MusicFest Vancouver announces summery sounds
Tickets for MusicFest Vancouver go on sale today (May 31), and the event’s new program director is hoping a lighter touch will help draw the crowds.
Matthew Baird, who took over the post vacated by the retiring George Laverock in March, says his approach was to broaden some of the repertoire featured in the festival.
“It’s perhaps a bit more summery,” he explains. “It’s a little more general, a little more focused on ‘Come out and have a fantastic time and enjoy a summer concert.’”
The opening gala, for instance, Here to Stay: The Gershwin Experience, is a multimedia pops concert that celebrates the music and songs of George and Ira Gershwin (August 10 at the Orpheum). It features pianist Kevin Cole, singer Sylvia McNair, and vocalist–tap dancer Ryan VanDenBoom, alongside the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, with projected archival video clips and family photos of the Gershwin brothers.
In the same vein are the nostalgic 1960s lounge stylings of the multilingual group Pink Martini, which will perform as part of the Main Stage Concerts series (August 17 at the Orpheum). “Some people might argue that it’s not jazz and it’s not exactly classical,” Baird concedes, “but it’s classic music and done with infinite style and humour and grace.”
The Main Stage Concerts will also feature the Vancouver debut of the six-voice Norwegian a cappella group Nordic Voices (August 11 at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts); pianists Philippe Cassard and François Chaplin in a 150th-birthday celebration of Claude Debussy, Deux Pianos: Hommage à Debussy (August 12 at the Vancouver Playhouse); and folk-influenced Québécois group La Bottine Souriante (August 14 at the Vogue Theatre).
The Morning Chamber Music Concerts and Pre-Dinner Concerts series at Christ Church Cathedral have taken on a bit of a Latin flair. The opening-morning concert, Fandango, will feature guitarist Daniel Bolshoy, joined by the Borealis String Quartet, in a program of music from Spain and Italy (August 13). Later that same day, jazz harpist and vocalist Cristina Braga will join percussionist Sal Ferreras for a concert of Brazilian music, while Donna Brown and Andrew Mah of Duo Brazil will channel Carnaval season in Rio the next night (August 14).
The Toronto-based Gryphon Trio will give three concerts, exploring a range of music: Ludwig van Beethoven (August 15)and Bedrich Smetana and Antonin Dvorák (August 17), both at Christ Church; and for the MusicFest Flavours series, cabaret music with vocalist Patricia O’Callaghan (August 16 at the Orpheum Annex).
“They [the Gryphon Trio] have so many sides to their musical personality,” notes Baird. “I thought it would be much more interesting to do this rather than repeating the same program three times.”
The Flavours series of six concerts spread over three venues runs the gamut, from the Schweizer Klaviertrio’s Chamber Gems (August 11 at Christ Church) and Quartango’s program of classic tangos (August 12 at Christ Church) to a multimedia performance by the Turning Point Ensemble and baritone Tyler Duncan (August 12 at the Vancouver Playhouse) of Jeffrey Ryan’s new work, The Whitening of the Ox, and a concert by the Bergmann Piano Duo and Vancouver Community College’s Gamelan Si Pawit (August 13 at Christ Church).
MusicFest is partnering with Early Music Vancouver for an opera-in-concert performance of George Frederick Handel’s Orlando (August 15 at the Chan Centre), as well as a series at the UBC School of Music’s Roy Barnett Recital Hall.
Jazz fans can get their fix at the Jazz at the Cellar series, which will open with New York City–based trumpeter Jim Rotondi and the Cory Weeds Quartet (August 11) and feature performers such as the Marc Atkinson Trio (August 14) and Vancouver’s Van Django Gypsy-swing group (August 15).
There will also be two special events this year. Centennial Celebration will feature “organblaster” Michael Dirk showcasing the Casavant Frères Opus 485 pipe organ at Holy Trinity Anglican Church (August 11) in a concert titled Casavant Frères: 100 Years of Good Vibrations. And on August 12, the VSO School of Music’s Pyatt Hall will host Guitar Day, a series of one-hour guitar concerts by the Oberon Guitar Trio, Celso Machado, and Daniel Bolshoy, among other performers.
This year, MusicFest is also teaming up with CBC Musical Nooners to present a free concert each weekday. Performers will include traditional African and reggae-roots musician Ezra Kwizera (August 13), banjo virtuoso Jayme Stone (August 14), and indie string quartet Carpe Diem (August 17).
Also free is a series of three lecture/demonstrations, Inside the Music, that will include a discussion titled Trios From Haydn to Today (August 10 at Christ Church), an open rehearsal for The Whitening of the Ox (August 11 at Tom Lee Music Hall), and Mark Eisenmann on Jazz Piano 101 (August 16 at Christ Church).
Baird says he’s hoping there’ll be something on the festival program, whether ticketed or free, to catch the ear of most music lovers. “You have to try and help open the doors for people,” he notes. “We’ve been careful to spread the concerts out, and to find opportunities for people to find their way to free events. If that gives them an entry to say, ‘Oh, I’d like to hear more of that’ or ‘What else is on at the festival?’ then so much the better.”
For a full festival guide, and to purchase tickets, visit the MusicFest Vancouver website.