Vancouver Island Symphony conductor Pierre Simard said this year’s symphony season will include a variety of classical and contemporary compositions. (Photo courtesy Dirk Heydemann)

Vancouver Island Symphony conductor Pierre Simard said this year’s symphony season will include a variety of classical and contemporary compositions. (Photo courtesy Dirk Heydemann)

Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Symphony announces diverse new season

Enrolment also underway for Noteworthy Kids program for Grade 4 to 7 students

One month from today the Vancouver Island Symphony commences its 2018-19 season at the Port Theatre. This year’s series ranges from classical to contemporary, at times featuring rock and pop music and performance art.

The theme for this season is passion. VIS artistic director and conductor Pierre Simard said it may sound cliché or insincere, but passion is the one driving force that keeps the symphony going.

“We are so passionate about maintaining and being this sort of living museum where we believe so much in the classical repertoire, the symphony repertoire, that we go on practising hours and hours every day. And we hope it translates to the audience…” he said.

“When you become passionate about classical music, there’s a world that opens for the rest of your life, I’m absolutely convinced of that.”

The season begins on Oct. 20 with an evening of Brahms and Dvorak. On Nov. 17, the concert will feature a circus-themed program and a performance by Langley circus artists Blink Acro. The Symphony will be joined by vocalists Ken Lavigne from Chemainus and Nanaimo’s Nadya Blanchette for its Dec. 1 Christmas show. On Jan. 19 the symphony presents a tribute to woman composers. A concert on Feb. 16 will include works by Schumann, Mozart and a new piece by a Victoria composer. On March 9, London, Ont.’s Jeans n’ Classics joins the VIS for an orchestral tribute to Led Zeppelin. The season concludes on April 27 with a space-themed evening of Holst’s Planets and excerpts from the Star Wars score, accompanied by NASA animations.

There is also a bonus concert by Toronto’s Tafelmusik baroque orchestra and the VIS is once again offering its matinee and SoundBites series.

Simard said programming a season is a balancing act, with the goal of performing music the players are passionate about, while maintaining artistic integrity and choosing between classical and popular productions. He said with only seven shows, there’s no room for hiccups.

“I think the one concern is how can we remain pertinent,” he said.

“Where you are not just churning out season after season … but that each time you are on stage there’s a reason, which you don’t need to justify but if you are there there needs to be a connection. There needs to be a role that’s played from the stage to the audience. There needs to be these [lines] of communication.”

Simard said playing modern music, like the compositions of John Williams or Led Zeppelin helps the symphony tap into contemporary culture, while also providing a gateway to the classics.

“That person who was at Led Zeppelin is now at Christmas, while the third time she comes might be for a Brahms symphony. So there is relevance here. There’s an effect. There’s something that isn’t inscribed in time, which is what we do. Which is what we’re about,” he said.

“So I find that very important and if I had stayed away form shows like Led Zeppelin, then it might not happen. We might be stuck in our own little, very closed box. And that’s something that I very much fight.”

For more information about the 2018-19 Vancouver Island Symphony season, visit

Noteworthy Kids enrolment underway

Mark Beaty grew up playing the cello, but it wasn’t until his Grade 4 orchestra that he power of music really hit him.

“I realized what exactly was going on and playing these pieces of music with other people where you relied on them for time and for sound and you’re really in a conversation with them,” he said.

Now, as Vancouver Island Symphony’s education manager, he’s hoping to nurture that connection to music among today’s youth.

Enrolment is underway for the VIS’s Noteworthy Kids club, and Beaty said this is the first year the symphony is offering the new and expanded version of the program, which sees children from Grade 4 to 7 attend VIS rehearsals and meet with conductor Pierre Simard, as well as musicians in the string, woodwind, brass and percussion sections to learn about how the different parts of the orchestra work together. They also get to try some instruments themselves.

“That’s [a] feature that we’re really trying to develop and focus on this year is how leadership and teamwork are part of making music,” Beaty said.

Additionally, the children get to volunteer at two VIS events and attend a dress rehearsal for the symphony’s final concert of the year featuring music from Star Wars.

Beaty said the program is offered to children at an important age.

“They’re still young enough in a way that they can have all the imagination and silliness and exploratory fun … yet they’re old enough to really start to understand what’sgoing on in the music,” Beaty said.

Click here for more information about the 2018-19 Vancouver Island Symphony season and Noteworthy Kids.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter