QFW performances & new LSQ video

Over 20 brilliant young musicians from across the world will descend on our beautiful campus for the return of Quartet Fest West chamber music festival and concert series. Running from June 26 to July 8, students will undertake two weeks of intensive chamber music study with the Lafayette String Quartet plus guests the Penderecki String Quartet and the Bellas Artes String Quartet. Better yet, the general public is invited to hear everyone perform . . . including the final LSQ concert before they retire as an ensemble, as their both final performances in August are now sold out.

About Quartet Fest West

QFW 2023 brings together two of Canada’s most beloved string quartets: the Lafayette and Penderecki Quartets, who are also longtime friends and colleagues. Also performing and giving masterclasses is Cuarteto Bellas Artes, the School of Music alumni quartet formerly known as the Chroma Quartet, who were also the first quartet to come out of UVic’s Graduate String Quartet in Performance program.

Among the events is a concert with the LSQ and celebrated local violist Yariv Aloni, followed by the premiere of John Bolton’s new film Singing Through Generations featuring music by Nicole Mandryk and Leila Lustig. Currently an MFA candidate with UVic’s Visual Arts department, Mandryk (seen above) is an artist of Anishinaabe, Irish and Ukrainian descent who has created three songs which were then orchestrated for voice, drum and string quartet by Leila Lustig. A Q&A will follow the screening.

In addition to the concerts (see below), QFW students will be receiving private lessons, daily coachings and masterclasses, and workshops on string instruments and using their bodies in the most optimal way.

All concerts, masterclasses and workshops are open to the public and happen in the School of Music’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. A festival pass will support the participating musicians and allow you to enjoy all the concerts and public masterclasses for one low price, but you can also order individual concert tickets here.

More to come this summer

You can also join the LSQ for the documentary film premiere of Creating Harmony, which delves into the challenges and joys of three decades in the life of a string quartet, including their famed 2017 journey performing the Shostakovich Cycle.

Creating Harmony runs at 5pm and 7pm Saturday, August 19, at UVic’s Cinecenta movie theater. There will be a Q&A with the LSQ and director Arwen Hunter after each showing. Film premiere tickets are available on Eventbrite (use the Promo Code LSQFRIENDS for discounted tickets).

And while the LSQ’s final UVic concerts on August 18 and 20 have now sold out (remember, you can still hear them at Quartet Fest West), they will be performing select dates in Ontario in July. Check their site for full info.

QFW schedule

Mozart and Movie Night: 7pm Thursday, June 29 

  • Violist Yariv Aloni joins the Lafayette String Quartet in Mozart’s Viola Quintet in G minor, K. 516, plus the premiere screening of Singing Through Generations

Penderecki String Quartet: 2pm Saturday, July 1 

  • Featuring Mozart’s String Quartet No. 14 in G Major, K. 387, Erwin Schulhoff’s Five Pieces for String Quartet and Johannes Brahms’ String Quartet in C minor, Op. 51, No. 1

QFW Gala Concert: 7pm Wednesday, July 5

  • Featuring the Lafayette, Penderecki and Bellas Artes String Quartets and QFW Participants performing octets by Murray Adaskin, Dmitri Shostakovich and Felix Mendelssohn, plus Johannes van Bree’s Allegro for Four Quartets

Cuarteto Bellas Artes: 7pm Friday, July 7

  • Performing Mozart’s “Dissonance” Quartet K. 465, Joaquín Turina’s “La oración del torero” and Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major

Participant’s Concert: 2pm Saturday, July 8 

  • After nearly two weeks, the young musicians of Quartet Fest West will perform the new repertoire they’ve developed together—full program will be announced on the LSQ website during second week of festival (reception to follow).

As in years past, Quartet Fest West is partnering with St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and the Victoria Summer Music Festival to showcase talented young musicians.

Climate Disaster Project a finalist in global journalism awards

CDP founder Sean Holman with student Sandra Ibrahim (UVic Photo Services)

We’re thrilled that the Climate Disaster Project (CDP) has been announced as a finalist in the global Covering Climate Now 2023 Journalism Awards, which honour the best coverage of the climate emergency and its solutions.

The CDP has been selected for bringing “the compelling and authentic stories of people in climate disaster–affected communities to the foreground.”

As one of four finalists in the “engagement journalism” category, the CDP’s trauma-informed work with climate disaster-affected communities has been recognized for their recent media partnerships with APTN Investigates, Megaphone and Asparagus magazines, and the Fraser Valley Current newspaper, which include climate survivor stories taken by UVic students Tosh Sherkat, Aldyn Chwelos, Paul Voll and Gage Smith.

Tosh and Aldyn were recently profiled in this article following their appearance on CBC Radio’s What On Earth.

“There are so many people that contributed to this honour,” says Sean Holman, CDP creator and the Wayne Crookes Professor of Environmental and Climate Journalism with the Department of Writing. “Our newsroom is supported by leading journalists, psychologists, social workers, climate scientists and public policy scholars who are working humanize climate coverage . . . . But none of this be possible without the hundreds of students and climate disaster survivors we collaborate with to share and investigate stories of climate disaster. More than anything, this honour from belongs to them.”

Even being named a finalist is a significant honour for the CDP, as other 2023 CCNJA nominees include the likes of the BBC, the Guardian, PBS, Le Monde, Al Jazeera, the Narwhal, CBS, ABC, AP, NY Times Magazine (etc).

Winners will be announced in September at Climate Week NYC (Sept 17-24).

An international teaching newsroom

Working with partner institutions across Canada and around the world, the Climate Disaster Project (CDP) uses the model of an international teaching newsroom in order to train students in trauma-informed journalism techniques to collect, compile and share survivor stories.

The CDP has already had a significant impact since launching in September 2021. To date, Holman and his CDP team of students and recent grads have produced more than 120 stories in collaboration with disaster survivors worldwide.

In the past academic year alone, 136 students were enrolled in CDP-related classes in nine different institutions (including UVic, First Nations University, Mount Royal University and Toronto Metropolitan University), learning about the human impacts of climate change, working to share those experiences with the news media, and investigating common problems and solutions identified by climate disaster survivors.

New partnerships have recently been secured that will soon see the project expanded to Brazil, Hong Kong, Norway, Nepal, Pakistan, and South Africa and the United States.

Witness Blanket seeks “soundtrack of resilience”

Carey Newman demonstrating his VR Witness Blanket project (photo: Ella Matte/Saanich News)

Already widely acclaimed for his powerful art installation the Witness Blanket, Kwakwaka’wakw and Coast Salish multi-disciplinary artist and Fine Arts professor Carey Newman is now planning to weave in a digital layer by collecting sounds to contribute to an interactive virtual reality version into his much-loved art project.

Newman, UVic’s Impact Chair in Indigenous Art Practices, is working with School of Music professor Kirk McNally to collect sound recordings from residential school survivors to create a “soundtrack of resilience” for a digital version of the installation—the original of which is now permanently installed at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. Together with partners from the CMHR, UVic and Camosun College’s Camosun Innovates, Newman is developing a VR version of the Witness Blanket and he’ll be working with a team of Indigenous musicians to create a living soundtrack for the project.

The original Witness Blanket is a large-scale series of panels containing hundreds of items reclaimed from residential schools, churches, government buildings and traditional and cultural structures from across Canada. Just as Newman gathered the original objects, he and McNally are now looking to collect sounds for the digital version.

“In virtual reality, sound is part of the experience and audio allows people to explore the blanket in a new way,” Newman explains in this CHEK News story. “If each of the objects on the Witness Blanket had a voice, what would they sound like? What language would they speak? What songs would they sing?”

Participants are invited to record and provide a sound that can include music of traditional instruments, sounds of cultural activities like paddling or carving, the ambient tones of the natural world, spoken languages, songs, or any other sound associated with a person’s Indigenous identity or community.

As a sculptor and master carver, Newman himself is planning to contribute a recording of the sound of knives carving wood. “It was something that was taught to me by my father. To me, that’s something that I closely associated with culture,” he told the Times Colonist in this article.

Local and national media outlets are helping to spread the word about Newman’s latest project, with additional stories appearing in this Saanich News video story and this separate Saanich News story, Capital Daily newsletter, plus live interviews on CFAX Radio and CBC’s On The Island.

While the call for sound contributions is specifically for Indigenous peoples, there are opportunities for non-Indigenous allies to help with things like equipment and studio space. You can connect with the team by e-mail at witnessblanket@gmail.com.

Click here to watch a video about the new interactive project, including links to learn more about the original Witness Blanket.

You can also make an audio contribution to the project through this online form.

High-achieving twins both earn the Victoria Medal for their love of writing

Rachel (left) and Sarah Lachmansignh

When it comes to the academic arts experience, it’s easy for undergraduates to lose track of their initial passion as they get caught up in the drive for grades and goals. Yet despite Rachel and Sarah Lachmansingh’s many laudable achievements—including both being named winners of the Victoria Medal, the first time this annual award for the highest GPA in the Faculty of Fine Arts has been presented to two people—these graduating Department of Writing students have never lost sight of the reason why they started writing in the first place.

“At the core of it, writing is love,” says Rachel. “Whether people want to do it as a profession or a hobby, the centre of that creativity is the heart.” Sarah agrees: “Whatever I’m working on, it’s got to be something that I love.”

More than just courses

It’s perhaps not surprising that the Lachmansingh sisters would agree: as identical Guyanese-Canadian twins from Toronto, both decided to move to Victoria together specifically to enroll in UVic’s acclaimed Writing program. Both were double-scholarship winners (Rachel for the Lorna Crozier Scholarship and the WP Kinsella Award in Fiction, Sarah for the Rosalind Hulet Petch Memorial Scholarship in Writing and the Millen Undergraduate Scholarship), both saw their work published off-campus, both were editorially involved with UVic’s long-running undergraduate literary journal This Side of West (TSOW) and both were mentees for the Writers Union of Canada BIPOC Writers Connect program. Ironically, both also won first prize in different categories with the annual UVic Libraries/EQHR on the Verge writing contest during their first year on campus.

“We were walking to a class together when Sarah got an email saying, ‘Congratulations! You won!’ and I thought, ‘Hmm, I wonder if I won too?’ . . . then five seconds later I got an email saying I had won,” laughs Rachel. “That was a fun twin thing for people, because it was a real coincidence we had both won for the same contest.”

A very storied academic journey

In addition to on the Verge, the Lachmansinghs kept more than busy during their studies. Sarah saw her work published in both EVENT and other literary magazines, worked as the fiction intern for The Malahat Review and served as both fiction editor and social media director for TSOW. As well as serving as editor-in-chief and reviews editor for TSOW, Rachel earned national attention as a finalist for the 2022 CBC Poetry Prize, was longlisted for the 2022 CBC Short Story Prize and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and the National Magazine Awards; her writing has been similarly published in the literary likes of Grain, The Malahat Review, The Fiddlehead and others.

“I’ve published a lot—it’s been really fun trying to balance it all with my studies!” Rachel says with a characteristically quick laugh. “But a bigger goal for me now is just to find a sustainable writing practice that also makes me very happy: being in a writing program, there’s a lot of emphasis on polishing work for publication, but it’s also fun to focus on yourself as a writer, try out things you haven’t done before.”

While Sarah feels her work with TSOW was foundational (“I’ve wanted to be an editor since I was a kid”), she also feels it was significant in helping to build the sense of community for which the Writing program is well known. “It was such a highlight to be able to celebrate students in the early stages of their writing,” she says. “It was a great experience and a big honour for me.” That said, she is looking forward to getting more of her own work out there. “I’m hoping to get the ball rolling a bit more when it comes to publishing . . . I’d like to see about creating a poetry practice for myself.”

An enviable skill set

Both feel their combination of academic work, peer mentorship and professional practice have helped build an enviable skill set that will serve them well going forward. “Funnily enough, one of the basic skills that will help me no matter where I end up is email writing,” laughs Rachel. “As EIC, I learned how to nail that: when you lead a team and run a magazine, there’s a certain level of organizational skills you have to develop, which I’ll carry with me as I continue on in the professional world.”

Now back in Toronto, both feel UVic’s Writing program provided an essential foundation for their future professional growth. “Having the writerly culture in the program and Victoria in general, we felt like we were part of a community, part of a place where we all celebrated reading and writing and being thoughtful,” concludes Sarah. “It was really important in validating us as writers.“

Rachel & Sarah outside UVic’s Writing department in spring 2023

Zainub Verjee awarded Honorary Doctorate

The Faculty of Fine Arts is thrilled to announce that Zainub Verjee will be awarded the Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts (DFA) at the 2023 Fine Arts convocation ceremony.

You can watch Zainub Verjee’s address to graduating Fine Arts students as part of the UVic convocation livestream starting at 2:30pm Friday, June 16.

Zainub has been a trailblazer renowned for her pursuit of art as a public good. An award-winning public intellectual and cultural diplomat, Zainub has led the way in shaping arts and culture by developing legislation and strengthening public discourse on the centrality of art in society.

Currently the Executive Director of Ontario Association of Art Galleries in Toronto and , she is an accomplished leader in the arts and culture sector and holds over four decades of experience in shaping culture policy at all levels of governments and has contributed to the building of cultural institutions and organizations in Canada and internationally.

An archival image of Verjee from her GG profile video 

A storied career

Born in Kenya, Zainub is a visual and media artist and a fixture in the Canadian contemporary art scene since moving to Canada in the 1970s. She continues to further the cause of arts practitioners, bringing attention to the needs of women artists, artists of colour and Indigenous artists, while shedding a bright light on the issues of labour in the arts, with her tenacious support for the sector during the most fraught times of the pandemic.

Zainub served as executive director of the Western Front, a Vancouver Contemporary Art Centre, co-founded the critically acclaimed In Visible Colours, and contributed to the prison theatre program at Matsqui, now shifted to William Head Penitentiary in Victoria; she was also integral to the formation of the British Columbia Arts Council.

A laureate of the 2020 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts, Zainub exhibits around the world.

“UVic and Fine Arts recognize Zainub’s outstanding achievements in scholarship, research, teaching and public service, and look forward to celebrating her as a Spring 2023 Honorary Degree Recipient,” says Dr Allana Lindgren, Dean of Fine Arts.