Recital has personal touch for Eugene Dowling

What: A Mostly Canadian Recital featuring Eugene Dowling (with Michelle Mares and the Pinnacle Brass Quintet)

When: Sunday, 2:30 p.m.

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Where: Phillip T. Young Recital Hall

Tickets: $17.50 regular, $13.50 students/seniors/alumni at or 250-721-8480.


Victoria audiences may know Eugene Dowling as the man behind Tuba Christmas.

But while Dowling enjoys bringing carols to the downtown streets every December, the professional tuba player said he gets something different out of a concert like A Mostly Canadian Recital, scheduled for Sunday.

“For me, it’s about presenting what I do. It keeps me playing. But also, I’ve got a personal relationship with many of the performers,” he said.

Joining Dowling on stage are pianist Michelle Mares, as well as Dowling’s colleagues in the Pinnacle Brass Quintet, who also hold professional positions locally. Trumpeters John Ellis and Matthew McCrady play together in the Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy, while trombonist Scott MacInnes performs with the Vancouver Island Symphony Orchestra, as well as teaching with Dowling at the University of Victoria. French horn player Dan Moses replaces Mike Oswald for this concert.

Dowling counts about half of the composers on the programs as friends, too.

Barbara York wrote How Beautiful in memory of an infant who died, Dowling said. The child’s parents brought him to term so that he would know love, even though a congenital defect meant his life would be only a few hours long.

Oskar Morawetz, who died in 2007, was an old friend of Dowling. John Griffiths was another, so Dowling brings a personal perspective to Elizabeth Raum’s tribute to Griffiths. “He liked to play passionate, romantic music, so, in memory of him, she wrote a passionate, romantic piece,” he said.

Morawetz fled from Europe before the purge by the Nazis, but was again surrounded by anti-Semites in a displaced-persons camp upon arriving in Canada. The experience helped shape his outlook, Dowling said. “He struggled with dark feelings his whole life.”

Murray Adaskin, who died in 2002, composed music with Dowling in mind. “Every note he wrote when he retired to Victoria meant that he had my playing in mind,” Dowling said.

While Music for Brass Quintet was commissioned by another group, Dowling performed it first, as a sounding board for the composer.

“So somehow I’ll try to bring all of those emotions and friendship to mind when I play Sunday,” Dowling said.

Highlighting Canadian composers and musicians has been a theme for Dowling, even as an American. “Even though I was one of those people who wasn’t born here, I’ve trained a whole lot of Canadians and played a whole lot of Canadian works, which is how we define our culture,” he said.

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