Conductor’s symphony creation inspired by love

Nanaimo - The Vancouver Island Symphony presents Serenades for Spring Saturday (March 16) at the Port Theatre.

Soprano Nadya Blanchette performs during Serenades for Spring presented by the Vancouver Island Symphony.

Soprano Nadya Blanchette performs during Serenades for Spring presented by the Vancouver Island Symphony.

by Rosemary Phillips

Serenades for Spring is filled with timeless treasures by classical masters.

The Vancouver Island Symphony’s upcoming concert at the Port Theatre Saturday (March 16) at 7:30 p.m. features Barber’s emotionally fueled Adagio for Strings and Rachmaninov’s soaring Vocalise.

It also includes the world premiere of Nouvelles Illuminations, composed by Pierre Simard, the symphony’s artistic director, which he dedicated to his wife, international soprano and recording artist Nadya Blanchette, with love.

“As a composer living with a soprano there can’t help but be a love connection – the best thing I can possibly do is write new music for the one I love,” said Simard. “Sometimes I can write very quickly, it gets played quickly, and I can move onto the next.”

In this case, the piece dates back to 2005 when Simard received a research grant from the Quebec Council to go beyond what he would normally does as a composer, to find new ways of composing.

“My starting point was a piece by Benjamin Britten called Les Illuminations, a song cycle for high voice and strings with libretto from Illuminations, a collection of poems by French poet Arthur Rimbaud,” he said.

Rimbaud wrote with an inventive language full of symbolism that eventually influenced Symbolists, Dadaists and Surrealists.

Les Illuminations incorporates eight poems from the collection, including Enfance, Vies, Veillées and Genie.

“Rimbaud’s poems are close to what we call automatic writing; very abstract. During this performance we will be projecting the poems onto a screen, in both English and French,” said Simard.

Simard’s music begins where Britten’s leaves off, building and going somewhere else.

“I have made the music much more familiar and rhythmic, with a focus on beauty. The soprano voice leads the strings on a voyage of extreme emotion, colour, texture and rhythm,” said Simard.

Blanchette said she’s seen the score and it’s sublime.

“The text is out of the ordinary and very colourful. To be able to draw or compose music on that is masterful,” she said.

The evening begins as the symphony string section is joined by the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra to perform Bartók’s lyrical Romanian Folk Dances; then, as guest soloists, the youth orchestra, conducted by Calvin Dyck during the Nanaimo performance, follows with the lively Texas Swing. Simard returns to the podium to conduct Blanchette and the strings for Nouvelles Illuminations.

The deeply reflective Adagio for Strings by Barber becomes the segue into Blanchette’s return to the stage for the Vocalise by Rachmaninov.

“Vocalise is without words, as the voice becomes the true instrument, like a cello,” said Blanchette. “There is something in the piece that is like caressing the ear. It is the language of music which carries emotion beyond words. I can’t wait to become one with the orchestra.”

The concert is brought to a conclusion with Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings.

“To work with my husband is always a true privilege and a real pleasure. We cherish the opportunity,” Blanchette said.

Tickets prices range from $18 to $84 depending on seating location and are available by calling 250-754-8550, at the Port Theatre box office, located at 125 Front St., or

The concert also features  pre- and post discussions with the musicians.

Just Posted

The Nanaimo Business Awards are accepting nominations now. (Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce image)
Nanaimo Business Awards accepting nominations of worthy winners

This year’s awards aren’t until the fall, but the nomination period ends June 28

Retailers say they’re ready for the ban on single-use plastic checkout bags in Nanaimo when it takes effect July 1. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Retailers report they’re ready for Nanaimo’s single-use checkout bag ban

Business operators say there’s been plenty of time to plan and prepare for bylaw that kicks in July 1

Nanaimo Fire Rescue crews on scene at a boat fire near the boat ramp at Long Lake on Sunday, June 20. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Boat burns up on Nanaimo’s Long Lake, man and child unhurt

Jet skiers attempt to put out fire by circling around to spray water on burning boat

Gabriola singer-songwriter Sarah Osborne, Cowichan Valley duo Heartwood, Vancouver singer Kelly Haigh and Nanaimo bluesman David Gogo (clockwise from top-left) are among the performers in this year’s Cultivate Festival. (Photos submitted)
Gabriola Arts Council presents COVID-conscious Cultivate Festival

Theatre, music and art festival returns to Gabriola Island after 2020 hiatus

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

John A. Read, who was inspired to leave his former career to become a professional astronomer by the purchase of a $13 telescope, will give beginning astronomers key pointers on how to set up and get the best performance from their instruments at Nanaimo Astronomy Society’s meeting June 24. (Photo courtesy Jennifer Read)
Astrophysicist will talk about getting the most out of a telescope at Nanaimo astronomy meeting

John Read’s purchase of a $13 telescope led to a degree in astrophysics and a career in astronomy

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

Most Read