Classical music events to check out this summer in Vancouv…


From the standpoint of classical music, the dog days of August are about as quiet as we get.

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From the standpoint of classical music, the dog days of August are about as quiet as we get. That doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities in various locales, both al fresco and indoors, for those who want summer music, including events from Music on Main, the Blueridge Chamber Music Festival, and the St. James Music Series.

The Blueridge Chamber Music Festival has become a cornerstone of late summer listening. Running for over a decade now, the enterprise has morphed from a North Shore-based event to a full downtown presence. This summer there are four different programs, all at 7 p.m. in The Annex (823 Seymour St.) behind the Orpheum.

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Concerts kick off Aug. 10 with Life Cycles, a new music showcase with two works by Australian composer Liza Lim, one by the late Jocelyn Morlock, and a new piece by Jordan Nobles. The attractive sampler concludes with a George Crumb classic, Music for a Summer Evening.

Next up is Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Aug.11, a program anchored by two great offerings: Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Piano Quintet (written when the Viennese wunderkind was just 24 but already doing great things) and that perennial favourite, Schubert’s Trout Quintet. It wouldn’t be Blueridge without something contemporary on the program: Olivia Shortt is represented by her quirkily titled repeat after me: I love my place in society, the cows are spies and are we just a bunch of meat.

Composer Olivia Shortt.
Composer Olivia Shortt. Karen E. Reeves

Things take a darker turn with Cabaret for the End of the World, Aug. 17. Music by Alfred Schnittke, Galina Ustvolskaya, and György Kurtag rubs shoulders with pieces by the UK’s Laura Bowler, Pauline Oliveros, and Mauricio Kagel. Festival co-director Dory Hayley calls Ustvolskaya’s Composition #2 (Dies Irae) “one of the most absolutely brutal, shattering pieces ever composed,” noting that it calls for eight – that’s right, eight – double basses.

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The series concludes Aug. 17 with Turning in the Widening Gyre, a program that mixes and matches music by Ann Southam (her Song of the Varied Thrush), Belize-born British composer Errollyn Wallen’s Five Postcards, and Duo by the Chicago Symphony’s composer-in-residence Jessie Montgomery. Also up are first string quartets by Florence Price (1887–1953) and the indomitable Ethel Smyth (1858-1944). For more information and tickets go to Blueridgechamber.org.

Baroque violinist Chloe Kim.
Baroque violinist Chloe Kim. Photo by KELSEY GOODWIN

In mid-month. at Vancouver’s art deco landmark St. James’ Anglican Church (303 E Cordova St.), violinist Chloe Kim, cellist Christina Mahler. and keyboard player Christina Hutten offer Triptych, a program in memory of star baroque violinist Jeanne Lamon, the celebrated founder of Toronto’s Taffelmusic ensemble. Triptych has an evening performance, Aug. 12, 7:30 p.m. and a matinee Aug. 13, 3 p.m.

The performers say it’s particularly meaningful that this concert takes place at Saint James’, the home of the Saint James Music Academy, which provides free classical music education to children and youth in the Downtown Eastside, where the non-profit music school is committed to making a difference through the power and love of music.

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The playlist for Triptych is a surprisingly comprehensive selection of works from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: French baroque music by Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre and Marin Marais, plus works by Buxtehude, Bach, Vivaldi, and others. For details, see Sjmusic.ca.

Finally, Music on Main presents two August projects. There’s a series of outdoor pop-up concerts at Mount Pleasant Park (16th Avenue at Ontario Street), a stone’s throw away from MoM’s Heritage Hall venue. All six programs — weather permitting — get going at 6:30 p.m., Aug, 14-16 and Aug. 21-23. For details, see Musiconmain.ca.

Then on Aug. 20, 3 p.m., back at The Annex, it’s the latest instalment of The Kessler Academy, a wonderful enterprise established in 2015 to mark the hundredth birthday of Susan Kessler. The Academy brings gifted young string players together with the Microcosmos Quartet for an intensive rehearsal/performance project focused on modern repertoire. This summer’s event intends to offer “a sense of solace and meditative reflection mixed with moments of pure joy,” through repertoire by Morlock, Kaija Saariaho, Kelly-Marie Murphy, Grażyna Bacewicz, and Jessie Montgomery.

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