Honouring Arnold Draper and his Legacy of Music Making

Though I am craving more than ever, the rich, live concert experience Chamber Music Kelowna provides,  I take solace in the memory of the glorious 40th Anniversary season opener last October and the outstanding performance of local musician, Arnold Draper in not one, but two energetic and technically demanding piano quintets of Dvorak and Elgar in one evening, spurred on by the exciting playing of the Borealis String Quartet. 

Unfortunately, the final concert of our 40th Anniversary season scheduled on April 18, 2020 never did come to pass.  Because the date coincided with Arnold Draper’s 80th birthday, it was to include a special event to honour Mr. Draper, one of the most influential members of the CMK Society.  Since then, I found myself asking how we could best recognize Arnold’s enduring contribution to CMK.  I recollected from my years of working on the Board the impression this world class artist has made on art and culture in our city. 

Mr. Draper, who enjoyed a celebrated career as a music professor and accompanist in Cardiff, Wales came to the Okanagan in the late 1980s and was in demand from the moment he arrived with concerts for the  Okanagan “Mozart Festival” and the Concert Series (as CMK was known back then).  Former president, Eileen Powell, stated that he was “the catalyst who elevated the quality of the chamber music scene in the Okanagan.”

Through my research in preparing historical materials and the video for CMK’s 40th Anniversary,  I learned that Arnold Draper has been the most frequent performer in our chamber music series thus far, with ten main concerts to his credit, the first being with soprano, Kathleen Jeffrey in 1992.  I also learned that he had performed an astonishing seven piano concertos with our symphony orchestra. 

I was fortunate to come to know Arnold personally through my experience on the CMK Board of Directors since the early 1990s. He could always be called upon to regale audiences with his brilliant accompaniment at many Christmas fundraiser concerts, which took place at St. Andrew’s Church and St. Michael’s Cathedral long before the RCA was built.  Later he became involved with events in support of Ballet Kelowna, Alexandra Babel’s Candesca Singers, and Opera Kelowna. 

Image: Flautist, Antonia Mahon, and Arnold Draper preparing for a concert, c. 1993; photo credit unknown. 

Though during his career in Great Britain he performed at the Royal Albert Hall and even for royalty, it is not the limelight he seeks. I have always recognized Arnold’s particular willingness and joy in supporting young, aspiring artists. He has often done so with little remuneration, depending on the financial circumstance of the individual he was helping. Throughout the years, his expertise as an accompanist has guided dozens of advanced ARCT level violinists and singers throughout BC on to greater musical accomplishments at the post secondary level. Such was the case with the talented sister violinists from Armstrong: Alicia Venables, who attended the San Francisco Academy of Music, and Colleen, who was one of eight finalists in the Yehudi Menuhin Competition in Beijing.  The young soprano Olivia Smith also received tutelage from Draper.  She has since been offered a full music scholarship at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.  It stands to reason that Arnold Draper has developed a following of young people who have always spoken about his kind encouragement and gentle manner. 

Arnold writes:   

“Since moving to Canada in 1989, I have particularly enjoyed working with up and coming young musicians.  Their enthusiasm and dedication to their craft have inspired me and I have happily spent many hours as their accompanist.  Our home has been the scene of many informal house concerts as these musicians entertained friends and family in pre-concert, pre-festival, and pre-exam recitals.  Music has sustained me all my life.” 

Arnold and his wife Arlene have together given so much of their lives in support of young musicians. As a recipient of many intimate and memorable concerts in their home and mine, I began to think about how I could give back and, at the same time, honour the contribution Mr. Draper has made toward the cultural enrichment of this community.  I am delighted that the Board of Chamber Music Kelowna has adopted my idea of launching an endowment fund in Mr. Draper’s name for aspiring young musicians to further their musical pursuits; the Board has designated up to $10,000 to match 50% of all donations received.  

Respectfully submitted by Denise Griswold 

For more information about the endowment fund, please contact Chamber Music Kelowna, at info@chambermusickelowna.ca.

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