Conductor Pierre Simard is marking 10 years with the Vancouver Island Symphony with an anniversary concert on April 21. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Vancouver Island Symphony ends 2017-18 season at the Port Theatre on April 21

Concert marks conductor Pierre Simard's 10 years with the organization

The Vancouver Island Symphony is bringing an end to its year in concerts with a show celebrating conductor and artistic director Pierre Simard’s 10 years with the organization.

But although the concert is named in his honour, Simard says he’s just another performer onstage, albeit one who translates music physically rather than aurally.

“I didn’t treat this season necessarily as my 10th anniversary because I would find that too much of a self-indulgent, egotistical, selfish gesture,” he said.

“An orchestra is really a greater sum than all the parts that make it up and the very first part is the musicians.”

The performance, called Pierre’s 10th Anniversary Concert, comes to the Port Theatre on April 21 and will include Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor. Simard conducted the piece in his first performance with the VIS, and therefore bookends the decade. He added that Ode to Joy suits any celebratory occasion and after nearly 200 years its message is still relevant.

“Essentially, beyond the joy aspect, it really is a call for humanity to become brothers, so it’s a call to peace…” Simard said.

“The strength of that message, even though it’s been played and overplayed and everybody knows the main melody, I find that it cannot lose its force.”

The VIS will also play a contemporary piece by Calgary composer Arthur Bachmann, a flute concerto that was written with Beethoven’s Ninth in mind called Daughter of Elysium. The performance will feature Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra principal flautist Sara Hahn, a colleague of Simard’s when he was associate conductor in Calgary.

Simard described Bachmann’s work as clear, coherent and accessible without sacrificing quality. He said the composer has the rare talent to find “imaginative and new colours with a traditional orchestra.”

“I try not to program according to my own tastes, but there’s something in Arthur’s music, and I’m also a composer, which I really understand,” Simard said.

With 10 years with the VIS behind him, Simard said one chapter is closing and another is beginning, and while he’s happy with what he’s accomplished with the symphony, he’s still not satisfied. Simard said he’s becoming impatient with the recognition of the value of cultural institutions in Nanaimo and that city needs “A bit of a nudge.”

“It’s easy to hold a political discourse where you say, ‘We want to revitalize the downtown area’ and ‘We want a vibrant city.’ OK, what exactly are we doing for that to happen?” he asked, later adding, “If you think small, you sow small and you harvest small. You might harvest small with a grand vision, but there’s a chance that it goes beyond what you originally thought.”

WHAT’S ON … Pierre’s 10th Anniversary Concert comes to the Port Theatre on Saturday, April 21 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $33 to $54, $18 for students and $5 eyeGO passes available.


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