Benjamin Butterfield named to Royal Society of Canada

Three University of Victoria faculty members have received the country’s highest academic honour, named 2018 fellows of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC).

UVic’s newest Elected Fellows by the Royal Society of Canada are (from left): Eike-Henner Kluge, Benjamin Butterfield and Tim Stockwell (UVic photo services)

Among elected to the RSC’s distinguished ranks are School of Music professor Benjamin Butterfield, one of Canada’s finest tenors; Eike-Henner Kluge, a leading ethicist and philosopher whose scholarship and theoretical analysis have influenced Canada’s right-to-die legislation and the legalities of abortion; and Tim Stockwell, who has pioneered research in substance abuse and public health policy, in an announcement made on September 11.

The title has been bestowed on more than 2,000 Canadians in the 134-year history of the RSC and has just one criterion: excellence. The peer-elected fellows of the society are chosen for making “remarkable contributions” in the arts, humanities and sciences, and Canadian public life.

While Butterfield has won international plaudits as one of Canada’s best operatic tenors, he is equally passionate about his role as head of voice for UVic’s School of Music.

“With a performance career, the more you’re in the game, the more you’ll be asked to be in the game,” he explains. “But my obligation is really to teaching . . . for me, it’s less about pursuing my ‘career’ and more about being here for students who sing, and who want to learn to sing—that’s my day job, that’s my real life, that’s what’s most important.”

A global presence

Butterfield made his debut in 1994 as Tamino in Mozart’s Magic Flute with the New York City Opera while in the midst of an exciting tenure with Canada’s baroque opera company, Opera Atelier. At this same time, he joined the rosters of IMG Artists in New York City, Organisation Internationale Artistique in Paris and later Athole Still in London.

Having since performed throughout North America and Europe, as well as in Ukraine, the Middle East and Asia, Butterfield’s repertoire ranges from the Renaissance to present day, singing in English, French, Latin, Italian, German, Polish, Czech, Russian and Ukrainian. Over the past three decades, he has performed in many of the world’s most historic venues with the finest ensembles, has been featured on over 30 recordings and even gave Rick Mercer a 10-minute opera lesson at UVic last year.

But while performance demands could be seen as a distraction from his teaching, Butterfield — who joined the Music faculty in 2006 — only sees it as a benefit for his students. “Being part of the singing community means I not only get to work with international professionals, but also bring that knowledge back to my students: the hope, the experience, the pedagogy. It’s an amazing dialogue . . . I’m in a perpetual state of learning from everybody. It also becomes a great recruiting tool, to be able to teach masterclasses and meet young students all over the world.”

Over his past 12 years at UVic, Butterfield has been inspired by the success of many former undergraduate and graduate students — like alumna soprano Eve Daniell, who performed for Queen Elizabeth II as part of the Canada 150 celebrations in 2017. “It’s all about the tools you give them,” he says. “As long as they want to seek things, find the joy and delight in the world, that’s all I need.”

From stages to CEOs

Butterfield gives CBC’s Rick Mercer an on-campus singing lesson back in 2017, along with student Taylor Fawcett

As for the benefits of music performance itself, Butterfield firmly believes that singing should be an essential practice for anyone stepping onto the world stage.

“I’ve long said that any politician or CEO needs to be able to sing a three-minute song,” he insists. “That three-minute song will provide you with everything from succinct text, a clear point-of-view and a sense of history to a knowledge of harmony, melody, language, style and how your body works. Only then can you get up and say what you mean, and mean what you say; if you can’t do that, don’t think you can run a country or a company. The world is bigger than that, and that’s why I sing.”

Butterfield is now the eighth Fine Arts faculty member to be inducted into the RSC, including Fellows Mary Kerr (Theatre), Harald Krebs (Music), Tim Lilburn (Writing), Joan MacLeod (Writing) and Sandra Meigs (Visual Arts), as well as RSC College member Dániel Péter Biró (Music) and RSC Medal winner Jack Hodgins (Writing, retired).

2018 Fellows

Kluge — a professor in UVic’s Department of Philosophy — has been at the forefront of some of today’s most important medical debates, from access to abortion to the ethics of deliberate death, and has written 13 books and authored 90 journal articles.

Stockwell is a knowledge translator and advocate for strong public health policies to prevent illness, injuries and death from alcohol and drug misuse. He has made key contributions that have shaped substance use policies in several countries, including Canada, Scotland, Ireland and Australia.

The RSC was established in 1883 as Canada’s national academy for distinguished scholars, artists and scientists. Its primary objective is to promote learning and research in the arts, humanities, and natural and social sciences. The society has named 75 current, former and adjunct UVic faculty members as fellows over the years.

New donations benefit students

Never underestimate the impact a donation can have for students. For many, both undergraduate and graduate, it can make all the difference in their academic career.

“As a student from a rural town and a lower income family, this scholarship will go a long way in making it possible for me to focus on my studies in the coming academic year,” says Lauren, a third-year Theatre student.

For some, it provides opportunities previously undreamt of — “I didn’t think I’d ever have the opportunity to go to university, and the generosity of your gift has already made such a lasting impact on my studies,” says Laura, a third-year Visual Arts student — while for others, it offers the chance to realize their dreams: “My dream to teach music would be much more difficult without the generosity of you and your family,” writes John, a fourth-year student in the School of Music, in a donor thank-you letter.

The Faculty of Fine Arts distributes over $1.5 million annually from more than 200 separate student awards, benefiting students in all five of our departments. Each year, we’re proud to not only distribute funds from previously created or endowed awards, but also to facilitate the creation of new awards — in fact, 2016/17 saw six new awards created.

Here are just a few of them:

Writing professor Maureen Bradley in the active-learning classroom

Technology expands the horizons of literature

A lifelong love of literature, theatre and education has been fused with digital technology, thanks to a $25,000 donation by Dr. Robert Aitken in memory of his mother. Mary Aitken was a well-loved teacher at both Mt. Douglas and Esquimalt Secondary schools who strongly believed in fostering creativity and keeping up with the latest technology. Now, the Mary Aitken Legacy Scholarship will support students in our new Digital & Interactive Media in the Arts minor, enabling future generations of writers to get their start.

New art therapy scholarship established

There’s no doubt art can make you feel better, and now the Centre for Human Science Research and Its Relation to Human Science Association (formerly the British Columbia School of Art Therapy) has donated $32,000 to establish a new award. The Kathleen G. Collis Art Therapy Scholarship will support Fine Arts students with an interest in phenomenological approaches or other forms of community engaged creative activity that contributes to the field of art therapy and the therapeutic use of the arts.

Dean Susan Lewis (left) with Anna & Eunice Lowe

Fundraiser grows Legacy Scholarship

The Faculty of Fine Arts co-hosted an elegant fundraising dinner at the Union Club in June, in support of the Stephen and Eunice Lowe Legacy Scholarship. A silent auction of over 80 items of art and sculpture from Eunice Lowe’s private collection raised over $18,000 for the scholarship, which is awarded to undergraduate in either Art History & Visual Studies or Visual Arts. Widow of the late celebrated artist, Stephen Lowe, Eunice has tirelessly and graciously sought ways to support our students with her generosity of time and financial support and as an arts ambassador for our community.

New Music award commemorates CFUV host

For over 30 years, Eric LeBlanc’s blues show Let the Good Times Roll appeared weekly on UVic’s CFUV radio. While he spent 25 years as the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory’s librarian, Eric was also a self-taught blues scholar: his collection of thousands of recordings was donated to CFUV after his death in 2015, and over 300 music-related books were donated to the McPherson Library. Now, friends and family have created the Eric LeBlanc Memorial Scholarship for School of Music students with a passion for jazz and blues.

Making the most of a century

Samantha Krzywonos (far right) marks the
98th birthday of longtime donor Tommy Mayne in 2016, with three Theatre student recipients of his scholarship

When noted teacher, philanthropist and lifelong theatre devotee Tommy Mayne passed away in April at the remarkable age of 99, he had already begun to see the impact of his legacy: the Thomas and Elizabeth Mayne Bursary in Theatre, established in 2010, has benefited a number of students, many of which Tommy was able to meet. “I was filled with admiration at his generosity,” said Theatre professor Brian Richmond on his passing. “The city—and the arts community—has lost a wonderful man.”

New awards this year

Indeed, the impact of these kind of gifts lingers long after students graduate. “This award comes at a crucial moment in my studies,” noted one Masters candidate in Theatre. ”Simply put, I don’t know how I would be able to graduate [without it].”

We are grateful to these and our other donors who expanded the range and breadth of awards available to our students by establishing new awards this past academic year:

Sarah Blackstone Endowed Scholarship in Theatre
Dave Ian Dunnet Music Education Scholarship
Eugene Dowling Scholarship Fund in Music
Roger J. Bishop Writing Prize

As Miriam, a second-year Writing student, puts it, “This award has lit me with the confidence I need to take risks and trust my voice and my visions.” It’s hard to not feel good about making this kind of a difference in a student’s life.

To learn more about our giving initiatives, please contact Fine Arts Development Officer Samantha Krzywonos at 250-721-6305 or finedev@uvic.ca.

Bequest welcomes Cuarteto Chroma to a uniquely Canadian degree program

As the final notes vibrated through the concert hall, the first violinist stood to address the audience again. “Any other ideas for where we should sit?” he asked.

Cuarteto Chroma

Hands of audience members shot up, and a young student offered, “How about cello and viola at the front, violins at the back?”

The four musicians nodded, then bustled into a new formation, before playing the same piece for a third time. The audience listened carefully for the change in sound, appreciating, perhaps for the first time, the influence of such decisions.

Cuarteto Chroma’s interactive public performance at UVic’s Ideafest led the audience through several exercises that illustrated the complexities of this quartet’s journey of growth and learning. All four members of this quartet moved here from Mexico to earn their Master’s in Music Performance (with an emphasis on string quartet), under the mentorship of UVic’s artists-in-residence, the Lafayette String Quartet (LSQ).

Made up of Ilya Gotchev, Carlos Quijano, Felix Alanis and Manuel Cruz, Cuarteto Chroma are the first quartet to take part in this one-of-a-kind program in Canada, which is modelled on prestigious programs at universities in the United States. It provides a unique and hands-on learning opportunity for a quartet to earn a collaborative performance degree with guidance from members of a well-established and successful quartet — the LSQ.

LSQ violinist Ann Elliot-Goldschmid explains that this type of training is vital to the success of a quartet. “You hone your skills to be the best you can possibly be on your instrument, then bring those skills into the ensemble, matching the timing, harmony, vibrato, bow speeds and articulation of the others. It’s a magical process but it takes an enormous amount of work.”

The Watsons’ passion for music

Chroma’s interactive session at 2018’s IdeaFest

Cuarteto Chroma’s fellowships are funded by a bequest from the late Claire Watson Fisher, through the Victoria Foundation. Claire grew up in a music-loving family in Montreal. Her mother, Cecile, belonged to several musical organizations and her father, William Watson, was one of the founders of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.

During World War I, Claire worked for the Canadian Red Cross in England and France, where she received several awards for her service. Her career in Fine Arts began after the war, when she worked for her father’s art gallery, then the Art Gallery of Ontario, and finally, the National Museums Department in Ottawa. After retiring, she and her husband moved to Victoria.

“Her love of music was a passion, and it inspired her to give back to the art form that had given her so much pleasure and joy”, says Louise (Watson) Slemin, Claire’s sister. “I only wish Claire had known the extent of her bequest.”

That extent of the gift is still being discovered by the university as it unlocks the potential of this new program.

“This funding brings a very high-level, prize-winning quartet to UVic, which elevates the learning and research in the whole music department” says Ann. “It’s inspiring for other students to be around this level of professionalism, in practice rooms, or alongside them in the orchestra.”

Cuarteto Chroma in action

Cuarteto Chroma brings benefits to the greater community, through playing at local schools, at benefit concerts, or at public events such as Ideafest. When they travel for concerts, festivals and competitions, they raise awareness of the calibre of UVic Music around the world. After witnessing the quartet’s significant improvement, Ann thinks they could have an even greater impact—at UVic and beyond—during their second year.

Unlocking potential

The opportunity to coach the four musicians has been a highlight in LSQ’s long residency here at UVic. “It’s a real joy. Like all teachers, our wish is to have our students eventually surpass us. We longed for UVic to develop something like this for many years and Claire Watson’s bequest gave us the opportunity. We’re hopeful we can continue to fund graduate quartets after the gift from this donor has been spent,” says Elliot-Goldschmid.

—Written by Sarah Tarnopolsky

Paul Walde wins REACH Award

This May, UVic’s second annual REACH Awards celebrated UVic artists, scholars and scientists for their extraordinary contributions in research, creative practice and teaching—whether from a field school in Cuba or a performance atop a glacier in BC’s interior.

Paul Walde

That’s where this year’s Award for Excellence in Artistic Expression comes in: the 2018 recipient is Visual Arts chair Paul Walde, whose Requiem for a Glacier performance and subsequent gallery installations have earned him international attention.

“This year’s REACH Award recipients again demonstrate the strong link between research and learning,” says UVic President Jamie Cassels. “They share and advance knowledge and wisdom in a range of areas. UVic is privileged to be home to such a talented and dedicated array of people.”

While the history of Canadian art has been built on our relationship with landscape and the environment, Paul Walde has fused that artistic legacy with decidedly 21st century concerns and practices by exploring unexpected interconnections between landscape, identity and technology.

“Both the Visual Arts department and Faculty of Fine Arts are tremendously privileged to have such an important artist and educator shaping our program,” says Dean Susan Lewis. “Paul Walde’s art draws attention to the important landscape that makes up our province and nation.”

 

Walde’s “Glacier”

Since joining UVic in 2012, Walde has enhanced the student experience while expanding his reputation as one of Canada’s leading extended media artists. 2014’s Requiem for a Glacier saw him take a 50-piece orchestra and chorus to the top of BC’s threatened Jumbo Glacier (Qat’Muk) and, while the performance earned international headlines at the time, the subsequent gallery installation continues to impact viewers across Canada and Europe—notably this spring’s exhibition in Paris.

“We want[ed] to call attention to this project and recognize its significance as an artwork that advocated for environmental awareness,” says nominator and Visual Arts colleague Jennifer Stillwell. “Paul’s extensive and thoughtful career has made a large impact on the landscape of Canadian visual art. His distinguished achievements and the social impact of his work are worthy of celebration and recognition, both within our institution and beyond.”

The awards were presented at a special on-campus evening ceremony on May 24.

School of Music professor Suzanne Snizek was the 2017 winner of the REACH Award for Excellence in Artistic Expression.

Concert debuts results of Guggenheim Fellowship

It was big news last year when internationally acclaimed School of Music professor Dániel Péter Biró was named the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship — one of North America’s most prestigious awards. Biró’s intention was to use the one-year award (worth $50,000 US) to reflect on one of the most important issues of today: global migration. Now, audiences in select North American cities will have the opportunity of hearing the results when his large-scale musical composition Ethica is performed this month.

2017 Guggenheim Fellow Dániel Péter Biró (UVic Photo Services)

Based on Baruch Spinoza’s philosophical work of the same name, Ethica will debut at the Americas Society/Council for America in New York City on May 4, as performed by Schola Heidelberg and the ensemble aisthesis, featuring pianist Donald Berman and conductor Walter Nussbaum. Kirk McNally, the School of Music’s assistant professor of Music Technology, will also be collaborating in the performance of electroacoustic pieces in this concert.

Following the New York debut, Ethica will also have live performances in Winnipeg (May 6) and Vancouver (May 10-11), as well as here in Victoria Victoria (May 8-9). Click here for a complete schedule of events.

The Victoria performance is part of the 2018 SALT New Music Festival and Symposium, and the public is welcome to attend a free lecture and performance of Ethica at 7:30pm Wednesday, May 9 at Congregation Emanu-El (1461 Blanshard Streeet). Ethica will be performed by Biró, Klangforum Heidelberg and the ensemble aisthesis; they will also perform a work by the late Czech pianist and composer Gideon Klein, written in during his internment in the Theresienstadt concentration camp during WWII.

The KlangForum Heidelberg is where two very distinctive ensembles for contemporary and ancient music come together: the voices of the Schola Heidelberg and the instrumentalists of the ensemble aesthesis. Together, they have built an international following, thrilling audiences around the world with their innovative concert formats and injecting new life into the relationship between music and society.

A taste of SALT

KlangForum Heidelberg

While at the SALT Festival, Klangforum Heidelberg will also be presenting a reading session for young composers and an open rehearsal of works by Canadian composers including Claude Vivier, Philippe Leroux and Örjan Sandred, who will be in attendance.

Now in its seventh year, the SALT Festival is a series that reverberates far beyond Victoria’s shores. “People actually know about Victoria through our contemporary music scene,” Biró explained in this recent article. “I was in Vienna and just met someone by chance on the street and they said, ‘Oh, you run the SALT New Music Festival’ . . . . Victoria has always been known as kind of a weird place, a place for experimentation.”

These events are happening in collaboration with the SALT New Music Festival and Symposium, Open Space, the University of Manitoba and Vancouver New Music and made possible through support from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Canada Council for the Arts, the BC Arts Council and the Goethe Institute.

About Ethica

Biró’s composition Ethica is inspired by the time he spent as a visiting professor in the computing and information sciences department of Netherland’s Utrecht University in 2011, where he was living not far from Spinoza’s burial site in The Hague. While one of the greatest philosophers of the 17th century, Spinoza was banned from the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam because of his views — which, says Biró, proved too radical for the time.

Spinoza’s burial site in The Hague

“In his philosophical treatise Ethics, Spinoza attempted to present a new type of theology, one that was autonomous from organized religion, such as that of his own Portuguese Jewish community,” he explains. “[My] composition explores historical dichotomies between religious and secular thinking from the perspective of modern-day globalized existence.”

His Ethica cycle will be scored for voices, ensemble and electronics, and will also incorporate text from Spinoza’s philosophical work.

“Exploring concepts of ‘space and place,’ the composition will deal with questions of one’s place in the global world and how music informs and influences our perception of our place in this world,” he explains. “Looking at musical creation as an analogy to the movement of the immigrant — who discovers, remembers, forgets and rediscovers places on his voyage — the composition will investigate relationships to historical space, space of immigration and disembodied space.”

During the 2016/17 academic year, Biró was an artist-in-residence with UVic’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society; in 2015, he was made a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, and he was awarded a Fellowship at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in 2014; he has also received numerous other international prizes and commissions.

And, as a result of his Guggenheim Fellowship, Dániel Péter Biró was the only UVic professor —and the only arts researcher — included in the prestigious Universities Canada publication, Canadian Excellence, Global Recognition: Canada’s 2017 Winners of Major International Research Awards.

When Art Meets Science

Ever wanted to have an intimate, interactive moment with a baby orca? A new student-created sculpture allows viewers to have just that, while also learning something about the threats currently facing our local killer whale population.

“Resonant Disintegration” is an intermedia installation created by Visual Arts/Computer Science undergraduate student Colton Hash. Featuring a life-size representation of three-year-old J53, the youngest surviving female of the endangered southern resident orcas, the eight-foot-long hollow sheet-metal sculpture is suspended by wires to simulate an aquatic environment.

After cutting, shaping and welding it, Hash then submerged the piece in a quiet bay off Esquimalt’s Saxe Point to achieve a rust-textured coating that allowed it to be “physically infused with a sense of local place and local water,” as Hash says. But creating the physical sculpture was only half the concept: he also wanted to fuse ocean data and climate change concerns into his sculptural installation. As a result, when installed, a projected visualization of climate data plays across the surfaces of both the whale and the room, while underwater recordings of passing freighters fill the space with a disturbing rumble.

“When people enter into the interactive space, their movements are recorded by a motion sensor and, as they approach the whale, the background noise and the speed of the climate data slows down, so they have somewhat of an intimate moment with the sculpture,” Hash explains.

Add in a microphone and another set of speakers playing the same sounds from inside the whale, all connected by a real-time computer program, and the whole effect becomes both beautiful and haunting.

Colton Hash with his “Resonant Disintegration” sculpture

“Because it’s a hollow object, it acts as a resonating chamber, and the contact microphone picks up vibrations that create a feedback loop and cause the sculpture to make its own sound,” says Hash. “Essentially, the sculpture is responding to underwater noises, as well as the interactions of the viewer.”

While visually appealing, Hash’s sculpture is firmly rooted in science—entirely appropriate, given that he’s also working toward a minor degree in environmental studies. The project data is gathered from the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, located on the UVic campus. It includes variables such as precipitation, ocean temperatures and ground surface temperatures, all of which impact the health of different aquatic systems. The audio recordings are taken from UVic’s Ocean Networks Canada hydrophone stations in the Salish Sea.

“Climate change is happening and it’s already having devastating impacts on species we love, such as orcas,” says Hash. “This whole installation is an attempt to create a reflective and emotionally driven space where people can be present with their feelings. In this world of social media and information saturation, we’re not really allowing ourselves the time to reflect on how we’re feeling about the state of the world.”

While Hash’s sculpture is not currently on view, a short film documenting its creation and intention recently won both first-place prizes at UVic’s Research Reels video showcase during March’s Ideafest, earning him $1750 in cash prizes. He was also just awarded the Jorgensen Legacy Artist Bursary, courtesy of the Victoria Visual Arts Legacy Society.

“I’ve always loved sculptures honoring animals that are important to us,” he continues. “Obviously, there’s a lot of fascination with orcas around Victoria . . . but there’s a real disconnect between how they’re shown in art and the reality of their rapidly declining numbers.”

While there are no immediate viewing dates lined up for the installation, Hash is hoping to exhibit it again in the near future.

“It offers the chance for people to engage spiritually and emotionally with the art and the issues,” he says. “Art has the ability to engage on those levels more than through intellectual or scientific information, which often seems overwhelming.”

Learn more

Only 76 orcas remain in the endangered southern resident killer whale population, which forages for chinook salmon in its core range off southern Vancouver Island. The primary cause of their decline is chronically low chinook numbers, although pollution and noise disturbance from vessels are contributing factors.

Three UVic researchers were recently awarded a total of $935,000 in federal funding to study the impact of underwater noise on southern resident killer whales and on the chinook salmon that make up almost 80 per cent of their diet. Read the story.

UVic’s Ocean Networks Canada operates world-leading cabled ocean observatories for the advancement of science and the benefit of Canada. These observatories collect data on physical, chemical, biological, and geological aspects of the ocean over longer time periods, supporting research on complex Earth processes in ways not previously possible.

Fine Arts and Ocean Networks Canada currently have a call out for a new ONC Artist-in-Residence project. Visit the page to find out more about this fusion of art and science, running May to October 2018, with an April 27, 2018 application deadline.

UVic’s annual Department of Visual Arts BFA graduation exhibit will feature the work of 40 emerging artists and showcase the exciting interdisciplinary work being created by students. The free exhibit runs 10am to 6pm daily, April 20–28, in the Visual Arts building, and opens with a 7pm reception on Friday, April 20.