Finding one word, short sentence or phrase that encapsulates and defines an entire season of music is never an easy task. It’s one, however, that the Vancouver Island Symphony has been excelling at for the past 23 years. This season, the 24th for the VIS, is no exception. "We live in a world of image, and we deal with sound,” says Artistic Director and Conductor, Pierre Simard. “We’re not one artistic style, and it’s quite difficult to come up with one umbrella theme."
PASSION! It's what draws us to experience music, play music or write it and it is what ties the more than 14 productions and events of the upcoming season together. This incredible season is to awake senses, experiences and joys – all the things beautiful, live, symphonic music has to offer. Each show will take you to another time – past and future – an escape from everyday – a way to de-stress.
PASSION! manifests not only through the musical expression of what it means to be human, but through hard work, and dedication; a commitment to perfection and a desire to always to more than just enough to get by. PASSION! is about the decades of training by musicians, many of whom study for as long as it would take to become a doctor or a lawyer before they can achieve excellence. PASSION! is about the emotions expressed by the artists and then experienced by the audience and for the Vancouver Island Symphony, it shows up as HAPPINESS, LOVE, HOME, DISCOVERY, INSPIRATION, POWER and INFINITY.
PASSION! It's what draws us to experience music, play music or write it
Each of these productions has a very personal connection for Simard, starting with the first show of the season, HAPPINESS! Brahms and Dvorak featuring guest artist Cameron Crozman on cello. In Simard’s college years, he studied conducting under a well respected and elderly teacher who reserved a small collection of pieces that his students were not allowed to touch. One of them was Brahms Symphony no. 3 in F major, op. 90. “If you were allowed to play it, you were not allowed to muck with it,” says Simard. “I am thrilled to include it on the program for HAPPINESS!, along with Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor, op. 104, in the program on Saturday, October 20th, 2018.
The season continues with LOVE! A Blinko Acro Cirque Spectacular in a brand-new, tailor-made symphony cirque program on Saturday, November 17th and HOME! for Christmas with Ken Lavigne and guest, Nadya Blanchette on Saturday, December 1st.
The first show of 2019, on January 19th, is DISCOVERY! A Tribute to Women Composers with guest artist Paolo Bortolussi on Flute. “It’s important to take a musical stand for women composers.” Inspired by the #MeToo movement, it’s a way for the Symphony to synchronize with the times and Simard adds that every season going forward, there will be an acknowledgement of the contributions and talents of female composers. The program includes The Flute Concertino, op. 107, by Cecile Chaminade, was the first of five Concertinos commissioned by the VIS and was specifically written for Paolo.
DISCOVERY! is followed by INSPIRATION! Schumann and Mozart with Guest Artist Carter Johnson on Piano, on Saturday, February 16th, 2019 and then in March, it’s POWER! Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same with Jeans N’ Classics Band lead by singer Michael Shotton in a symphonic tribute to Led Zeppelin.
“Not many people know that I had an interesting teenage life,” Simard shares. “Growing up, I had no classical music in my life. My brother is five years older, and he had this big sound system and a drum kit. My early years were filled with Styx and Queen and Supertramp and Led Zeppelin. For me, it’s special to bring a symphony orchestra that plays a band that played through my teenage years.”
INFINITY! Star Wars and Holst’s Planets wraps up the main program on Saturday, April 27th. ”Holst’s planets was my go to sleep music,” Simard recalls. “It’s one of the quietest pieces of music ever written, and it was the invention of the fade out, the volume goes away. Conducting this is a dream come true for me - a bucket list item.”
This 2018/2019 Vancouver Island Symphony season is indicative of a healthy arts organization, one that continues to grow while navigating through an increasingly competitive and ever-changing ticket buying market and after 23 years, the VIS is doing it with confidence and maturity. Join them for a Season filled with Passion!