A Story in Three Movements
by Rosemary Phillips

I. Allegro - Brahms and the Double Concerto

FRIENDSHIP: “I find the music is beautiful,” said Marina. “The first CD I ever bought had this concerto on it, so it is very special for me. I like to play with other people and this concerto is not an ego thing, rather a playing as a duo with the orchestra. This is about relationships. Brahms wrote it to make peace with an old friend (violinist Joseph Joachim) and he used musical letters to Joachim during the concerto, such as ‘when you are single you are free, but not so sweet, you are alone.’ It’s about love and friendship. It’s a connection between two people, featured musically, and, it is very relevant to me in my own life.” (For classical aficionados, Brahms uses the musical motif of A-E-F, a variation of F-A-E which was Joachim’s motif, Frei aber einsam – Free but lonely.)

THE MUSIC IS HUMAN: “Brahms is telling us in the piece he is human. It’s a message about life, about communicating. I find it incredibly emotional and really determined - and difficult. It’s from the Romantic period with crazy dynamics, some big heavy chords, and yet the last movement is almost like a fairy piece (here Marina sings away… dum de dum); fast, between minor and major, between sad and happy, as if saying, ‘are we going to end up on a good friendship?’”

THE MUSIC IS TOUGH: Any musician and researcher into the Double Concerto will agree with Calvin as he says, “It’s a tough piece. I appreciate the challenge. It’s a lot more work than some of the more easily accessible works like Bach and Mendelssohn. Brahms uses the instruments sometimes in conversation. The cello will state the theme and then the violin answers, back and forth. In addition, he sometimes has them playing in octaves, each in their own voice, and sometimes he treats the cello and violin as if it’s one instrument.” (Calvin demonstrated by singing - that’s one of the perks of writing about musicians - getting sung to over the phone!)

Egos aside: And here is where things get interesting. Classicalnotes.net explains the concerto is rarely heard in concert because, ‘it requires superstar soloists who must sublimate their egos and share the spotlight.’ It is heard more in recordings where the piece often becomes an orchestral family affair, featuring the concertmaster and principal cello.

Added Calvin, who sat with the musical score beside him, “I can see why Pierre picked it. It makes total sense to use members of the orchestra because it’s a conversation between two instruments and the orchestra, not the orchestra in an accompanying role.”

THE FEELING OF THE MUSIC: Marina explained, “I don’t know how to put it. It feels musical from the beginning. I have never performed this before so I started practicing last February. It is enormous; so long, so beautiful, so many patterns, characters, very rich, very challenging. It requires power, lots of power and stamina to stay constantly focussed.”

WELL PREPARED: This will be a premier performance of the Double Concerto for both Calvin and Marina who will have rehearsed for many months. “I’ve been going through it thinking of the best solutions to make this work,” said Calvin. “The next step is to get together with Marina and see if our ideas line up, how to treat these phrases. If we have a unified approach it will make it easier to put it with the orchestra. We might hire a pianist and run it a few times. We want to arrive very well prepared.”

II. Andante - Connecting with Marina Hasselberg

This is Marina’s second season with the VIS. “I had a one-year period of trial. That period has now passed and Margot said, ‘You’re in!’ I call the VIS my new family, because that’s how it feels. We get together once a month, we work really hard; some will be having a good time in life, and some a bad time, and we help each other. To perform the Double Concerto with my own symphony is one of those incredibly awesome opportunities to connect.”

FROME EAST TO WEST: Like all the members of the VIS, Marina has a fascinating background. “I came to Canada from Portugal with my ex-husband. When I was 19 I fell in love. He was Portuguese living in England and we dated long distance until we decided to get married and move to Canada. I did my Masters in Ontario, then we came to Vancouver. We had no jobs, no schools, no friends or family; we just put everything in our car and drove to Vancouver. We are divorced now but we are still friends.”

ON MUSIC: “I was always exposed to music. My mum listened to it all the time, and my dad was an amateur musician of many instruments; bag pipes, viola, violin, trombone. The best were the harmonica and the flute. I like all the different styles from Brazilian to world music and traditional European dance music. There were lots of concerts and lots of friends playing music. I was maybe eight years old when I started and I loved it. I love Baroque, new music, improvising, electronics, and working with dancers and theatre people in all kinds of collaborations.”

FALLING IN LOVE WITH THE CELLO: “It’s really weird; I only truly fell in love with it three years ago, even though I had played it for 20 years. I first heard this instrument on the radio. It was beautiful. My dad said it was a cello. It was as simple as that. I loved the sound. I didn’t think why at the time but the cello is the closest to the human voice in tone. It really speaks, especially on the medium register. It’s almost a human connection. “I always felt music was difficult. As a perfectionist I always felt behind, that I was never good enough, so I lived with the sense of guilt that I was not as good as I could be. Then three years ago when I began living life in my favourite way, out of school, independent, my own house, I was practicing during Christmas break and fell in love with the cello. I love playing it. My cello is 150 years old, from Venice. A little boy I was teaching named it Marcello, and a friend named my Baroque cello Penelope.” There’s more: As you watch Marina performing at centre stage you will be looking at a woman who also loves fencing. “I started about two years ago. I love it, it’s so much fun. It’s not black and white, you have to learn to read your opponent. Dueling comes from a violent background, but it is no longer that way. It’s not about disliking the person, but experiencing part of the fight, the adrenalin and survival. It keeps me really fit. It has helped me realize certain parts of my own personality, like an aggressive side, that if I have a goal I will fight for it. It was only after starting fencing I learned how musicians have to be focussed and fight, with respect for the community, and as graciously as possible.” And Marina’s goals? “It’s a bit strange but if I died now I would not regret it. I have achieved all my big goals, I’m a super happy person. There are no major changes I want to do but maybe a year from now I will have an entirely different goal. I want to keep learning more, and record my own music. What I want from life is to improve as an artist and musician.” This is just the tip of the ice-berg when it comes to connecting with Marina. What has not been discussed is her love of dumplings and whiskey sours. After all, this is but an introduction to an amazing new member of the VIS family.

III. Vivace non troppo - Connecting with Calvin Dyck

Many readers will know Calvin from his contributions to the VIS as concertmaster, soloist, conductor with Symphony by the Sea, as conductor and director with the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra, for his many hats, and for his impromptu performances in support of the VIS organization.

LIVING WITH THE VIS: “It’s hard to imagine my life without it,” laughed Calvin who is now in his 18th season. “It’s like an old comfortable coat. I don’t have the same nerves as I did with the first few seasons. There’s connection with patrons, colleagues and community, and there continues to be a really good relationship with Pierre (Simard, conductor) and Margot (Holmes, CEO) and my colleagues. It has been an ideal place for me to be these past 18 years, and has allowed me to flourish and do great work, and ultimately make music, which is the point.

“Years ago, I read there are two professions with the most-unhappy employees – prison guards and orchestra musicians. That is not so with the VIS. In typical professional orchestras musicians are often unhappy due to competition, evaluation, conductors, that whole nastiness which is absent from the VIS. Here, in the VIS, I have always felt my colleagues are supportive of each other; we have each other’s backs, which sets us free to concentrate on the music, to do the best work, and not have to prove ourselves. It’s just so comfortable now. When you work with someone who is friendly, competent and enjoys music, it makes it very easy. We have been fortunate with players who have a great spirit and attitude. They have said to me they come here because they enjoy playing with their colleagues. It’s not about money because many have to give up other gigs to be here. That’s a real affirmation of the spirit of this orchestra.

“When Marlin Wolfe was hired by the board in the 1990s, he was given a specific mandate, to develop a professional orchestra. It was his goal and his mission. As a result, we have a quality orchestra in Nanaimo and arguably one of the best regional orchestras in the province.” And now with Pierre Simard at the helm, that quality has continued and grown these past ten years. “In some ways we rival the Victoria Symphony in quality.”

YET ANOTHER HAT: “My wife Heather and I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Kenya for a few weeks this year with the MCC relief and development projects, to make a small documentary. It was eye-opening and rewarding, fascinating, and in some ways heart-wrenching. There had been a drought and water had to be shipped in. The MCC is working with local organizations to identify solutions, such as building a dam for water, using local resources and people. In this case MCC supplied the cement and rebar, and the local villagers built it. Three days after our visit the rains filled the dam with enough water for six months. To help with such projects we have a fundraising concert scheduled for May.”

And now for something completely different! “My friend Clyde Mitchell has come up with the idea of featuring young local soloists accompanied by a symphony, even for the simplest of tunes. He allowed me to use his arrangements for a concert in Abbotsford, with 15 young people on stage. These are beginners getting a taste of symphony. The kids were thrilled and the teachers were ecstatic. One mother wrote me, ‘For the last six months I haven’t had to tell my son to practice. He was so motivated by the concert with the orchestra.’ - We are already planning concerts for 2019.

“You just have to keep your ear to the ground, to engage with the community and who is around you. Good ideas can come from many different sources.” And like the Brahms Double Concerto, it all comes down to connecting.

For formal biographies, and more fun information please visit:
www.calvindyck.com and www.marinahasselberg.com

3B's - Bach, Beethoven, Brahms

Saturday, February 17 | 7:30pm | Port Theatre