Benjamin Butterfield wins Craigdarroch Award

Performer, artistic collaborator and educator—Benjamin Butterfield continues to make an indelible impression on the future of Canadian singers and on audiences worldwide. He is a tenor of international renown, with a repertoire ranging from baroque to classical to contemporary. This much-loved School of Music professor is now the 2015 winner of UVic’s Craigdarroch Award for Excellence in Artistic Expression.

Benjamin Butterfield (UVic Photo Services)

Benjamin Butterfield (UVic Photo Services)

Benjamin Butterfield is an outstanding performer, artistic collaborator, and educator, whose body of artistic work and song serves as a link to a greater sense and understanding of one’s self, others, and the world around us,” says Dr. Susan Lewis, Acting Dean of Fine Arts. “The measure of Professor Butterfield’s impact on the musical world can truly be found in how he applies his talent and expertise to the training of a new generation of singers at the School of Music. He makes the difference for young singers, providing both inspiration and sound teaching to prepare them for the world stage.”

Butterfield’s artistic knowledge and production experience is broad, versatile and widely recognized by peers, critics and audiences for its quality and impact. He has performed with the world’s top musicians and conductors, and is highly sought-after as a teacher who transforms young singers into emerging professional artists. Many of his students have gone on to give performances with major opera companies and symphonies throughout North America.

“This award clarifies the value that the University of Victoria places on the arts by acknowledging artistic expression as a point of recognition amongst it’s community members,” says Butterfield. “To be included with scientists, scholars, historians, technicians and health professionals sends a valuable message that the whole is made stronger by the sum of it’s parts. This award also helps me clarify for myself the importance of continuing to grow and learn as a singer, educator and human being.”

Butterfield, dressed for success on the stage

Butterfield, dressed for success on the stage

As an example of how busy Butterfield is during his off-campus hours, he is performing at two prestigious music events this summer alone: the Ukrainian Art Song project—which will find Butterfield at the Glenn Gould Studio this July recording alongside the acclaimed likes of fellow Canadian vocalists Russell Braun, Virginia Hatfield, Andrea Ludwig, Krisztina Szabó, Monica Whicher and Pavlo Hunka as part of the overall project to record 1,000 Ukrainian art songs by 26 composers as an extraordinary musical legacy to the world—and at Vermont’s famous Yellow Barn Concerts, which presents 23 concerts between July 10 and August 8.

“Music binds, educates and serves—the human voice is common to us all and is at the very core of our collective abilities, story telling and passions. Music can heal and rally, console and inspire. It is a reflecting pool for our common struggles and joys,” says Butterfeld. “Our world today is full of seemingly insurmountable obstacles and conflicts presenting a complicated and challenging future. There has never been a better time to sing. It helps one find the strength of character to be inspired, find solace and understanding and to know our responsibilities towards this world. As a performing artist, how do I inspire others to better appreciate the world around us? By singing about it.”

Butterfield teaching one of his students

Butterfield teaching one of his students

And, considering the range of students he’s had over the years, what kind of impact does Butterfield see UVic graduates having on the world? “An old sailor once said, ‘There are two kinds of people in this world: those who have hit a coral reef, and those who are going to hit a coral reef.’ UVic grads know that true success comes from developing the strength of mind to negotiate and manage failure; they are taught to deal with life’s inevitable ups and downs through UVic’s faculty, staff, facilities and location,” he says.

“They become committed, thoughtful and interested contributors to our society rather than focusing on self serving ventures. Our music grads in particular achieve this through learning to communicate through their music, developing their point of view and by taking chances every day. Their impact on the world is simple: they make music.”

Butterfield joins the likes of previous Craigdarroch Award winners Harald Krebs, Lorna Crozier and Marcus Milwright. The Craigdarroch Research Awards were established in 2003 to recognize outstanding research-focused and creative contributions at UVic, and were named for Craigdarroch Castle—home to UVic’s predecessor institution, Victoria College (1921-1946).

You can view Craigdarroch winners’ “Faces of UVic Research” videos here.

Vikes Band wants you!

Love sports? Play an instrument? With the brand-new Vikes Band course, you can now combine both—for credit!

Join the Vikes Band & help jazz up the games! (photo: APShutter.com)

Join the Vikes Band & help jazz up the games! (photo: APShutter.com)

A new initiative between the School of Music and Vikes Athletics, Vikes Band (MUS 189) is a new for-credit course that will rehearse and perform at Vikes Varsity events and special events on campus. If you played in your high school band or just play for fun, you can still put those skills to use to play game-day music—even if you aren’t a Music major.

“The Vikes Band will make an incredible contribution to creating the most unique and exciting venue in Canadian Interuniversity Sport,” says Vikes Athletics director Clint Hamilton. “Joining the Vikes Band will make you part of our team as we make our athletic venues energizing, fun and inspiring for our home crowds and a challenge for our visiting opponents. The Vikes Band will be a great way to engage with UVic and show your team spirit as you join Vikes Nation and bring your talents to the team!”

Blow your horn—for credit—in the Vikes Band (photo: APShutter.com)

Blow your horn—for credit—in the Vikes Band (photo: APShutter.com)

Open to any student with the basic ability to play a band instrument, Vikes Band is a 1.5 unit course that can even be taken more than once, to a maximum of six units. Better still, there’s no audition necessary!

“This band is both a way to increase school spirit and bolster the atmosphere at sporting events while also giving a fun musical outlet for UVic’s entire population,” says School of Music professor and Vikes Band leader Scott MacInnes. “A dedicated Vikes Band is something that has been a long time coming—and now that it’s here there’s a buzz around the entire city that’s so exciting.”

While the School of Music jazz band has been playing at key Vikes games since 2013, the idea of creating a dedicated band course has been in the works for a couple of years now. “Now that UVic has a top-notch athletics facility like CARSA, it seems only logical that there is a dedicated ensemble to bring live music to already great sporting events,” says MacInnes. “Having a live group at the games will create a level of excitement and energy that will be felt not only by the fans but also by the Vikes athletes.”

Vikes Nation ambassador Dan Mecham is already pumped about signing up for the Vikes Band course!

Vikes Nation ambassador Dan Mecham is already pumped about signing up for the Vikes Band course!

Current student and Vikes Nation ambassador Dan Mecham has already decided he’ll be enrolling in the Vikes Band course. “I’m really keen on school spirit,” he says. “I was on the pep band in high school and I love the atmosphere of people coming together, all united over something like a game. That’s really big for me.”

Mecham, who went to high school in Sacramento, California, immediately noticed the difference between American games with bands and Canadian games without. “In high school it made a huge difference having the band there,” he says. “At first it was just at the football games, but eventually all the sports teams were requesting we show up to their big games. I’m sure we can create the same atmosphere here at UVic, where people will recognize how much the music adds to the energy and enthusiasm.”

Music student Josh Lovell belts out the Vikes Rally Song before a game (photo: Armando Tura)

Music student Josh Lovell belts out the Vikes Rally Song before a game (photo: Armando Tura)

MacInnes is already working on a play list for the Vikes Band (“our repertoire will span popular tunes like ‘Sweet Dreams are Made of These’ and the Rocky theme ‘Gonna Fly Now’ to Balkan gypsy music and New Orleans jazz-style tunes, as well as the Vikes Rally Song by Music teacher Colleen Eccleston”), and says he hopes the Vikes Band will attract the more “energetic and outgoing” students. “A group like this gives students the opportunity to hone their skills and foster relationships with students from other parts of campus that will no doubt last into their professional lives.”

Given that this course is open to anyone who can play an instrument—even if you’re not a Music major—even a super-fan like Mecham is eager to sign up. What’s his instrument? “I played a little marching xylophone in the high school pep band, so I’m going to see what I can do to make that work here.”

2015-05-25-ATRS-VikesBand-infocasterUltimately, Mecham—who plans on becoming an elementary school teacher—compares the Vikes Band to the Vikes Cheer Squad. “It’s part of that whole game-day atmosphere,” he says. “It will be great to both get credit for it and to have that mandatory practice time. I’m optimistic about the whole course!”

Remember, no audition is necessary and Vikes Band is open to any student with the basic ability to play a band instrument, and can be taken more than once.

REGISTER HERE FOR VIKES BAND!

Remembering former Writing chair David Godfrey

An award-winning author, a publishing visionary, a pioneer in on-campus computing and an early Writing department chair—David Godfrey was all this and so much more. The Department of Writing is saddened to announce the passing of this former professor at the age of 77.

David Godfrey, seen later in life at his Cowichan Valley vineyard

David Godfrey, seen later in life at his Cowichan Valley vineyard

The winner of the Governor General’s Award for English language fiction in 1970 for his novel The New Ancestors, Dave Godfrey was also the co-founder of iconic Canadian publisher House of Anansi, as well as the New Press and was the editor of Press Porcépic—which became the publishing house The Porcupine’s Quill. Chair of the Writing department from 1977 to 1982, Godfrey retired from the department in 1998 to operate the 60-acre Godfrey-Brownell Vineyards in the Cowichan Valley.

“I was an admirer of Dave Godfrey’s writing long before I joined him in the Department of Writing,” notes retired Writing professor Jack Hodgins. “His great novel The New Ancestors seemed to be opening up something new in Canadian fiction. That he had attended both the famous Iowa State and Stanford writing programs made him a valuable colleague in a writing program. I was impressed, too, that he had been one of those Ontario writers—like Matt Cohen and several others—who were creating a new Canadian literature for our generation. Somehow he made me feel welcome to join him in this enterprise.”

Born in Winnipeg, Godfrey was educated at Trinity College at the University of Toronto, Iowa State University and Stanford University, and taught English and music in Ghana for several years during the 1960s. Upon his return to Canada, he taught at U of T before arriving at UVic. As the Globe & Mail noted in this obituary, Godfrey’s time at what is now the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (where he earned an MFA in 1963 and a PhD in 1966) was foundational. “He was mentored by the novelist Hortense Calisher, taught by Malcolm Cowley, played tennis with Philip Roth, hung out with Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove) and Ken Kesey as Mr. Kesey worked up the manuscript for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and made wine with Raymond Carver.”

Godfrey seen during  his time in the Writing department

Godfrey seen during his time in the Writing department

Current Writing professor Joan MacLeod had Godfrey as a professor when she was an undergrad in the Writing department back in the 1970s. “He had a strong reputation not only for his editorial skills but also his fiction. He co-taught the fiction workshop I was in, where I started a novel that eventually became my MFA thesis,” she recalls. “He was incredibly good to me and incredibly supportive. He made me feel like I had a voice.” Fast-forward 25 years to when MacLeod’s play The Shape of a Girl was playing at the Belfry Theatre. “He came down from his home up-island to attend the play. It was so great that he had kept up with me a little bit.”

Retired Writing professor Lorna Crozier remembers Godfrey as being “generous, sharp and excited about ideas and young people. He was a central figure in the Canadian renaissance, in our belief that our own stories have value. We need more of his kind now.” (Indeed, Godfrey is described as a “modern-day renaissance man” in this 2007 article from BC Business magazine about his vineyard—which also played host to the 2013 Rock of the Woods music festival.)

Farley Mowat (left) & Dave Godfrey at UVic in 1982 (photo: UVic Archives)

Farley Mowat (left) & Dave Godfrey at UVic in 1982 (photo: UVic Archives)

Dave Godfrey’s legacy lives on in the three publishing houses he helped create. House of Anansi Press was founded in 1967 by Godfrey and writer Dennis Lee as a small press with a mandate to publish Canadian writers. It quickly gained attention for publishing the likes of Margaret Atwood, Matt Cohen, Michael Ondaatje, Erín Moure, Roch Carrier, Marie-Claire Blais, Anne Hébert, George Grant and Northrop Frye. House of Anansi still thrives today, as does the New Press—which focuses on “books that promote and enrich public discussion and understanding of the issues vital to our democracy and to a more equitable world”—and The Porcupine’s Quill, an “artisanal publisher that values the art and craft of the book, both in content and in form.”

More than just a writer and editor, however, Godfrey was at the cutting edge of the cultural side of computer technology, arguing that decentralized data and computer communication were extremely important for art and literature. In 1979, he co-edited (with Douglas Parkhill), Gutenberg Two, focusing on the social and political meaning of computer technology, and co-wrote The Telidon Book (with Ernest Chang), about electronic publishing and video text. He also founded a software development company called Softwords—which eventually grew to a staff of 22 with annual sales of about $1 million.

“Dave helped hold the department together not long after its difficult birth,” recalls former departmental colleague Derk Wynand. “He also played a huge role in bringing us into the 20th—and perhaps 21st—century, with his expertise in computers and business.”

Godfrey working on the  telecommunications research Project Cue,   with Writing co-op students Rhonda Roy & Michael Quinlan. Project Cue promoted electronic communication using the CoSy conferencing system. (OVPR)

Godfrey working on the telecommunications research Project Cue, with Writing co-op students Rhonda Roy & Michael Quinlan. Project Cue promoted electronic communication using the CoSy conferencing system. (OVPR)

“He was ahead of his time,” agrees Crozier. “He was into computers at the start, before any of us dreamed of giving up our pens and booklets, and he insisted that the department get on board. He was also a proponent of the Co-op program because he was that rare thing—a businessman as well as a writer.”

Described by Wynand as “one of the pioneers of UVic’s Co-op Program,” retired Humanities, Fine Arts and Professional Writing Co-op coordinator Don Bailey recalls Godfrey as “the founding chair” of the Writing Co-op. “He was very committed to introducing students with a flair for writing—and some digital competencies—into careers in the communications, publishing, journalism and tech sectors. He was somewhat of a visionary in this regard.”

Godfrey's GG-winning novel The New Ancestors

Godfrey’s GG-winning novel

Noted author and Writing alumnus Richard Van Camp named Godfrey as one of the UVic Writing professors who led his “spiritual adventure” and “nurtured my hunger as a writer.” Together with the likes of Crozier, Hodgins, Patrick Lane, Marilyn Bowering, Bill Valgardson and Stephen Hume, Van Camp notes their collective “dedication to the structure and magic behind a story was contagious. It was at [UVic] that I learned about theme, that sacred thread that binds characters, intent and story together. I also learned about tone and I learned how to tighten dialogue to make it snap with energy. And I learned the hardest lesson of all: Writing is rewriting.”

One of Godfrey’s children, Rebecca Godfrey, is also an award-winning novelist (Torn Skirt) and non-fiction writer (Under the Bridge), as well as a professor of creative writing at Columbia University.

Posting on Godfrey’s Facebook page, ‪former student Judy Keeler recalls him as “a pioneer, a rebel, a genius who reinvented himself and fought for talent.” That’s pretty tough to beat when it comes to an epitaph for a lifelong writer, editor and educator like David Godfrey.

From Manila to Broadway

Like many MFA students in the Department of Theatre, director Chari Arespacochaga came to UVic already armed with a strong resume and extensive experience in theatre. A native of the Philippines, Arespacochaga directed professionally in Manila for many years, casting big foreign stars, and touring shows across Asia. Her resume is teeming with major productions of Broadway’s best and most popular musicals including Spring Awakening, Legally Blonde, Avenue Q, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Rock of Ages.

Directing MFA Chari Arespacochaga (photo: Adrienne Holierhoek)

Directing MFA Chari Arespacochaga (photo: Adrienne Holierhoek)

So why leave a successful career to travel across North America and return to school? “I didn’t want to rest on my laurels in Manila. Doing my MFA meant starting fresh in a new community so that I could improve myself and my craft,” says Arespacochaga. “When I was researching different programs, I noticed that UVic’s directing MFA was not only very successful, but very competitive—only one person is admitted each year. I thought it would be very challenging and I would be able to focus completely on exploring plays and directing work within a department that has the resources and support to make my ideas a reality on stage.”

Arespacochaga was also looking forward to working in the department’s extraordinary facilities and mentoring with the diverse faculty. “I loved that there were three different spaces in which I could explore staging possibilities in,” she says. “And the faculty has a great diversity of experiences and approaches to creating theatre. I thought this would be beneficial to expanding my ideas and directing process.“

A scene from Phoenix Theatre's Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

A scene from Phoenix Theatre’s Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

While musicals have a special place in Arespacochaga’s heart, for her MFA thesis production she decided to explore music within a more classical-style play and chose Amadeus, Peter Shaffer’s Tony Award-winning fictional play (later a Oscar-winning film) about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his rivalry with Antonio Salieri.

“I was taken by the poetry in Shaffer’s writing and believed that the questions this play asks about the nature of art were very important. What is our accountability to our talent? Is it a gift from a God, or can it be developed? How far would you go to achieve success?” she says. “These are fascinating ideas to explore in school where people are trying to become artists.”

Amadeus director Chari Arespacochaga interviewed on CTV VI

Amadeus director Chari Arespacochaga interviewed on CTV VI

Staged in March as part of the Phoenix Theatre’s mainstage series, Amadeus was called “bold and ambitious,” garnering a 4.5/5-star Times Colonist review and a nearly sold-out run. Directing a cast of 16 student actors, Arespacochaga was also able to work with a majority-professional creative team, including professor Allan Stichbury, retired Stratford lighting designer Michael Whitfield, sound designer Brian Linds, choreographer Jacques Lemay and award-winning student costume designer Pauline Stynes.

Returning to school has also opened up Chari’s perspective on theatre. “I love a good musical, but there are so many other genres of theatre that you might not get to do in a commercial environment—so many ways to do theatre, and so many scripts to create theatre with. There’s always something to be excited about, always something to explore.”

Chair CUFor Arespacochaga, coming to Victoria was a stepping-stone to bigger and better things. “As a director, it’s important to venture into bigger theatrical centers and to keep discovering new ways of creating and approaching theatre.  I left Manila to broaden the spheres that I create theatre in,” she says. “What’s next?” she laughs. “I am keeping my bags packed and then I will disappear into Vancouver or Toronto or New York or London or wherever the work takes me . . . and emerge with a Tony Award.”

—Adrienne Holierhoek

This article originally ran in the June 2015 issue of UVic’s Ring newspaper

Designing Prague

When it comes to stage design, the Prague Quadrennial is as good as it gets—and this year, a pair of Theatre alumni will help represent Canada. “It’s the Venice Biennalie of stage design,” says Department of Theatre professor Allan Stichbury. “It’s the top in terms of recognizing stage design in the world.”

The nominated design for the Belfry Theatre production of The Turn of the Screw

The nominated design for the Belfry Theatre production of The Turn of the Screw

With top stage designers from 80 countries, the Prague Quadrennial is the biggest theatre exhibition in the world. Canada will be represented by six different submissions at the June 18-28 event, selected from 33 entries by the three-person jury—which included Stichbury. Among those entries was the Belfry Theatre’s 2008 production of Turn of the Screw, which featured the design work of Phoenix alumni Patrick DuWors (set & lighting) and Erin MacKlem (costumes), plus frequent Phoenix contributor Brian Lynds (sound).

Much like any major international competition, the Canadian teams will be competing for gold, silver or bronze awards. Stichbury—who, along with Theatre professor Mary Kerr, has exhibited at the Prague Quadrennial before—will also be taking 13 current Phoenix students to the event.

Allan Stichbury

Allan Stichbury

“Our students have exhibited in the student exhibition since 1995—and they will again this year—but it’s not the same as being juried into the competition,” he notes. “But it’s still an amazing opportunity. The attendance is supposed to be about 80,000 people—and a huge percentage of that will be students, so our students get to meet colleagues from all over the world.”

As for the competition itself, Stichbury said the jury was obviously impressed by the stunning Belfry design by DuWors and Macklem. “It really met the criteria of inserting itself into the heart of the production—not just paying it lip service or commenting on it.”

Macklem, who graduated with a BFA in 1998, has been the Artistic Associate & Outreach Coordinator at the Belfry for nine years now and is “thrilled” at being selected. “The event itself is so inspiring—it gives you a sense of the national identity of the aesthetic of different places, and how the approaches to scenography vary according to geography.”

A stylish Erin Macklem

A stylish Erin Macklem

While she has attended the Quadrennial in the past (in fact, her Turn of the Screw design was inspired by a Latvian entry she saw there), Macklem won’t be going this year due to family and production commitments. “I told Patrick that we’ll just have to work together on something exciting in the future so we get invited again,” she laughs.

Regarding the acclaimed design for Turn of the Screw, Macklem credits fellow Phoenix grad DuWors with the initial concept. “Patrick really took the lead on it with the idea of it being all black and white with a crazy modern red staircase,” she recalls.

“When I heard that he wanted a contemporary take on the Gothic period, I realized I wanted the costumes to key into the script and be true to period, so we didn’t go too far afield. The pieces themselves were very much from the period but they all had a satin contrast fabric sewn onto them so it would outline them and catch the lights in a certain way—the floor was also very high gloss, so we tried to incorporate the idea of light playing off the darkness.”

Patrick DuWors (photo: Jae Kyun Im)

Patrick DuWors (photo: Jae Kyun Im)

The very fact that the Belfry was mounting a Henry James piece originally written in 1898 also made the production memorable for her. “The Belfry specializes in contemporary shows, so doing a Henry James piece was weird and outside of the mandate, even though it was a modern adaptation of the script,” she says. “To approach it with a very contemporary eye to the design made it feel like it was more a part of the world the Belfry’s audience was accustomed to. People still say, ‘what was that one with the crazy red staircase?’ It’s fun that it left that much of an impression on people’s imagination.”

Macklem is also quick to credit her UVic training for her current success. “I had a great experience with the design department,” she says, citing Mary Kerr, past instructor Debra Hansen and Stichbury himself. “Allan is very much a director’s designer, which put me in good standing and helped me understand how bodies move through space, how you really need to analyze a play’s text to understand the traffic patterns—what the positions of power are and how to optimize those in the design.”

She also notes how the variety of design experience at UVic better prepared her for future employment. “I did more set design in school but there were more opportunities in costume design out of school, so I switched to that,” she explains. “But I had the advantage of both Mary Kerr and Debra Hansen alternating in the teaching position, so it was great to have different perspectives from different teachers.”

Macklem's design work for Eleemosynary at the Phoenix

Macklem’s design work for Eleemosynary at the Phoenix

When asked for a standout production from her student years, Macklem points to the 1997 Phoenix show Eleemosynary. “It was all-student design, and we were all undergrads, which was quite rare,” she explains. “It was really quite a utopian experience—we were all on the same page—and that really came though in the design. It showed all of us how you can transform a theatre, take the set off the stage and into the audience and how much that can change things.”

Stichbury notes that it’s the Department of Theatre’s unique hands-on approach that makes it outstanding in a crowded university field. “Unlike many Canadian universities, our students actually get to design something and put it on a stage,” he explains. “At the undergrad level, most universities have faculty members exclusively designing, but we allow our best undergraduates to do it—so when they get out into the profession they’re much more capable of stepping up at an earlier date than many others. They learn by doing—don’t get me wrong: learning by theory is great, but you also have to practice. Our students get more opportunity to do that on a significant scale than most do.”

PQUltimately, Stichbury already sees both Turn of the Screw and UVic as winners in this year’s Prague Quadrennial. “It’s fantastic that UVic is represented in at least one of the six shows,” he says. “It’s already a big victory, because there’s a lot of pretty amazing stuff out there across Canada.”

Performing to perfection

When it comes to academic achievement, good things often come in quiet packages. Consider the case of graduating School of Music student Spencer Davis, who has been named the recipient of the 2015 Victoria Medal—awarded annually to the student with the highest GPA in the Faculty of Fine Arts—thanks to his impressive graduating average of 8.94. Yet as one of his instructors notes after four years of working together, “I had no idea what kind of a player he would be because he is so unassuming.”

“This is a great honour, and one for which he obviously had to work tremendously hard,” notes Acting Dean Lynne Van Luven. “I congratulate Spencer on this wonderful cap to his Bachelor of Music career.” Davis graduates on June 11, along with the rest of the Fine Arts class of 2015.

2015 Victoria Medal winner Spencer Davis

2015 Victoria Medal winner Spencer Davis

Vancouver-born but Calgary raised, Davis returned to the coast to attend UVic. “I auditioned for, and was accepted at, a few other schools but I chose to attend UVic because of the distinct friendliness I experienced from the students and faculty during my audition. I’ve had a great experience at UVic, and I’m glad that I chose to come here.”

When it comes to achieving such a remarkable GPA, Davis puts it down to the fact that he worked “tremendously hard.” “I prioritized school above everything else in my life, and I focused all of my energy on it.” Not that he feels this puts him above his peers. “I have friends who did the same, and I feel strongly that they are just as deserving of this award as I am.”

“Spencer [is] as a musician and performer of the highest caliber,” notes School of Music director Susan Lewis. “He gave major solo performances and collaborative recitals, culminating in a graduating recital featuring music by Debussy, Beethoven, and Chopin.”

You can listen to his graduation recital here, which features Davis performing Debussy’s “Suite Bergamasque,” Beethoven’s “Bagatelles, Op 126,” Chopin’s “Mazurkas, Op 24 Nos 3 & 4” and “Sonata No 3 in B Minor,” as well as some of his other performances.

But the soft-spoken Davis downplays his academic accomplishments (“To be honest, receiving this award feels like my greatest achievement here,” he says), calling his solo graduation recital “an incredibly daunting challenge—and one of the most character-building experiences of my life.”

Bruce Vogt

Bruce Vogt

Describing him as “a quiet-spoken young man who would always come to his lessons with very particular ideas about interpretation,” supervising professor Bruce Vogt calls Davis “a special talent . . . I never had to push him or remind him that things were behind. He basically was taking almost the equivalent of two degrees, and yet he kept the highest standards in everything. He is indeed a special student—thoughtful, compassionate and extremely intelligent.”

Beyond performance, the other of those “two degrees” came about as a result of Davis taking professor Andrew Schloss’ “Music, Science & Computers” course. “It introduced me to new ways of thinking about music and sound, and stoked my interest in music technology,” Davis recalls. “It also got me interested in studying math and science, at which I had excelled in high school, but for which I had never felt any passion.”

Following Schloss’ class, Davis swiftly registered in two introductory computer science courses. “At this point, I knew I wanted to pursue my new interest academically, but also felt driven to finish my music degree, so I supplemented my music courses with courses from the software engineering program, applied for it, and was accepted,” he says. “I’ve long had an interest in electronic music, and am well-acquainted with modern digital audio tools. It’s my hope that I’ll be able to draw on my background as a musician and performer to create new kinds of tools for digital audio that are less restrictive and more intuitive.”

With his departure from the School of Music, Davis singles out piano professor Bruce Vogt. “I should take this opportunity to thank Bruce Vogt, with whom I have worked closely for the past four years, and for whom I have a great deal of respect. I’ve learned a lot from him, and he has had a really positive influence on me personally and artistically.”

As for the future, Davis says he hopes to find an occupation that “capitalizes as fully as possible on my unique set of aptitudes, and on what will be, at the close of my time at UVic, my unusual and diverse educational background.”

Curious who else has won the Victoria Medal? Read about such diverse winners as Art History & Visual Studies architectural student Genevieve Neelin, Department of Writing poet Kyeren Regehr, and Art History honours student Regan Shrumm.

 

The Aesthetics of Anarchy

Being the first to gain access to an archive is the kind of research opportunity most academics dream of—and it’s how Art History & Visual Studies professor Allan Antliff will be spending his summer.

Art History & Visual Studies professor Allan Antliff

Art History & Visual Studies professor Allan Antliff

Antliff was recently announced as the inaugural Research Fellow in Residence at the Clyfford Still Museum Research Center in Denver, Colorado. Named for the famed American painter—whom Antliff describes as “a leading artist in the abstract expressionist movement”—the position at the CSM represents a rare opportunity.

“No scholars apart from those at the CSM have had access to his archive or library before this—I’m getting first crack at it,” says Antliff, who will be spending two months on site. “The archives are still being catalogued. I have no idea what I’m going to find there; I’ve just been told it’s substantial.”

Clifford Still

Clifford Still

Considered one of the most important artists of the 20th century, Still developed a new and powerful approach to painting in the years immediately following World War II. But after his death in 1980, Still’s estate was sealed off from public and scholarly view.

His will stipulated his estate be given in its entirety to an American city willing to establish a permanent museum dedicated solely to his work, ensuring its survival for exhibition and study—which Denver committed to in 2004. The CSM opened in 2011 and represents 95 percent of his output—more than 3,000 works created between 1920 and 1980.

Still's work in the CSM

Still’s work in the CSM

“Professor Antliff’s appointment as the first Senior Research Fellow at the CSM promises to shed fresh and exciting new light on Clyfford Still’s art and thought,” says Dr. David Anfam, Director of the CSM Research Center. “In particular, Professor Antliff’s deep knowledge of anarchism and the arts should yield though-provoking insights into Still’s lifelong belief in libertarianism and its aesthetic consequences.”

Antliff will be focusing on Still’s “groundbreaking contribution” to abstract expressionism. “I’ve been exploring debates concerning aesthetics and romanticism during WWII in Britain and the United States, and tracking art’s configuration as a means of resistance to the forces of state power, mass conformity and dehumanizing military violence,” he says.

Still's "1949-A-No.1"

Still’s “1949-A-No.1”

Much like contemporaries Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman (whom Antliff describes as “the three anarchist abstract expressionists”), Still’s work commands a steep price: his painting “1949-A-No.1” went for $61.7 million at the New York Sotheby’s in 2011—one of four of his paintings that were sold and collectively raised $114.1 million for the endowment of the CSM.

In addition to his research, Antliff will also be working on an article for publication while at the CSM. “It’s part of a larger book project on the abstract expressionists,” he says. “I‘m revisiting the entire movement in relation to the anarchist concerns I’m examining.” He will also present a public lecture on July 23.

“It’s a big adventure, because I don’t know what’s in the archive,” Antliff concludes. “There’s no record of the contents—we’ll see what I discover.”

Music for Mycologists

It sounds like a Zen koan: What kind of music would a mushroom make? The answer isn’t to be found in meditation, however, but at this week’s Music for Mycologists concert.

The Experimental Music Unit

The Experimental Music Unit

American composer John Cage—an avid mycologist—often quipped that music and mushrooms have nothing to do with one another . . . except for the fact that they appear next to each other in the dictionary. The Experimental Music Unit (EMU) puts the veracity of this statement to the test with Music for Mycologists, a collection of musical works by local composers Paul Walde and Tina Pearson, Czech composer Vaclav Halek—described as “the world’s most prolific composer of mushroom songs”—and the EMU trio. Music for Mycologists explores relationships between music making and mushroom hunting, exposing the sometimes fragile process of discovering sounds of rare and raw beauty that exist just beyond perception.

The Music for Mycologists CD release concert begins at 8pm Saturday, June 6, at Open Space. Tickets are $11-$16 advance or $15-$20 at the door. There will also be “mushroom-themed” refreshments (we’ll leave that to your imagination), signed CDs available for purchase and informal discussions with the artists.

EMU is the core ensemble of LaSaM Music, which has been producing adventurous music events since 2008, and three of the four members hail from UVic: Visual Arts chair Paul Walde (bass guitar), School of Music audio specialist & recording engineer Kirk McNally (live electronic processing), Computer Science professor George Tzanetakis (bass clarinet), plus composer Tina Pearson (flute, voice). Known for its themed projects informed by aural tradition and improvisation, LaSaM explores the relationships between the natural world, sound and music, acoustic ecology and the provocative ideas of music practitioners from many times and places.

m4m-coverMusic for Mycologists features Walde’s piece “Interdeterminancy (for John Cage)”, the musical realization of a set of eight large mushroom spore printed panels designed as a graphic notation, which appeared as part of the Legacy Gallery’s 2013 Visual Arts faculty exhibit Paradox. Also on the bill is Pearson’s “Hunt (3) Chanterelles”, a set of sonic textures that reflect the sensations, sounds, colours, smells and attention states inspired by her mother’s memories of lifelong mushroom hunting. Balancing the program are “Mycelium Running,” a sonic enactment of the life cycle of a single mushroom from mycelium through spore, three short Halek compositions from his collection of short melodies transcribed from sounds he heard directly from mushroom species near his home, as well as live electronic processing by audio artist McNally.

In EMU’s Music for Mycologists soundworld, intentional microscopic attention is paid to typically peripheral instrument and body sounds, such as the nuances of breath, pre-tone whispers and whistles, the tap of instrument keys, the sound of a bow slowly crunching, and the charged pause of acute listening. You can listen to an excerpt below.

Whether performing in the Royal BC Museum’s natural history exhibit or exploring the sonic life of spores, the Experimental Music Unit always lives up to its name.

EMU and LaSaM are known for their original themed projects inspired by relationships between the natural world, sound and music, and the provocative ideas of music practitioners who work outside the margins; and the act of listening itself. Previous major projects include Dark Listening (2014), Music for Natural History (2012), In a Large Open Space (2011), “And Beethoven Heard Nothing” (2010), and Removing the Demon (2009) among others.

Quartet Fest West offers harmonious strings

From the launch of a new CD to a rare performance of one of the most beautiful works ever written for eight string players, Quartet Fest West will electrify audiences and students alike. An intensive chamber music workshop welcoming select national and international students, Quartet Fest West runs June 8-19 at the School of Music.

The Lafayette String Quartet

The Lafayette String Quartet

Now in its third year of revival, Quartet Fest West originally ran from 1993 to 1998 and has continued to be popular with performers and audiences. Hosted by the Lafayette String Quartet—UVic’s beloved artists-in-residence since 1991—this year’s acclaimed guest artists include violist Henk Guittart, pianist Alexander Tselyakov and the Penderecki String Quartet, who were part of the original Quartet Fest West in 1993.

Quartet Fest West offers an unparalleled string quartet experience, including a series of concerts, masterclasses and workshops, all of which are open to the public in UVic’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. Tickets for all concerts are $12 students / $25 regular or a three-concert pass is available at $25 students / $65 regular, but masterclasses and the Henk Guittart’s evening lecture are by donation.

“It’s a very high-pressure job … [but] you get to interpret the music, you don’t have to go along with a section,” LSQ violist Joanna Hood says about the challenges of the string quartet experience in this Times Colonist article. “You get to shape the music more. And the music that’s written for string quartet is such great repertoire.”

Quartet Fest West opens with a June 10 concert celebrating the launch of the Lafayette String Quartet’s latest CD, Motion and Distance.

Motion and Distance, the new album by the LSQ

Motion and Distance, the new album by the LSQ

Originally commissioned to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Pender Harbour Chamber Music Festival in 2014, “In a World of Motion and Distance” was written for Alexander Tselyakov and the Lafayette String Quartet. The piece takes its title from a poem by Philippe Jaccottet, “Les Distances,” which reminds us that even though the birds in the sky are at a great distance, the stars are even further. Yet the poem also offers a solution: no matter what the distance between tree to bird, to sky, to stars, we can move through it all because we live in a world of motion and distance.

Divided into three contrasting movements (fast, slow, fast), the initial catalyst for the piece was in drawing parallels between the creative process and the annealing of glass and metal. Elements are refined, purified, and strengthened through slow, intense heat followed by cooling; in the composition of music, the parallel processes would be doubt, revision, and persistence. At the beginning of any project, the concepts and ideas are at a great distance from the concert hall. One has to struggle, grasp, and push in order to commence and then to continue moving forward through that distance between inspiration and the finished piece.

Pianist Alexander Tselyakov

Pianist Alexander Tselyakov

At the June 10 concert, the LSQ will be performing selections from the album, as well as a new piano quintet by Kelly Marie-Murphy with pianist Alexander Tselyakov and guest violist Yariv Aloni. Also on the program is the beautiful “Hummell Piano Quintet”, Shostakovich’s jazz-infused “13th Quartet” and a viola quintet by Michael Haydn, the younger brother of Joseph Haydn.

The June 13 concert features the Penderecki String Quartet, Wilfrid Laurier University’s remarkable quartet-in-residence, performing Beethoven “Op. 18, No 3”, “Penderecki No. 3” and Smetena’s beautiful “Quartet No. 1, From My Life.”

On June 14, renowned violist Henk Guittart speaks about his quartet’s long relationship with the great chamber musician Eugene Lehner.

Penderecki String Quartet

Penderecki String Quartet

The performance on June 16 features these two great Canadian string quartets—the Lafayette and Penderecki—uniting to perform one of the most beautiful works for eight string performers ever written, the rarely-performed “Enescu Octet”. Also on the program the magnificent “Cello Quintet in C” by Franz Schubert.

QFW studentsFinally, QFW comes to a conclusion with the June 19 Participants Concert, featuring the participating student quartets of Quartet Fest West 2015. The students will be performing select movements from Brahms’ Quintet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111, Dvorak’s String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96, Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in D Major, Op. 44 and Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110. Admission to this concert is by donation.

Please join us for this annual celebration of strings!

Her next chapter

There have been educators and scientists, conservationists and lawyers, visionaries and business leaders. Now we can add journalist to that laudatory list as beloved CBC Radio personality Shelagh Rogers begins her three-year term as the University of Victoria’s 11th Chancellor on June 8.

Click here to watch the live streaming ceremony of the installation of Shelagh Rogers as Chancellor.

Shelagh Rogers prepares for her purple reign (Photo Services)

Shelagh Rogers prepares for her purple reign (Photo Services)

“It’s a huge honour, I’m absolutely delighted,” says the characteristically humble host of The Next Chapter. “I must say, though, it came rather out of the blue. It just hadn’t occurred to me—this isn’t something you apply for—so I was hugely surprised when I got the call.”

While the idea of being a university chancellor may never have occurred to Rogers, she seems an ideal match for the university. Nationally respected for her nearly 35 years with the CBC and her role as Honorary Witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Rogers holds five honorary doctorates (Western, Mount Allison, Memorial, Nipissing and VIU) and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2011. Heck, she’s even a West Coast island-dweller, having called Gabriola home for the past decade.

Likening the weeks leading up to her acceptance of the position as something of a “courtship period”—including meeting with both President Jamie Cassels and Board of Governor chairman Erich Mohr, familiarizing herself with UVic’s legacy of dynamic learning, interacting with students and touring the campus—Rogers says she quickly fell for our extraordinary academic environment. “Obviously, it’s very beautiful and I love the size, which is very attractive to students, faculty and staff; that’s a value that should be promoted and protected. But I’m just blown away by what UVic is doing to reach out to the community.”

Rogers hosting the Dept of Writing's Lorna Crozier Scholarship event in November 2013

Rogers hosting the Dept of Writing’s Lorna Crozier Scholarship event in November 2013

Rogers already feels a kinship with UVic’s vital impact on the city, the province, the nation and the world. “Community engagement is critical,” she insists. “A university is like a brain, and it’s vital for Victoria and Vancouver Island to have that interaction with UVic. There isn’t an elitist mentality here; there’s a nice flow between the community and the university. Decisions aren’t being made in small office in a large tower—it’s wide open. I see Jamie out on campus and he’s talking to people and anyone can talk to him. These are things that are really important; they represent the values of transparency and openness, and that’s a big part of why UVic rocks.”

no stranger to uvic

Rogers at the official announcement in 2014

Rogers at the official announcement in 2014

Nominated by the “dean team” of Drs. Sarah Blackstone and Lynne Van Luven (the Dean and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, respectively), Rogers was a clear choice to follow outgoing Chancellor Murray Farmer. “Shelagh has a deep commitment to higher education and to the Aboriginal reconciliation process,” says Van Luven. “She has the ability to ask the right questions and to tell the whole story so that others can understand complex and urgent issues and ideas. She will enhance the excellence of our university, and bring tremendous energy and great insight to her new role. Her national reputation as an advocate for Canadian arts and culture will serve the university well. UVic could not ask for a better ambassador as we build on our reputation for excellence in teaching, research, and community engagement.”

Those sentiments are echoed by Jo-Ann Roberts, Rogers’ former CBC colleague. “Having a woman of her integrity, intelligence and natural curiosity [as Chancellor] speaks well of UVic,” says Roberts, who recently retired as host of CBC Radio’s All Points West to run as Victoria’s federal Green Party candidate, and was the Department of Writing’s visiting Harvey S. Southam Lecturer in Journalism and Nonfiction for 2013. “A lifelong learner herself, Shelagh is a champion of literacy and a proud Canadian with a passion for history, music and our Aboriginal history. She is also loved from coast to coast to coast for her genuine interest in the people who have shared their stories with her and whose home towns she has visited.”

promo-nextchapter-biggerFor her part, the 60-year-old Rogers will continue to host and co-produce The Next Chapter—her weekly showcase of books and ideas—from the backyard studio constructed by her husband, retired CBC technician Charlie Cheffins. As we talk, Cheffins sits next to us in a tearoom in Victoria’s historic Chinatown district, and Rogers often glances his way for supportive nods and encouraging smiles. (“I’m already calling him the Chancellor-in-Law,” she quips.) But when I mention the praise bestowed upon her, Rogers waves it away and instead shifts the spotlight to how her new role as Chancellor dovetails with her other longstanding role: being a witness.

“Witnessing is an active verb,” she explains. “And if you’re seriously committed to the retelling of what you’ve seen and heard, it’s not always comfortable.” Gesturing at the two pins gracing her lapel—one, the Order of Canada, the other representing her role as Honorary Witness at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission—Rogers’ voice takes on a serious tone. “The Order of Canada motto is ‘They desire a better country,’ and I do desire a better country, so I wear this button as a reminder. And this one”—she strokes a small strip of moosehide dangling from a silver shield—“reminds me of how important it is to be a witness, to recount and retell things you have seen and heard, to make sure the word gets out. It’s broadcasting, in a way.”

Rogers (second from right) at the Truth & Reconciliation Hearings

Rogers (second from right) at the Truth & Reconciliation Hearings

Rogers pauses and quotes an Ojibway elder who, on the eve of her testimony at the TRC hearings in Ottawa, told her to remember the words debwe win. “That means ‘speaking from the heart’ in Ojibway. And the word ‘witness’ itself is from in wit, which means ‘having a clean heart’ in Old English. The relationship with witness is very beautiful, how it all relates back to the heart. It’s not just hearing and seeing, but feeling too.”

“Just be Yourself”

Before accepting the position, Rogers made a point of speaking with former Chancellor Norma Mickelson—UVic’s first female Chancellor—who served from 1997 to 2002. “I was worried about how I could uphold the values of the university and support all the ways the university engages with the community and the students and respect all the relationships on campus and started thinking, ‘Wow, am I even qualified to do this?’ And Norma gave me a great piece of advice: ‘Just be yourself.’ She reminded me that I was asked for a reason, and talked about what joy the role had brought her. She really bulked up my muscles!”

"Just be yourself"—easy advice for Shelagh Rogers as UVic's next Chancellor

“Just be yourself”—easy advice for Shelagh Rogers as UVic’s next Chancellor

While her formal installation will coincide with her officiating at the Spring 2015 convocation on June 8, Rogers is already settling into her role on campus. “I feel incredibly stimulated—like my mind is always dancing—and that’s a very nice feeling,” she says. “This is a much broader discourse than what I do at the CBC. It’s going to be a huge stretch, but I feel I can go into the outside world and really talk about the UVic difference. And there really is a difference here. I want to get to know it as well and represent it to the best of my abilities.”

Torch_RogersNoting that list of former Chancellors—scientists and educators and lawyers (“Oh my!” she chuckles again)—Rogers takes a thoughtful pause. “I’m different. I’m a journalist, and that will help me trying to understand the whole UVic story. As a journalist, my training has been to get at the real meaning—the truth—and to create dialogue. That’s important to me.”

As the page turns on her own next chapter, it’s clear Shelagh Rogers will always speak from the heart as she witnesses UVic’s continuing development here on the edge of innovation.

A shorter version of this interview ran in the Spring 2015 issue of the Torch, UVic’s alumni magazine. Click on the link to read Shelagh Rogers’ top books list and an excerpt of her on-stage live interview with UVic alumnus and Flickr & Slack innovator Stewart Butterfield.