A signature event of the summer entertainment calendar, Symphony Splash owes more than a drip of its success to the venue in which it is presented.
On what other occasion can you and thousands of your closest pals huddle by the Inner Harbour and soak in the sounds of a top-shelf orchestra?
One might even venture to say downtown Victoria, with its grand colonial buildings and dramatic natural backdrop, is the second-biggest star of the show, ranking just behind the Victoria Symphony players up on the floating stage.
Appropriately, the city is getting much deserved special billing for this year's event, taking place on Sunday. In honour of Victoria's 150th anniversary, the program boasts two compositions that pay loving homage to the B.C. capital's history and storied architectural landscape.
The soirÃ©e, now in its 23rd year, will feature the world première of Harmonious Interest, the final movement in a yettobecompleted work by Toronto-based composer Chan Ka Nin.
Commissioned for the symphony by Victoria 150 and an anonymous donor, the full suite, an exploration of Chinatown's origins and the history of Chinese immigrants in Canada, will debut in March.
Harmonious Interest bears the name of Chinatown's red gate, which was unveiled in 1981.
"I thought would be a good symbol for the last movement, which represents friendship, hope and working together," said Ka Nin, whose work fuses Asian and European musical traditions.
"[To represent] this duality between Yin and Yang, East and West, the phrase structure a lot of the time is call and response or question and answer."
To achieve this sonic dialogue, the Hong Kong-born composer drew inspiration from specific elements of the landmark's elaborate design.
He mentions depictions of the dragon and the phoenix, mythological beasts that figure prominently in traditional Chinese culture.
"[Harmonious Interest] begins with the fanfare, which I thought might be appropriate [to represent] the construction of this gate," he explained. "This fanfare could represent the dragon because it is rather robust.
"Then, for the phoenix, there is a slow dance at the end of the movement."
In a tribute to its more immediate environs, the symphony will reprise local composer Tobin Stokes's Inner Harbour Overture, which debuted at Splash in 2008.
Stokes said the inspiration for the piece came during a downtown stroll during the early months of that year.
"I was in the Inner Harbour one Sunday morning and had this idea of, 'Wouldn't it be a great to do a piece of music that incorporated sounds that you could hear in the harbour when it's quiet?' And I don't mean float planes and that kind of stuff, but more the romantic sounds."
Stokes set out to discover and record church bells, horns and sirens - sounds he would end up inserting into the composition.
He prepared special parts for the bell peal at Christ Church Cathedral and also for the Royal B.C. Museum's carillon.
"I actually learned how to write that music and wrote them a specific little order, a little bell piece, which they performed and I recorded."
He also gathered less obviously euphonic clips, including the whistle of the Victoria-Courtenay Via Rail train, and a clip of the deep bellow the Princess Marguerite II steamship let out as it departed the Inner Harbour for the last time.
He then arranged the overture's instrumentals around the audio he'd secured, a process the 45-year-old describes as an "enjoyable challenge."
A major consideration for the Splash performances, he said, was the strict schedule of one of the piece's star soloists: the MV Coho ferry, which will blast its horn on four occasions during the five-minute work.
"It's at the beginning of the piece because it needs to leave [for Port Angeles]."
The overall objective, Stokes said, was to evoke a "real celebratory fanfare feel."
"Originally, in 2008, the piece was a just a celebration of the Inner Harbour. And now it's a celebration of Victoria's 150th."
"It just fits really well."
Highlights for Sunday's Symphony Splash
1 p.m. to 5 p.m. - The Splash Family Zone will take over the northwest corner of the legislature's lawn. Activities include a bouncy castle, a petting zoo, face painting and live performances by the Music Corner Ensemble and the Victoria Symphony Brass Quintet.
3 p.m. to 10 p.m. - Flavours from around the world will be available for purchase at the Splash Culinary Corner on Government Street near the legislature.
4 p.m. - Funk-and-soul tribute act The Midnights will open the main stage. Instructors from the Arthur Murray School of Dance will be on hand to lead the crowd in an outdoor dance party.
6: 30 p.m. - Starting near the intersection of Government and Superior streets, Victoria Symphony musicians will embark on a procession to the Inner Harbour.
7: 30 p.m. - The symphony, led by conductor Tania Miller, will provide the evening's feature entertainment.
10 p.m. - The show will culminate with a fireworks show set to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.
A viewing area for people with disabilities, at the northeast corner of Government and Belleville streets, will be open from 4 p.m. until the end of the show.
For more information, go to victoriasymphony.ca/splash
Stokes: Inner Harbour Overture
Dvorak: Slavonic Dance No. 1
SuppÃ©: Overture to Poet and Peasant
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto (1st movement) - Eehjoon Kwon, violin
Schifrin: Mission Impossible Theme Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2
Fucik: Entry of the Gladiators
Ka Nin Chan: Harmonious Interest (world première)
Coates: London Suite, Westminster, Knightsbridge March
Stokes: Canoe from Klee Wyck - Eve Daniell, soprano
Williams, arr. Lavender - Tribute to John Williams
Williams: Imperial March from Star Wars
Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture
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