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Summer no reason to miss a beat

Victoria Conservatory of Music Summer Series When/where: July 2 to Aug. 24; piano concerts at Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, all others at Alix Goolden Hall or Wood Hall Tickets: $15-$25 and by donation. At the VCM office (900 Johnson St.

Victoria Conservatory of Music Summer Series

When/where: July 2 to Aug. 24; piano concerts at Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, all others at Alix Goolden Hall or Wood Hall

Tickets: $15-$25 and by donation. At the VCM office (900 Johnson St.)

Details:, 250-386-5311, [email protected]

Christ Church Cathedral Summer Recital Series

When/where: Saturdays, July 7 to Aug. 25, 4 p.m., Christ Church Cathedral

Tickets: By donation


B etween those summer concert series that have run for many years (Eine Kleine Summer Music, Victoria Summer Music Festival) and those of recent vintage (Symphony in the Summer, two organ series), the notion that this is the off-season for classical music here has become quaint.

The Victoria Conservatory of Music's annual series - the public face of its summer academies - will begin Monday and continue through late August, offering two dozen afternoon and evening concerts, in three venues, featuring faculty members and students in piano, strings, guitar, voice and flute. (The Music Discovery Camp for preteen children also includes two concerts.)

All of the concerts are open to the public, though only four are ticketed (priced from $15 to $25); for the rest - including all piano, string and guitar concerts - admission is by donation. Particularly recommended, of course, are those drawing on the various faculties, which comprise regular VCM staffers as well as distinguished local and out-of-town guests.

Monday's faculty recital will set a high bar: Pianist Michelle Mares, a Vancouver-born former prodigy who settled here in 2008 following two decades based in Europe, will discuss and perform Bach's monumental Goldberg Variations, of which she gave a probing, expressive and technically impressive reading here last year.

The seven other Piano Academy concerts include another faculty recital (July 6), with Roger Buksa and Anna Cal playing separately (in Buksa's case, nothing less than Liszt's sonata) and in duet (Ravel's La Valse), and a fundraiser (July 8) featuring violinist Mark Lupin with pianist Carla Dodek.

The String Academy will offer six concerts (three each day on July 6 and 13) showcasing students in various solo, chamber and orchestral configurations, while the three Guitar Academy concerts will include two faculty recitals: the first (July 16) featuring its director, Alexander Dunn, and friends; the other (July 18) featuring Janet Grohovac, a former UVic student now doing graduate work in Austin, Texas, and Jacob Cordover, an Australian based in Barcelona.

The Vocal Academy is particularly devoted to teaching Baroque performance practices, and it is no coincidence that one of its directors is soprano Nancy Argenta, who had been a major presence in early-music circles for almost 30 years when she moved here in 2007. Her academy colleagues include several local experts and another international early-music star, countertenor Daniel Taylor, visiting from Montreal.

Three of this summer's ticketed concerts are for the Vocal Academy, including a faculty recital (Aug. 4) and a program devoted to Bach cantatas (Aug. 9). As usual, the academy will culminate (Aug. 10) with a Handel oratorio, this year Jephtha, performed by student singers and a small orchestra (including members of the Victoria Symphony), all directed by another internationally acclaimed visitor, conductor and keyboard player Steven Devine.

The last academy, for flute, will include a ticketed faculty recital (Aug. 19) featuring its director, Mary Byrne, with pianist Wendy Stofer.

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The most venerable of our summer concert series, at Christ Church Cathedral, also begins next week and celebrates an extraordinary milestone this year: its 50th anniversary.

The series comprises eight concerts, one each Saturday afternoon throughout July and August, all with admission by donation. Kelly Charlton, the assistant to Michael Gormley, the cathedral's director of music, curated the series and will serve as pianist in four concerts.

Several programs will feature professionals well-known to Victoria audiences: the husbandand-wife trombone-and-violin duo of Robert and Anne Fraser, who will offer a Baroque program with Gormley on the organ (July 14); flutist Mary Byrne (July 28); and oboist Russell Bajer (Aug. 25). (Robert Fraser and Bajer are members of the Victoria Symphony.)

Several other concerts will feature performers who are (or recently were) advanced students at the conservatory or university but are already working professionally as soloists: soprano Rebecca Genge and baritone Paul Winkelmans (July 7); soprano Mary-Ellen Rayner (July 21); violist Natasha Galitzine (Aug. 4), who will soon begin studying at Juilliard in New York. The youngest performer, pianist Jimmy Wang (Aug. 11), is a teenage VCM student but already an experienced performer; last Friday, he played a Bach concerto with the Sidney Classical Orchestra.

One concert (Aug. 18) will showcase out-of-towners: Trio Abelia, whose members are based at various Eastern universities, play an interesting combination of instruments - oboe, horn and piano - for which there is a surprisingly respectable repertoire.

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