Sweet sounds of the symphony

Victoria Symphony launches its 2012 new music festival with an eclectic mix of diverse ensembles.

The Victoria Symphony launches its 2012 new music festival with an eclectic mix of diverse ensembles.

Featuring the music of renowned British composer Gavin Bryars, these concerts promise to enlighten the most discerning music lover.

The festival kicks off on Feb. 1 with Montreal’s spectacular Ensemble Sixtrum at 8 p.m. (Pre-concert talk, 7:15 p.m.) at the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall (UVic). Admission $15/10.

The Victoria Symphony launches its 2012 new music festival with an eclectic mix of diverse ensembles.  Featuring the music of renowned British composer Gavin Bryars (who will be in attendance through the festival), these concerts promise to enlighten the most discerning music lover. From Bryars’ early iconic works The Sinking of the Titanic and Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, to his current works for opera, dance and stage, he remains an internationally respected and influential composer.

The Victoria Symphony is also proud to present two of Canada’s finest proponents of contemporary music; Montreal’s Ensemble Sixtrum and Victoria’s own Aventa Ensemble, as well as the young professionals and future advocates of new music from the University of Victoria’s SONIC LAB. Concerts run from Feb. 1 – 4 and take place at both the Phillip T Young Recital Hall (University of Victoria, MacLaurin Building) and Alix Goolden Performance Hall in Victoria.

The festival kicks off on Wednesday Feb. 1 with Montreal’s spectacular Ensemble Sixtrum. The six percussionists will perform major works from composers John Cage, Claude Vivier and Iannis Xenakis. Their program includes new orchestrations of works by Canadian composer Claude Vivier, as well as classics of modern percussion repertoire, including Third Construction by John Cage and Pleiades by Iannis Xenakis.

On Thursday Feb. 2 the University of Victoria’s SONIC LAB under the direction of Ajtony Csaba and Christopher Butterfield perform an evening of new music including Gavin Bryars’ iconic work from 1971, Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet. This work features an unknown homeless man singing a brief line of music, which gradually evolves through Bryars’ orchestral accompaniment. The work  is a tribute to the homeless man’s nobility and simple faith. “Although he died before he could hear what I had done with his singing, the piece remains as an eloquent, but understated testimony to his spirit and optimism,” said Bryars.

With a reputation for superb performance and ambitious programming, Aventa has established itself as one of Canada’s leading contemporary music ensembles.  On Friday, Feb. 3 Aventa presents the music of Bryars alongside Canada’s Tony Genge and England’s Thomas Adès. Having long been a champion of Bryars’ work, Aventa recently recorded The Sinking of the Titanic at the Banff Centre and will present the premiere his newly commissioned opera Marilyn, Forever in January 2013. For this performance, Aventa welcomes guest artists Benjamin Butterfield, Anne Grimm and Bryars (double bass) in the composer’s Eight Irish Madrigals.

On Saturday, Feb. 4 the festival comes to a close with Bryars’ classic work from 1969, The Sinking of the Titanic. Under the direction of Victoria Symphony Music Director Tania Miller, this performance marks the 100th anniversary of the tragedy. The concert also features Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s If Bach had been a bee-keeper, Bryars’ The Porazzi Fragment (for 21 solo strings) and Michael Oesterle’s Territio Verbalis with solo trumpet virtuoso Louis Ranger.