If variety is the spice of life then the arts scene in Victoria is a hot place. Festivals abound: this September we’ve just had Rifflandia and the Vancouver Island Blues Bash. In July and August we had the Victoria International Buskers Festival, the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival and the Victoria International Jazz Festival. More significantly, there are ongoing events throughout the years for visitors and locals alike in just about any artistic genre so check online or with your B&B hosts to take in our local arts events. Sometimes these will be thoroughly memorable, perhaps in a surprising way, such as my wife and I just experienced.
A good candidate would be a concert by the Victoria Symphony Orchestra who present a variety of programmes for different tastes. I’ve been amongst the crowds at the Inner Harbour for the spectacular Symphony Splash and seen them often playing popular pieces in The Butchart Gardens summer concerts on the lawn but the elegant Royal Theatre perhaps suits them best. My knowledge of classical music is rather basic, hence this being “A Beginner’s Guide to the Victoria Symphony Orchestra”.
We enjoyed the rich atmospheric sounds of Wagner’s Overture to Tannhauser and keenly anticipated my wife’s favourite piece, Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3. But this is where the surprise came; the pianist, Anna Fedorova, had cancelled due to a hand injury. A replacement had flown out of Moscow at 5 hours notice. (I didn’t know anything about him but, then, nor did I about Anna Federova – you don’t have to be especially cultured to enjoy such programmes!) Here’s the story:
Everyone warmed to this young pianist after seeing that video on a big screen. I wondered how Pavel Kolesnikov could play this 40+ minute piece to everyone’s satisfaction, being unprepared and jet-lagged. His fingers flew across the keyboard and seemed to draw out the delicacy or power required. Thunderous applause and a standing ovation greeted his conclusion and we were treated to a charming Chopin Nocturne encore. I turned to the couple sitting next to me to make a comment and discovered that they were Russians, proud of this achievement.
A Bela Bartok concerto followed, not really to my taste and I did find my thoughts wandering … two harps, how unusual … six double basses too … when will the gong be struck? … do percussion players get paid the same as violinists?
It’s good to try something different when visiting a different part of the world. You never know what you’ll encounter – we experienced a fine orchestra in a classically European-styled theatre with an international audience enjoying the music of two centuries in a west coast city: a memorable evening.