Classical Music: UVic Orion Series presents electroacoustic concert

The musical events on offer in the coming days are unusually diverse in nature and conspicuously light on standard repertoire.

Tonight, the University of Victoria’s Orion Series in Fine Arts is sponsoring a concert of work by the Vancouver-based Hildegard Westerkamp, a self-described “composer, radio artist and sound ecologist” who “presents soundscape workshops and lectures internationally, performs and writes” (8 p.m., Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, free admission; finearts.uvic.ca/music/calendar).

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In the 1970s, particularly influenced by her work at Simon Fraser University’s World Soundscape Project, Westerkamp began to create compositions by recording, processing and mixing sounds drawn from the acoustic environment, as a way of exploring a wide range of subject-matter.

She has since been a prolific creator of electroacoustic works, soundtracks for radio and film and “composed environments” including installations and public “soundwalks.”

Tonight, Westerkamp will present a selection of her electroacoustic works, as well as Klavierklang, a 15-minute “sonic-musical journey into the complexities of piano playing,” for piano, spoken voice and two-channel audio. Klavierklang will be performed by Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa, who commissioned it and gave the première in Vancouver in 2017.

In early December, I previewed an unconventional concert in which local composer and pianist Christopher Donison performed his own solo-piano rendition of the Beatles album Abbey Road, under the auspices of Music by the Sea, the summer music festival in Bamfield that he founded and runs. His intent, in this concert, was to make a serious case for The Beatles as composers by presenting Abbey Road as if it were a sort of piano sonata and so setting in relief its compositional virtues.

Donison's Dec. 11 recital, at Victoria International Marina, the luxury-yacht facility in Vic West, was sold out; in fact, there was demand for a repeat performance even before the concert date. Tonight, Donison will give that repeat performance of Abbey Road, and on Friday he will perform again, this time offering another complete Beatles album: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Both concerts will again be at Victoria International Marina (reception 6:30 p.m., performance 8 p.m., $40/$20; 250-888-7772, ticketrocket.co).

As in the December concert, there will be a visual element to these performances, through a locally developed interactive chandelier billed as “the world’s first artificially intelligent lighting system.”

On Monday, the Victoria Symphony will bring back a local favourite, Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear, who will appear as soloist in a work of his own composition: Callaloo, a “Caribbean suite” for piano and orchestra (8 p.m., Royal Theatre, $33-$86; victoriasymphony.ca).

The piece has personal significance for Goodyear: His mother is from Trinidad, and callaloo is a leafy-greens dish that is a staple of Caribbean cuisine. His half-hour-long suite is a colourful, often jazzy work full of infectious rhythms and brilliant virtuosity.

Callaloo had its première in Leipzig in 2016 (you can watch a five-minute clip from that performance on YouTube), and its Canadian première in Calgary in 2017. In June, Goodyear will give the London première and perform it elsewhere in England.

(Just two weeks ago, incidentally, Goodyear gave the première of a new piano concerto with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the Victoria Symphony’s former music director, Tania Miller.)

Callaloo is part of an interesting program conducted by the current music director, Christian Kluxen.

It opens with three dances from Thomas Adès’s opera Powder Her Face (1995), based on the true story of a duchess whose lurid divorce trial scandalized Britain in 1963, and it closes with the Symphony No. 4 (The Inextinguishable) by Danish composer Carl Nielsen.

During Miller’s tenure, the Victoria Symphony performed a good deal of Nielsen’s music (including The Inextinguishable, in 2008), and we might hope for even more of it now that the music director is himself a Dane.

Finally, briefly: This year, the UVic Medieval Studies program’s annual conference will be devoted to music and held in partnership with the Ancient Music Society of Victoria (Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., David Lam Auditorium, $60; ancientmusicvictoria.com). The event will include presentations by local and visiting scholars and performers and a professional lute maker.

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