Victoria Symphony hits the road finely tuned

The Victoria Symphony left Monday on its first national tour, part of the celebrations for its 75th anniversary season. Over the next week, music director Tania Miller will write about her impressions of the orchestra’s experience as it travels and performs.

 

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On the bus, somewhere on the snowy highway between Montréal and Québec City

Today begins the exciting journey of an orchestra that has been working toward this moment for years, and especially throughout this special 75th anniversary season.

With concerts in Québec City’s Palais Montcalm, Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall, Ottawa’s National Arts Centre and Vancouver’s Orpheum, plus an opening concert in Duncan’s Cowichan Theatre and final homecoming appearance in Victoria’s Royal Theatre, we are poised to display across Canada what Victoria has to be proud of in its orchestra and, indeed, its entire music and arts community.

Coming off a whirlwind of eight rehearsals and three back-to-back concerts of the Beethoven festival with Angela Cheng, the orchestra had just one day off before starting the intense rehearsals in preparation of the tour. The tour program we are bringing with us includes a new Canadian world première by our former composer-in-residence Michael Oesterle, Grieg’s Piano Concerto with Canadian superstar Stewart Goodyear, Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite.

The orchestra always works hard, but I have never felt the quiet, serious and focused concentration of those rehearsals quite so keenly. Everyone felt the pressure of knowing that this was the time to get it right.

Saturday night in Duncan was important. We needed to know that we were ready to take the show on the road, and we were thankful to Duncan to get us started out right. Any final adjustments and ensemble issues needed to be worked out, and fast. The Duncan audience was warm and enthusiastic and I rode the bus back to Victoria with the feeling that we could breathe now and let the tour happen.

The program is virtuosic, intended to show different aspects of the Victoria Symphony’s character and talent, but it is revealing and risky, as well. Will we be on our game in each new city? How will we be received in the East? We’ve done the preparation, and now — like any great musician, athlete or actor — we need to let go, listen to each other, trust ourselves, be the music and enjoy the experience of sharing it with others.

I am writing this Monday evening from the bus after the orchestra has touched down in Montréal as we make our journey to Quebec City. (By the way, it is snowing like crazy!) All day, our fellow travellers at the airports and on the airplanes would whisper and ask: “Who are they?”

I heard someone else say: “What’s going on?” The musicians attracted attention with their instruments slung over their shoulders and their look of youth and camaraderie, and most especially of pride. “Oh, it’s the Victoria Symphony. And they’re on a cross-Canada tour!”

What a great way to show the rest of Canada what a gem of an orchestra we have in Victoria. Next, we play in Québec City, and then fly to Toronto. I’ll check in again from there.

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