Liam Doyle (left), brother Rory, Christina Howie, Anita Eccleston and sister Elizabeth were members of the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra’s Junior Wind Ensemble back in 1997. 

Liam Doyle (left), brother Rory, Christina Howie, Anita Eccleston and sister Elizabeth were members of the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra’s Junior Wind Ensemble back in 1997. 

KSO 40th: Sisters started musical careers at symphony


Some sisterly competition — as well as some influence from a big brother — led to the musical instrument choices for Anita and Elizabeth Eccleston.

The Kamloops Symphony Orchestra also played a big role in what became life-changing decisions.

Let’s start with the role Tom Eccleston played. A member of the Westsyde secondary band, he played trumpet “and I thought it was really cool,” Anita said. She started lessons with KSO conductor Bruce Dunn, leaving Elizabeth still debating what choice she would make.

“Anita had already picked the trumpet and I thought ‘Oh man, she’s already ahead of me,” Elizabeth said from her home in Toronto.

Tom took her to a KSO concert and afterward, suggested to Elizabeth she take up the oboe and sign up for lessons with KSO oboist
Shauna Martin. The musical paths were set, ones that led both to become professional musicians and for Elizabeth to recently complete doctoral studies in music. Neither were formally taught at the KSO Music School, although Elizabeth taught there for a year between her undergraduate and post-graduate studies.

Many of the orchestra members had students, she said, a fact that led to the creation of the KSO’s Junior Wind Ensemble that also included Liam and Rory Doyle — whose weekly lessons were right before hers — and Christina Howie. While they also were in the band at school and benefited from the instruction of longtime teacher and musician Sydney Griffith, the sisters said their KSO teachers fueled their interest in music.

“I teach private lessons,” Anita said, “And, when I started, I realized I was regurgitating all the things Bruce had taught me.” While making music is the key, Anita said the classes “are more than just music lessons. They’re life lessons” that helped her gain the confidence to perform, to face disappointment and to work hard to be skilled and reliable.

Another longtime KSO musician also had a role in the sisters’ musical lives. David Mardon encouraged both of them; for Elizabeth, his role was key when, about three months into lessons, she was thinking of quitting. While debating her music future, Mardon invited her to join a youth orchestra “and this was before I had even done band. I was in Grade 7,” Elizabeth said. “I credit him for not quitting.” At the age of 15, she performed with the KSO “sitting next to my teacher.”

These days, the twins continue to make music. Elizabeth is freelancing, performing with various orchestras in Ontario while Anita has made Vancouver her base, where she frequently finds herself on stage or recording. She will release a new jazz album soon.

April 18, 2015 - TORONTO GUARDIAN (from the former TORONTO IS AWESOME)

Blythwood Winds

Blythwood Winds

Blythwood Winds' "Hogtown Roundup"


On Monday evening of the 13th of April, 2015, the audience at the Music Gallery were treated to Blythwood Winds’ ‘Hogtown Roundup,’ featuring three world premieres by three Toronto-based composers (And a Toronto-premier of a work just 5 years old).

Formed in 2010, Blythwood Winds (Timothy Crouch, flute; Elizabeth Eccleston, oboe; Anthony Thompson, clarinet; Michael Macaulay, bassoon; Curtis Vander Hyden, horn) is committed to the performance of Canadian Music. They’ve enjoyed a fair bit of success so far, playing everywhere from the Canadian Music Centre to the Art Gallery of Ontario, and recently performing at the Classical Nominees Showcase at the JUNOs.

The show started with an easy-banter-style interview with the composer, preparing the listener for the new works. Each of the three composers present were subjected to an interview, and each remarked on two common challenges of writing for the Wind Quintet: the non-homogenous ensemble sound (unlike a string quartet where you have four stringed instruments that create sound the same way, in a wind quintet, you have five distinct timbres), and the wind players’ need to breathe.

The program started with the piece that was the longest in the making: William Rowson’s 9-minute Quintet for Winds spanned 20 years in its creation. The delicately gestured piece takes full advantage of the lowest register of the bassoon, showcasing Macaulay’s deep and gripping sound – kind of like a giant fuzzy peach in aural form. Later in the piece, Rowson toys with a joyous and trotting but fragmented motif, creating a sense of agitation and making each little bit of Vander Hyden’s soaring horn calls that much more effective, like giant gulps of air for the ear.

Next on the program was Casa Loma Wind Quintet by Nathaniel Barnes, which could easily be the soundtrack for a made-for-tv biopic of Henry Pellatt. In five movements, the work is a literal sound illustration of the movement titles. Five-Legged Elephant uses an almost sad, pensive elephant call; Pellatt Rag is an elegant and refined ‘oompah;’ Electricity uses rolling arpeggios to illustrate hydro-powered electricity, and so on.

The only piece that isn’t a tribute to Toronto was Pura Vida Suite for Wind Quintet by Calgary-based Aura Pon. Pon’s piece provided a very comfortable texture for the listener, and the final movement, marked Adagio was the perfect vessel to highlight the quintet’s beautifully grounded intonation.

Kevin Lau’s piece, Living Miniatures, explores the darker stereotypes of Toronto in three movements titled Spring Gate, Oakenshield, and Road to Aberdeen. The piece opens with a stunning flute cadenza performed brilliantly by Crouch, and later gives way to a soulful English horn solo by Eccleston, the newest Blythwood member. Lau had also mentioned the difficulties of writing for a non-homogenous ensemble, but there was a point where I blinked and the brilliant flute trill had turned into Thompson’s fluid, almost watercolour-esq clarinet melody with no apparent seams or stitches between the two. Lau also uses the very distinguishable sounds of each instruments to his advantage in a fugal passage, creating a texture that is complex but not dense.

Blythwood Winds is certainly creating a name for themselves with superb chamber music playing and their dedication to commissioning and performing new Canadian works.

For updates on Blythwood Winds and upcoming shows, head over to their facebook page.

Double Trouble: Vancouver Jazz-Soul Singer joins forces with TBSO twin sister tonight at the Foundry

Vancouver vocalist and trumpet player Anita Eccleston takes her dynamic jazz crossover performance to Thunder Bay on March 22 at the Foundry to team up with her twin sister, TBSO oboe player, Elizabeth Eccleston. Although these identical twins are both professional musicians, they have rarely performed together since high school. Anita studied jazz trumpet at McGill in Montreal while Elizabeth was in Waterloo majoring on oboe at Laurier.

Now they find themselves still living in different cities, half a country apart, working in their respective fields of music. Instead of performing in a classical capacity, Elizabeth will be joining forces with Anita, singing back up vocals on this stylistically eclectic program, which draws from jazz, pop, blues, motown, soul, funk, rock, and reggae. “At the Trio EP CD Launch in January, Liz joined me for the first time as a backup vocalist which ended up being such a blast that we immediately began discussing when we could perform together again.”

To form her quartet at The Foundry, Anita has recruited local guitarist Kyle Shushack (Bay City Sound Collective), and TBSO musicians Martin Blanchet (bass) and Jean-Francois Breton (drums). The openers are locals talents Andrew Laviolette and Aubrey Brandt. The event starts at 9:30pm and cover will be $5 at the door.