I would like to extend a warm word of appreciation to all who were part of the Thirty-fifth Anniversary Season of the Valley Festival Singers. Whether you were a part of our audience, a volunteer who assisted with concerts, a sponsor or donor who supported the organization financially or a member of the board, everyone of you was important to the society. I thank you.
It has been a wonderful series of musical programs. As I reflected on the season, I was struck by the number of opportunities to learn and to broaden our musical experience through exposure to new and unfamiliar works and artists. Of course, it is always a great pleasure to bask in the warmth brought by familiar and dearly-loved music. Thankfully, both new and old were in plentiful supply in 2017-18.
A prime example was our first concert on September 29 when the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra played a beautiful Mozart symphony. They brought the sublime cellist Ariel Barnes as their guest, and his performance of a Haydn cello concerto was magnificent. The new came in two works by twenty-first century composers. Michael Oesterle reworked his cello concerto The Iron Man specifically for Barnes. We were honoured to have composer Jeffrey Ryan in the audience and as one the guests in our first Liz Carter Talk when the orchestra premiered his complex and imaginative Earthshine.
We celebrated our anniversary in November with a diverse program brought to us by eight of our bursary winners from the past ten years. It was rewarding to hear how these young people have developed their skills on the piano, violin, French horn or vocally.
A rare December concert was a revelation as we were treated to the exquisite musicianship of the teenaged cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and his sister Isata. His mature rendering of a sonata by Shostakovich was unexpected, as was the deeply moving encore Deep River by Coleridge-Taylor. If you want to hear more of this rising star, just get up early on Saturday to watch the royal wedding. Or you may prefer to stay in bed and record it. Sheku has been chosen to play for Harry and Meghan’s wedding.
In January we had the opportunity to enjoy rarely-heard octets performed by string quartets from opposite ends of the country. The Saguenay String Quartet from Quebec invited Victoria’s Lafayette String Quartet to join them on a tour that paired the famous Mendelssohn Octet with one by the unknown Niels Gade and another premiere by a Canadian composer Airat Ichmouratov. The nineteenth-century Dane, Gade, was thankfully resurrected from his ill-deserved consignment to historical oblivion, while Ichmouratov is very much alive, full of joy, and writing music that we will be hearing more of.
In February the Ad Mare Quintet took us on an excursion through the French repertoire for wind quintets. Whether it was the delightful Three Short Pieces by Ibert or the vivid musical paintings by Ravel in his Mother Goose Suite and Milhaud celebrating Provence’s King René, Ad Mare enchanted us with the unique sound of their remarkable combination of instruments.
Gino Quilico and Jennifer Turner took us on a time travel expedition through Canadian operatic history. We enjoyed the music of well-known favourites such as Jon Vickers and the inestimable Maureen Forrester. But we were also introduced to some like Edward Johnson and Raoul Jobin who have unfairly faded into the mists of history despite the profound influence they left on a generation of Canadian operatic stars who followed in their steps.
Finally we closed with the deeply moving rendering of piano trios by Beethoven and Mendelssohn at the hands of Vetta Chamber Music’s Joan Blackman, John Friesen and Jane Coop. Here was an evening filled with the warmth of music that penetrated to the core of our emotions. What a wonderful way to put an exclamation mark on this marvelous season!
It has been a joy to share these moments of pleasure or amazement or puzzlement or inspiration or any number of emotions over the past nine months. Thank you for being a part of this journey. We look forward to embarking on a new musical adventure in September. See you then.