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With over 40 concerts planned at over 13 venues in 10 days, it’s hard to pick out just which performances will shine at this year’s 12th Annual MusicFest Vancouver. Whether your taste is classical, jazz, or world music, there’s something for everyone at this music lover’s festival. This overview just may do the trick.

Odlum Brown Gala Opening Concert
Here to Stay: The Gershwin Experience
Date: Friday, August 10, 8pm
Venue: Orpheum Theatre, Smithe at Seymour

The Canadian premiere of a multimedia concert event at the historic Orpheum Theatre will celebrate one of the greatest teams of collaborators in the history of American music.

Sylvia McNair
[Sylvia McNair]

Renowned pianist and Gershwin interpreter Kevin Cole will serve as the opening gala evening’s guide. The brilliant singer Sylvia McNair, vocalist/tap sensation Ryan VanDenBoom, and Grammy Award-winning Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (led by guest conductor Leslie Dala), join together for a unique and entertaining insight into the legendary duo, George and Ira Gershwin.

La Bottine Souriante
[La Bottine Souriante]

La Bottine Souriante Rocks the Vogue
Date: Tuesday, August 14, 8pm
Venue: Vogue Theatre, 918 Granville Street

Be prepared to party as MusicFest Vancouver presents the sensational group La Bottine Souriante at the Vogue. Featuring big brass, step dancing, fiddles, and fun, this world famous ensemble of Québécois artists will have you dancing in the aisles to their infectious combination of pure folk music infused with a dash of jazz and salsa!

La Bottine Souriante is a living legend of French North American roots music. They’ve sold over half a million CDs, and have four Gold and three Platinum albums to their credit. The members of “The Smiling Boot” have crossed borders the world over and left in their wake countless enchanted fans, including a worldwide television audience of billions for their acclaimed performance in the Closing Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

G. F. Handel’s Orlando
Date: Wednesday, August 15, 7:30 pm
Venue: Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, UBC

Early Music Vancouver presents an opera-in-concert performance featuring Vancouver’s Pacific Baroque Orchestra and an all-star cast of early music singers. Premiered in 1733, Orlando was composed at the height of Handel’s operatic powers, and this performance is the embodiment of his genius. Musically remarkable, emotionally gripping, and performed with consummate skill: it’s a summer early music event not to be missed.

Pink Martini. Photo credit: Autumn de Wilde
[Pink Martini. Photo credit: Autumn de Wilde]

Pink Martini: Shaken & Stirred
Date: Friday, August 17, 8 pm
Venue: Orpheum Theatre, Smithe at Seymour

Dress up for a grand night of seriously cool music as Pink Martini brings its lush ‘60s technicolor sound to a Vancouver summer night. Pink Martini offer a highly polished blend of multilingual musical virtuosity in a combination of class and kitsch, swooning nostalgia, and deliriously romantic melodies. Pink Martini draws inspiration from the romantic Hollywood musicals of the 1940s and ‘50s with a more global perspective. Like musical archeologists digging through scores and recordings of years past, Pink Martini rediscovers beautiful songs – bridging the divide between highbrow and pop culture.

Deux Pianos: Hommage à Debussy
Date: Saturday, August 18, 8 pm
Venue: Vancouver Playhouse, 601 Hamilton at Dunsmuir

One of the great pillars of musical modernism, Debussy is “the composer without whose investigations of texture, colour, form and feeling, the vast majority of 20th century music could not have been written.” To mark the 150th anniversary of Debussy’s birth, MusicFest Vancouver welcomes two of Debussy’s foremost exponents, French pianists Philippe Cassard and François Chaplin. In this recital for four hands and two pianos, the artists celebrate a genre that Debussy took immense pleasure in playing with friends throughout his life. Cassard and Chaplin will perform a program that includes the sensual Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, the jaunty Petite Suite, a recently rediscovered piano version of the Première Suite pour Orchestre, and more.

New-York-Voices: Darmon Meader, Lauren Kinhan, Kim Nazarian, Peter Eldridge
[New York Voices: Darmon Meader, Lauren Kinhan, Kim Nazarian, Peter Eldridge]

World at the Garden: New York Voices
Date: Sunday, August 19, 7 pm
Venue: VanDusen Botanical Garden

MusicFest Vancouver closes with an al fresco evening featuring New York Voices – cool vocal jazz on a hot summer night on the Great Lawn of VanDusen Botanical Garden. Celebrating their 25th year, this Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble is renowned for both their excellence in jazz and the art of group singing. Like the great groups before them (think Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, Singers Unlimited, and Manhattan Transfer), they have learned from the best and taken the art form to new levels.

Rooted in jazz, New York Voices calls on influences ranging from R&B, Brazilian, classical, and pop music to create a fresh, exciting sound. They’ve travelled the globe performing with artists such as Bobby McFerrin, Nancy Wilson, George Benson, and the Count Basie Orchestra. Bring a picnic and settle in for a vocal jazz treat.

Legends: The Whitening of the Ox and The Firebird
Date: Sunday, August 12, 8 pm
Venue: Vancouver Playhouse, 601 Hamilton at Dunsmuir

MusicFest Vancouver is proud to present the Turning Point Ensemble in Legends, a performance that incorporates multi-media components in a compelling musical response to works of the past. Jeffrey Ryan’s recent commission is based on The Whitening of the Ox (Inside the Zen Ox Pictures) by Canadian poet K.V. Skene.

This extended vocal/instrumental work incorporates 15th century illustrations by Tenshō Shūbun (taken from a Chinese fable), and features Canadian baritone Tyler Duncan. Just as an Oxherd domesticates a beast, the series depicts the Zen Buddhist concept representing the taming of the disordered mind and the ultimate attainment of enlightenment.

Stravinsky’s landmark ballet score The Firebird undergoes a metamorphosis at the hand of BC composer Michael Bushnell (from TPE’s Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award winning production). It is inspired by a Russian legend of the adventures of young prince Ivan and his search for the most beautiful bird in the world: The Firebird.

Gryphon Trio
[Gryphon Trio]

Gryphon Trio with Patricia O’Callaghan: Broken Hearts & Madmen
Date: Thursday, August 16, 8 pm
Venue: Orpheum Annex, 2nd Floor, 823 Seymour Street

The Gryphon Trio teams up with vocalist Patricia O’Callaghan (hailed by Billboard as “the most promising cabaret performer of her generation”) to present their genre-stretching concert of songs and tangos from the Americas. O’Callaghan trained as an opera singer but was soon drawn to the music of Leonard Cohen and Kurt Weill. A multilingual performer who has recorded everything from Erik Satie to Bob Dylan, O’Callaghan fell in love with Hispanic music while living in Mexico as a teenager.

The engaging program for Broken Hearts & Madmen includes songs by Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, Lhasa de Sela, Laurie Anderson, Elvis Costello, Astor Piazzolla and more, showcasing the Gryphon Trio at its adventurous and groundbreaking best. Beautiful songs sung in an intimate cabaret setting by a renowned singer in collaboration with an internationally acclaimed piano trio – this is sure to be a festival highlight and seating is limited; it’s advised to get tickets early for this one.

Cristina Braga with Ricardo Medeiros & Sal Ferreras: Harpa Bossa Jazz
Date: Monday, August 13, 5:30 pm
Venue: Christ Church Cathedral, 690 Burrard at Georgia

From the tropical beaches of Rio de Janeiro in the late 1950s, a “new beat” started a musical craze. A sensual mixture of Brazilian rhythms, American jazz, and Portuguese lyrics, Bossa Nova became an international sensation. Stan Getz’s 1964 recording of The Girl from Ipanema with João & Astrud Gilberto spent 96 weeks in the US charts! At home in both popular and classical music, Cristina Braga is principal harpist with the Rio de Janeiro Symphony and has worked as a soloist with many ensembles. She is a compelling vocalist with a deep melancholy in her voice that seems specially carved for the compositions of Tom Jobim, Luiz Bonfá, Roberto Menescal and other masters of Música Popular Brasileira.

Jayme Stone
[Jayme Stone]

Jayme Stone: Bach to Africa and Back
Date: Wednesday, August 15, 5:30 pm
Venue: Christ Church Cathedral, 690 Burrard at Georgia

Jayme Stone makes music inspired by folk traditions from around the world. His latest album, Room of Wonders, includes works from Norway, Sweden, Bulgaria, Brazil, Italy and North America. Stone thrives on unexpected inspiration: Japanese poetry, Brazilian literature, even instruments found while traveling in remote Malian villages. His Juno Award-winning albums both defy and honor the banjo’s long role in the world’s music, turning historical connections into compelling music.

In a specially selected set for MusicFest Vancouver, this world traveller will include many classical transcriptions, including arias, two-part inventions and fugues by J.S. Bach, as well as a passepied by Claude Debussy.

Borealis String Quartet
[Borealis String Quartet]

Guitarist Daniel Bolshoy with Borealis String Quartet: Fandango
Date: Monday, August 13, 10:30 am
Venue: Christ Church Cathedral, 690 Burrard at Georgia

Fire and passion ignite on stage as Vancouver’s Borealis String Quartet and internationally recognized guitarist Daniel Bolshoy kick off the Morning Chamber Music series with a program guaranteed to delight on a summer morning. With works ranging from the Schubert-infused melodies of Tedesco’s Quintet to an exploration of dance forms from the 18th to 20th centuries, this concert looms outside the lines of traditional classical playing traditions. It’s a joyous and fun-filled program that will leave audiences wanting more.

Michael Dirk
[Michael Dirk]

Casavant Frères: 100 Years of Good Vibrations
Date: Saturday, August 11, 11 am
Venue: Holy Trinity Anglican Church, 1440 West 12th Avenue at Hemlock

Self-described “organblasterMichael Dirk showcases the mighty Casavant Frères Opus 485 pipe organ in a lighthearted performance to mark its centenary. Exactly 100 years ago – August 11, 1912 – the doors of Chalmers Presbyterian Church (now Holy Trinity) opened at the corner of Hemlock and 12th, and the first chords resounded from the 2,271 pipes of this historic instrument.

This celebratory concert includes works by J.S. Bach, a tribute to Virgil Fox’s “Heavy Organ” tours from the ‘70’s, Healey Willan’s magnum opus Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue, Denis Bedard’s Variations on “Old Hundredth” – plus improvisations to a Laurel & Hardy silent movie, complete with popcorn for the audience!

A keyboard cam and projection system will put you alongside the artist as Michael Dirk works his keyboard wizardry, and you are invited to visit the display of organ pipes and workings at intermission.

MusicFest Vancouver takes place from August 10 to 19. Detailed information and concert schedules are available online.

Tickets for MusicFest concerts may be purchased through Tickets Tonight at 1.877.840.0457 or online, with the following exceptions:

Tickets to La Bottine Souriante Rocks the Vogue are available online or by phoning 604.569.1144.
The Early Music Concerts are available through Early Music BC or by phoning 604.732.1610.
Tickets for Chan events are available online or by phoning 1.855.985.2787.
Admission to the Music in the Garden: BMO Family Day is included in the Garden’s regular admission price.
Jazz at the Cellar tickets are available exclusively through Cory Weed’s Cellar Jazz Club, 604.738.1959.

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