It turns out that I’m in Victoria, British Columbia for work this week. When I planned the trip (at the last minute), I didn’t know that Monday was a Canadian holiday. As one of my American coworkers is here as well, it’s really not that big a deal; we’ll work in peace without all the usual water cooler chatter about moose and that most riveting sport curling (ok, so hockey is probably the more obvious sport choice, but curling dominated the TV when I was last in town).
I learned today that B.C. Day isn’t just a laze-around-the-house holiday but is one that Victoria, at least, does up right. Tonight, the symphony was playing from a barge in the harbor, and tomorrow, Vancouver resident (or native?) Sarah Machlachlan is the headliner for a free concert. I was tired this evening (still on Eastern time) but had thought about walking down to the harbor to hear the symphony. When I read online that they traditionally play the 1812 Overture as part of the event, the deal was sealed (it’s a rousing tune that always makes my barnacled old ticker stir a little). So walk down there I did, and I really enjoyed it.
It’s just a block from my hotel down to the harbor area. If you follow the road around the perimeter of the harbor, you pass The Empress, a venerable old (I think very old) hotel with walls covered in something green (ivy or something of that ilk). I think a coworker told me during my last visit that the hotel is slowly sinking into the ground. Then you keep walking around until you get to the Parliament building, which is hard to miss because it is outlined in white lights (like some houses at Christmas). The barge or whatever the symphony was arranged on was basically a straight shot out the front door of the Parliament. There were people lining the streets, sitting on the harbor shore, and filling the lawns of those two neat old buildings.
By the time I got down there, it was starting to get a little dusky, and it was neat to watch the tangle of boat masts swaying in the breeze (I won’t be so fanciful as to suggest that they were dancing to the music, though for a moment I was tempted). The weird thing is that as I approached, the song I heard was “Home on the Range,” and it was followed by “Clementine” and then by a song I recognized and that I heard them announce with “Appalachian” in the title. These all seemed distinctly American to me, so I amused myself for a minute thinking about what a nice welcome party Victoria had thrown me.
I wandered around listening to the music and watching people and generally enjoying the atmosphere. People were dancing to the music and smiling unself-consciously and really having fun, and it was fun to be part of it.
The rendition of the 1812 Overture wasn’t the best I’ve ever heard, but then half the sound was no doubt carried away by the 100 yards between the symphony and me, so maybe I’m not being fair. Toward the end of the song, when cannonfire is appropriate, fireworks were shot off in the harbor, and the pealing of bells could be heard from a belltower sort of between The Empress and the Parliament, and that was a neat addition.
As the concert wrapped up, people started heading back toward downtown (where my hotel is), and I floated with them. A drum and bagpipe group (complete with kilts and big furry hats) was marching in the street and started playing Amazing Grace as I walked away. Just a couple of blocks down from my hotel on the main drag, a percussion group had set up and was playing some really neat, lively stuff that had more people dancing in the street.
It was a neat night, well worth venturing out in spite of my tiredness, and I can’t help hoping that some of tomorrow’s festivities are evening ones so that I can attend.