The Vancouver Island Symphony returns to the Port Theatre next month with a season that places the focus on the individual musicians who make up the orchestra.
On Sept. 13 the Vancouver Island Symphony announced its 2021-22 season, which includes nine shows, each presented twice. That same day, the Port Theatre also announced its updated health and safety protocols. By the time the VIS season starts, proof of two vaccine doses will be mandatory and masks must be worn at all times by those 12 and older. The theatre will be at half capacity, meaning 402 seats are available.
VIS artistic director and conductor Pierre Simard said the symphony program was developed with the COVID-19-related attendance limitations in mind. It will feature small ensembles, chamber groups and the full orchestra, but the first full orchestra show won’t be held until January.
Simard said picking the program, particularly for the chamber shows, meant striking a balance in order to showcase the different sections of the symphony, like brass and woodwind. He said the pandemic had him reflecting on the individual musicians and that “a main component in crafting the season was really giving a voice to the musicians as much as we could.”
“Some of them have played more than 20 years in the orchestra, so they’re family,” Simard said. “And we really did not want to lose the musicians. We did not want to see them go because of what happened. This pandemic was completely out of anyone’s control, so this focus on the musicians themselves almost became more important or certainly as important as the repertoire choices themselves.”
The part of the season that most highlights that theme will be a documentary being made in conjunction with the VIS’s April performance of Pictures at an Exhibition by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky, arranged by former VIS composer-in-residence Jason Nett.
“We are bringing in a filmmaker that will catch the rehearsal process, there will be interviews with the musicians, it will really show them, how they were resilient throughout this pandemic and still clinging to the music making, still treat the music making part of their lives as something that’s central,” Simard said.
The 2021-22 season will also include performances that were scrapped when COVID-19 restrictions came into place last March. The January concert Electrifying Eroica will feature the belated première of Playing in Silence by Vancouver-based composer Katerina Gimon with words by former Nanaimo poet laureate Tina Biello, as well as a performance of Symphony No. 3 (Eroica) by Beethoven, which was supposed to coincide with the composer’s 250th birthday.
“The Erioca symphony has a special meaning because it is about resilience. It is about going forward and breaking barriers and not letting barriers be in the way because it is many times considered the piece that made the switch between the classical era and the romantic era…” Simard said. “It’s just the perfect way to bring the orchestra back on stage.”
For more information about the 2021-22 VIS season and to buy tickets, click here.