Fine Arts @ the edge of Congress 2013

Unrivaled in scope and impact, the annual Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities—known simply as “Congress”—is now (amazingly) in its 82nd year. This flagship event is much more than Canada’s largest gathering of scholars across disciplines. Organized by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Congress brings together academics, researchers, policy-makers, and practitioners to share findings, refine ideas, and build partnerships that will help shape the Canada of tomorrow.

Crisp-Congress2013-web-welcomeRunning June 1 to 8 at UVic this year, Congress will host nearly 70 scholarly association meetings and attract an average of 6,000 attendees over the week. Developed in partnership with a different host university each year, Congress programming is open to attendees, academics and non-academic audiences. From theatre research, literature studies and education to history, sociology and communications, Congress represents a unique showcase of scholarly excellence, creativity, and leadership. The theme for Congress 2013 is @ the edge. (Next year, it will move to Brock University, and will be held at the University of Ottawa in 2015.) For complete details, see this schedule of meetings for Congress 2013.

But while much of the programming if specific to delegates, there are a number of lectures, workshops, entertainment and special events that are open to the campus community and the general public. Be sure to visit the Congress website for complete event details.

Within the Faculty of Fine Arts, various departments are hosting association meetings—such as the Department of Theatre, who are welcoming the Canadian Association of Theatre Researchers/ Association canadienne de la recherche théâtrale conference, and the School of Music, who are hosting the Canadian University Music Society—but there are also a number of our faculty who are involved with various public presentations and events. Here’s a quick list of where you can check out the Fine Arts presence at Congress 2013. 

stringsGroupThe free gala concert kicking off the Canadian University Music Society conference at the School of Music on Thursday, June 6, at 7:30pm is now open to the public. The concert features performance faculty including Lou Ranger, Eugene Dowling, Michelle Mares, Anne Grimm, Susan Young, Harald Krebs, Arthur Rowe, and members of the Lafayette String Quartet. The program will include Gary Kulesha’s Sonata for Trumpet, Tuba & Piano, Julius Otto Grimm’s Ach, es sitzt mein Lieb und weint & Der Traum, Johannes Brahms’ Es träumte mir & Ständchen, Robert Schumann’s Schön Blümelein & Die Schwalben, Eugene Weigel’s Quartet Search, and Brahms’ Quintet for Piano and Strings.

As well, the CUMS concert at 8pm on Friday, June 7, is also free and now open to the public. This concert will feature School of Music faculty and alumni, performing a program of works by the winners of the CUMS 2013 Student Composition Competition—the School of Music’s own Robert Hansler and University of Alberta student André Mestre. Also on the program are works by Stefen Maier, Daniel Brandes, Tawnie Olson, and Jacques Hétu.

Paul Walde (photo: Times Colonist)

Paul Walde (photo: Times Colonist)

The Now Art faculty exhibit celebrates the contemporary work and wisdom of UVic’s Department of Visual Arts. Featuring the work of Vikky Alexander, Lynda Gammon, Daniel Laskarin, Sandra Meigs, Jennifer Stillwell, Paul Walde and Robert Youds, Now Art is a rare opportunity to see a group exhibit of dynamic contemporary art by some of Canada’s leading contemporary artists.

From sculpture and photography to painting, sound works, light works and drawing, our faculty members exhibit worldwide and are among the top contemporary Canadian artists, with work in the National Gallery of Canada’s permanent collection and representation by some of Canada’s leading galleries. Visitors will also have the opportunity to tour the Visual Arts building. Be sure to read this Times Colonist interview with both Walde and Meigs, and listen to this CBC Radio interview.

Now Art runs 10am to 5pm Saturday, June 1 to Saturday, June 8 throughout the Visual Arts building. There’s also a public reception from 5 to 8pm Wednesday, June 5.

The Department of Theatre is proud to host the annual Canadian Association of Theatre Researchers conference, running from June 1-4. While much of the CATR/ACRT conference is closed, the following free sessions and events are open to the public:

Mary Kerr's design for Copper Thunderbird

Mary Kerr’s design for Copper Thunderbird

• “A Creator’s Guide to The Unknown” with Marie Clements (9 to 10:30am, Saturday, June 1, in the Phoenix’s Dan George Theatre). An award-winning performer, playwright, director, screenwriter and producer, Marie Clements launches the conference with her keynote address on “A Creator’s Guide to The Unknown”. Her 12 plays, including Copper Thunderbird (featuring a stunning design by Department of Theatre’s own Mary Kerr), Burning Vision, The Edward Curtis Project and The Unnatural and Accidental Women, have been presented on some of the most prestigious Canadian and international stages.

Conrad Alexandrowicz

Conrad Alexandrowicz

“The Poet’s Dream” performance created by assistant Theatre professor Conrad Alexandrowicz (5:45 to 6:45pm Saturday, June 1, in the Phoenix’s Roger Bishop Theatre). Based on the poetry of Lorna Crozier, the much-lauded Canadian poet and recently retired Department of Writing professor, and collaborating with Alexandra Pohran Dawkins, head of woodwinds at UVic’s School of Music, Alexandrowicz has explored poetry as the textual point of departure in the generation of physical theatre. (You can read the backstory to the piece on this earlier blog post.) The poems evoke wonder in the face of life’s creations and grief at their passing. This workshop features recent grads Mollison Farmer, Alex Frankson, Véronique  Piercy and Kale Penny, with Chris Mackie and Theatre professor Jan Wood, plus dancers Brandy Baybutt and Jung-Ah Chung, and musicians Keenan Mittag-Degala and Sarah Tradewell, with lighting by current Theatre student Freya Engma. Developed through the generous support of SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council).

“Embodying This Place: An Eco-Dramatic Experiential Exploration . . . Outdoors” with Bronwyn Preece (4 to 5:30pm Sunday, June 2, in Finnerty Gardens, but meet in the lobby of Phoenix Building). Through drama, poetry and storytelling, this collective experiential workshop will attempt to embody and express UVic’s Finnerty Gardens. The workshop, drawing from the emerging field of Theatre/Performance/Ecology Studies, encourages partner and group participation to explore the garden’s “land/buildingscape” through touch, sound and smell and to consider new ways of interacting with the space. This site-specific workshop will be held outdoors and is open to everyone and all mobility levels. No previous theatre experience required.

“Step by Step: Walking, Reconciliation & Indigenous Performances of Sovereignty” with Helen Gilbert (9 to 10:30am Monday, June 3, in the Phoenix’s Dan George Theatre).  Acclaimed Australian theatre academic Helen Gilbert is recognized internationally for her cross-cultural theatre research. A professor of theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London, she is the co-convener of its interdisciplinary Postcolonial Research Group. She has published widely in theatre and performance as well as in postcolonial studies and has recently co-written a book on orangutans, race and the species boundary. Her primary research is now focused on an interdisciplinary and multinational team-based project examining Indigeneity and Contemporary Performance.

Juliana Saxton

Juliana Saxton

“Plus ça Change” with Department of Theatre professor emeritus Juliana Saxton (9 to 10:30am Tuesday, June 4, in the Phoenix’s Dan George Theatre). Juliana Saxton is an international master teacher, keynote speaker and co-author of a number of texts, most recently, Applied Drama: A Facilitator’s Handbook for Working in Community (Intellect, 2013). A lifetime in theatre is context for an idiosyncratic overview of “What’s up now?”

There are also a few events beyond Fine Arts where faculty members will be participating.

Lynne Van Luven

Writing our world: A panel discussion about life writing (2 to 3pm Saturday, June 1 at the Expo Event Space in the McKinnon Building). Join Acting Dean of Fine Arts and Department of Writing professor Lynne Van Luven for a panel discussion about life writing with Aaron Shepard, Andrea Paquette, and Julian Gunn. These writers have covered topics such as mental illness, gender issues, body image, and the traditional role of family, and show how life writing and the personal essay can examine parts of our existence in an immediate and influential way.

Attention, Poetry, Politics: Poetry Reading (7:30-9pm Tuesday, June 4 in Room 104 of the Fine Arts Building). Enjoy an evening of poetry readings by Department of Writing professor Tim
 Lilburn plus fellow poets Jan Zwicky, Sue Sinclair, Warren Heiti and Lucy Alford.

Sam Dunn

South of Heaven: Religion & Heavy Metal (7pm Friday, June 7 at Cinecenta, 1 to 6pm 
Saturday, June 8 in Room 103 of the Fine Arts Building). A two-day multi-media exploration of the relationship between heavy metal music and religion around the world, South of Heaven kicks off Friday night with a screening of the iconic Canadian documentary Global Metal, followed by a Q&A with director (and UVic Anthropology alumnus) Sam Dunn, hosted by Fine Arts communications honcho John Threlfall. Saturday afternoon, the public is invited to a free symposium by visiting scholars on the relationship of metal to religious movements and religious identity in diverse global contexts. The event finale is a live all-ages concert at Vertigo in the UVic Student Union Building with metal bands from Victoria and the Lower Mainland.

Threlfall will also be emceeing some of the performances on the Celebration Stage in the Quad, which runs from Sunday, June 2, through to Friday, June 7—and all performances are free and open to the public. See the complete schedule here.

Fine Arts will be represented on the stage by the likes of Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane at the Writing @ the Edge event, from 11:45am to 1:45pm on Tuesday, June 4. Hosted by UVic’s own Malahat Review, there will also be readings by Yvonne Blomer, Jeremy Loveday, Arleen Pare and Philip Kevin Paul, plus musical performances by School of Music string students.

Also, School of Music professor emeritus Ian McDougall will be performing on the Celebration Stage from 12:30-1pm on Wednesday, June 5. (Don’t forget to pick up a copy of his $20 Fine Arts benefit CD, The Very Thought of You.) And School of Music instructor Coleen Eccleston will be performing from 1:15 to 1:45pm on Thursday, June 6, followed by Music alum Daniel Lapp and the BC Fiddle Orchestra at 6:30pm.

Finally, History in Art faculty and students are offering the exhibit Creating Con[Text] at downtown’s Legacy Art Gallery (10am to 4pm daily from Wednesday, June 5 to Saturday, June 8 at 630 Yates Street). Creating Con[Text] brings to life the works of art in the UVic’s Michael Williams Bequest Collection through the oral history research of Carolyn Butler Palmer and her graduate students. Dr. Butler Palmer and her students have gathered an extensive array of interviews with people associated with the late businessman and art supporter, Michael Collard Williams, and the artists he collected. Featuring paintings by Angela Grossman, Jack Shadbolt and Emily Carr, the exhibition allows the stories of artists, dealers, and collectors to impart greater meaning to these works of art.

Now Art celebrates contemporary art by Visual Arts faculty

It takes a unique artistic vision to guide the development of over 250 student artists, especially in the field of contemporary art. That guiding vision, as seen through the creative lens of seven distinctive artists, will be on view at Now Art, a rare group exhibit by the Department of Visual Arts faculty.

Sculpture by Daniel Laskarin

Sculpture by Daniel Laskarin

Vikki Alexander's "Between Dreaming & Living #4"

Vikki Alexander’s “Between Dreaming & Living #4”

Part of both Congress 2013 and UVic’s ongoing 50th Anniversary celebrations, Now Art celebrates the work and wisdom of Vikky Alexander, Lynda Gammon, Daniel Laskarin, Sandra MeigsJennifer Stillwell, Paul Walde and Robert Youds. These faculty members exhibit world-wide and are among the top contemporary Canadian artists, with work represented at the National Gallery of Canada, commissions in Vancouver, Toronto and Winnipeg, and many pieces held in well-respected art collections around the globe.

Now Art has received coverage in both this article by the local Times Colonist newspaper, and in this episode of the “State of the Arts” column for CBC Radio’s All Point West.

"Red, 3011 Jackson" (detail), by Sandra Meigs

“Red, 3011 Jackson” (detail), by Sandra Meigs

Now Art will feature sculpture, photography, painting and drawing, plus both sound works and light works. Highlights include a new series of photographs by Vikky Alexander, plus two large-scale panorama paintings by Sandra Meigs, featuring highly chromatic schematic depictions of architectural foundations. The department’s newest members, Paul Walde and Jennifer Stillwell, will also be creating new works specifically for this exhibit.

While a group exhibit by the current Visual Arts faculty may be a rare occurence, all of them have been busy with recent solo exhibitions and participation in other group shows. Department chair Daniel Laskarin, for example, had a career retrospective at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in 2011 and Robert Youds had recent exhibits at both Deluge and Toronto’s Diaz Contemporary. Vikki Alexander‘s photographs were a highlight of the 2012 Nuit Blanche in Toronto, while Jennifer Stillwell was one of 13 artists invited to participate in the WAG’s Winnipeg Now exhibit, and is currently working on a new installation for her former hometown.

A still from Paul Walde's "The Nature of Silence"

A still from Paul Walde’s “The Nature of Silence”

Lynda Gammon‘s work appeared at the 2012 collage exhibition Cut and Paste at Vancouver’s Equinox Project Space, alongside work by Alexander (who also had photographs at the recent _backspace exhibit). Sandra Meigs was on the jury for the 2012 RBC Canadian Painting Competition, and collaborated with School of Music professor Christopher Butterfield on his Contes pour enfants pas sages concert in Toronto. And Paul Walde has been busy on all sorts of projects since joining the faculty in 2012, including some John Cage related field recordings, an exhibition at Museum London, a collaboration with the Royal BC Museum, and a glacier-based piece.

Now Art posterVisitors to Now Art will also have the opportunity to tour the Visual Arts building, as the exhibit will fill the various studios and the Audain Gallery.

Now Art runs June 1 to 8 in UVic’s Visual Arts building. Exhibit is open 10 am to 5 pm daily, with a public reception running 5 to 8 pm on Wednesday, June 5.

Maureen Bradley wins filmmaking bursary . . . just in time

Writer/director and Department of Writing professor Maureen Bradley has been announced as the 2013 winner of the Jim Murphy Filmmakers Bursary for her current film project, Two 4 One.

Maureen Bradley

As reported earlier on this blog, Bradley was announced as one of four winning teams for the National Screen Institute’s Features First initiative back in December 2012. Now, her project has been awarded the $3,000 bursary—and for Bradley, the timing is perfect.

“I’m just a few months away from shooting so finding out this great news is like a gift from the heavens,” says Bradley. “With a micro-budget production, every dollar is critical and this couldn’t come at a better time. Another piece of the funding puzzle solved!”

Two 4 One is described as “a bittersweet romantic comedy about Adam and Miriam, two oddball thirtysomethings who have a one-night stand and both wind up pregnant.” Bradley plans on filming here in Victoria in August, and while no firm cast has been announced yet, word is noted actor Sandra Oh (Double Happiness, Grey’s Anatomy) was approached but had to pass on the project. (“She’s too busy,” says Bradley. “Not surprising!”)

The bursary—named for late NSI Features First program manager Jim Murphy—rewards innovative marketing ideas from feature filmmakers enrolled in the NSI Features First training course. “Part of Maureen’s marketing proposal included building her secondary audience—the LGBT demographic—for her film in the tradition of Better Than Chocolate in 1999,” says Jane Gutteridge, member of the bursary jury and a close friend of Murphy’s. “Jim was involved with that project from script stage to innovatively marketing the theatrical release. He was very proud of that breakthrough film, so I know he’d be behind Two 4 One.”

Bradley pitching her NSI project (photo: Merging Media Inc)

Bradley pitching her NSI project (photo: Merging Media Inc)

Better still, it turns out Bradley has her own connection to the Anne Wheeler’s famed Canadian lesbian rom-com. “After we told Maureen she had won the bursary she shared with us that the filmmaking team behind Better Than Chocolate—writer Peggy Thompson, producer Sharon McGowan and director Anne Wheeler—were her mentors, which really brought this story full circle.”

Bradley is obviously pleased, beyond the economic boost. “I’m honoured that the jury felt my film was something Jim would have enjoyed, and is worthy of this generous award.” Word of Bradley’s award also appeared on the PlayBack fillm news site.

The Jim Murphy Filmmakers Bursary was created in memory of Murphy. Donations were received from friends, former employers, associates, students and admirers along with a founding contribution of $15,000 from longtime colleagues and friends René Malo, Stephen Greenberg and Dan Lyon, and the National Screen Institute.

NSI Features First is a feature film development training course for teams of first or second time writers, directors and producers. NSI Features First 2013 is made possible by presenting sponsor Telefilm Canada; program partners the Brian Linehan Charitable Foundation and Shaw Media.

SALT Festival returns

The annual SALT New Music Festival is back for its third year, and this time it has expanded its musical horizons.

The Tsilumos Ensemble: Kristofer Covlin (left), Joanna Hood, Ajtony Csaba and Dániel Péter Biró (Miles Lowry, photo)

The Tsilumos Ensemble: Kristofer Covlin (left), Joanna Hood, Ajtony Csaba and Dániel Péter Biró (Miles Lowry, photo)

The SALT Festival is hosted by the Tsilumos Ensemble, made up of UVic School of Music professors Dániel Péter Biró (guitar), Joanna Hood (viola) and Ajtony Csaba (piano, harpsichord and conductor), plus Kristofer Covlin (saxophones). And this year, SALT will not only include the expected lineup of local and international performers presenting concerts of groundbreaking new music to Victoria audiences, but will also feature a new series of lectures and masterclasses during its one-week run.

Quasar Saxophone Quartet

Quasar Saxophone Quartet

“Our festival lineup this year is extremely strong, including some of the world’s top performers of new music,” says co-organizer Kris Covlin. “Combined with a rich program of new works, lectures and score readings, audiences attending the festival will be able to interact with our composers and performers, allowing them to delve as deeply as they wish into the music.”

Taking their name from the words Tsil (based on the Hebrew “tsiltsul” or “ring”) and Lumos (Latin for “light”), the locally based Tsilumos exists to give new and little-known Canadian and international works an optimal performance, regardless of technical and intellectual demands or compositional style. Since its inception in 2011, the ensemble has brought high-quality, challenging new music to the larger community of British Columbia.

Running from May 25 to June 2 at both Open Space and UVic’s School of Music, the third annual SALT Festival will bring experts in the field of contemporary music to Victoria in the hopes of creating a new framework for the study, research and performance of contemporary and electronic music.

Ensemble DalNiente

Ensemble Dal Niente

This year’s guest artists include Chicago’s Ensemble Dal Niente (recent winners of the Darmstadt Summer Course Kranichstein Prize), the world-renowned members of Germany’s Experimentalstudio, Montreal’s Quasar Saxophone Quartet and Berlin tuba soloist Max Murray. Invited composers include Dániel Péter BiróWolf Edwards, Suzanne Farrin, Detlef HeusingerClaus-Steffen MahnkopfSteven Kazuo Takasugi and Gianluca Ulivelli. As part of SALT, the Tsilumos Ensemble will premiere three new compositions by Wolf Edwards, Steven Takasugi and Gianluca Ulivelli. (The commissioning of these new compositions was made possible through a grant from the Ernst von Siemens Foundation for Music.)

But in addition to the concerts, there will also be masterclasses, lectures, reading sessions and private lessons with composers and interpreters of contemporary music from around the world. Students will be given the chance to take part in lessons in composition and contemporary music interpretation, in addition to reading sessions with the Tsilumos Ensemble, Ensemble Dal Niente and the Quasar Saxophone Quartet, and workshops in electronic music with Experimentalstudio and the School of Music’s own recording engineer Kirk McNally, who also plays with the experimental electronic ensemble The Krells. (Scroll down for a complete SALT fest schedule.)

All lectures, colloquia, reading sessions and masterclasses are free of charge and open to the general public. Concert tickets will be sold at the door for $10 (students) or $15 (general public).  Events will take place at both Open Space (510 Fort Street) and UVic’s School of Music (MacLaurin Building, B-wing).

Complete schedule of events for the SALT New Music Festival and Symposium:

Saturday, May 25

• 2pm – General meeting of all participants  (Room B115 of UVic’s MacLaurin Building)

• 8pm – Concert of the Quasar Saxophone Quartet (Open Space, 510 Fort Street). Program: Philippe Leroux Du Souffle, Donal Stewart …su Innocent X , Dániel Péter Biró Udvarim Achadim, Paolo Longo Giants, Jimmie Leblanc Fil Rouge, L. Andriessen Facing Death

Sunday, May 26

• 10am-1pm – Reading session with the Quasar Saxophone Quartet (UVic’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, MacLaurin Building)

• 2pm-5pm – Conducting workshop with Ajtony Csaba  (Room B037 of UVic’s MacLaurin building)

Monday, May 27

• 10am-1pm – Conducting workshop with Ajtony Csaba (Room B037 of UVic’s MacLaurin building)

• 2:30pm-4pm – Lecture by Wolf Edwards: “Discussion about Music and Anarchist Politics” (Room A169 of UVic’s MacLaurin Building)

• 4:30pm-5:30pm – Reading session and performance practice workshop with the Tsilumos Ensemble (UVic’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, MacLaurin Building)

Tuesday, May 28

• 10:30am-noon – Lecture by Gianluca Ulivelli: “My Connection to Paul Celan” (Room A169 of UVic’s MacLaurin Building)

• 2pm-4pm – Max Murray and Liam Hockley, reading and workshop with Gianluca Ulivelli (Room B037 of UVic’s MacLaurin building)

• 4:30pm-7pm – Conducting workshop with Ajtony Csaba (Room B037 of UVic’s MacLaurin building)

• 7:30pm-9pm – Dinner at Felicita’s Pub (UVic Student Union Building)

• 9:30pm – Film screening: The Matchstick Man (Room A169 of UVic’s MacLaurin Building)

Wednesday, May 29

• 10:30am-noon – Lecture by Dániel Péter Biró: “Toward the Unknown: Parametrical Composition with Gematria” (Room A169 of UVic’s MacLaurin Building)

• 2:30pm-4pm – Lecture by Kirk McNally: “Improvisation with Live Electronics” (Room A169 of UVic’s MacLaurin Building)

• 4:30pm-7pm – Conducting workshop with Ajtony Csaba (Room B037 of UVic’s MacLaurin building)

• 8pm-11pm – Dinner and roundtable Discussion at the Black Hat Restaurant (1005 Langley Street).

 Thursday, May 30

• 10:30am-noon – Lecture by Prof. Dr. Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf (Musikhochschule Leipzig, Germany): “Dealing with ‘Content(s)’. Introduction into my music and the ‘Hommage à Brian Ferneyhough’” (Room A169 of UVic’s MacLaurin Building)

• 2pm-4pm – Performer’s workshop with UVic Artist-in-Residence Joanna Hood (Room B037 of UVic’s MacLaurin building)

• 4:30pm-6pm – Conducting Workshop with Ajtony Csaba (Room B037 of UVic’s MacLaurin building)

• 6pm-8pm – Reception for all participants (Room B115 of UVic’s MacLaurin Building)

• 8pm-9:30pm – Lecture by Detlef Heusinger (Experimentalstudio, Freiburg, Germany): “The Flood (Sintflut) ” (Room A169 of UVic’s MacLaurin Building)

Friday, May 31

• 10:30am-noon – Lecture by Steven Kazuo Takasugi (Harvard University): “Travelogue Through Two Decades of Sound Samples” ” (Room A169 of UVic’s MacLaurin Building)

• 3pm-4:30pm – Performance workshop with Liam Hockley and Suzanne Farrin (SUNY Purchase, New York) ” (Room B037 of UVic’s MacLaurin Building)

• 7:30pm-10pm – Reading session with Dal Niente (Chicago, USA) (Open Space, 510 Fort Street)

Saturday, June 1

• 10:30am-noon – Lecture by Jonathan Goldman (University of Victoria): “Inside Claude Vivier’s Composition Workshop” (Room B117 of UVic’s MacLaurin Building)

• 2pm-3:30pm – Lecture by Suzanne Farrin (SUNY Purchase, New York): “Inner Voices: My Sound World and Petrarch” (Room B117 of UVic’s MacLaurin Building)

• 4pm-6pm – Composition masterclass with Suzanne Farrin, Gianluca Ulivelli and Wolf Edwards (Room B117 of UVic’s MacLaurin Building)

• 8:00pm – Concert with Experimentalstudio and Dal Niente (Open Space, 510 Fort Street)

Sunday, June 2

• 10:30am-noon – Lecture by Thomas Hummel (Experimentalstudio, Freiburg, Germany): “The Experimentalstudio Inside Your Laptop” (Room B117 of UVic’s MacLaurin Building)

• 2pm-5pm – Composition masterclass with Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf and Detlef Heusinger (Room 051 of of UVic’s McPherson Library)

• 8pm – Concert with Tsilumos Ensemble and guests Max Murray and Liam Hockley (Open Space, 510 Fort Street)

Around the World in 37 Years

First rule of history: if you want your story to be remembered, be sure to write it down. Such is the case with Bruce More and the UVic Chamber Singers, the 40-year-old campus choral group that has more than a few rich stories to tell.

Conductor8While More retired back in 2008, the Professor Emeritus has spent the past three years (“Really, whenever the muse caught me”) documenting the story of the Chamber Singers in his new self-published book, The Conductor is the One in Front: 37 Years with the UVic Chamber Singers. And what a story: with over 400 singers having followed his baton, plus international tours to 140 cities in 40 countries (including Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, Africa and the South Pacific, plus the U.S. and Canada), the UVic Chamber Singers carved out an enviable reputation under More’s direction.

“The UVic Chamber Singers is probably the most widely traveled chorus in Canadian history, let alone universities,” says More from his home in Castlegar. “Some universities travel regularly, every two years or so, but they go back to the same place every time—they’d do an exchange with a university in England or someplace. I always tried to go for a three-week tour somewhere new, because for some of these kids it’s the only international travel they’ll ever do. I didn’t want to just go someplace for a week and then come home, which is what most choirs do.”

Bruce More as a terracotta warrior conductor, snapped during the China tour in 2005

Bruce More as a terracotta warrior conductor, snapped during the China tour in 2005

Specializing in the works of Canadian composers, the Chamber Singers routinely perform sacred and secular music from all eras, having a repertoire of more than 700 works. They’ve recorded for broadcast in at least seven different countries, received numerous awards and represented BC in the Juno Award-winning performance of R. Murray Schafer’s Credo back in 2000. Currently, the Chamber Singers are under the direction of School of Music instructor Garry Froese.

More himself has spent his life in pursuit of all things choral, from conducting the first Yale University Women’s Chorus (in addition to four other ensembles) while studying for his doctorate in the late ’60s to founding the Malaspina College’s Music department. Following his appointment to UVic’s School of Music in 1973, he was founding president of the Vancouver Island Opera Society (now Pacific Opera Victoria) and, for 16 years, conducted the Victoria Choral Society and frequently guest conducted the Victoria Symphony. He also founded the 70-voice Prima Choir in 1994, and in 2006 received the Herbert Drost Award for his lifetime service to choral music in BC.

The Chamber Singers on their 1999 tour of Asia

The Chamber Singers on their 1999 tour of Asia

But while the history of the Singers is well documented, it’s the colourful tales of international touring that take up the bulk of the 135 pages of More’s book. Geographically, More literally took the Chamber Singers around the world on a different tour every two years, from Helsinki (the farthest north) to New Zealand (farthest south), and from Hawaii (west) to Tokyo (east). Describing himself as not only conductor but also a den mother and travel advisor, More says his years with the Chamber Singers were both incredibly fulfilling and incredibly exhausting. “But it’s apropos for my personality,” he says with a quick laugh. “I’m not a good delegator—I feel like I have to take all these things on myself . . . which is good and bad.”

Conductor3When asked to name the most memorable tour, More doesn’t hesitate. “The most exotic tour was our first Russia tour in 1991, and the most difficult—but also exciting and exhilarating—was the last Russian trip in 2007.” (As the book notes, the latter tour included instances of blackmail and sexual harassment by guards at the Transdniestria-Ukraine border.) “But each trip had its own character,” More continues. “Certainly the longest and most continually exhilarating tour was when we went to both Brazil and South Africa in 2003. It started with a strong desire to go back to South Africa, but six months before that we went to a choral festival in Newfoundland and met a Brazilian group who we got to know quite well, and they invited us to Rio—and then we learned that you can get to South Africa through Sao Paulo.”

Exhausted refugees? Nope, some of the Chamber Singers at the Moscow airport in 2007

Exhausted refugees? Nope, some of the Chamber Singers at the Moscow airport in 2007

Tales of border difficulty and missed connections are the meat and potatoes of any traveler—and The Conductor is the One in Front is certainly filled with those—but more interesting are the situations only a large choir would encounter: empty concert halls, poorly translated posters, less-than-gracious hosts, and limited toilet facilities for a very large group of people. Then there were the typical health problems most travelers face, which can be far more onerous for a choral group. “Sometimes it could be very difficult,” More explains. “A change in climate does immediately cause vocal problems. The higher your range of sopranos and tenors, the more difficulty you’ll have with that—but it’s amazing what people can sing through. I’ll always remember the last concert of the 2001 tour through Mexico and Belize: we’d been out all day in the sun, drinking and everything else, and people were just dropping like flies, fainting from the heat.”

A 2009 Times Colonist article about Bruce More's retirement

A 2009 Times Colonist article about Bruce More’s retirement

Yet while the bad stuff always makes for the best stories, the good times still make the best memories. “What I wanted to get across more than anything else is the incredible combination of artistic achievement and the experience of seeing far-off lands that someone on one of these tours could experience,” More says. “And the ‘far-off-lands’ business isn’t just a matter of getting off a tour bus and seeing a famous landmark—it’s about meeting students and singers of any age and making life-long connections. The families we billeted with were wonderful. It didn’t matter if they were singers or even musicians, we still had a ball with them.”

While his book will be primarily of interest to Chamber Singers alumni who want to relive the good (or bad) old days, More also included a 22-track CD featuring a range of performances over the years. “You can talk about the ensemble till you’re blue in the face, but until you actually listen to them, you don’t know how good they are. I’d rather someone judge the group by what they hear.“

“I absolutely loved writing it,” he says about the book, of which he printed 250 copies and now has about 50 left. “It was produced for the Singers, but it’s not out there to make a lot of money.” More pauses and laughs. “I’m pleased with how it’s sold, but my pocket book doesn’t display anything . . . except a deficit.”

Conductor7And even though the Chamber Singers continue to hold annual reunions, does More miss the touring now that he’s retired? “The last couple of tours I got home and nearly died,” he chuckles. “I was getting older, no question, but the fatigue was just terrible. I knew that the international touring was coming to an end after 2007; I managed to get through ’09, but I had an assistant conductor who took a lot of the weight off me. That was it, though.”

More pauses and laughs, and it’s easy to imagine the travelogue of memories passing before his mind’s eye. “I’m a healthy guy, but it’s amazing I stayed that way.”

Interested in a copy of The Conductor is the One in Front? Contact Bruce More directly at He would also like to hear from any Chamber Singers alumni not currently in touch.