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By Mollie Kaye, September 2016

An arts oasis faces challenges without CRD funding—so throws a dance party.

Groove KitchenART IS A FORM OF LIFE SUPPORT. That’s not hyperbole. There’s enough bona fide quantitative research—and plain old anecdotal evidence—supporting this truth. Every small and large municipality in this administratively pixellated region has collectively invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in studies and public meetings to craft Official Community Plans (OCPs). These OCPs clearly demonstrate that citizens prioritize public funding of the arts as a vital part of their neighbourhoods and lives—and that dollar for dollar, no investment of civic resources offers a better return than building an arts infrastructure.

By Mollie Kaye, July 2016

Six summer concerts offer a “less fearsome” way to start conversations about classical music.

Arthur Rowe"THE MUSIC OF FRIENDS" is how chamber music is sometimes described, due to its requirements of good-natured give-and-take during performance. Goethe described the string quartet as “four rational people conversing.” Cooperation and connection are a fundamental part of the genre, and there is less separation between audience and performers than there would be in a large concert hall. 

It seems fitting, then, that the Victoria Summer Music Festival (VSMF) affords both performers and listeners ample opportunities to engage in musical conversation.

By Mollie Kaye, March 1, 2016

Last call for this season’s Sunday afternoon “tribute” concerts at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Maureen WashingtonJAZZ IS A GENRE defined by collaboration, creativity, interaction, and improvisation. While attending any musical performance can counter the isolating effects of our screen-driven culture, jazz’s unique alchemy reliably provides a sense of being in the flow of creative energy. Performances are influenced by whatever is happening in the moment. The internal landscape of the musician’s mood and the external landscape of the space and spectators can inspire shifts in melodies, harmonies, repeats and time signature, providing a you-just-had-to-be-there experience which, like a dream, can be difficult to describe after the fact.

By Mollie Kaye, February 2016

Swain on swing: The 5th Annual Victoria Django Festival.

Oliver SwainFEBRUARY CAN BE A TIME of conflict in many hearts and relationships, as most of us fall into one of two opposing camps: those who would rather ignore the culturally-enforced mass celebration of romantic love in the middle of the month, and those who crave some kind of significant observance. 

By Mollie Kaye, January 2016

Acclaimed pianist will perform Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.1 on January 23 at the Royal Theatre.

Internationally-acclaimed, Victoria-based concert pianist Lorraine Min revels in the moniker “local artist,” but it took her awhile to find her way back here. Born in Victoria and raised in Vancouver, Min’s passion, talent and professional success swept her away from her family in BC. Many years, many opportunities, and a few countries later, she has finally realized her dream of creating a full and balanced life in the arts, in the city she’d always hoped to call home again.

By Mollie Kaye, November 2015

An early music ensemble from France is expected to perform magic at Alix Goolden Hall this month.

Jaunty, popular songs from 100 years ago bear so little resemblance to the strains of what today’s teens are writhing to on their iPhones that it’s hard to believe the top hits of both 1915 and 2015 foundationally share something in common. They do, though, since both employ polyphony, defined as “a texture consisting of two or more simultaneous lines of independent melody.” 

If you go back 1000 years, you can find the earliest known polyphonic songs. And if you go to Alix Goolden Hall in the middle of this month, you can hear them performed live as part of the Early Music Society of the Islands’ concert series. 

By Mollie Kaye, June 2015

Ensemble Laude presents two concerts in June, displaying the power of choral music.

It is a palpable experience, being in a choir of human voices. For the singers and their audience, the harmonies and overtones zinging around the room create a kind of echo chamber of “good vibrations.” Apparently choral singing is better for your heart and lungs than yoga, if the medical researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden have it right.

Elizabeth MacIsaac, founder and artistic director of the 40-voice Ensemble Laude women’s choir, says they definitely do. “You’d think being in a choir would be yet another fatigue, but it’s not. It’s something that rejuvenates and reenergizes people.” The immersion in the sound, she says, brings health and healing. “Tons of oxygen is going into your body, abdominal muscles are being stimulated, endorphins released, so many good things.”

By Amy Reiswig, April 2014

Drummer, composer, educator and band leader Kelby MacNayr.

A jazz drummer inhabits a world of two unfortunate sets of jokes, from “That’s not a mistake, that’s jazz!” to “How do you know a drummer’s at the door? He never knows when to come in.” 

It requires an, ahem, offbeat sense of humour to be able to slough off and laugh at societal jabs at what you love. But no amount of joking could dampen the love Victoria percussionist Kelby MacNayr has for his calling.

By Amy Reiswig, November 2013

Over the past 30 years there’s been a renaissance of “early music” and Victoria is on its map.

When I decided to move to Victoria from Montreal seven years ago, my arts-loving friends worried “You’re going to be so starved for culture!” Hardly. One might argue that a city the size of Victoria can’t be expected to compete with a city like Montreal, but in at least one area, thanks to the people-power of volunteerism, little Victoria does just that. 

The Early Music Society of the Islands (EMSI) is an extraordinary local success story now in its 29th season of staging a world-class annual concert series of local and international performers. The early 1980s saw a surge of interest in early music—generally, music composed before 1800—all across North America, with enthusiasm for historically informed performance on period instruments. 

By Joe Wiebe, July/August 2013

A one-night stand led to an unexpectedly long journey, including that night in the Volaré. Damn right.

Victoria’s Theatre Skam turned 18 this year—quite a feat given its humble origins. Co-founder and current Artistic Producer Matthew Payne recalls a simple phone call from Amiel Gladstone back in January 1995.

“Ami called me up and said, ‘I think there’s this café owner who’ll let us do a show and there’s these two gals. Are you in?’ And I said sure.”

Before the four friends could stage a night of five short plays under the title “Table for Two,” they figured they had to call themselves something. Maybe an acronym based on their names? But none of their surnames began with a vowel—Donald, Gladstone, Payne, Turner—so that wouldn’t work. What about their first names: Sarah, Ami, Matthew and Karen? 

By Joe Wiebe, April 2013

The Balkan Babes have travelled a long way.

In performance, the Balkan Babes exhibit a calm serenity that underscores the eerily beautiful eastern European melodies and harmonies they sing. At their CD release concert in Duncan in early February, the music is mesmerizing, punctuated occasionally by trills or whoops. Some songs are soft and elegiac, while others are belted out with fervent ferocity. For an all-female choir, the range of voices is impressive. Some songs begin with one or two singers and then slowly grow in complexity until all nine women are singing. Even though they sing unaccompanied without a conductor, no one ever seems to miss a mark or wander off key.

By Lisa Szeker-Madden, February 2013

Nancy Argenta sings Henry Purcell at this year’s Pacific Baroque Festival.

This year’s Pacific Baroque Festival continues its tradition of presenting inventive and engaging programs by exploring the music of Henry Purcell (1659-1695). He was considered the greatest English composer of his age. And, as the centuries wore on without a successor, he simply became the greatest English composer, unequalled until the coming of Benjamin Britten in the 20th century.  

By Joe Wiebe, January 2013

A diagnosis of MS may have slowed her down, but Sara Marreiros is back with fado nights, a new EP, and a new spirit.

Over tea at a quiet back table at Murchie’s, Sara Marreiros tells me, “Fado resonates deeply in my spirit. When I sing, it just takes me to my other home, which is Portugal. It’s like dropping into the earth there.”

Fado is a musical style that originated in the 1820s in Lisbon and has evolved into the quintessential Portuguese art form. Performed by a male or female singer who is traditionally accompanied by a musician playing Portuguese guitarra (a 12-string, pear-shaped instrument that resembles a mandolin), it demands extreme passion of its performers. Indeed, fado means “fate” in Portuguese, and many of the traditional songs are infused with a sense of melancholy and fatefulness. It is notoriously draining on the singer, both emotionally and physically.