Imagine staring down something you fear. Imagine the struggle to face the obstacle you are most afraid of, and then walking through the fear and overcoming that obstacle. This is the feeling Jason Nett, Vancouver Island Symphony’s (VIS) former composer-in-residence is trying to capture in the season opener concert.
On Saturday October 19th, audiences are invited to stare down their fears with the world premiere performance of The Brave Heart.
“In the broad sense, I want people to not read into what the experience is. They will get it. It’s like watching a movie and all of my pieces have a journey,” says Nett. “It’s about fear and facing something that you don’t want to face but if you have the courage to face it, you find out that the boogie man wasn’t there. You transcend that experience.”
In an evening that is being billed as a journey from darkness to light, pianist Michael Kim will then join VIS to perform A minor Piano Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s spectacular Fourth Symphony, under the direction of Artistic Director Pierre Simard. This is Kim’s fourth performance with VIS.
“The programmatic title braveheart refers to the whole notion of the romantic artists as a hero,” says Kim. “Tchaikovsky and Grieg were consummate representatives of nationalism which typified the Romantic movement, both of whom incorporated distinctly Russian and Norwegian folk elements into their compositional fabric.
“The Grieg concerto, while classically structured, presents the piano soloist as a heroic, distinct entity from the orchestra. Grieg’s efforts gave us one of history’s most played and beloved piano concerti – and Grieg was a true braveheart in boldly defining a national Norwegian musical style which endures today.”
The evening will mark the opening of VIS’s 25th Anniversary year, and celebrates not only transitioning from darkness to light, but also celebrates the many transitions that the orchestra has grown through over 25 years.
“The orchestra has grown in splendid and unusual ways over the last 25 years: new concert series, recruitment of young professionals, exploration of bold repertoire options, commissions of new music, recordings, etc. As well, the VIS artistic output has been directly impacted by the musicians’ own individual growth as ever-improving performers, virtuoso-level,” says Pierre Simard, artistic director.
Kim is a perfect example of this and has stacked up accolades and has hit enviable milestones in his career. But it’s his position as Director of the University of Minnesota School of Music that he says has changed him the most as a musician.
“Besides becoming a father, becoming an administrator is the one thing that has had the greatest impact on my music,” says Kim. “I have learned a lot about myself through working in this position.”
Being an administrator sometimes causes artists to lose sight of their art, but Kim isn’t willing to let this part of his career overshadow his performances.
“I make it a priority to keep performing at least once or twice a month. I made a commitment to myself that I’m not going to lose my performances when I became an administrator. I want to continue to become a better musician every year artistically.”
Nett’s musical growth might best be described as pushing boundaries in the music industry, and as a bit of a rebel in the classical music world, he dreams of the day where he can, for example, take half the violin section out of an orchestra and replace it with guitars.
“There is a whole new world of composers who really started coming out after World War II. The music came first for hundreds of years, and we decided to write it down, and it gave composers a different way to think about it.
“Nobody has heard this piece yet. You go from a place that is really heavy and oppressive and confusing, and you can conjure up these sounds. There is this thread that runs through it to give it form and shape.”
Sometimes referred to as one of Canada’s most promising composers, he says that is “completely subjective. I like to call myself an art music composer.”
Nett says that the best judges of music are the audience themselves. “The patrons are some of the most well-spoken people who have never written a note in their lives, but some have a passion and a knowledge about the music.
“I write and appreciate many types and forms of music, and don’t categorize my work into a specific genre or box.”
Kim notes that it isn’t easy to understand, or live with, a classical musician.
“We keep odd hours and just when someone might want to unwind or have a nice meal after a long day, we have to practice. We tend to be antisocial by necessity, and there are certain activities we can’t do, as we need to protect our hands and arms at all times.”
He also performs with his wife Kyung Kim (Park) often, who is also a classical pianist, especially in one piano four hand repertoire.
“She teaches at the University, so we are partners in crime so to speak.”
With Kim and Nett both sharing the evening with VIS on October 19, concert-goers are in for a ride and a journey that they may not soon forget. Those who can’t attend the October 19 performance can catch the Origins Symphony and Tea concert on Friday, October 18, from 2-3 p.m. featuring both Nett and Kim performing.
“I love coming to Nanaimo to play with the Vancouver Island Symphony,” says Kim. “When I play with this symphony, I can always feel the palpable joy of making music when we begin to play together, and I feel like it is a special event when I play there.”