Chilliwack pianist, Wesley Hawkins, will be headlining the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra’s next concert, A Super Spring Concert, on May 27. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

Young Chilliwack pianist headlines CSO spring concert

The Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra will be bringing a mix of classical music, plus hit movie songs and dancers to the stage

It’s going to be quite the show for the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra with its Super Spring Concert set to splash across the stage on Saturday, May 27.

“This concert is going to be so much fun,” says CSO music director Paula DeWit.

The orchestra will be playing a number of well-known pieces from popular movies, dancers will grace the stage, and part of the concert will be dedicated to classical music.

Chilliwack pianist, 23-year-old Wesley Hawkins, will be headlining the evening.

Ever since he was a kid, he’s enjoyed classical music. Hawkins started playing the piano when he was just five years old. He taught himself how to play the songs that were programmed into his little toy piano by ear. On his sixth birthday, his parents signed him up for piano lessons, and he’s been at it ever since.

“It’s been a passion ever since a young age,” he says. “I had this CD that had classical piano pieces on it. I always listened to it and I dreamed of being able to play it one day.”

Now he can.

Funny thing is, no one else in his family was ever really into classical music. His parents listened to Robert Plant, Pink Floyd, and Led Zepplin. His love of classical music “really came out of nowhere.”

“Growing up, I was never into video games or sports or anything. Music was my thing. I was known as that little kid who could play piano,” says Hawkins.

He’s taken music lessons in Coquitlam, here at Chilliwack Academy of Music, and more recently in Abbotsford under the tutelage of Betty Suderman.

“She helped me take things to the next level because she specializes in advanced students,” he says. “She really showed me how to mature my musical style.”

Hawkins just recently completed his first year of post-secondary school at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. He’s taking a four-year Bachelor of Music program.

For the CSO’s May 27 concert, he’s going to play Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no.2 in C minor during the second half of the concert. This will be Hawkins’ third time performing with the CSO.

“It’s one of the most famous concertos in the piano repertoire,” says Hawkins. “It’s been one of my favourites for a long time. It just really struck me — it gives me shivers.”

“You will surely recognize the music. This piece has come to be regarded by many as one of the most romantic ever written and was the theme music in the 1945 film classic Brief Encounter,” says DeWit. “Sergei Rachmaninoff, a talented composer, conductor, and pianist, dedicated this concerto to his psychotherapist to whom he credited a cure from the depths of his severe depression.”

Written at the beginning of the 20th century, it is now one of the greatest masterpieces of all time in piano repertoire. Its enduring charm continues to enchant music lovers the world over, she adds.

The entire concerto is about 30 minutes long, but Hawkins will be playing the first two movements which make up about two-thirds of the piece.

“It’s a very big and expressive piece. Baroque music and early classical music it’s very regimented and it’s very strict, but this piano music, it’s just so free. You take what’s inside of you and you put it out there, and you’re totally free to do that.

“I feel like I really connect well with this kind of music. You have such control over this huge sound, it feels like you’re on top of the world. You can take what’s in your heart and you express it in a way that you couldn’t otherwise do,” says Hawkins.

Dancers from the Fraser Valley Academy of Dance will open the concert with two selections from Aaron Copland’s Ballet, Rodeo.

“They will perform Saturday Night Waltz and Hoe-Down. Their dances depict intricate stories with fascinating plots which are delightfully portrayed by both the young dancers and the orchestration,” notes DeWit.

The orchestra will be playing several popular selections from music written for the movies The Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars, and Schindler’s List. Also, the well known favourite Olympic Fanfare and Theme is on the evening’s performance list.

“This is shaping up to be a high-energy concert and the repertoire is entirely appropriate for audiences of all ages and musical tastes,” says DeWit.

Chilliwack music duo, Portraits of Us (Anna and Jason Ratzlaff), will make a guest appearance. The gifted, young couple has beautifully balanced vocal and instrumental arrangements.

The classical sounds of Hawkins on the piano will round out the concert in the second half.

“So many people have supported me and music in Chilliwack,” Hawkins says, like his music teachers, parents, and the community. “I thought this was a good way to give back to them, to say thanks, and to come see what I’m doing now.”

CSO’s A Super Spring Concert is set for Saturday, May 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the new CSO venue, First Avenue Christian Assembly (46510 First Ave.).

Admission starts at $10, and tickets can be purchased online at; by phone at 604-795-0521; or at any of three ticket outlets: Envision Credit Union on Cheam Avenue, King’s Music in Sardis, or the concert venue at 46510 First Ave.

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Chilliwack pianist, Wesley Hawkins, will be headlining the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra’s next concert, A Super Spring Concert, on May 27. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

Chilliwack pianist, Wesley Hawkins, will be headlining the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra’s next concert, A Super Spring Concert, on May 27. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)