Wildlife Photographer of the Year

January 30, 2016 by Martin Vernon

The Royal BC Museum has welcomed back the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition from the Natural History Museum, London.

The quality of these stunning back-lit photographs becomes apparent when you discover that theyWildlife Photographer of the Year - Royal BC Museum are the top 100 selected out of over 42,000 entries. Many are nothing less than “awesome” (badly over-used word): of which we full of awe.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is open daily until 4th April 2016 at the Museum, by the Inner Harbour in downtown Victoria.

The Royal BC Museum is one of those “must-see” places to visit in Victoria. So much more than a typical museum it brings the past alive through its permanent displays, major summer shows and its ongoing exhibitions. The 2016 summer show will be Mammoths – Giants of the Ice Age.

Allow two or three hours at least just for the floors of permanent displays. An adjoining IMAX big-screen theatre adds to its impact with a continually changing programme of dramatic presentations.

Artists and Artisans Shows and Tours

October 20, 2015 by Martin Vernon

Walking through an art show this past weekend reminded me how blessed we are in the Victoria BC with so much fine art. Artists and artisans shows and tours are held frequently, and galleries and markets present a wide range of artworks. What struck us most was the sheer high quality from nearly 300 artists at the juried Sidney Fine Art Show (see an award winner below). Yes, we have the big names like Robert Bateman but there are hundreds of leading artists in their differing fields.There’s something about the lifestyle on the West coast that draws those of an artistic mindset.

To discover these you can take three geographically-based tours which are appreciated on relaxed self-guided routes.Artists and Artisans Shows and Tours - Victoria BC - Deborah Tilby

  • The Stinking Fish Studio Tour is held every July throughout Metchosin, west of Victoria. Juried artists present paintings and photographs, pottery and sculpture, woodworking and printmaking, creative fibres and jewellery at over 20 studios.
  • The Saanich Peninsula Studio Tour takes place on 24th and 25th October 2015 at 18 studios on the Saanich Peninsula just north of Victoria BC.
  • Visit 28 artisans on Salt Spring Island on their self-guided studio tour on a day trip from Victoria.

In August Arts and Music in the Gardens at HCP showcases 60 local artists in a delightful setting.

The Stinking Fish artists have a fall show on 14th and 15th November 2015 at the West Mont Montessori School, 4075 Metchosin Road near Witty’s Lagoon.

Downtown VIctoria has galleries presenting west coast and aboriginal art,traditional and contemporary. Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands are certainly well-endowed with talent.

Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival

August 20, 2015 by Martin Vernon

50 shows at 11 venues: that’s the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival 2015. You can catch over 300 performances from 27th August until 6th September 2015.

Fringe theatres are not for everyone but the variety is impressive: there’s drama and comedy, musicals and dance, the spoken word and magic. Victoria Fringe Theatre FestivalParticipants are international, though chosen by lottery (yes!). The Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival has enlivened the downtown of Victoria BC since 1986. Families will enjoy the FringeKids Fest at Market Square on Saturday 29th August, 11am-4pm (it’s been a long time since I bounced in a castle).

A $6 button and a relevant ticket are required to see a show. Encouragingly, 100% of the ticket price goes to the artists you see. Tickets may be purchased in advance or at the door and passes are available. Drop into Intrepid Theatre at 2-1609 Blanshard Street for more information.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Victoria Symphony Orchestra

October 10, 2014 by Martin Vernon

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.

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