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As the Maestro's music echoed through the Royal Heights Elementary gymnasium, some swayed, others clapped along and one small student in the front row held his arms above his head, conducting the conductor who was playing the piano.
The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's Maestro Bramwell Tovey was at Royal Heights June 4 for a once-in-a-lifetime concert for students, staff and special guests – an event that also marked Tovey's very last school visit before the conductor of the VSO retires after 18 years.
"I've been to hundreds of schools and done hundreds of talks like this, and this is the last one!" he told the audience at Royal Heights, "And it's so great to come on such a beautiful day to such a beautiful school and to play such a beautiful piano."
He proceeded to play several songs, highlighting a variety of styles and composers. He also showed off his composing expertise by playing an impromptu composition especially for Grade 3 student Anshal Prasad (whose birthday was that day) using the letters of her name.
Royal Heights was treated to Tovey's visit after receiving the VSO Connects grant, which not only included the Meet the Maestro module, but involved a student tour of the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver.
Seniors from Kinsmen Place Lodge were also invited to the school for the afternoon of music. As Tovey played his final tune for the full crowd – Don't Get Around Much Anymore – the crowd clapped along, cheering and applauding the maestro as he took his final bow. Afterward, he took time to play a couple of additional songs for the senior guests, some of them singing along to As Time Goes By and Blessed Assurance.
"There wasn't a dry eye in the room," said Royal Heights principal Catherine Hanna.