Introduction by Bob Fraser
Touring with an orchestra is a monumental task, usually only reserved for orchestras with the largest budgets in the largest marketplaces. Even run-outs to nearby locations can be daunting: there are musical instruments to move as well as people; there has to be a local promoter in place to sell tickets to a public that is unfamiliar with the orchestra; our own staff and board have a huge job in planning the itinerary and raising the money just to get off the Island; and of course, the high level of concentration and physical fitness required to perform orchestral music is affected by the stresses of travelling.
The Victoria Symphony has done about ten tours in its history; almost all of them have been to communities on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast. Occasionally the orchestra went into the interior of British Columbia, and once, under Paul Freeman, to a few centres in the western United States. Most of these tours were done with small orchestras of no more than 35 musicians.
So when our Music Director, Tania Miller, announced that we were going to perform in Québec City, Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver in addition to two concerts on our home turf, with an orchestra of 58 musicians, we were all at once excited and a bit terrified at the same time. Would we be able to pull it off? Would people in places as large as Toronto and Vancouver come out to hear us? This sort of tour, by an orchestra our size, has rarely, if ever been done in Canada.
Far be it from us as musicians to brag about our own abilities, but we think we represented Victoria brilliantly on this tour. We took along a programme with four virtuosic showpieces: a commission from our most recent composer-in-residence (Entr’actes by Michael Oesterle), the piano concerto of Edvard Grieg with the amazing Canadian virtuoso pianist Stewart Goodyear, and two masterworks of twentieth century ballet music: the suite from Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and the breakthrough work that launched the career of Igor Stravinsky, The Firebird.
Four of us have written about the tour here (one write-up for each leg of the tour), and I think you’ll find that we had a great time not only performing, but also bonding as an orchestra on the road. Enjoy…