The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) is returning to Whistler this weekend to perform two separate shows on Friday and Saturday night (July 20 and 21).
The VSO is no stranger to outdoor concerts here in the mountains, having performed throughout the '90s at Ego Bowl, the green ski run next to the Roundhouse.
“There was one occasion in August 1992 when our concert was snowed out at the top of Whistler Mountain,” said Alan Gove, VP of Marketing and Sales for VSO. “Other than that our experiences in Whistler have just been fantastic. Honestly, this organization could not be more thrilled to be back.”
The VSO did perform on a floating dock last year on Lost Lake, however that concert was a private show for a corporate event. The two free concerts this year are in partnership with the RMOW's Festivals, Events and Animations program and will take place at Olympic Plaza.
“This is where the Symphony belongs in the summer,” said Gove. “There's just something about the setting of Whistler and the VSO, they come together in such a magical way and people will see that on both nights.”
The choice of music for the Whistler concerts has been tailored to fit both the pristine mountain setting of Whistler and Blackcomb and the younger, more casually dressed audience that will be seated on the lawn of Olympic Plaza.
The Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major, considered one of the most difficult violin concertos in classical music, will feature the lead performance of maestro violinist Karen Gomyo.
“The music, more than anything, is a match for the monumental geography of Whistler,” said Gove. “It couldn't be more perfect – it's big, it's bold, it's exciting. There are melodies that people will recognize, there are parts where people will be blown away and there other are parts where your heart will melt.”
Tchaikovsky is but one half of Saturday night's performance. How does one follow up a world class violinist smashing the works of Russia's most prestigious composer?
With Beethoven, of course.
The fabled Symphony No. 5, is one of the best-known and widely performed compositions in classical music. The four note opening motif of “Bam bam baaaaam, bam bam baaaaaaaaaam” has appeared in all walks of pop culture from Looney Tunes cartoons to modern Hollywood films. The ending Victory March of Beethoven's 5th will be an epic ending on Saturday evening, capping off a stellar weekend of classical music in the mountains.
Friday night will be a different type of concert with a more casual presentation of lighter classics, setting the tone for the weekend and enticing concert goers to return for the following night. Gomyo will perform one of the most elegant pieces written for violin and orchestra, the tear-jerking Thais Meditation by operatic composer Massenet.
“People will recognize as soon as they hear the opening four bars. It's meant to be five to seven minutes worth of breathtaking beauty,” said Gove.
The rest of Friday's program will also include the work of Grieg, the famous “Hall of the Mountain King,” a piece that slowly climbs towards a climactic crescendo, commonly heard in TV commercials and covered by numerous heavy metal bands. Some other shorter pieces will be on the program for Friday including excerpts from Bizet's opera “Carmen,” and Slavonic dances by Dvorak.
While this weekend will attract a lot of families and people of mature musical taste, the VSO knows how to engage the culturally curious 20-30 age range that resides in Whistler.
“In our experience, when that age (group) comes to the Orpheum and hears music like this they are totally blown away. In fact they dig it at least as much as anyone else sitting in that audience. I envy that 20 year old who is seeing a symphony orchestra perform this music for the first time. It's an amazing feeling.”
The concerts would not be complete without the master at the helm, world-renowned conductor John Morris Russell. He is the voice of the VSO at live performances and has a tremendous amount of experience conducting concerts in outdoor settings. With a funny and engaging personality, Russell will introduce each piece, telling revealing stories about how the composers came to write the music his orchestra is playing that night.
The VSO is playing at Olympic Plaza on Friday and Saturday night (July 20 and 21) beginning at 8 p.m. Admission is free and early seating is recommended.