Sounds of Christmas at QB’s Milner Gardens

Few instruments capture the spirit of the season better than the harp

Patt Scrivener plays the harp at Milner Gardens on Dec. 18.

Patt Scrivener plays the harp at Milner Gardens on Dec. 18.

Only one week left to enjoy the sights and sounds of Christmas at Milner Gardens and Woodland. With 50,000 light bulbs, there is plenty of sparkle and shine at one of the area’s brightest family favourite events — Milner Christmas Magic.

The 12-day festival began Dec. 2 at the stunning 70-acre estate in Qualicum Beach and the gardens have been lighting up the sky with thousands of lights that adorn the gardens and pathways ever since.  The popular holiday tradition of lights, music and magic in the gardens first started in 2003 and each year the event has grown thanks to the incredible network of community volunteers and Milner staff.

The festival of lights, music and magic is about more than just light displays.  Volunteers from the Vancouver Island Regional Library entertain children and grownups alike with their festive storytelling and of course there is really a Santa.

The Teddy Bear Cottage is also a hit for both generations with antique collectibles as well as soft and cuddly critters on display. Children are invited to guess the number of bears in the gardener’s cottage and someone will win a furry surprise. The tea room is open serving up their scrumptious scones with Devonshire cream and other freshly baked goodies. The gift shops are open for browsing and stocking up on special presents including Milner’s specialty homemade jams and jellies.

The festival wouldn’t be complete without the fabulous musicians gracing the gardens with choral and instrumental music.

This week’s entertainment includes Startlight Reverie Dec. 16, McShane Sisters Dec. 17 and 19, Patt Scrivener Dec. 18, Dave Klinger Dec. 20 and Trio Chocolat Dec. 21.

If you love the soothing sounds of the harp, you won’t want to miss Patt Scrivener’s Sunday performance.

Scrivener has been playing the harp professionally for six years now and said she will stick to a Christmas repertoire that isn’t mainstream.

“The music is less popular. There will be some German and Scandinavian tunes that people may not be familiar with,” she said.

Although Scrivener has been musically inclined since childhood, her love for the harp came later in life.

As a child she spent many hours drawing, sewing and crafting items along with studying piano.

She said the popular Canadian children’s show on the CBC, The Friendly Giant was her first introduction to harp music.

Friendly lived in a castle along with his animal puppet friends Rusty the rooster, who played a harp and lived in a book bag hung by the castle window and Jerome the giraffe.


“The Friendly Giant was an inspiration. I loved the draw bridge,” she admitted.

It wasn’t until much later in life that Scrivener decided to start playing the instrument.

“I was at a conference at a big hotel and a harpist was playing at Sunday brunch. It was an ethereal moment.”

Scrivener moved to Calgary from Saskatchewan and didn’t take her piano with her. She wound up moving to a neighborhood that had a harp teacher and the rest is history.

She admitted it was a bit humiliating at first to struggle with a musical instrument after being such an accomplished piano player but she persevered and eventually got the technique down.

“I had to start at the beginning and learn Twinkle Twinkle Little Star just to get my fingers to work. It was a struggle.”

She added she had to build up callouses on her fingers and to this day she must consistently play to keep her fingers supple.

“It is like going to the gym for your fingers. You have to be constantly moving them and practicing,” she said.

When Scrivener isn’t playing her harp, you can find her in her Parksville art studio where she paints almost daily, or decorating a house.

The mixed media artists and interior designer is a member of the De Cosmos Art Group, the Federation of Canadian Artists and the American Institute of Floral Designers.

She said it is challenging to do all of her creative endeavors but she is equally passionate about them all.

Scrivener will be performing at Milner Christmas Magic on Sunday, Dec. 18.

Shuttles will be available for those with mobility concerns and it’s a great idea to bring along a flashlight for extra light along pathways.

The event goes from 5 to 8:30 p.m. December 16 to 21.  Admission is by donation with all proceeds going to support the gardens.

Vancouver Island University’s Milner Gardens and Woodland is located at 2179 West Island Hwy, Qualicum Beach. For more information and a complete list of dates and performances visit or phone 250-752-6153.


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