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Nanaimo marimba player in the spotlight in Vancouver Island Symphony concert

Longtime VIS timpanist Nicole Arendt to play three pieces in ‘Debussy and Duets’ live stream
Local marimba player Nicole Arendt will be prominently featured in the Vancouver Island Symphony’s upcoming ‘Debussy and Duets’ concert. (Chris Helman photo)

When Nicole Arendt performs with the Vancouver Island Symphony she’s usually tucked in the back corner behind her timpani, but in an upcoming concert the Nanaimo-based percussionist will get her turn in the spotlight.

On Jan. 23 the VIS presents Debussy and Duets as part of its live-streamed Symphony from your Sofa Series. The concert features Arendt along with flautist Emily Nagelbach, violist Guyonne Le Louarn and harpist Lani Krantz.

“This is a very different and exciting opportunity for me,” Arendt said.

The first time Arendt heard a marimba – a percussion instrument resembling a large keyboard played with mallets – was when her music teacher played it for her as a child. She said she was so moved by the sound that she was determined to learn to play it for herself. In the concert she’ll be playing an eight-and-a-half-foot-long concert marimba made of Honduras rosewood, which Arendt said has a “really beautiful singing sound.”

“It’s a unique instrument because it’s the only melodic instrument that you don’t touch with your fingers. You touch it with the mallets,” she said. “And so that makes the learning of repertoire quite a long process because you don’t have any tactile feedback.”

Arendt will be performing two duets by contemporary American composer Nathan Daughtrey as well as a duet by 20th-century French composer Xavier Darasse, while the final piece, Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp, will have her watching from the sidelines.

Daughtrey’s compositions are An Extraordinary Correspondence for flute and marimba, inspired by the Griffin and Sabine trilogy by Victoria-based author Nick Bantock, and Labyrinth of Light for harp and marimba, which evokes a walk through a meditation labyrinth. Arendt calls them “exciting pieces that really showcase the instruments.”

“They’re pretty virtuosic and we feel that they’re also accessible to the audience,” she said. “Because they are pieces that most people won’t have heard before, we wanted to choose something that we felt people could connect with even at the first listening.”

Arendt said there are no commercial recordings of Darasse’s Duet for Viola and Marimba, so the first time she’ll be hearing it in its entirety will be when she and Le Louarn convene to rehearse. However, Le Louarn has performed the piece before and Arendt said it was “really well received.” Overall, Arendt said the pieces in the Debussy and Duets program are well suited to one another.

“They flow well, they’re a good length of time … and the Debussy is fantastic,” she said.

WHAT’S ON … The Vancouver Island Symphony presents Debussy and Duets live-streamed concert on Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $25 or $139 for a six-show package. Available here.

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