• Sarah Kwok

Blueridge Chamber Festival - August 4-25

The Blueridge Chamber Festival is celebrating their 10th anniversary with a line-up of fantastic performances from August 4-25. Read on as Dory Hayley, co-artistic director of the festival, talks collaborations, how the festival has grown in the past decade, and presenting classical music as a vibrant, living art.

So, tell me about the festival

The 2019 Festival, based on the theme “COME TOGETHER,” is an exuberant and open-hearted celebration of chamber music, the music of friends. The program revolves around several of the most iconic works of chamber music ever written, including Brahms' powerful Piano Quartet no. 2, Elgar’s expansive Piano Quintet, and Grieg's soaring String Quartet. In grand Blueridge tradition, these pieces are presented in dialogue with newer and rarer works, like 2019 JUNO winner Ana Sokolovic’s Commedia dell’Arte, Imant Raminsh's String Quartet no. 3, and Bruno Maiuri’s riotous audience-participatory La Fiesta, allowing audiences to approach both the beloved and the less familiar with an open ear.

Some highlights include a sunset performance of Schoenberg’s legendary Pierrot Lunaire in the heart of Mountain View Cemetery, appearances by two of Canada’s most celebrated string quartets (the Bozzini Quartet and the Borealis String Quartet), a mostly Brahms program featuring the delightful Erato Ensemble, a world premiere of Composer in Residence Camilo Mendez’ engrossing new piece for “prepared” soprano, prepared flute, and 3 pianists, and a 10th birthday concert with repertoire chosen by the public!

Can you elaborate about your theme of 'come together'?

Chamber music is all about connection and relationship. It’s about listening to each other, and making decisions together, and making sure that every voice is heard. That’s why we think it’s so relevant in today’s world!

So for our 10th anniversary we really wanted to focus on the many ways we can connect and bring people together through music. Our season includes exciting co-productions with some of the local organizations we most admire: Little Chamber Music, Redshift Music Society, the Polygon Gallery, and the Erato Ensemble. We’re also reaching beyond the classical music world, presenting our Choreographer in Residence, Anishinaabe/French-Canadian/Welsh dance artist Olivia C. Davies creating with a wonderful group of both professional and community dancers, as well as emerging Tahltan/Tlinglit performer and sound artist Edzi’u. We even asked for the public’s help in the creative process: we’re ending our Mainstage series with a concert where the music is chosen by online public voting.

As artistic directors we try to challenge ourselves and question our assumptions every year. Last year, for example, our challenge to ourselves was to re-examine how we think of the “classical music canon.” We ended up discovering some pieces (mainly by female composers) that are almost never performed, but that are every bit as gorgeous and exciting as the so-called (and rarely questioned) monuments of the repertoire.

This year our challenge was to cede control of the programming process to some extent. I especially have always been extremely controlling and perfectionist in my approach to programming, so this was tough for me! But we are very excited and proud of the results, and looking forward to seeing how our audience reacts!

Artistic Directors Dory Hayley and Alejandro Ochoa

Also, congratulations on your 10 year anniversary! How have you seen the festival change throughout the years?

We actually started Blueridge as an excuse to play with our friends! Alejandro had just moved to Vancouver after finishing his doctorate at McGill, and I was still living in Montreal, so we thought it would be fun to invite some old friends and some new friends and put on a few fun concerts to share our love of collaboration with the local community. That first year we did 3 concerts at a church in North Van. This year we’re presenting 38 artists in 10 concerts at 4 different venues! So the festival has grown…a lot! But we hope it still maintains that original spirit of friendship and intimacy.

Alejandro, the festival's other artistic director, also adds "We are naturally delighted to be celebrating our 10th anniversary, but to be honest, also surprised that we didn't end up throwing in the towel at any point. An unbelievable amount of work goes behind the scenes. The festival might only last a couple of weeks for the public, but we really run around all year trying to make it happen. By the time the festival is ready to begin we are exhausted. But then everything changes, artists arrive, rehearsals start to take place, the magic unfolds, music fills every evening, and it all seems transformed and suddenly worthwhile. I'm counting on it."

The North Shore News said that your festival is "not what people usually expect from a chamber music festival!" - what is it that people usually expect, and what do you do instead?

I think when a lot people think of a chamber music festival, they imagine something very formal and a little dusty. We do everything we can to make people feel welcome and included in the process. It’s also very important to us to present classical music as a vibrant, living art, and not some relic of the past! So while we love programming audience favourites— this year we have Brahms Piano Quartet in G Minor, Elgar Piano Quintet, Grieg String Quartet, etc. — we like to include them on programs with newer works that really put the composers’ goals into perspective. Our idea is that this empowers people to listen more critically and more actively to both the newer music and the pieces they’ve heard a hundred times.

Paolo Bortolussi

Which event is your favourite? No, I'm just kidding, that's like having to name your favourite child. Instead I'll ask how is the voting for the Chamber Music Party going? Are there clear fore-runners, or are the votes pretty evenly distributed (and are there any surprises in the voting)?

The online voting has been a huge surprise! And it’s been very consistent--the frontrunners were clear from the very first day of the poll. I absolutely love the program the public has come up with (which will remain a secret until the night of the concert!) but I would never in a million years have guessed what they would choose. But really, that’s the hallmark of any good collaboration: the end result is completely different from what any one person would have done on their own.

Collaboration at it's finest! The Blueridge Chamber Festival runs from August 4-25 with various events throughout the city, so there's lots to choose from (or just go to all of them!)

More information: https://www.blueridgechamber.org/

Dory Hayley: https://www.dorotheahayley.com/

Alejandro Ochoa: http://alejandroochoa.com/

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