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Pops on Wheels rolls into St. Albert

Orchestra set to play a casual, relaxed afternoon uniting neighbours and friends.
2807 Pops sup CC
Michael Clark, music director of Edmonton Pops Orchestra on piano, has created a mini version called Pops on Wheels. The mini orchestra visits neighbourhood parks, gardens and private homes. Performing with him are violinist Valerie Sim and Sturgeon County vocalist Grace Bokenfohr. SUPPLIED/Photo

When Canada went into COVID lockdown in 2020, a St. Albert vocalist took action to fill the void for music fans. Due to the pandemic, Donovan Weihmann had several shows axed. Needing to keep his creative juices flowing, he hosted a front-porch concert on July 1, 2020. 

He never expected the pandemic to last 15 months. The lockdown was supposed to be a temporary measure. Except that it wasn’t. And the relaxing afternoon of high-quality music was just what Weihmann and his neighbours needed to drive away the emotional edge everyone was feeling. It was such a success he repeated it on Canada Day this year. 

“This is such a wonderful way to connect with the community. We’ve seen a lot of different artists doing these types of concerts, especially those that are self-contained. It’s a great way for neighbours and the community to get together during COVID. It’s mainly for the love of music, and as a family we love to support these kinds of events,” said Weihmann. 

Now going for round three, the musician's Pops’ Orchestra on Wheels is set to take play on Sunday, Aug. 8. The show will be a mobile offshoot of Edmonton Pops Orchestra, with a series of pop-up performances throughout the region. The small ensembles play classic tunes and tell original stories. 

Weihmann’s entire family is involved in music, and when they renovated and outfitted the front of their house with a broad deck, house concerts were a natural fit. 

“It is a good space to do outdoor concerts. It’s really suited to this type of thing because it faces the neighbourhood. It looks like a big, giant stage,” Weihmann said. 

He has earned a lengthy list of credentials in this neck of the woods. The vocalist is a member of Tri-City Rat Pack and Thin-Line Sid. He was also a regular on the defunct Singing Christmas Tree. His 2019 release is a five-track solo EP titled All in the Name of Love. 

Weihmann first met Michael Clark, music director of Edmonton Pops while the duo volunteered their expertise on Walterdale Theatre's 2015 musical production, A Man of No Importance

Lydia Metzger, first violinist for Edmonton Pops, and Weihmann are both members of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in St. Albert. Since Weihmann and Clark had previously worked together, she easily facilitated the concert between the two artists. 

The 30-minute event will feature three instrumentalists and two singers. The instrumentalists creating background music are Metzger (violin), Clark (piano), and Conrad Sobieraj (cello). The classically-trained sopranos carrying the melody are St. Albert’s Melanie Gall and Sturgeon County’s Grace Bokenfohr. 

“It’s a bite-sized, curb-side event that’s very democratic. It’s full of great corners and different styles of music,” Clark said. “We want to bring music to people. We want to dig out the red carpet and roll it anywhere.” 

As invitations are extended, Pops on Wheels loads instruments into a pull-trailer and tours to new concert sites. 

“We want to be as portable as possible since we have varying numbers of people at any given location,” said Clark. 

Clark describes the repertoire as easily accessible classical works. A sampling includes Edelweiss from The Sound of MusicInto the Unknown from Frozen 2, and the Andrea Bocelli-Sarah Brightman mega hit Time to Say Goodbye

The performance is free and is in collaboration with the Johann Strauss Foundation, a strong supporter of young and upcoming coming musicians. 

“We put out our hat and we’ve found people are very generous. We’re not asking for donations, but if you feel so inclined, it’s very appreciated,” Clark said. 

The concert takes place Sunday, Aug. 8 at 3 p.m. at 11 Walnut Place. 

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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