Faculty concert series a January highlight

2019 is off to a harmonious start, thanks to a stellar series of faculty concerts at the School of Music. But while all of these performances feature current teaching faculty, there are also a number of concerts and recitals featuring current students and alumni. Be sure to check the School of Music’s online events calendar for complete listings.

Crossing Boundaries

Klazek and Schryer

Classical and folk music traditions are woven together in the Crossing Boundaries concert on January 13, where trumpet professor Merrie Klazek will be joined by fiddle champion Pierre Schryer and guitarist/vocalist Andy Hillhouse for an energetic concert showcasing a variety of musical styles ranging from Celtic and Latin to classic jazz and baroque.

Crossing Boundaries will take you on a journey through music ranging from 1560 to 2018. Expect to hear everything from ’70s pop and Irish reels to contemporary ballads, Latin Samba and Baroque court music, along with anecdotes and stories shared by the performers. The program will give Klazek an opportunity to demonstrate the many colours of the trumpet family—including piccolo, cornet, flugelhorn, and standard C and B-flat trumpets—while treating the audience to some the finest fiddle and guitar playing around.

Merrie Klazek is well-known as a performer, teacher and recording artist of orchestral, chamber, traditional and popular music, and her career has taken her around the globe. A celebrated performer and producer, Schryer is one of Canada’s leading traditional fiddlers and has established himself as a gem among fans and fellow musicians for his captivating performances. Hillhouse is a touring bandleader, choral director, music and culture scholar, and festival organizer.

Crossing Boundaries runs 2:30-4 pm Sunday, Jan. 13, in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. Tickets are $10-20.

The Cross-Cultural Clarinet

Shawn Earle

Clarinetist Shawn Earle performs solo contemporary works influenced by non-western cultures in an afternoon concert on January 15. The clarinet is very versatile, with the ability to produce a variety of different tonalities and timbres. This concert explores this versatility through works imitating and influenced by South Asian Indian Raga, East African guitar, Balinese music and Japanese visual art. Other instruments such as a kick drum, Tibetan tea bowl and electronic sounds will be used to broaden the sonic pallet. Works on the program include Evan Zyporyn’s Four Impersonations, John Mayer’s Raga Music, Judith Shatin’s Cherry Blossom and a Wrapped Thing: After Hokusai, and others.

Shawn Earle teaches clarinet at UVic, performs regularly as a soloist and has been a chamber musician with the Albemarle Ensemble, Cascadia Reed Quintet, Vancouver Clarinet Trio, Trio Dolce and guest artist with the Novo Ensemble. He has also performed with the Charlottesville Symphony Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Okanagan Symphony, Victoria Symphony, Vancouver Island Symphony and Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra.

The Cross-Cultural Clarinet runs 12:30-1:20 pm Tuesday, Jan. 15, in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. Admission is by donation.

Almost Blue: Chet Baker at 90

The late, great Chet Baker

The great American West Coast trumpeter and singer Chet Baker left a profound mark on jazz in his 40-year career. The iconic poster boy for West Coast cool jazz, Baker would have turned 90 this year. Take a journey through the fascinating world Baker lived in with a concert on January 18 featuring School of Music professor and trumpet personality Patrick Boyle, Victoria veteran pianist Tom Vickery, Don Cox on double bass, and drummer Morgan Childs.

Cool jazz refers to a style performed by jazz musicians in California in the 1950s and early 1960s. As opposed to the harder edged sound popular on the East Coast during that time, this cooler West Coast style was more lyrical and soft—Baker’s hallmark sound. Like fellow trumpeter Miles Davis, he could express himself in a few choice notes with his lyrical, poetic playing. Three decades after his untimely death, Baker’s music continues to resonate with listeners today.

Almost Blue: Chet Baker at 90 runs 8pm Friday, Jan. 18 in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. Tickets are $10-25.

Music for Cello, Soprano and Piano

Highbaugh Aloni, Vogt & Young

On January 27, School of Music professors cellist Pamela Highbaugh Aloni, pianist Bruce Vogt and soprano Susan Young will present a concert of works for cello, piano, and soprano by César Franck, Johannes Brahms and Leila Lustig.

Pamela Highbaugh Aloni has enjoyed performing both as a chamber musician and soloist in North America and Europe and is a co-founding member of the beloved Lafayette String Quartet. Among the elite of Canadian pianists, Bruce Vogt is a unique and dynamic performer. He appears regularly in concerts within Canada, but has also inspired audiences in England, the USA, Germany, France, Italy, Norway, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, China, and Japan. Canadian soprano Susan Young is in demand as a performer, choral conductor, clinician and adjudicator. Educated as both and singer, she is known for the diversity of her skills and has performed in Canada, the United States, Spain, France and Austria.

Music for Cello, Soprano and Piano runs 8pm Sunday, Jan. 27 in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall.  Tickets are $10-25.

Top 10 Fine Arts stories of 2018

There was certainly no shortage of Fine Arts news in 2018, given that we tracked nearly 300 local, national and international media stories about the creative activities of our faculty, alumni, students and staff . . . and those are just the stories we know about.

From our new faculty members—including Rick Leong, Sasha Kovacs, Deborah Campbell, Katharina Clausius and Michael Elliott—to a new batch of websites for our departments of Art History & Visual Studies, Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing and the School of Music, Fine Arts continues to grow and evolve as we move closer to our 50th anniversary in 2019/20.

While it was hard to choose favourites from amongst the many stories that appeared in both traditional and social media, here (in no particular order) are our choices for the top 10 Fine Arts stories from our faculty blog.

Benjamin Butterfield named to the Royal Society of Canada

Benjamin Butterfield (UVic Photo Services)

Three UVic faculty members received the country’s highest academic honour by being named 2018 fellows of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) in September—and among those joining the distinguished ranks was School of Music professor Benjamin Butterfield.

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.”

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).

Read more about Butterfield’s RSC appointment here.

Esi Edugyan wins second Giller Prize

Fine Arts has no shortage of alumni success stories, but it’s hard to top internationally acclaimed Department of Writing alumna Esi Edugyan, who won her second Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2018 for her latest novel, Washington Black.

Edugyan won $100,000 on the 25th anniversary of Canada’s richest literary award, and also earns the distinction of being one of only three authors to twice win the Giller Prize, alongside M.G. Vassanji and Alice Munro.

Washington Black was also nominated for the Man Booker Prize and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize—as was her previous 2011 Giller Prize-winning novel Half-Blood Blues. Indeed, having only published three novels (including her debut, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne), Edugyan’s back-to-back wins for Washington Black and Half-Blood Blues is doubly remarkable, especially when you consider both were shortlisted for the coveted trifecta of fiction awards.

Read more about Edugyan’s Giller win here.

Carey Newman is the new Audain Professor

Carey Newman receiving his Order of BC from
Lieutenant Governor the Honourable Janet Austin and Premier John Horgan in September

When Kwagiulth and Coast Salish artist Carey Newman’s Witness Blanket was unveiled at the University of Victoria in 2014, it was clear the large-scale installation would quickly become a national monument and spark reflection and conversation about residential schools, settler-Indigenous relations and reconciliation. Now, Newman will continue the conversation as the sixth Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest with the Visual Arts department

“This is breaking new ground for me,” said Newman in June. “I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to convert the experience of mentorship into a more formal educational setting.”

It’s been a big year for Newman: on top of being declared the Audian Professor for the next three years, he was granted the Order of BC, was named the inaugural recipient of the Professional Arts Alliance of Greater Victoria’s Regional Arts Award, played a role in the Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs program with the Gustavson School of Business, received a Saanich150 art commission and debuted his new “Witness Blanket” documentary at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Read more about Newman’s Audain position here.

Carolyn Butler Palmer advises on new $10 bill

When Art History & Visual Studies professor Carolyn Butler-Palmer received an email from the Bank of Canada back in 2017, she didn’t put much stock in it. “To be honest, I thought it was a scam email,” she laughs, “but in fact they wanted to speak to me as an art historian.”

While it’s no secret now that Canada’s new vertical $10 bill features Nova Scotia civil libertarian Viola Desmond, Butler-Palmer was under a strict confidentiality order for several months starting in summer 2017 while she was consulted by the Bank of Canada about the proposed design. One of a number of experts contacted, Butler-Palmer came to their attention due to the Globe and Mail coverage of her early 2017 exhibit Ellen Neel: The First Woman Totem Pole Carver at UVic’s Legacy Gallery.

“It was a real honour to be asked and to be able to work on such an important change in our currency,” Butler-Palmer said in this recent interview with the Martlet. “I think the change is really reflected too, [particularly] that they changed the orientation as well . . . to signify the change in the way that they represent Viola Desmond on that bill.”

Find out more about Butler Palmer’s involvement in the $10 bill here.

The Drowsy Chaperone a stunning success

Douglas Peerless as the Man in the Chair (photo: Dean Kalyan)

The response to Phoenix’s fall mainstage production of The Drowsy Chaperone, directed by Jacques Lemay, was fantastic. Audiences and reviewers alike praised this production as one of the finest in Phoenix’s 50-plus year history.

“This is one of the best shows staged by the university’s theatre department in recent years and should not be missed,” notes thisTimes Colonist review by Adrian Chamberlain. “Everything about this elegant, detailed production works well: the excellent costumes, set, acting, dancing, choreography . . . . [this is] a truly superior piece of theatre that will undoubtedly be a highlight of the season.”

It was such a hit, in fact, that they ended up adding two additional shows after the entire run was essentially sold out in November!

Read more about the amazing success of The Drowsy Chaperone here.

The Orontes Guitar Quartet welcomed as Visiting Artists

(l-r) Orwa Al Sharaa, Gaby Al Botros, Nazir Salameh & Mohammed Mir Mahmoud in front of UVic’s Fine Arts Building, November 2018. (UVic Photo Services)

The dramatic story of four musicians escaping daily violence in Syria for a fellowship in UVic’s School of Music caught the attention of The Globe and Mail in December, and became one of UVic’s top news stories of 2018.

Alexander Dunn, an internationally renowned guitarist and UVic music instructor for nearly three decades, played a vital role in bringing the guitar quartet to UVic by working for the past 18 months with two US-based organizations—the Artist Protection Fund (APF), an innovative initiative of the Institute of International Education, and the non-profit organization Remember the River.

Now safely in Victoria as the recipients of a prestigious Artist Protection Fund Fellowship grant, the Orontes quartet offer a remarkable message about the power of music, hope and determination. The quartet told the Globe and Mail that their peaceful lives in Syria had been disrupted by the civil war, and violence and terror became commonplace. But when the ensemble started to play together, “we forgot everything because we just focused on what we are doing,” as recounted to The Globe’s arts reporter Marsha Lederman in a December 8 article in the national edition of the newspaper.

Read more about the Orontes Quartet here—and be sure to watch this Globe and Mail video of the quartet playing together.

Colton Hash named Artist in Residence for Ocean Networks Canada

Colton Hash with his full-size sculpture of an adolescent female orca (photo: Ashton Sciacallo)

Victoria-based artist Colton Hash became the inaugural recipient of an Artist-in-Residence program by the Faculty of Fine Arts and Ocean Networks Canada (ONC), a UVic initiative. The new ONC residency will strengthen connections between art and science, and broaden perspectives on major issues ranging from technology and the environment to biodiversity and healthy communities.

A recent graduate of UVic’s combined undergraduate program in Visual Arts and computer science, Hash was selected for the residency from a field of nearly 70 local, national and international applicants. He will hold the position from November 2018 to March 2019 and, following his residency, will provide a public exhibition of the resulting body of work.

“I see this as a great opportunity to collaborate with ocean scientists and experiment with digital media to communicate some of the dynamic processes that play a critical role in coastal waters,” says Hash. “Whether it’s how a kelp forest responds to climate change or how the thawing of frozen methane affects sediment stability of submarine slopes, I hope I can use interactive art to inspire viewers to care more about what is happening beneath the ocean’s surface.”

Read more about Hash’s ONC residency here.

Fine Arts hosts Reconciliation & the Arts forum

There was a capacity audience for the Nov 15 forum at the Baumann Ctr (photo: Fiona Ngai)

The fourth annual Building Reconciliation Forum was hosted at UVic in November and, as part of the two-day event, Fine Arts hosted a panel discussion on First Nations Art Practice & Reconciliation.

Presented in partnership with Universities Canada, the Building Reconciliation Forum brought together close to 250 thought leaders from universities, Indigenous governing bodies and communities, and federal and regional government officials from acorss Canada to consider how universities are answering the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

As part of the Forum, Fine Arts Dean Dr. Susan Lewis hosted a near-capacity panel discussion on First Nations Art Practice & Reconciliation at downtown’s Baumann Centre, featuring a range of local artists, administrators, activists and alumni discussing how Victoria’s arts community can advance decolonization and reconciliation.

Panelists included Visual Arts MFA alumna and the City of Victoria’s inaugural Indigenous Artist in Residence Lindsay Delaronde; the Belfry Theatre’s Indigenous cultural advisor Kristy Charlie and executive director Ivan Habel; Pacific Opera’s director of community engagement Rebecca Hass; Open Space board member and Visual Arts sessional instructor Charles Campbell; Legacy Gallery director Mary Jo Hughes; and Art Gallery of Greater Victoria curator of engagement Nicole Stanbridge.

Also during the forum, the Theatre department hosted Nomad, a musical and visual journey through Inuit history with Inuk singer-songwriter and Order of Canada recipient Susan Aglukark.

Find out more about the First Nations Art Practice & Reconciliation event here.

Bill Gaston wins Victoria Book Prize

Department of Writing professor Bill Gaston won the 2018 City of Victoria Butler Book Prize for his short-story collection The Mariner’s Guide to Self Sabotage (Douglas & McIntyre). Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and co-sponsor Brian Butler presented Gaston with his $5,000 prize at a gala October 17 event at downtown’s Union Club.

2018 was a strong year for the Writing department at the Victoria Book Prize, given that fellow nominees included professor emerita Lorna Crozier (What the Soul Doesn’t Want), longtime instructor Patrick Friesen (Songen) and longtime Faculty of Fine Arts colleague and Dean’s External Advisory Committee member Maria Tippett (Sculpture in Canada: A History).

Gaston is also one of 10 authors nominated for the prestigious RBC Taylor Prize for his 2018 memoir, Just Let Me Look At You (Hamish Hamilton).

Read more about Gaston’s win here.

Twin Kennedy win Distinguished Alumni Award

Twin Kennedy are now Distinguished Alumni (UVic Photo Services)

It’s only been 10 years since sister duo Twin Kennedy graduated from the School of Music, but during that short decade, the acclaimed country/roots duo already released two albums, toured across North America, moved to Nashville and won the hearts of country radio and fans alike. The sisters headed back to UVic in February to be honoured as the Fine Arts winners of UVic’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award—an award that’s doubly special this year, given that it was presented during the School of Music’s 50th anniversary.

Know for their distinctly “Canadiana” country roots sound, seamless harmonies and heartfelt songwriting, Carli and Julie Kennedy (BMus ’08) have been dubbed “the next big thing in country music” by the Nashville Music Examiner and Twin Kennedy’s 2017 winter single “Cold Weather” was chosen by Rolling Stone as one of the “10 new country and Americana Christmas songs to hear right now!

“We’re very proud of years at UVic,” says Carli. “Not everyone in the popular-music world has a degree, and it’s an important part of our story. To be recognized for that side of our career is a huge honour; it means a lot to us.”

“And we did it together!” laughs Julie.

They now join the ranks of our previous Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni Award winners: visual artist Althea Thauberger (MFA ’02) director Glynis Leyshon (BFA ’73), author Esi Edugyan (BA ’99), lighting designer Michael J. Whitfield (BA ’67), director and filmmaker Mercedes Bátiz-Benét (BFA ’02), poet Carla Funk (BFA ’97), musician Paul Beauchesne (BMus ’88), author Deborah Willis (BA ’06), environmental designer Valerie Murray (BA ’78), author Eden Robinson (BFA ’92) and visual anthropologist Andrea Walsh (BA ’91).

Find out more about Twin Kennedy’s award here.

Syrian quartet escapes ravages of war for fellowship at UVic

The dramatic story of a Syrian guitar quartet escaping the ongoing destruction of the Syrian civil war for a fellowship at the University of Victoria offers a remarkable message about the power of music, hope and determination. Alexander Dunn, an internationally renowned guitarist and instructor with UVic’s School of Music for nearly three decades, played a vital role in bringing the Orontes Guitar Quartet to the university as recipients of a prestigious Artist Protection Fund Fellowship grant.

(l-r) Orwa Al Sharaa, Gaby Al Botros, Nazir Salameh & Mohammed Mir Mahmoud in front of UVic’s Fine Arts Building, November 2018. (UVic Photo Services)

To secure the quartet’s arrival in Canada, Dunn worked closely for the past 18 months with two US-based organizations—the Artist Protection Fund (APF), an innovative initiative of the Institute of International Education, and the non-profit organization Remember the River.

The quartet told the Globe and Mail that their peaceful lives in Syria had been disrupted by the civil war, and violence and terror became commonplace. But when the ensemble started to play together, “we forgot everything because we just focused on what we are doing,” as recounted to The Globe’s arts reporter Marsha Lederman in a December 8 article in the national edition of the newspaper.

First collective to be named Artist Protection Fund Fellows

The classical guitar ensembleGaby Al Botros, Orwa Al Sharaa, Nazir Salameh and Mohammed Mir Mahmoud—faced violence in Damascus where they and their families were at risk from extremist groups and often targeted as musicians.

They are among the youngest artists—and the first collective—to be named fellows of the APF and were welcomed as Visiting Artists to UVic’s School of Music in early November.

Dunn’s colleague and friend, the highly esteemed classical guitarist and US composer Susan McDonald who teaches in conflict hot spots, also played a crucial role in bringing the four musicians to North America. The quartet was unable to travel to the States due to the ongoing travel ban.

Unique guitar culture and respected music program

The Orontes with Dr Alexander Dunn (centre) at UVic’s Phillip T Young Recital Hall (UVic Photo Services)

Dunn has built a unique guitar culture here which garners global respect and led to UVic being identified as an ideal haven for the quartet. During the ensemble’s time at UVic, Dunn will serve as their mentor, organize musical activities and provide coaching.

“The Orontes Quartet’s visit will enrich local musical activity and have positive repercussions in the greater community and across Canada for their compelling story of music and political affairs in the Middle East,” adds Dunn.

His local non-profit the Victoria Guitar Society will also provide daily practical support to the quartet.

Formed in 2015 at the University of Notre Dame Louaize in Beirut, the quartet has defied all odds to create careers as concert guitarists. While in Syria, they appeared with the Syrian Philharmonic, on Syrian MTV and Sky Arabia. They also arranged multiple concerts, some of which had to be cancelled at the last minute due to violent incursions. They have also worked as teaching assistants in Lebanon and taught a guitar program for Syrian refugees.

Upcoming performances in new year

The Orontes in performance (UVic Photo Services)

While at UVic, the Orontes Quartet will coach UVic students, produce a digital recording using UVic School of Music facilities, give talks on their experiences and musical activity, as well as perform publicly including at local churches and mosques. They also hope to mount a limited tour of Canada in 2019, with potential dates in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto.

Funded in partnership with global initiatives

Remember the River supports artists in war zones and the APF fills a critical unmet need by providing fellowship grants to threatened artists and placing them at welcoming institutions in safe countries where they can continue their work and plan for their futures.

UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts and School of Music have partnered with the APF to support the Orontes Guitar Quartet through September 2019.

Get a taste of what makes the Orontes Guitar Quartet special as they play Boccherini’s “Fandango” in this video:

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He felt the bomb before he heard it. . Nazir Salameh’s right arm, the one he played guitar with, had been hit. Salameh ran to the nearest car, which happened to be a taxi. “To the hospital, to the hospital! Hurry up!” he told the driver, who set off through the streets of Damascus toward help. . The pain was excruciating; Salameh had to hold his right arm up with his left hand. When the shelling began, he had been waiting for two of his bandmates on their way to a rehearsal for their quartet; he had to leave his guitar behind. . Salameh says he had one thought on his way to the hospital: “If I will not play [guitar] again, I prefer to die.” . Telling the story three years later during an interview from the safety of the University of Victoria, the 26-year-old Syrian rolls up his shirt sleeve. “There was a mortar shell that entered from here,” he points to the scar on the top of his arm near his bicep, “and outside from here,” he says, lifting his arm to show another scar on its underside. . Despite the severity of his injury, Salameh was able to play guitar again. This skill eventually brought him here, to the School of Music building on UVic’s forested campus, along with the three other members of the Orontes Guitar Quartet. Gaby Al-Botros, Mohammed Mir Mahmoud, Orwa Al-Shara’a – all 25 – and Salameh, 26, arrived two weeks earlier. . The men are spending the year in the B.C. capital on fellowships organized by the Artist Protection Fund (APF). Based in New York and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the APF supports threatened artists around the world by providing fellowship grants and designing residency programs at academic or cultural institutions in safe countries, following a rigorous application process. . “Finally, and after everything we’ve been through, the dream has come true!” Orontes posted on their Facebook page from Victoria on Nov. 11, Remembrance Day. “Many thanks to APF … for doing the impossible.” — Follow the link in our bio for more from Marsha Lederman Photos by Rafal Gerszak, The Globe and Mail, @rafalgerszak

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TubaChristmas a “sonic hug” for the city

Support your local tubas!

For 40 years now, tuba and euphonium players from all across Vancouver Island and beyond have been gathering at Market Square in downtown Victoria for one of the city’s most anticipated holiday traditions. TubaChristmas returns to once again raise money for the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, a charity that assists the people most in need in the Greater-Victoria community.

TubaChristmas, as performed by the Victoria TubaChristmas Ensemble, runs from 1-3pm Saturday, Dec. 8, in Market Square, 560 Johnson Street. Donations will be accepted throughout the duration of the event.

Last year, an impressive 101 brass musicians gathered to play an afternoon of favourite carols, and the resulting donations far exceeded those collected in previous years. Tubist and UVic instructor Paul Beauchesne — who will lead the ensemble for the fourth year — has his sights on record-breaking numbers for the 40th anniversary of this beloved event. And this year, local video production company Roll.Focus and CHEK TV are partnering to produce the first livestream of the event.

Paul Beauchesne leading the TubaChristmas ensemble

Beauchesne describes the sound of massed tubas and euphoniums as a “sonic hug,” filling the square with music that will echo through the surrounding streets. Jointly sponsored by Market Square and UVic’s School of Music, TubaChristmas was established in Victoria by the much-loved tubist, Eugene Dowling, who succumbed to cancer in June 2015. Dowling was one of Beauchesne’s tuba instructors, as well as a mentor and friend, and Beauchesne is proud to carry forward the TubaChristmas torch.

TubaChristmas dates back to 1974 where it originated in New York City by the late Harvey Phillips of Indiana University. Concerts now take place in over 200 cities worldwide and this year marks the 45th year for TubaChristmas internationally. The original concept was to honour the late William Bell (1902-1971) — Phillips’ teacher and former tubist with the New York Philharmonic — who was born on Christmas Day, but over the decades it has grown to become so much more.

Don’t miss this once-a-year occurance, which has grown into one of Victoria’s most beloved seasonal events!

Leader in Art Song performance receives honourary degree

One of the world’s great interpreters of the German art song tradition known as Lieder and one of the most frequently recorded lieder singers of modern times, Mitsuko Shirai is acclaimed worldwide for her extraordinary performances and recordings of songs by Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Hugo Wolf, and others.

Now, Shirai will receive an honorary doctorate from UVic on November 14, as part of the Fall Convocation. During her visit to campus, she will also give two presentations at the School of Music as an Orion guest artist.

As part of a Lieder duo with her husband Hartmut Höll, the Japanese soprano and mezzo-soprano has set a high standard as an interpreter of German lied; the duo has given recitals in Europe, Scandinavia, Israel, Africa, Japan, South America, Russia, the USA and Canada, but they are especially well known in Germany and Japan. A committee of Japanese artists awarded Shirai the Great Idemitsu Music Award 1996 in appreciation of her artistic work. She has been praised by German publication Der Stern as “the first leading lady of Lieder singing”.

But Shirai is not just limited to recital singing. A contralto, she has also found acclaim for her performances of Gustav Mahler’s orchestral songs, appearing in concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker, New Japan Philharmonic, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Nouvel Orchestre Philharmonique de Paris and the Wiener Symphoniker. Shirai has also appeared in operas ranging from Mozart to Wagner.

Shirai is also distinguished for her illustrious teaching career. She teaches at the Musikhochschule in Karlsruhe, one of the primary music schools in Germany, and has conducted numerous workshops in Germany, Austria, Finland, the United States and in her native Japan. Many of her students have gone on to become the bright lights of today’s concert stages.

Shirai will speak about her career as a performer and teacher from 4–6pm Thursday, Nov 15, in MacLaurin B037. Don’t miss this unparalleled opportunity to get to know one of the foremost performers of our time—one who has worked closely with other icons of song performance. And then from 3–5pm Saturday, Nov 17, in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, she will lead a masterclass on Lieder by Robert Schumann, working with graduate student vocalists Alana Hayes and Kyron Basu (with Music professor Harald Krebs on piano) on two Schumann song cycles (opp. 35 and 135). Both these events are free.

Jazz ensemble offers new soundtrack for silent classic

How do you improve on one of the greatest films ever made? If you’re the UVIc Jazz Ensemble, you “comprovise” a new score to be played alongside a screening of the 1925 Russian silent classic Battleship Potemkin.

Patrick Boyle and the famous “Odessa Steps” sequence in Battleship Potemkin (photo: John Threlfall)

For jazz ensemble leader and School of Music professor Patrick Boyle, updating silent films with improvised scores is nothing new: he’s been doing it for over a decade now, jazzing up the likes of classic cartoons, Charlie Chaplin shorts and Buster Keaton’s The General. And while the choice of film matters, it’s the idea of “comprovisation” that really grabs his attention.

“Of everything I do professionally, playing live music for silent film is my absolutely favourite thing,” he says. “A lot of it involves going back to the idea behind the earliest type of silent film performance: a person composing and improvising — comprovising — at a piano or organ. We just embody that for the 21st century with a band.”

“I love how what we play can completely transform a scene: changing the music completely warps the interpretation for an audience,” he explains. “It’s especially effective with sentimental moments, which you can make more humorous, and vice-versa. Because part of it is composed and part improvised, it’s different every time we perform it.”

Best known for its iconic “Odessa steps” sequence — which has been echoed by directors ranging from Alfred Hitchcock and Francis Ford Coppola to Brian De Palma, Woody Allen and George Lucas in films like The Godfather, The Untouchables, Brazil, Star Wars: Episode III and the Naked Gun (to name just a few) — Battleship Potemkin has long outlived director Sergei Eisenstein’s original propagandistic intentions to become an undeniable cinematic classic.

Ironically, Eisenstein hoped Edmund Meisel’s original score would be updated every 20 years, in order to keep the film current with future audiences. While Potemkin is often screened with orchestral selections from Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich, new scores have also been written by composers Michael Nyman, Chris Jarrett (brother of famed jazz pianist Keith Jarrett), and Neil Tennant & Chris Lowe of the Pet Shop Boys.

“Traditionally, the scores are more of a pastiche—they’ll play long sections of Shostakovich symphonies then change to another one, but not necessarily in time or balance with the narrative,” says Boyle. “We do that too sometimes, but there’s a whole bunch of different styles beyond jazz music to play with.”

But Boyle stresses that while he may be the band leader, it’s his “extremely excited and motivated” students who are in the spotlight with this concert. “I’m the main guide, but it’s their music: when the students bring their own compositions, they’re out front.”

As for why Potemkin, Boyle just offers a sly smile. “Considering everything that’s going on in the world, I thought showing something with a Russian theme would be appropriate,” he says. “I wanted to see if we could make silent films great again.”

UVic Jazz Ensemble’s Live Music for Silent Film starts at 8pm on Nov. 17 at UVic’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. Tickets range from $10-$20 at 250-721-8480 or ticket@uvic.ca.