Catherine recently taught five classes at the Scotiabank Dance Centre. She will be teaching more classes at the Dance Centre this summer, so keep your eyes peeled! It’s affordable and it’s lots of fun for all ages. No pressure to be perfect. 😉


I’ve had the misfortune of attending some famous operas only to find modern costumes and sets. It’s just not the same anymore. I usually wait to see what kind of costumes and sets the operas I’d like to see will have before purchasing my O.U.T. (Opera Under Thirty-five) ticket for $30. I’m looking forward to seeing Carmen again this 2014/2015 season. Maybe I’ll even see Die Fledermaus (one of my favourite operas, but VO will set this in Vancouver) and Sweeney Todd.

Price: $30 (18-35 year olds)
Seating: Seating varies. You could be in the mezzanine or upstairs in the balcony.
Book: Online or by phone. Check Twitter, Facebook or their Blogger for the promo code for each performance and provide it when choosing a date.
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Facebook: VancouverOpera

I love visiting the 1920’s Orpheum theatre for any VSO concert. If you’re under 30/35, get the All-Access Pass and attend concerts for $15! Best concert in my opinion is the one-night Last Night of the Proms.

Price: $15 (the website advertises $15 but I’d attended 2 concerts from 2011-12 for $10)
Seating: All except dress circle. I’ve always had row 4 seating (however, you may select your own seat and sit farther away from the stage)
Book: Online. Up to 2 weeks before performance. Sometimes you may have to wait a few days afterwards. Call customer service (604.876.3434) to see if the performance is eligible for the All-Access Pass to avoid disappointment (i.e. waiting til last minute for cheap tix).
Venue: usually Orpheum Theatre
Facebook: VSOrchestra


I still can’t believe there’s a Jane Austen society in Vancouver. They meet every month and there are various events that take place. As much as I love Jane Austen, I don’t feel qualified enough to be a Janeite… but this might be something to try one day. I was really hoping for a Jane Austen ball or something to allow us to dress up.

I had just learned about this society from a church member who said I would like this. I certainly am looking forward to attending a Scriptorium and Dance practise.

Vintage Wear & Hats

  • SMOC (The Society for the Museum of Original Costume)

Every month or so, there’s a historical fashion lecture with models wearing historical and vintage outfits. My very first show that I attended was on the Little Black Dress. SMOC is taking a summer hiatus now but will return on Sunday, 21 September with ‘The Sporting Life: Historical Dress of Fun and Games.’ (Check their Facebook page for updates and photos.)

  • Ivan Sayers’ Historical Fashion shows

Ivan Sayers is usually the main presenter for SMOC’s fashion shows. Known for his wit and knowledge on history and fashion history, he’s also been asked to present in various venues for different organisations. I’ve been honoured to be one of his models for a year now. The next two shows he’s presenting, ‘Claus Jahnke and Ivan Sayers’ Art Deco Chic: Women’s Clothing of the 1920s & 1930s‘, will be at the Langley Centennial Museum in Fort Langley on Sunday, 1 June.

The Saucy Milliner has several vintage hat blocks so that you can buy a 1920’s or 1940’s silhouette hat for yourself! She also hosts a few 2-day intro to millinery workshops so you can block your own hats. I had the pleasure of taking her weekend workshop in 2011 and have learned how challenging it is to make hats. If hat making is not for you, then do visit her Facebook page to see some of her beautiful works of art!

I had the pleasure of meeting Vivian from Second Chance Hats two years ago when she had her old booth at the Vancouver Flea Market. I have bought countless of vintage hats from her. Not only does she have the most beautiful hats and head pieces from all decades for men and women, she also has some great selections of vintage clothing. Now that she’s moved from Vancouver, she will be visiting the city every so often for the Retro fair at the Croatian Community Centre and for the Time Travelers’ Bazaar.

I missed the first year of Vancouver’s first and only costumers’ market and rummage sale in 2013 so I was very glad to be able to make it this April. While most of the tables featured Steampunk and Dieselpunk, there were a few tables with Medieval and Victorian costumes, as well as vintage hats and clothing.

Historical Buildings

I haven’t joined a walking tour of historical houses in Vancouver yet but I hope to one of these days. I recently learned that in the City of Vancouver, not even a heritage plaque protects historical buildings from being demolished. How I hate Glasscouver.

With Urban Tea Merchant being an exception (because it truly is superior), there’s no better place to have afternoon tea than in a heritage house. I’ve already had the pleasure of enjoying afternoon tea at Für Elise (a Queen Anne style house) and London Heritage Farm (a Victorian farm house) in Steveston. The latter serves the most delicious lavender scones, by the way. I also plan on visiting Adorabelle (the Old Courthouse from 1925) in Steveston for afternoon tea at some point.


You can visit my other blog, Little Europe in Vancouver, for a list of upcoming events and activities related to Europe, including operas. I’d also written a post last year on discounts for cultured Vancouverites. For more local tips, visit the Local Tips: Vancouver page.

 I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and will find plenty of things to do while you’re in Vancouver. If you have any more suggestions, I would love to hear them!

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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 2 All-Access Pass (for those < 30 y.o.) tickets at $15 each for the Dal Richards at 95 concert just a few days ago. This time, we 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.

My guest and I were 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!