The Vancouver Island Symphony has found a way to continue bringing classical music to listeners across the Island while still adhering to COVID-19 guidelines.
“We articulated a season which is, I would say, close enough to what we usually do, which is putting a large group of musicians onstage and playing classical music repertoire, and at the same time there’s a sense of being far from what we usually do,” said Pierre Simard, VIS artistic director and conductor.
On Oct. 1, the Vancouver Island Symphony announced its 2020-21 Symphony from your Sofa live-streaming concert series. Due to COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, the VIS will perform its six concert programs multiple times before 50-person audiences at the Port, Tidemark and Sid Williams Theatre, and those concerts will be broadcast online.
“All the symphony orchestras have been forced to reimagine their artistic offering depending on each province’s guidelines and rules with safety protocols in the current pandemic,” Simard said. “And we are like every other orchestra, we’re trying to send a message: ‘We’re still here. We intend on still being here when this is all over.’”
In order to maintain two-metre distance between performers, the season will be featuring smaller chamber music ensembles, similar to what the VIS was offering during this summer’s outdoor pop-up concert series. At most, there will be 15 musicians onstage at one time but all of the symphony’s members will be participating.
The season starts on Oct. 24 with Strauss and Dvorak, a program featuring mostly wind instruments with cello and bass. On Nov. 14’s Salmon and Trout show, a string quintet and piano will perform a piece by Canadian composer Chan Ka Nin and Schubert’s Trout Quintet. 2021 kicks off with Debussy and Duets on Jan. 23 featuring a flute, viola, harp and percussion quartet. Beethoven and Brahms on Feb. 20 showcases two trios for winds and piano and the series ends on April 24 as the VIS string section presents Spain and Strings. Simard added that the VIS also has plans to tour its brass quintet at Christmastime.
For a typical symphony concert, Simard said he’s the one responsible for repertoire decisions, including which pieces the ensemble will play and who will serve as soloist. With the Symphony from your Sofa shows, however, the VIS players get to make those choices. Simard said “I would never dare impose on a chamber music group.”
“For the smaller ensembles, the proposals really came from our musicians, which is quite nice because it gives them a chance to play and perform a piece they may have not been able to play in years, in some cases even going back to their school years,” he said. “So that’s the silver lining.”
For more information about the Symphony from your Sofa series and to purchase tickets, click here.