Vancouver Symphony Orchestra widens reach in New Music Festival

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      We’re not joking when we contend that the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s New Music Festival is all about making connections: the event, now in its fourth year and larger than ever, is extending its tentacles to encompass other arts organizations, freelance musicians, and even some very nonsymphonic forms.

      This year’s groundbreaking New Music for Old Instruments concerts, presented in conjunction with Early Music Vancouver, are to be expected: both organizations share a background in European art music. But what are we to make of the presence of the Hard Rubber Orchestra (shown here) at the Orpheum on the festival’s opening night (Tuesday [January 24])? It’s a bold choice, but booking the hard-hitting avant-jazz big band allows the VSO to rope in Vancouver New Music artistic director Giorgio Magnanensi, whose composition le feu et l’artifice is featured. The band’s massed brass should sound especially vibrant in the big hall.

      Standing Wave’s On a Wire concert, at the Orpheum next Sunday (January 29), is straightforward enough: the sextet’s members either play or have played with the VSO, while the featured composers include Jocelyn Morlock and the orchestra’s associate principal trumpet, Marcus Goddard. But a real departure for the festival is Pure Piano, at the Orpheum next Thursday (January 26), which finds pianists Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa, Miranda Wong, Lisa Cay Miller, and Corey Hamm at the ivories. Their collective credits include Music on Main, the Nu:BC Collective, the Piano and Erhu Project, the Aventa Ensemble, and the very experimentally inclined NOW Society; it’s more than intriguing to find all these groups under the VSO umbrella.

      And then there’s the festival’s only truly symphonic event, Requiem for a Generation, at the Orpheum next Friday (January 27). With works that address the ongoing war in Afghanistan and Pablo Picasso’s horrific and moving Spanish Civil War memorial, Guernica, it brings social commentary into the mix, along with the UBC University Singers and Choral Union, the Langley Fine Arts School Youth Choir, and composer Glenn Buhr’s folk-rocking Button Factory Band. How this will sound remains to be heard, but it’s going to be huge.