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Flutist back in the saddle with Okotoks orchestra

Ursula Sherwood is among the 36 talented musicians who will perform in the Foothills Philharmonic Orchestra's winter concert next weekend.
Foothills Philharmonic Orchestra
The Foothills Philharmonic Orchestra will perform its winter concert at the Okotoks Alliance Church March 14. (Wheel File Photo)

A decades-long hiatus was no obstacle for an Okotoks flutist ready to step behind the music stand and entertain once again.

After taking a 20-year break from playing the flute to focus on family, Ursula Sherwood realized it was time to dust off her instrument case and make music as a member of the Foothills Philharmonic Society’s new orchestra in 2016.

She’s now the principal flutist and will perform alongside 35 other musicians in a concert March 13 at the High River United Church and March 14 at the Okotoks Alliance Church. Both concerts begin at 7 p.m.

“I’d been missing music in my life,” said Sherwood. “It’s surprisingly easy to get a lot of your skills back even after such a long rest.”

With two degrees in music, one from the University of Calgary and another in Germany where she grew up, Sherwood said she’d played the flute semi-professionally with various orchestras for years.

She began playing the flute at age 12.

“I started with the recorder and then asked to play the flute,” she recalled. “Finally, my dad relented and I got flute lessons. I really liked the sounds of the instrument.”

When life got busy for Sherwood, she took a break.

“I let it go for a bit and didn’t really pick it up seriously until I joined the orchestra,” she said. “I home schooled for some time so there wasn’t a lot of extra time left to do that kind of thing.”

Sherwood’s love for the flute and combining music with others never went away, so when she learned about the Foothills Philharmonic Orchestra she didn’t think twice about auditioning.

“I’ve always enjoyed playing with others and, for me, playing an instrument is about sharing with others in the concert,” she said. “It’s just the community you build when you play with other people. It’s amazing the synergy you create when playing together. It’s just beautiful.”

Sherwood said she especially enjoys the camaraderie of being in a community orchestra.

“We’re there to have fun,” he said. “Yes, you want to make good music but it’s also about having fun together. The group is really evolving to a fun community group.”

This weekend’s Orchestra in Concert will feature a range of classical tunes including Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, Telemann Flute Concerto in D Major and Mozart’s Magic Flute overture.

Sherwood said her favourite piece in the selection is Beethoven's 5th.

“It’s an amazing piece,” she said. “That’s another thing I like about the group is we get exposed to a lot of different repertoire and I really enjoy that.”

The orchestra is made up of a range of experiences from university-trained musicians to high school students from across the Foothills and south Calgary.

The Orchestra in Concert is one of three concerts the orchestra hosts each season. The Foothills Philharmonic Chamber Chorus will perform a set during the concert.

Terry B. Lee, the orchestra’s conductor and artistic director, said the orchestra plays classical music from the baroque to the modern era each week.

“We’re looking at the pieces from the baroque era, classical era and the romantic era of western music development,” he said. “Selecting music is a very subjective process. Sometimes we have tried to pay attention to a theme or idea.”

Lee said the starting point for this concert was acknowledging Beethoven's 250th birthday.

Lee has been playing music his entire life, with undergraduate training as a voice major in the writing program, having since written music for radio and television commercials as well as small string ensembles to big band.

Recently, he’s been writing his own compositions for congregational singing as a minister at the Okotoks Alliance Church.

Tickets to see Orchestra in Concert cost $20, $15 for seniors and students and children ages 12 and under are free. Tickets can be purchased at

Tammy Rollie,


Tammy Rollie

About the Author: Tammy Rollie

Tammy Rollie is a staff reporter at and the Western Wheel newspaper, focusing on Wheel's West, local arts and culture and entertainment. For story tips contact
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