At last weekend's Pender Harbour Jazz Festival, musician Karen Graves dedicated a song to her friend, the late jazz pianist Les Fowler. It was a tune she had written with pianist Miles Black. "Music in your smile," she sang.
Fowler passed away just a week before the jazz festival to which he had contributed so much of his time and talent. A long-time smoker, Fowler was diagnosed with lung cancer. He will be missed, both in Pender Harbour and in Gibsons where he lived on his boat, Nordic Pride.
Fowler was the original leader of the Harbour Lights swing band that performed for 28 years on the Coast and later transformed into the Roberts Creek Big Band.
In 1973 he and his wife Joyce formed the earliest incarnation of the Pender Harbour Community Choir. Forty years later it is still going strong under other musical directors, and in recent years, Fowler returned to it to sing bass in the choir. According to choir member Sue Milne, Fowler was delighted to participate in the Choir's 40th Anniversary celebrations last May. They meant a lot to him.
He gave music a boost, especially in Pender Harbour.
When Fowler spoke with the Coast Reporter last May, he laughed that, "I had keys to just about every building in town that we could use for rehearsal space."
The choir and the Harbour Lights needed their own space for practising, and in 1983, Fowler persuaded Gordon Wilson, then a Sunshine Coast Regional District director, to offer them the former forestry building in Madeira Park for $1 a year.
"We taught kids music for free there," he said, "mostly taught by members of the band."
The music centre, much renovated, is still in use today for the concert events of the Pender Harbour Music Society, which was formed in 1985. This society later founded the Jazz Festival and Fowler could be seen at many early festivals, helping out, transporting instruments, stacking chairs for the audience, chatting with visitors and always keeping a positive attitude about the changing weather, borne of his years as a fisherman.
At Saturday's concert, jazz festival organizer Carole Rubin dedicated the day's music to Fowler, calling him "a true Coast character."
Tributes, musical and otherwise, are still pouring in. A memorial service will be held at the Pender Harbour Community Hall on Oct. 27 at 2 p.m., with a reception to follow at the School of Music.