Members of the Nanaimo Chamber Orchestra rehearse for their upcoming performance at Malaspina Theatre on Nov. 23. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo Chamber Orchestra goes ‘Basically Baroque’ to start new season

French horn player Keon Birney of the Vancouver Island Symphony is guest soloist

The Nanaimo Chamber Orchestra is kicking off its 2019-20 season with a performance that includes some lesser-known pieces by some well-known composers.

“We found that in the past audiences and players have just loved this baroque concert idea,” director Karl Rainer said. “It’s sort of a clear sound, fresh, accessible music. So we’re almost making this a yearly thing.”

Among the composers included in the Basicially Baroque program at Malaspina Theatre on Nov. 23 are Bach, Vivaldi, Purcell and a new discovery for Rainer, Italian composer Bononcini.

Deviating from the theme is the inclusion of Mozart’s Concerto in E flat major for French Horn and Orchestra. The composition will feature Vancouver Island Symphony French horn player Keon Birney in his first performance as chamber orchestra guest soloist.

“He’s just relocated to town here so we love making use of people who are local” Rainer said. “And I’ve known Keon for a while. He’s a great guy and a wonderful musician and he sounds fantastic.”

Birney said he’s played movements from the Mozart concerto since he was a child, but this is the first time he’ll be performing it as a professional in its entirety. He said when Rainer asked him which composition he wanted to play, “I couldn’t think of a better piece than this because it’s just been a big part of my French horn career from a student up until now.”

He described the piece as beautiful and elegant and “right in the sweet spot” of the range of the instrument, meaning it doesn’t go too high or too low.

“You can just really concentrate on just being very musical and expressive without worrying about some of the more extreme aspects of the range or things like that,” Birney said. “So I think for a player it’s just very comfortable to play. You can just enjoy yourself as you’re trying to convey what it is in your mind to the audience and just have a good time.”

WHAT’S ON … The Nanaimo Chamber Orchestra presents Basically Baroque at Malaspina Theatre, VIU Bldg. 310, on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $5 for students and free from children 12 and under. Available online or cash only at the door.

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