Spring arts preview 2017 music critics' picks: Concerts from all over creation, with names like Isabel Bayrakdarian, James Ehnes, and the Emerson String Quartet

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      Perhaps the only conclusion that can be drawn from this spring’s musical calendar is that creativity is all over the map, with artists and programs hailing from locales as diverse as Nunavut, Mongolia, Finland, China, Taiwan, Iceland, and, um, suburban Long Island, New York. The most tantalizing draw, however, must be the inaugural Vancouver Opera Festival. While many opera devotees still mourn the loss of year-round programming, strong bookings and progressive outreach suggest that the new event will get off to a good start.

      Isabel Bayrakdarian joins the Elektra Women's Choir.

      Elektra Women’s Choir

      (At the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on March 8)

      For its 30th-anniversary gala, Elektra has prepared a coup: the choir will be joined by the extraordinary soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian.

      The Draw: Haunting Armenian hymns arranged by Bayrakdarian’s composer husband, Serouj Kradjian, who’ll also contribute a new work based on the writings of Khalil Gibran.

      Target Audience: Secular ears seeking the sacred.


      Voice Over Mind

      (At the Western Front on March 9)

      Ritual soundscapes from eastern Europe and environmental musings from the Gulf Islands take centre stage in this evening of unconventional song.

      The Draw: Singer Julia Ulehla and guitarist Aram Bajakian’s band Dálava builds on the Moravian field recordings of Ulehla’s ethnomusicologist great-grandfather; here, the two go ever further out with this rich source material.

      Target Audience: Those who will not be silenced.


      Sound Of Dragon Ensemble

      (At the Orpheum Annex on March 9)

      We’ll have to wait until 2018 for the next edition of the brilliant, biannual Sound of Dragon Festival, but in the interim artistic director Lan Tung’s house band keeps building Chinese-Canadian connections.

      The Draw: Music that bridges cultures—and, for this concert, the folk- and ballet-infused stylings of dancer-choreographer Dong Mei.

      Target Audience: Anyone with a passport.


      Paul Lewis

      (At the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on March 19)

      Hearing pianist Paul Lewis play Ludwig van Beethoven is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

      The Draw: Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 4 in E-flat Major, along with works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Frédéric Chopin, and Carl Maria von Weber.

      Target Audience: Canonical cognoscenti.


      Plumes hit Music on Main on March 21.

      Plumes Ensemble

      (At the Fox Cabaret on March 21)

      The lines between contemporary chamber music and modern song will get very blurry in this deconstruction of works by “cyborg pop” pioneer Grimes.

      The Draw: Arrangements by Music on Main composer in residence Nicole Lizée, among others.

      Target Audience: The intelligently hip.


      The Idea of North

      (At the Orpheum Annex on March 25)

      Taking its cue from Glenn Gould’s great radio documentary, this Vancouver Symphony Orchestra chamber concert surveys Nordic and Canadian sounds.

      The Draw: Serbian-Canadian composer Ana Sokolović pays homage to her Québécois peers, while Finland’s Kaija Saariaho finds inspiration in the aurora borealis.

      Target Audience: The happily cool.


      Emerson String Quartet joins the Friends of Chamber Music.


      Emerson String Quartet

      (At the Vancouver Playhouse on March 26)

      Forty years together have given the members of the Emerson String Quartet an intuitive rapport to match their instrumental poise.

      The Draw: The astringency of Dmitri Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 4 in D Major, tempered by works from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Edvard Grieg.

      Target Audience: Seekers after subtlety.


      Anda Union

      (At the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on March 26)

      Mongolian music is truly otherworldly, and this young ensemble is bent on keeping a variety of tribal styles alive.

      The Draw: Gutsy horse-head fiddles and uncanny harmonic singing will transport listeners to the boundless steppes in spring.

      Target Audience: Those in search of new and ancient vistas.


      Mantra Percussion

      (At the Orpheum Annex on April 8)

      Having impressed local audiences with composer Michael Gordon’s appropriately titled Timber in 2013, the New York City sextet returns with instruments not sourced from Home Depot.

      The Draw: The sure-to-be-spellbinding Mantra Groove, by Canadian composer Paul Dolden.

      Target Audience: Beatniks.


      Vancouver Chamber Choir

      (At the Orpheum on April 14)

      Good Friday just got better with the news that the Vancouver Chamber Choir and the Pacifica Singers will collaborate to perform a Baroque gem and a neo-Gregorian treasure.

      The Draw: Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s divine Stabat Mater, and Maurice Duruflé’s rarely heard Requiem.

      Target Audience: Monks and meditators.


      Karina Gauvin.
      Michael Slobodian

      Karina Gauvin

      (At Christ Church Cathedral on April 21)

      Soprano Karina Gauvin joins forces with Les Boréades de Montréal, featuring some of the best musicians from Montreal’s vibrant Baroque scene.

      The Draw: The timelessly gorgeous songs of Henry Purcell.

      Target Audience: Listeners who know that the old can be made new.


      Van/Man Male Choral Summit

      (At the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on April 22)

      Chor Leoni’s annual extravaganza attracts upwards of 400 male vocalists, making for mass sing-alongs of extraordinary power.

      The Draw: Iceland’s Karlakórinn Heimir will no doubt continue the island nation’s tradition of musical excellence.

      Target Audience: Men, and the people who like their singing.


      PwC Spring Festival

      (At the Orpheum from April 22 to May 1)

      The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s festival surveys music close to conductor Bramwell Tovey’s heart: the sounds of his native England.

      The Draw: Tovey, as pianist, performing Edward Elgar on April 30; violinist James Ehnes doubling on viola for works by Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams on April 22.

      Target Audience: Open ears and stiff upper lips.


      Antonello Palombi stars in the inaugural Vancouver Opera Festival's Otello.

      Vancouver Opera Festival

      (At the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and the Vancouver Playhouse from April 28 to May 13)

      The much-anticipated debut of Vancouver’s latest major arts festival ranges from traditional undertakings such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro to cutting-edge explorations from Inuit singer Tanya Tagaq and multimedia artist Paul Wong.

      The Draw: Despite nods to the new, Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello is likely the big ticket here.

      Target Audience: Opera-hungry audiences who are curious about the festival format.