Music students ready to perform rites of passage
In the world of music education, the final weeks of May and early June are something special: prime time for end-of-the-term concerts. And even if most music educators view these final rites of passage as just a part of the whole educational continuum, they still matter for all concerned as a capstone event marking a year of exploration and growth.
High-profile projects for students of the Vancouver Academy of Music and the Vancouver Symphony School of Music offer a plethora of events in the days ahead, including grand projects at the Orpheum and in the Vancouver Playhouse, venues that add an extra gloss to the endeavours.
The VAM's biggest event already took place on Mother's Day, when Ian Parker led the VAM Symphony Orchestra in a program that included Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto and Ravel's Bolero. VAM president and CEO Joseph Elworthy says the orchestra presents four programs a year. Each occupies about six weeks of intensive rehearsals, then performances at the Orpheum and West Vancouver's Kay Meek Centre.
Concerts in what Elworthy calls “two vastly different halls with very different acoustics” are both a challenge and bonus for the student players.
For the ensemble's Mother's Day blowout, conductor Parker invited violinist Jonathan Crow, currently concert master of the Toronto Symphony. It's a great strategy to have these sorts of intergenerational collaborations. As Elworthy succinctly puts it: “Playing with stars who are so generous with their time and experience inspires young people. It's something they will never forget.”
The Mother's Day event was just the tip of the end-of-term iceberg at the VAM: A selection of other in-house orchestras takes to the Orpheum Theatre stage for a VAM Orchestral Festival on Sunday, at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Ensembles range from pre-juniors to adult-oriented initiatives.
Music education once was tightly focused on the young; not so anymore, as many adults now discover a passion for music later in life. The Vanier Park Symphony and Adult Beginner Strings are featured in the afternoon concert, both ensembles specifically for adult learners. The highlight will be more Tchaikovsky, his First Piano Concerto, with Parker as soloist.
Finally there's a day of chamber music Saturday, June 3, back in the VAM's own Koerner Recital Hall: programs at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 4 p.m. will showcase about 70 performers in a rich selection of groups and repertoire. If orchestral playing is the team sport of music education, chamber music teaches collaboration, interpretation and style. Of course the ensembles are well coached by faculty, but as anyone who's been involved in chamber music knows, the complement of players and the dynamic between performers is a heady, sometimes volatile mix.
Just as the VAM has a confoundingly complex assortment of programs and ensembles, so does downtown's Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School of Music. All sorts of student groups will participate in the VSO's latest Day of Music, Saturday, June 10, starting at 10 a.m. To call this now annual event a three-ring circus is to greatly underestimate the variety and contrast on display, as performances unfold from morning until late afternoon. Demonstrating how the VSO learned from the pandemic, this year's Day of Music will be both live and online.
But before that, on Thursday, May 25 the VSO SoM strings take to the stage of the Vancouver Playhouse with youth string ensembles, an adult group, and the school's advanced ensemble Sinfonietta. Highlights of a full evening include Future of Excellence Competition winner Carl Teng playing a moment from Joseph Haydn's celebrated Cello Concerto, plus additional music by Vivaldi, Benda, and a new work by composer and violist David Hopkins.
For details, see vancouveracademyofmusic.com/events/ and vsoschoolofmusic.ca/event/stringensembles-the-playhouse-may.