Festival season is upon us! (Not that in Vancouver it ever ends.) Three relatively new music festivals—the annual VSO Spring Festival and Vancouver Opera Festival, along with the biennial Sound of Dragon Music Festival—return this year as part of a season that includes everything from deep readings of beloved classics to truly groundbreaking collaborations between wildly disparate cultural groups. Set aside, if you can, your worries about affordable housing and the impending Big One: this spring, we’re lucky to live here.
VSO Spring Festival
At the Orpheum from March 17 to 26
A year before its own centenary, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra hosts an eclectic 100th-birthday celebration for the late conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein.
The Draw: A chance to say goodbye—and, most definitely, “Thank you!”—to departing VSO music director Bramwell Tovey.
Target Audience: Grateful ears.
Rachmaninoff Vespers and Lauridsen Lux Aeterna
At the Orpheum on March 30
The Vancouver Chamber Choir teams up with the Vancouver Cantata Singers for Sergei Rachmaninoff’s choral masterpiece, with the Pacifica Singers coming aboard for its modern equivalent, Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna.
The Draw: Three choirs for the price of one!
Target Audience: Frugal fans of choral beauty.
Quartetto di Cremona
At the Vancouver Playhouse on April 3
The Friends of Chamber Music present four young string virtuosos from the Italian town that, for centuries, was the centre of the violin-making universe.
The Draw: A rare chance to hear the chamber music of operatic composers Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini, among others.
Target Audience: Admirers of Italian élan.
Sound of Dragon Music Festival
At various venues from April 3 to 8
Vancouver’s openhearted celebration of intercultural music-making returns for its third edition.
The Draw: Top ticket this time out should be the much-anticipated meeting of Taiwan’s Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra and our own Turning Point Ensemble.
Target Audience: Anyone with curiosity and a valid passport.
Hildegard Westerkamp Birthday Celebration
At the Canadian Music Centre on April 6
Soundscape pioneer and composer Hildegard Westerkamp is the subject of a rare sonic retrospective.
The Draw: A second chance to hear Westerkamp’s entrancing collaboration with pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa, Klavierklang, which was a huge success at last fall’s World New Music Days.
Target Audience: Well-tuned ears and those who wear them.
At the Vancouver Playhouse on April 10
This spring the Vancouver Recital Society presents an awe-inspiring roster of pianists, from the veteran Paul Lewis to the up-and-coming Schaghajegh Nosrati, but the jewel in its lineup is the return of the reliably transcendent András Schiff.
The Draw: An interpretive virtuoso at the mature peak of his powers.
Target Audience: Essentialists.
One Night Stand: Nicole Lizée
At the Fox Cabaret on April 17
Music on Main’s composer in residence presents her neopsychedelic band SaskPWR.
The Draw: One of the few modern composers to successfully bring pop dynamics into the concert hall, Lizée gets to really rock out here.
Target Audience: Hipsters. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Third Coast Percussion
At the Annex on April 21
One of the world’s great percussion ensembles finally makes its local debut, thanks to Vancouver New Music.
The Draw: Over 125 bells from around the world will be used in Augusta Read Thomas’s Resounding Earth; also on the bill will be Steve Reich’s Mallet Quartet.
Target Audience: Minimalists and meditators.
War and Peace
At the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on April 21
British masters of Renaissance polyphony the Tallis Scholars turn their attention to a mix of new and old in an Early Music Vancouver program that highlights the horrors of war and the beauties of its opposite.
The Draw: Masterpieces of vocal music, from Josquin des Prez’s “Kyrie” to Arvo Pärt’s “The Woman with the Alabaster Box”.
Target Audience: Pacifists and perfectionists.
Gamelan at the Roundhouse
At the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre on April 26 and 27
Spanning music from across the Indonesian archipelago and beyond, Vancouver’s annual gong show immerses listeners in a brassy bath of sounds both ancient and brand-new.
The Draw: A rare appearance by composer Michael O’Neill’s band Beledrone, which incorporates Balinese processional gamelan, Ukrainian singing, and bagpipes.
Target Audience: Those who spice their haggis with sambal oelek.
Chor Leoni 25
At West Vancouver United Church and St. Andrew’s–Wesley United Church on April 28
Vancouver’s preeminent men’s choir celebrates a quarter-century of ever-evolving artistry.
The Draw: The program for the Lions’ anniversary gala has yet to be released, but expect a mix of fan favourites and provocative commissions.
Target Audience: Anyone looking for a safe but soulful injection of sonic testosterone.
Vancouver Opera Festival
At various venues from April 28 to May 6
Collusion or coincidence? Just as the Mueller investigation is heating up, Vancouver Opera goes all Russian.
The Draw: Ancillary programming at Russian White Nights covers everything from poet Anna Akhmatova to Sergei Prokofiev’s kid-friendly orchestral romp Peter and the Wolf, but the operatic meat in this tuneful borscht has to be the main-stage production of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.
Target Audience: Comrades and connoisseurs.
Vancouver Bach Choir Meets Orchid Ensemble
At St. Andrew’s–Wesley United Church on May 4
One of Vancouver’s most august choirs meets free-spirited Pacific Rim explorers in an unlikely but infinitely promising collaboration.
The Draw: Both components handle their materials masterfully, but what will they do when East meets West?
Target Audience: The whole Lower Mainland, and beyond.