Ballet Victoria’s Four Seasons and Chopin’s Preludes

On March 22, 2012, in News, by George Sipos

Ballet Victoria returns to ArtSpring Sunday, March 25 with an afternoon of dance that includes visual art, poetry, and choreography.

First there will be Paul Destrooper’s new work The Four Seasons which combines Vivaldi’s music with West Coast native legends as we follow two ravens through the seasons of a mystical relationship. The dance is accompanied by art from four first nations artists and haikus written by Victoria poet Linda Rogers and read by the Nonourable Steven Point, Lieutenant Governor of BC. Both music and spoken word for this work are recorded.

Then pianist Sarah Hagen performs several Chopin Preludes live on our Steinway to accompany Sandrine Cassini’s choreographed exploration of Chopin’s life and artistic achievement.

As Ballet BC puts it, this is “a unique show celebrating the West Coast and its multi-cultural, multi artistic community showcasing local international stars.”

The performance starts at 2:30pm on Sunday, March 25. Tickets are available from our Box Office (250-537-2102) or online.


All that Jazz – Karl Schwonik Quartet

On March 14, 2012, in News, by George Sipos

Anyone who believes that the only music that comes out of Alberta is Country & Western is in for a surprise when the Karl Schwonik Quartet plays ArtSpring on Thursday, March 15 .

Karl may have been born on a farm near Gwynne, AB and brought up on fairly predictable musical fare, but the moment he finished high school he hit the road as a jazz drummer and never looked back.

That road lead him from the Banff Centre, where he was the youngest participant ever in their long-term career residency programme, to two Western Canada Music Awards for Jazz Recording of the Year, to performances at Carnegie Hall and the John F Kennedy Centre. He has received the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta’s Emerging Artist Award and sits on the Board of Directors of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

“One of Canada’s most brilliant musicians,” is how Dr Jeremy Brown of the University of Calgary Department of Music describes him.

Not so bad for someone who is still in his twenties and is legally blind to boot.

As if the musical accomplishments of Karl Schwonik’s jazz ensemble weren’t enough, the evening will also feature the participation of Rémi Bolduc, widely recognized as the greatest alto sax player in Canada.

Hailing from Ste-Hyacinthe, Quebec, Bolduc started playing in the jazz clubs of Montreal at age 15. A few years later, big band leader and composer Vic Vogel took notice of then 19-year-old musician and immediately praised his new protégé by saying that “he plays like the devil”! Since then he has played clubs across the country and in New York, Paris, Geneva, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Peking.

“For lovers of jazz this will be an evening to remember,” says ArtSpring Executive Director George Sipos. “Brilliant young musicians from Western Canada and a renowned veteran from Quebec. Our theatre will swing for sure.”

Tickets for the 8:00pm performance are available from the ArtSpring Ticket Centre – 537-2102 or online.


Quebec Virtuoso Pianist André Laplante

On March 14, 2012, in News, by George Sipos

One of the greatest pianists Canada has ever known visits ArtSpring on Tuesday, March 20 for a 7:00pm concert.

Quebec pianist André Laplante has been honoured in almost every major competition over the years, from the International Tchaikovsky Competition to the Sydney and Long-Thibaud Compeitions. He has won several Juno awards for his recordings and has performed around the world from Carnegie Hall to China. In 2005 he was awarded the Order of Canada in recognition of his contributions to classical music.

He is known widely as a specialist in the music of Franz Liszt and Maurice Ravel. At his ArtSpring concert M. Laplante will play Liszt’s monumental Les Annees de Pelerinage, as well as works by Bach, Mozart and Ravel.

“In recent times,” says ArtSpring Executive Director George Sipos, “we have presented some amazing young pianists near the beginning of their careers – Joyce Yang, Di Wu, Mariangella Vacatello. This time we get to hear from one of the world’s seasoned virtuosos, someone whose talent has been compared to Ashkenazy, Horowitz and Rudolph Serkin.”

The 7:00pm start, unlike the more customary 8:00, is to allow for a reception with the artist after the concert in the ArtSpring galleries. Country Grocer will host the food and drink at the reception to allow Salt Springers get to meet M. Laplante informally.

Tickets for the recital are available from the ArtSpring Ticket Centre 537-2012 or online.


Monik Nordine & Rémi Bolduc

On March 13, 2012, in News, by George Sipos

Salt Spring saxophonist and bandleader Monik Nordine (now living in Victoria) is all excited about our Thursday, March 15 evening with the Karl Schwonik Jazz Ensemble and Rémi Bolduc. Rémi was Monik’s saxophone teacher at McGill and she highly recommends him as one of Canada’s best.





Meanwhile, her new band Departure Jazz will be playing at the Raven Street Café on April 29. Here is a picture of the band on the left. Tickets for the Raven Street gig are $10 in advance only from Ron Nordine (537-5043).


We encourage you to take in both events if you love good jazz.


Mastery and Antiquity – a review by Jaime Murdoch

On March 12, 2012, in News, by Jaime Murdoch

On Sunday afternoon, March 4th, the impeccable harmonies of four stunningly talented singers echoed through the theatre at Art Spring.  Hailing from southern Germany, Voca Me drew audience members into the forgotten past of Byzantium with the music of Kassia,Byzantine abbess, poet and perhaps the Western world’s first known female composer and hymnographer, dating back to the 9th Century.

The show began with impeccable harmonies that swelled and swayed and moved in time and in balance with the fine instrumentation of musical director, Michael Popp.  Positioned close by with zither and lutes, Popp chimed in when the music called on him.  He provided an intriguing historical background to the work and humourous anecdotal details about the composer herself that brought laughter to the crowd.  There were times when his leafing through papers distracted from the vocalists’ musical artistry; however, the singers remained focused and strong.

For the first half of the performance, although their mastery of vocalization was very clear and impressive, the visual comfort and communication between the early music singers felt slightly strained.  As the show went on, the women’s camaraderie became more and more apparent with subtle smiles and eye contact.  Overall, their sound was rich, nurturing and unfaltering.  Masters of tonality, harmony, dynamic colouring and dissonance, one could sense their magnified togetherness combined with a clear individual presence.  Consonants beautifully articulated, these musicians moved beyond the notes and became orators of Byzantine legend, drawing audience members into a dusty ancient past.

What a treat to witness such an ensemble, one that came together to communicate these legends, to tell the stories of Kassia in such a disciplined and finely tuned and dignified manner.  The discipline, professionalism and mastery that Voca Me brought to the stage provided inspiration, intrigue and spirit to Salt Spring.  This was a show for art and music historians, music appreciators and for anyone who can see the sheer beauty in a group coming together with immense dedication.  Bravo.


Congratulations Janina Filakowska!

On March 6, 2012, in News, by George Sipos

We were pleased to learn today, March 6th, that Janina Fialkowska has been named the recipient of the 2012 Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement in Classical Music.

The Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards are Canada’s most prestigious honour in the performing arts.

Each year the Awards are presented for Lifetime Artistic Achievement in the categories of theatre, dance, classical music, popular music, film, and broadcasting. These awards recognize artists who have made an indelible contribution to Canada’s cultural life. Recipients of these awards are nominated by the general public.

The awards recognize a stellar array of artists for their outstanding lifetime contribution. Former recipients in the category of classical music include such prominent singers as Jon Vickers, Teresa Stratas and Maureen Forrester.

In the history of the awards, Janina is the second classical music instrumentalist (and the first woman in this category) to receive the Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement.

All of us at ArtSpring congratulate Janina, with fond memories of her past performances here in 2006 and 2010.


Four Amazing Performances in Five Days

On March 2, 2012, in News, by George Sipos

It seems almost too good to be true, but that’s what’s coming up at ArtSpring between Sunday March 4 and Thursday March 8.

The programming starts with a Sunday matinee by Voca Me — five singers from Stuttgart who perform Byzantine music by a previously neglected early composer. Kassia lived in the 9th Century and predated Hildegard von Bingen by several hundred years. She may well be the world’s first know female composer. Within the context of her time she was an independent woman who determined her own paths in both music and spirituality.

The next day, on Monday evening, Nathan Rogers, son of the late Stan Rogers, visits ArtSpring to pay musical tribute to his father. Nathan Rogers is an accomplished musician and songwriter in his own right, but on this tour he plays and sings the music that made Stan Rogers an unchallenged icon of Canadian folk music till his untimely death in 1983.

Then on Wednesday ArtSpring welcomes blues harmonica virtuoso Carlos del Junco with his band The Blues Mongrels. Born in Cuba but now living in Toronto, he is the recipient of endless musical awards including numerous Juno nominations. Carlos del Junco is our country`s undisputed master of the ten hole diatonic harmonica. Simultaneously sophisticated and raw, his playing blurs the boundaries between blues and jazz.

To bring the five days back to vocal music, ArtSpring welcomes The Elmer Iseler Singers on Thursday, March 8. This is one of Canada`s longest standing professional choirs, founded in 1979 by the late Elmer Iseler and now conducted by Lydia Adams. For several decades, especially on CBC radio, the choir set the gold standard for choral singing in Canada.

How did all this richness and variety come to be together in five short days in March?

“Call it either chance planning, or inspired planning,” says ArtSpring Executive Director George Sipos. “The huge variety of styles in these four programmes gives us a concentrated dose of just how diverse musical traditions and sensibilities can be. In the wake of Salt Spring`s Literary Festival and Film Festival, think of it as a mini Music Festival.”

Tickets for these four events, ranging in price from a high of $28 to a low of $5, are available from the ArtSpring Ticket Centre at 537-2102 or online. Details about the programmes, including video and audio links are posted on in our events calendar.


Unbound: Timely in its Unraveling

On March 2, 2012, in News, by Jaime Murdoch

Bound. Restrict. Weaken. Disable. Chinese foot binding began with the court dancers of the Song Dynasty who had their feet wrapped painfully tight to keep their “Lotus Gait” and ensure tiny steps and a swaying walk. By the 19th century, the majority of women in all classes had their feet bound. This feminine daintiness was a sign of status and wealth; disallowing women the ability to perform manual labour. With status came sex appeal, and during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), sex manuals included 48 ways to play with these sexualized 7cm (3″) length feet.

Unbound, a contemporary dance performance by Wen Wei, a work that brings the theme of foot binding to the stage, came to Art Spring this past Thursday, 63 years after the end of the disabling tradition. Brought alive in the moving human form, this performance dealt with the juxtaposing forces of strength and weakness, male and female, caucasian and asian, freedom and bondage. The talent and flavour that each dancer embodied enhanced the tragedy and beauty of the work that sparked a deep inquiry into the purpose of foot binding and the human ability to adapt and strengthen in the face of restriction. The universality of male-female power play was clear with scenes of female weakness and frailty and male dominance and brute strength. This tension changed in scenes where female dancers showed mastery in the tiny shoes, having worked within their restricted framework, adapting and finding strength despite the disablement. Release was achieved with the shedding of shoes, feet free to root and empower free movement.

Choreographed to the sophistication of Italian-Canadian composer, Giorgio Magnanensi, the work grew and climaxed in a continuous yet unpredictable fashion. This unpredictability was both stimulating and unnerving and appropriate for the delivery of the artist’s message. Wen Wei took a memory of his grandmother and pushed it to new levels. At a time of re-emergence of the divine feminine, Unbound is timely in its unraveling, and allows us to question the past as well as the present.

By Jaime Murdoch