For the second consecutive season, the Summer Concert Series at Willows Park kicks off with the high-energy Victoria Soul Gospel Choir thanks to a donor.
Last year a service club covered costs for the first summer concert; this year Oak Bay resident Roberto Cecchini funded the first foray June 30 at the beach-front park. His reasons are threefold.
“I wanted to show my gratitude and appreciation for the beautiful community of Oak Bay that I live in. Then to the choir I sing with. It’s really such a wonderful experience,” he said. “My third interest was I was hoping that seeing me do something like this would inspire other Oak Bay residents to get involved with Oak Bay recreation in helping put together things.”
The dynamic Victoria Soul Gospel Choir delivers the sounds of Motown, R&B, gospel, and reggae in five-part harmony with choreography that inspires dance. The choir was well received as the first to perform as part of Recreation Oak Bay’s Summer Concert Series last year.
“I was hoping it would make people think ‘that’s doable, let’s see what I can get involved with.’ Plus I love to have fun,” Cecchini said. “It was a tremendous amount of fun, the mayor loved it, the thousand-odd people who attended all loved it. The town was very open to putting us into their schedule this year. We also really enjoyed it, the audience was great.”
The choir represents men and women of all ages, ethnicities and beliefs who simply love the joy of experiencing music together. The choir’s enthusiastic director, Checo Tohomaso, has performed with Marvin Gaye, Lionell Ritchie and the Commodores, and he brings that authentic Motown sound to their music.
“The choir is an amazing experience,” said Cecchini, now in his third year.
“I had never sung before and I want to encourage anybody who has thought about singing to come to one of our rehearsals. It’s uplifting to a degree you can’t imagine.”
Working with Oak Bay Parks, Recreation and Culture was “wonderful,” he said, and they were open and receptive to the choir’s return.
“What a pleasure to collaborate with people who make things happen for Oak Bay … and to see how organized and supportive they are,” he said. “The idea is for everybody to pitch in to make summer here for everybody exciting and fantastic without having to think about going someplace else.
“Let’s make it really great right here. This is my little contribution.”
Visit victoriasoulgospel.ca for a taste of the music.
“This is the second year the concerts have happened and they have been very well received, particularly with turn out for the Victoria Soul Gospel Choir,” said Marlaina Buch, arts and culture programmer for Oak Bay.
“The line-up was chosen to support established as well as up-and-coming local talent who blend musical styles. Audiences can expect something different every time and a reason to get up and dance.”
Kristina Helene performs July 13, Fantan O’Brien performs July 27 and Impulse Response is on stage Aug. 10.
Concerts are 6:30 to 9 p.m. in Willows Park.