Upcoming Music concerts

It’s a busy month for concerts and recitals in the School of Music! Here’s a quick roundup of what’s coming up.

UVic Vocal Jazz Ensemble: Into the Twilight

Directed by Music instructor Wendell Clanton, the UVic Vocal Jazz Ensemble has established a reputation for artistic excellence, stylistic flexibility, and performances of original and inspiring arrangements. Join them for an evening of timeless classics, old and new.

7pm Sunday, Nov 19 in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall (MacLaurin Building, B-Wing). By donation. Find out more info.

This concert will be available as a live stream.

Faculty Concert Series: I Have Been to Tibet

Music professor Ajtony Csaba leads the audience on a captivating journey, weaving together diverse keyboard repertory from different eras, improvisations, electronic sounds, and evocative live imagery.

Drawing inspiration from locations of significant heritage, such as Tibet, Csaba creates an avant-garde music theatre experience rich in storytelling with a travel diary’s essence.

8pm Monday, Nov 20 in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall (MacLaurin Building, B-Wing). By donation. More info here.

Emerging Artists Alumni Series: Thomas Law & Nikola Markovic

School of Music alumnus Thomas Law (BMus ’14) brings us a program of works written for flute and piano curated with a keen focus on increasing performance representation of female-identifying Asian composers.

The program features works by Janet Sit (MMus ’15), Chen Yi, and Yuko Uebayashi.

7:30pm Thursday, Nov 23 in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall (MacLaurin Building, B-Wing). By donation. More info

UVic Symphony Orchestra: Chopin & Farrenc

Join us for an evening of symphonic grandeur featuring two monumental works: Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11, and Louise Farrenc’s Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 32.

Featuring current student & 2023 UVic Concerto Competition winner Carey Wang on piano with conductor Giuseppe Pietraroia.

8pm Friday, Nov 24 in The Farquhar at UVic (Jamie Cassels Centre). Tickets are $15-$28, but free for UVic students. More info.

Sonic Lab: Moving On: Revolutions in the Rearview Mirror

Directed by Music professor Ajtony Csaba, UVic’s New Music Ensemble showcases compositions by revolutionary centenarians Iannis Xenakis and György Ligeti, juxtaposed with influential pieces by their contemporaries such as Conlon Nancarrow, as well as fresh and innovative works by emerging and established composers.

8pm Sunday, Nov 26 in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall (MacLaurin Building, B-Wing). By donation. More info.

This concert will be available as a live stream.

UVic Jazz & Creative Music Ensemble: The Music of Phil Nimmons

In the big band style, UVic’s Jazz & Creative Music Ensemble presents a concert featuring the music of Phil Nimmons to celebrate his 100th birthday! Nimmons is often referred to as the “Dean of Canadian jazz,” and is known for his work as a clarinetist, bandleader, composer, arranger and educator; in 2002 he was the recipient of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement for his more than six decades of contributions to the arts in Canada, including 45 years of service as an educator at the University of Toronto.

Don’t miss this dynamic and energetic evening of jazz, led by Music instructor Scott MacInnes.

8pm Wednesday, Nov 29 in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall (MacLaurin Building, B-Wing). By donation. More info.

This concert will also be available as a live stream.

Linda Catlin Smith named Honorary Degree recipient

Honorary degrees have been awarded at UVic since its inaugural convocation in 1964. An honorary degree is the highest honour the university can bestow for distinguished achievement in scholarship, research, teaching, the creative arts and public service.

As part of the Fall convocation ceremony on November 14, we were thrilled to confer upon School of Music double alumna Linda Catlin Smith with an Honorary Doctor of Music (DMus).

Forging a career in music

Linda Catlin Smith’s music has been performed by Canada’s major orchestras and featured in concert series and festivals across North America and around the world. Born in New York City, Linda received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UVic, before moving to Toronto. Since then, she has forged a career like her music: quiet and persistent, unassuming and steady, with an absolute certainty of purpose.

On the surface, her music is deceptively simple; look closer, and it reveals a mastery of harmony and orchestration that puts her in the highest ranks of composers. In the classical music world, where works by (male) composers from the past dominate orchestral concerts, Linda’s is often the only contemporary voice. Over more than 40 years, she has developed a singular vision, creating real beauty in a world that profoundly needs it.

A sensitive teacher and mentor, Linda has also been an inspiration and a model for a generation of young composers, performers and ensembles, many of whom have become important artists in their own right. She will continue to be revered by future generations in Canada and beyond.

A climate of change marks Writing grad Aldyn Chwelos’ academic journey

Writing grad Aldyn Chwelos finds hope with UVic’s Climate Disaster Project (photo: Sean Holman)

Given the deluge of headlines about fires, floods, droughts and heat domes, it’s easy to feel a sense of despair around our continuing climate crises. The challenge, therefore, is to find hope amidst the chaos. Yet that’s exactly what graduating Department of Writing student Aldyn Chwelos has done while working with UVic’s Climate Disaster Project.

“I’ve heard from people who have lost their home, their community and their entire town, and they’re still somewhat hopeful,” says Chwelos. “Sometimes it’s a skeptical or a heartbroken hope, but it’s still there. As someone who hasn’t experienced that much personal damage from climate change, how could I possibly not be hopeful and ready to fight when they still are?”

Sharing survivor stories

Using the model of an international teaching newsroom to train students in trauma-informed journalism techniques, the Climate Disaster Project (CDP) has already made a significant impact in the past two years by sharing eyewitness accounts of climate survivors and building an international community based on hope, trust and empowerment.

Funded by an initial $1.875 million donor investment and led by veteran journalist Sean Holman—now Writing’s Wayne Crookes Professor of Environmental and Climate Journalism—the CDP works with partner institutions across Canada and around the world to collect, compile and share survivor stories with local and national media outlets like The Tyee, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), CBC Radio’s What On Earth, The Fraser Valley Current and the International Network of Street Papers.

Most recently, Chwelos spoke about their work in this interview with both CBC Radio’s All Points West (Victoria) and Radio West (Kelowna), and has one of their survivor stories published in the Dec/Jan 2024 issue of Reader’s Digest.  

“We listen to everyone’s story, without question of who they are or where they come from or what they’re going to say,” says Chwelos. “When a flood or a fire comes through your town, it arbitrarily destroys everything. By focusing on these disasters and highlighting the different ways people are affected, you can show that universality, which is key to seeing ourselves reflected in their experience and wanting to help.”

 

Aldyn Chwelos and Sean Holman in Lytton BC, 2022 (photo: Philip McLachlan)

A journey of discovery

It’s no exaggeration to say that Chwelos’ work with the CDP has changed the way they see the world — especially since writing and journalism isn’t where they started their UVic journey.

Originally enrolled in computer science and then “dabbling” with courses in environmental and gender studies, Chwelos switched to working in the local tech industry but soon realized they wanted to be doing something of more closely aligned with their values. “I’m an incredibly pragmatic human and felt like computer science made more economic sense, but I soon became disillusioned and knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do,” they say. “But I’d always wanted to be a writer, so I came back and enrolled in Writing.”

After discovering creative nonfiction as a genre and profile writing as a passion during their introductory Writing 100 course, Chwelos was ideally positioned to enroll in Holman’s class when the Climate Disaster Project launched in September 2021.

“From day one, it was all about realizing that climate change has a huge stamp on everything,” they recall. “The whole point of the project and Sean’s class was to not minimize those experiences — we students may not have lost our homes to wildfires or flooding, but we’re all part of the situation that caused those disasters and so we can see ourselves in the project.”

Media that really matters

Currently the CDP’s managing editor, Chwelos is planning on doing their graduate degree in creative nonfiction at UVic in 2024, and very much sees their time with the CDP as the culmination of their time here—including a harrowing journey to Lytton a year after the small BC town was destroyed by fire. (“It was like driving through the belly of the beast,” they recall. “You really felt for the community and what they’d lost, to see the entire town basically reduced to rubble.”)

While Chwelos has published non-climate disaster articles with the likes of Canadian Geographic and Hakai, they feel their work with the CDP gives them the opportunity to use everything they’ve learned. “It combines my interests in social justice and environmentalism and also aligns with my background in software development,” they say. “As far as the sheer amount of experience and personal challenge it represented, work with the CDP has definitely been the highlight of my degree.”

Aldyn Chwelos participating in the Royal BC Museum’s Climate Hope exhibit (photo: Philip McLachlan)

The power of positive change

Ultimately, Chwelos has discovered the power of positive change through their work collecting survivor stories, sharing them with the media and engaging with new students in the Climate Disaster Project.

“There’s a lot of criticism around media coverage of the climate crisis, but our work has been held up as an example of how disaster survivors want to see these disasters covered. That’s where this work has power: it’s not just in the stories we’re sharing with the world, but in the experience we’re creating for the people who go through it,” says Chwelos.

“It’s been a powerful experience for the storytellers…the communities we write about feel seen and their stories are being shared as they want them to be told. If more people in different communities do this and share their experiences, if they start talking about climate change and solutions and potentially taking political action and making policy changes, then there is hope.”

Feeling Earnest at the Phoenix

Eric Barnes in The Importance of Being Earnest at the Phoenix Theatre (photo: Dean Kalyan)

The Importance of Being Earnest — Oscar Wilde’s timeless comic masterpiece — has long been celebrated for its sharp humour and daring social commentary. But despite being over a century old and a justifiable mainstay of Western theatre, Earnest has surprisingly never before been mounted at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre.

Running November 9-25, this production debut promises an uproarious evening where identity, transition and transformation collide. Yet despite Victorian Britain’s reservations, modern audiences continue to adore and embrace Wilde’s brilliant play for its enduring humour and relevance.

A transgressive satire

In this fresh take on Wilde’s play, guest alumni director Alistair Newton explores the hidden layers and remarkable queerness that underscore the relationships among the characters. Instead of sticking to traditional Victorian aesthetics, Netwon dives into a dramatic world filled with melodrama, secret codes and playful contradictions, breaking free from the usual clichés associated with this era.

 A perennially popular production that has never gone out of style since its 1895 debut. What’s the appeal for a very contemporary director like Newton?

“Aside from the obvious answer that it has got to be one of the greatest works of comic writing in the English language, it’s also a work coded with all sorts of transgressive satire—much of which would only have been legible to those members of the audience with the right ear to hear it,” he says. “Populism with a wicked satirical edge has always been irresistible to me.”

Earnest director Alistair Newton (photo: Carly Lemmon)

Syrah Khan (left) & Carter Lapham in The Importance of Being Earnest (photo: Dean Kalyan)

Reevaluating the 19th century

Newton, who is also teaching Theatre’s fall elective on drag culture and was just announced as a director for the prestigious Shaw Festival’s 2024 season, says he enjoys “excavating the hidden histories and secret codes” of what’s often described as classical theatre.

Earnest is so constantly revived that it almost feels like a meme at this point, rather than a play,” he explains. “True, the 19th century gave us hysterical sexual repression and the codification of rigid gender roles, but it also gave us radicals who rebelliously pushed back—like the pioneering sexologist Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, the Danish artist and trans woman Lili Elbe, and William Dorsey Swann, an enslaved black activist and drag performer who was likely the first person to refer to himself as a ‘queen’.”

Something quarrellous, something queer

In an era when RuPaul’s Drag Race has become a global TV sensation and drag artists regularly appear everywhere from restaurant brunches to library readings, Newton feels Earnest will definitely resonate with Phoenix audiences.

“Oscar Wilde loved a paradox, and both his legacy and the history of Earnest has sort of become one: at the time of his arrest for ‘gross indecency’, Wilde had two hit shows running in the West End and had completely conquered mainstream boulevard entertainment in London — but, at the same time, his queerness was considered so scandalous by his society that they had to forcibly remove him from their midst.”

From left: Samantha Frew, Syrah Khan &  Claudia Fraser (photo: Dean Kalyan) 

Alumni in the house

Finally, as a returning alumni, how does it feel for Newton to be back at the Phoenix — both directing and teaching? “A lot of things change in a couple of decades, but some things are exactly how I left them: the graffiti on the scene shop wall and the very particular smell as you first enter the Roger Bishop Theatre,” he quips.

“But I think my favourite change is something I perceive in the students: they seem much more willing to advocate for themselves and to challenge orthodoxies, ideas of canon and the educational status quo. At the risk of sounding like an old queen, the kids definitely seem alright to me.”

The Importance of Being Earnest runs November 9-25 at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre

New sxʷiʔe’m Indigenous Writers & Storyteller Series launches

When the new sxʷiʔe ̕m “To Tell A Story” Indigenous Writers & Storytellers Series launches at UVic on November 10, it will be offered as a gift to the community by the Department of Writing and professor Gregory Scofield.

“My goal is to honor the nations on whose territory we live, and to celebrate and honour the writers and storytellers in our communities,” he says.

To launch this latest offering in Victoria’s literary landscape, the Writing department is honouring two acclaimed alumni: Syilx Okanagan multidisciplinary author Jeannette Armstrong — an Order of Canada recipient and founder of Penticton’s acclaimed En’owkin Centre — and award-winning WSÁNEC poet Philip Kevin Paul, a past Governor General’s Award poetry finalist and former instructor with the Writing department.

Gregory Scofield

“Jeannette Armstrong is a matriarch, an author, a storyteller and an incredible educator working in language revival,” says Scofield. “Philip Kevin Paul is an amazing poet and storyteller, as well as a local knowledge keeper and SENĆOŦEN language speaker. I’m very excited to be able to celebrate these writers and storytellers.”

Indeed, both our Writing department and the Faculty of Fine Arts have a long history with the En’owkin Centre, whose Foundations Indigenous Fine Arts Progam ladders towards a UVic BFA.

An exciting time for Indigenous writers & storytellers

Inspired by a similar series he ran while teaching at Ontario’s Laurentian University, Scofield began working on this new series shortly after joining UVic’s Writing department in 2019.

“It has been and continues to be a very exciting time for Indigenous writers and storytellers,” he says. “There are so many important stories to be shared, told and celebrated across Turtle Island through the mediums of literature, film, music, dance and oral storytelling.”

Armstrong and Paul are among a number of notable Indigenous alumni who have graduated from the Writing department over the years, including the award-winning likes of Haisla & Heiltsuk novelist Eden Robinson and multidisciplinary Tłı̨chǫ Dene author Richard Van Camp — both of whom originally came from the En’owkin Centre program — plus Métis & Trinidadian poet Cara-Lyn Morgan, and Xaxli’p & Métis freelance journalist Jenessa Joy Klukas, to name a few.

“We now have specific generations of Indigenous writers: there’s the writers of Jeannette’s era and the writers of my own generation, plus new writers like Billy-Ray Belcourt, Joshua Whitehead and Shari Narine,” says Scofield. “As more Canadians become aware of truth and reconciliation, more people are reading works by Indigenous writers and gaining knowledge of our history.”

All are welcome to join in the celebration of the new sxʷiʔe ̕m “To Tell A Story” Indigenous Writers & Storytellers Series, starting at 7:00pm Friday, November 10, in UVic’s First Peoples House.

Phoenix season kicks off with shows for the young & the young-at-heart

The cast of The Woman Who Outshone The Sun (photo: Megan Farrell)

Proving that experience matters when it comes to creating impactful productions, Phoenix Theatre is offering an all-alumni directed season—ideally matched to UVic’s upcoming 60th anniversary celebrations.

It all kicks off with two productions that speak to Phoenix’s past and present: Applied Theatre professor Yasmine Kandil directs SETYA, the latest in the continuing Staging Equality series, while sessional instructor Alistair Newton offers The Importance of Being Earnest—Oscar Wilde’s 128-year-old classic comedy that (surprisingly) has never been presented before on campus.

Staging Equality: Theatre for Young Audiences

SETYA offers a double bill of The Woman Who Outshone the Sun and Shi-shi-etko, two children’s stories ideally suited to Staging Equality’s mandate of offering IBPoC-focused performances. “We wanted stories by and about Indigenous and people of color to be accessible to our young audiences and their families, and I think this show will deliver,” says Kandil. “These two stories both talk about important issues facing Indigenous communities in Canada and in Latin America.”

With four productions staged over the past two years (Journey to Mapu, Kamloopa: An Indigenous Matriarch Story, Im:print and It’s Just Black Hair), SETYA sees the return of previous Staging Equality partners as narrators here: Paulina Grainger of the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (The Woman who Outshone the Sun) and Kwakwaka’wakw performer and UVic En’owkin School alum Krystal Cook (Shi-shi-etko).

“Krystal has amazing stage presence and an ability to bring tenderness as well as strength to carry the enormity of the story she is telling. And Paulina has a magical way of drawing the audience into the narrative,” says Kandil. “I’ve enjoyed their approach to creating art and engaging with our students. I felt both stories required actors who were strong performers who could also embrace the community awareness element of the work we are carrying out.”

While theatre for young audiences is a style more often presented by alumni in the community, Kandil believes this is yet another way to welcome diverse audiences into the Phoenix. “We know the audiences who have attended our previous Staging Equality programming will return, and we also wanted children and their families to come to our theatre,” she concludes. “Audiences, young and old, will be able to engage with these topics in a manner that allows them to digest the material, and hopefully the stories might last with them a while.”

SETYA director Yasmine Kandil (photo: Megan Farrell)

“Krystal has amazing stage presence and an ability to bring tenderness as well as strength to carry the enormity of the story she is telling. And Paulina has a magical way of drawing the audience into the narrative,” says Kandil. “I’ve enjoyed their approach to creating art and engaging with our students. I felt both stories required actors who were strong performers who could also embrace the community awareness element of the work we are carrying out.”

While theatre for young audiences is a style more often presented by alumni in the community, Kandil believes this is yet another way to welcome diverse audiences into the Phoenix. “We know the audiences who have attended our previous Staging Equality programming will return, and we also wanted children and their families to come to our theatre,” she concludes. “Audiences, young and old, will be able to engage with these topics in a manner that allows them to digest the material, and hopefully the stories might last with them a while.”

Earnest director Alistair Newton (photo: Catherine Lemmon)

Feeling Earnest

While SETYA focuses on young audiences, The Importance of Being Earnest is a perennially popular production that has never gone out of style since its 1895 debut. What’s the appeal for a very contemporary director like Alistair Newton?

“Aside from the obvious answer that it has got to be one of the greatest works of comic writing in the English language, it’s also a work coded with all sorts of transgressive satire—much of which would only have been legible to those members of the audience with the right ear to hear it,” he says. “Populism with a wicked satirical edge has always been irresistible to me.”

Newton, who is also teaching Theatre’s fall elective on drag culture and was just announced as a director for the prestigious Shaw Festival’s 2024 season, says he enjoys “excavating the hidden histories and secret codes” of what’s often described as classical theatre.

Earnest is so constantly revived that it almost feels like a meme at this point, rather than a play,” he explains. “True, the 19th century gave us hysterical sexual repression and the codification of rigid gender roles, but it also gave us radicals who rebelliously pushed back—like the pioneering sexologist Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, the Danish artist and trans woman Lili Elbe, and William Dorsey Swann, an enslaved black activist and drag performer who was likely the first person to refer to himself as a ‘queen’.”

Much like SETYA, Newton feels Earnest will also resonate with Phoenix audiences.

“Oscar Wilde loved a paradox, and both his legacy and the history of Earnest has sort of become one: at the time of his arrest for ‘gross indecency’, Wilde had two hit shows running in the West End and had completely conquered mainstream boulevard entertainment in London—but, at the same time, his queerness was considered so scandalous by his society that they had to forcibly remove him from their midst.”

Finally, as a returning alumni, how does it feel for Newton to be back at the Phoenix—both directing and teaching? “A lot of things change in a couple of decades, but some things are exactly how I left them: the graffiti on the scene shop wall and the very particular smell as you first enter the Roger Bishop Theatre,” he quips.

“But I think my favourite change is something I perceive in the students: they seem much more willing to advocate for themselves and to challenge orthodoxies, ideas of canon and the educational status quo. At the risk of sounding like an old queen, the kids definitely seem alright to me.”

SETYA runs October 12-14 + 19-21 while The Importance of Being Earnest runs November 9-25, both at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre