Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ivan and the Princess

The year 1958  was a banner year for Orpheum manager and master promoter, Ivan Ackery. As part of the British Columbia Centennial, Vancouver held the first Vancouver International Festival. Vancouverites were given the opportunity to enjoy a rare feast of music.

Acts performing in Vancouver included Andre Previn; the Fraser McPherson jazz nonet; Lance Harrison and his Dixieland band; Doug Parker and his 15-piece jazz group; Eleanor Collins; the Oscar Peterson Trio; Totem City Jazz Band; the Dave Quarin quintet; the Ray Norris quintet; the Chris Gage trio; the Jack Fulton quintet; the Jim Kilburn quintet; the Wilf Wylie trio and Dave Pepper’s 14-piece old-time jazz band.

The great Australian coloratura, Joan Sutherland, made her North American debut during the festival on the stage at the Orpheum. (An interesting fact, Sutherland and the Orpheum share the same birthday. The Orpheum opened on the lady's first birthday.)

“For me,” Ivan wrote, “the biggest event was the attendance of Princess Margaret at a Vancouver Symphony concert in the Orpheum, with the great Bruno Walter as guest conductor . . . She came in a beautiful long white gown, a diamond tiara on her dark hair, every inch a royal Princess, escorted by RCMP officers, smart in their scarlet tunics. They formed an honor guard, and made you feel proud to be a Canadian . . .

“As we entered the auditorium, the sell-out audience of 3,000 rose to their feet and an absolute hush settled over the theatre. The Princess was seated in the centre of the front row of the loges, flanked on the right by Lieutenant-Governor Frank Ross and on the left by Festival president W.C. Mainwaring. She listened with rapt attention to Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, to Maureen Forrester in solo performance, to the male voices of the Vancouver Bach Choir and the Vancouver Festival Orchestra.

“The red-coated Mounties were at every exit, with plain clothes officers all over the place, looking so nonchalant that they stood out a mile. I was anxious over the temperature in the theatre, which our new air-conditioner was keeping at a perfect 74 degrees [Fahrenheit], rendering all my fretfulness unnecessary . . .”

Four years before this, Ivan had purchased property, a half acre, at Copper Cove. (Just around the corner from Horseshoe Bay) It cost him $4,800 and he built a cabin on the property where he lived until he sold it in 1974.

“I had a beautiful home in a priceless setting, and I loved it. There was lots to occupy my time and my interest. I wasn’t a gardener, but I did the same as I’d done in show business, just learned as I went along, and in time the property became a very beautifully landscaped one, to add to the natural beauty of its surroundings. I built a rockery, with stairs right down to the water, and planted it all myself, after a good deal of investigation and study into which kinds of plants would grow where. It became so attractive, and so popular, that the sightseeing buses used to bring people to see it.”

I am almost at the end of my feature on Ivan Ackery. Friday, I will tell how this legendary man's career ended.

Thanks goes to The History of Metropolitan Vancouver website for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.


  1. Ivan had a pretty good life after his promotion. Princess Margaret would have really been a true novelty to see as such a young and beautiful lady. I am not a groupie but I am sure I would have been in awe of her grace and gentility. Also, loved the playground pictures. Thanks for a fun blog.

    1. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment Lee. I really appreciate it.

  2. As a person who was whining about you not mentioning Ivor Ackery in your initial item about the Orpheum, I am so bursting with pleasure at how much information you have presented about someone I remember from 60 years ago. Sometimes I wonder why I feel nostalgia for the past, but when I read about Mr. Ackery, I understand my nostalgia. ��

    1. He is an important part of Vancouver history and now you see why I couldn't just mention him in an entry on the Orpheum. He deserves so much more than that.