Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Splash: A magical evening of music afloat

As the sun settles low on the horizon, the inner harbour of Victoria is swarming with boats. My dearest, Allyson, and I are in our kayaks, paddling across the harbour, heading with friends and dozens and dozens of small craft toward a large industrial barge moored in front of the legislature buildings. We weave around opulent pleasure boats, one with a string quartet playing on its foredeck. Small harbour ferries flit to and fro like bathtub toys. A float plane thrums onto the water and passes in front of us.

Then we are at the barge, jostling for front-row seats with the most amazing collection of canoes, rowboats, kayaks, zodiacs, skiffs, dinghies and even two surf boards. This is the annual Symphony Splash, and everyone is smiling and laughing. Over 40,000 people are in attendance for this unusual event, which is held on British Columbia day.

Most of the crowd is assembled on shore, but the best place is on the water. One double kayak has a candelabra on its deck while its occupants sip wine. On a dinghy, hot dogs are being barbequed and then passed to nearby boaters using a long paddle. A blonde lady is quaffing champagne straight from the bottle. Our group is enjoying chardonnay and Thai chicken satay.

Then dusk deepens and a hush falls. The Victoria Symphony Orchestra, led by dishy maestra Tania Miller, begins to play, the lights of the legislature building wink on, and an almost-full moon rises in a cloudless sky. Spellbound, we listen to Rhapsody in Blue, the Star Wars theme and other classics. The concert ends with the 1812 Overture. Reaching its climax, real cannons are fired and fireworks light up the sky. For the encore, massed pipers played Amazing Grace. There is nary a dry eye in the crowd.
As the crowd disperses, my dearest and I get separated. I paddle alone across the now-dark harbour. Occasionally light glints from paddles of other boats wending their way homeward. The moon hangs overhead. The lights of the city glimmer on the water. This has been one of the most magical evenings of my life.