Oct. 21st, 2016 – The Cold, the wet, and the Happy: the SJMA goes to Squamish!

There was the cold. Early morning on a fall Friday, gray clouds taking the place of the sun that we had so hoped to see. It was shortly before half past seven when the first child turned up at the door of the Saint James Music Academy, all bundled up, toque, mittens, and all. And then another, then another, then another more. By the time eight o’clock came around, one had become twenty-seven, ranging from the extremely sleepy to the extremely excited. The reason? The SJMA’s Intermediate Orchestra was heading to the Cheakamus Centre in Squamish!

Phones, cameras, and oohs-and-ahs came out as the bus awkwardly swerved through the twists and turns of the Sea-to-Sky Highway. The Howe Sound was a dark dawn blue. Shannon Falls roaring furiously from the past night’s rains. The impressionable face of the Stawamus Chief barely peeking through the dense fog. For many of the students, a jaunt up this way was a rare opportunity, for some, even a first-time. And while there might not be much music made today, other priorities were on the agenda. A chance to get away from the city for a little while; to play around in the mountains; to make friends, make mistakes, and make memories.

There was the cold; then there was the wet. By the time the bus pulled into the parking lot, a gentle misting of rain had formed. The children stumbled out single-file, some more nauseous than others, greeted by the Centre’s smiling staff. A welcome, some games, and they were off. The day’s activities? Cave exploring, shelter building, and archery, all set against the lush rainforests of the Squamish River Valley. Oh, and who could forget: lunch. A gourmet meal of sandwiches – meatballs, ham, falafel, or egg – green salad, and squash soup; and most importantly, a reprieve from the cold and the wet. Because as the day progressed, the rain did the opposite of going away. Trickle turned into showers, and showers into heavy rain. Jackets were soaked through, shoes sopping wet, and hands slightly-numb.

But despite this, there was the happy. A happiness in the joy and excitement of finding ourselves in this big wild world. The caves: water running down in between the rocks, but doing little to dampen to spirits of our intrepid explorers. They crawled over, under, and in between, squeezing through the scantest of cracks; flashlight in cold hands, feeling their way through jagged rock formations, cries of joy with each new cave conquered. The shelters: tarps and ropes expertly bound together, furnished with branches scavenged from the forest floor. As the rain poured down, activity became necessity; the students huddled proudly underneath their hardy creations. And then archery: a range of possibilities found in balloons and hay bales. Pass the arrows, nock the arrows, aim and fire, laughter and encouragements erupted with each round.

The Saint James Music Academy would like to thank everyone who made this wonderful day possible: the Longworth Foundation, the staff of the Cheakamus Centre, the Vancouver Trolley Company, and the Squamish First Nations whose unceded territories hosted us. And though it may have been wet and cold, it was nothing a dry change of clothes won’t fix. As for the friends, mistakes, and memories made? Well worth it if I may say.


Written by David Liou, October 27th, 2016