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Victoria Baroque back with Bach in return to in-person performances

ON STAGE What: Bach’s Tenor AriasWhere: St. John the Divine, 1611 Quadra St. When: Friday, Sept. 24, 8 p.m. (doors at 7:30), and Sunday, Sept. 26, 2 p.m. (doors at 1:30) Tickets: $30 ($15 student/youth) from victoria-baroque.
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Victoria tenor Isaiah Bell and Victoria Baroque perform Bach’s Tenor Arias at St. John the Divine. Credit: Dean Artists Management

ON STAGE

What: Bach’s Tenor AriasWhere: St. John the Divine, 1611 Quadra St.
When: Friday, Sept. 24, 8 p.m. (doors at 7:30), and Sunday, Sept. 26, 2 p.m. (doors at 1:30)
Tickets: $30 ($15 student/youth) from victoria-baroque.com

Victoria Baroque is closing the book on 11 long months of pandemic programming with star-studded return to in-person performance this weekend.

With the moratorium on live concerts now at an end, the company is welcoming audiences back to St. John the Divine for Bach’s Tenor Arias. Victoria Baroque artistic director Soile Stratkauskas (flute) will be joined by Chloe Kim (violin), Christina Mahler (cello), David Stratkauskas (chamber organ/harpsichord) and tenor Isaiah Bell for live performances Friday and Sunday, the company’s first in close to a year.

“We are looking forward to playing this beautiful program for a live audience,” Soile Stratkauskas said. “Finally.”

Victoria Baroque performed some small outdoor concerts over the summer, but the performances this weekend will be the first indoor — i.e. official — events Stratkauskas has overseen since last year. The company had the very same Bach program ready to go in November, but those were cancelled — with almost no notice — following the provincewide shutdown. Everything else in the months since has been pre-recorded online programming, with no audience present.

“In November, we were still allowed to do concerts for 50 people, but the province eventually banned that on a Thursday and our Bach concert was the next day,” Stratkauskas said. “That was a big downer.”

Victoria Baroque is testing the waters, to some degree, with concerts this weekend, the first of their long-delayed 11th season. The vaccine passport will add a new organizational element to the proceedings, and though some patrons have told Stratkauskas they are not yet comfortable with attending a live concert, steps are being taken to satisfy all members of the base (the concerts this weekend will be recorded and aired online at a later date, she said).

Eleven musicians will participate in the orchestra’s next events on Nov. 19. Only one other concert, on Jan. 15, has been booked thus far, she said. “We are not announcing the whole season. We will announce the Spring season in January after we see how this goes, and how big of an audience we can have. We will be nimble, and adjust as needed.”

Despite the uncertainty, Stratkauskas has been gifted a stellar group of musicians with which to work this weekend, some of whom —Bell and Kim, in particular — would not normally be stationed in Victoria at this time of year.

Mahler moved to Victoria from Toronto in 2019, so her presence is an additional bonus. “It’s quite amazing,” she said.

“Because of COVID-19, it’s remarkable that we can have Isiah in this show. He normally has a lot of work in Toronto and other areas. Chloe does a lot of work in the States as well. It’s all a little unusual.

“There’s not going to be a packed audience; we are only allowing 75 people in a room that could have 400 in normal times. And everyone is wearing masks. But it will feel so good to actually share the music with people in real time and space.”