symphony orchestra

Winter 2019 concerts online

Catch up with our large and small ensembles online! Here are some of the recent concerts you can watch via our new Vimeo feed:

Debussy, Françaix, and John Luther Adams

UBC Symphony Orchestra

Jonathan Girard, conductor
Featuring Carlos Savall-Guardiola, clarinet

Françaix Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, Op. 36
Debussy La Mer
John Luther Adams A Northern Suite


Scenes V

UBC Symphonic Winds

Robert Taylor, conductor
Featuring Jose Franch-Ballester, clarinet*

J.S. Bach Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565
Luigi Bassi Rigoletto Fantasy*
Modest Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition


Stories

University Singers
Chamber Choir
UBC Choral Union

Graeme Langager, conductor and Director of Orchestral Activities

With guests
Demi Chao, Tiffany Chen, and Andrea Ciona, graduate student conductors

Eric Whitacre Five Hebrew Love Songs (featuring Eleanor Yu violin & Edward Park piano)
Graeme Langager I Will Lift Mine Eyes
Jen McMillan Don't Be Afraid
Music by Palestrina, Byrd, and Weelkes


Scenes VI

Symphonic Wind Ensemble
Concert Winds

Featuring Valerie Whitney, horn
Larry Knopp, trumpet
Jeremy Berkman, trombone

Norman Dello Joio Scenes from the Louvre
Michael Markowski City Trees
Bruce Carlson Toledo
Clifton Williams Symphonic Dance No. 3 “Fiesta”
John Adams Short Ride in a Fast Machine
Michael Martin Hereafter Calls
H. Owen Reed La Fiesta Mexicana (includes a Mariachi band led by UBC Music students Jonathan Lopez and Matheus Moraes)


Beethoven and Tchaikovsky

UBC Symphony Orchestra

Jaelem Bhate and Zane Kistner graduate student conductors

Beethoven Overture to Egmont, Op. 84
Tchaikovsky Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture
Beethoven Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21

For upcoming School of Music performances, check out our concert calendar.

Fall 2018 concerts online

Catch up with our large and small ensembles online! Here are some of the recent concerts you can watch via Livestream and Vimeo:

Poulenc and Vaughan Williams

UBC Symphony Orchestra and Choirs team up for a spectacular, term-ending performance at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts.

 

Scenes II

The UBC Symphonic Wind Ensemble performs works by renowned composer-in-residence Joel Puckett, Giovanni Gabrieli, and Kathryn Salfelder. Featuring DMA student and soloist Paul Hung, flute.

Silverman Winners’ Concert

Benjamin Hopkins, grand prize winner of the Silverman Piano Concerto Competition, performs Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major Op. 58 with UBC Symphony Orchestra. Also featuring competition winners Evgenia Rabinovich, Ayunia Saputro, and Aydan Con. Watch on Livestream

Mahler, Carruthers and Tsu

UBC Symphony Orchestra perform the Mahler masterpiece Das Lied von der Erde along with Taiwanese composer Tsang-Houei Hsu’s The Splendid Universe, Chinese Festival Overture, Op. 18, and Slippages, an exciting experimental piece based on the graphic scores of artist Deborah Carruthers. Watch on Livestream

Fall Choral Showcase

The University Singers, Chamber Choir, Choral Union and Combined Choirs sing works by Brahms, Dvořák, Haydn, Schubert, Copland and more. Watch on Livestream


For upcoming School of Music performances, check out our concert calendar.

Improvising the music of glaciers

Director of Orchestras Dr. Jonathan Girard and artist Deborah Carruthers discuss slippages, an exciting new collaboration that tackles climate change from an unusual angle

Jonathan Girard and Deborah Carruthers.

Jonathan Girard and Deborah Carruthers.

How do you create the music of a glacier?

Artist Deborah Carruthers was grappling with this question when she met Dr. Jonathan Girard, the School of Music’s Director of Orchestras, at a talk last year at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies. Carruthers was just emerging from months of intensive research into glaciers, on everything from their topography and ecology to their significance in different cultures and the threat they face from climate change.

In her talk she outlined an idea for a ‘graphic’ score — a sequence of images inspired by these enigmatic and threatened landscapes — that musicians could then interpret and perform.

The project seemed a little crazy, even to her. “I am not a musician, so the score was going to have no actual musical notation,” Carruthers says. “But when I explained all of this to Jonathan, he said—”

“I said, Tell me more!” Girard interjects, laughing. A crazy idea, maybe, but he was struck by Carruthers’s sense of urgency. “So we started talking, and we quickly realized that together we could do something that no one had done before: create an orchestral work about climate change that would be totally improvised from abstract visual art.”


WATCH: The slippages trailer video. Watch the full concert online

At the time, Carruthers was the Wall Institute’s inaugural artist-in-residence; together she and Girard decided that the Institute was an ideal place to incubate the collaboration. Girard quickly applied for, and received, a Wall Scholar Research Award, which “provides support for UBC faculty to spend one year in residence at the Peter Wall Institute, in a collaborative, interdisciplinary environment.”

Working with a palette of yellows, blues and greys similar to the hues she observed during her fieldwork in the Columbia Icefields, Carruthers painted the scores on special paper perforated at random with small holes. The idea was that, when stacked, they would mimic the layers of a glacier.

“Glaciers form slowly over thousands of years, layer by layer, from bottom to top. There are all these miniature ecologies that make each one unique, holes within the ice and on the surface. So as a glacier changes and holes form between the layers, the past is always revealing itself,” she says.

This notion of the past influencing the present would become one of the guiding principles behind the work.

But how do you go about translating abstract images into music? With their subtle colours and mixture of slashing lines and dribbly curls — not to mention the holes in the paper — the scores presented an unusual challenge.

Girard and Carruthers struck upon an ingenious solution. First, they created a sort of geography of the orchestra by mapping the seating arrangement onto the images themselves: “We created a transparent overlay of the seating chart and went page by page, figuring out which instruments would take responsibility for which parts of the images,” Girard explains.

But how do you go about translating abstract images into music?

“The fascinating thing was how, through this lens, the images suddenly made musical sense. The musicians looked at the depth and the saturation of the colours and began translating those into musical intensity, texture, and so on. They used the different types of brushstrokes as interpretive cues, too.”

Second, Girard and Carruthers mapped out the relationship between the pages, or layers, of the score — approximating what Carruthers calls the “language of glaciers.”

“We think of history as being chronological,” she says. “With glaciers the present is on the surface so you’re working from the present to the past. So what you’re revealing through the graphic scores is in a sense, their language: the way they ebb and flow and how, as they melt, thanks to climate change, these ancient histories are unlocked.”

In practical terms, this means that “as you go deeper into the score, you see the holes, where parts of the score two pages down become part of the page you’re on right now. So parts of the score begin to be played several pages before they are fully realized,” Girard says.

The UBC Symphony Orchestra debuted the piece, titled slippages, at the Chan Centre on October 5th, 2018. The months and weeks of planning and ‘structured’ improvisation produced a luminous, yearning experimental work that celebrates the beauty of the natural world while mourning its disappearance.

Following the premiere, Girard and Carruthers want to bring slippages to as many different audiences as possible.

“We think this project is really timely. The fact that slippages combines so many different disciplines, from science to visual art to music — speaks, we hope, to the urgent need to bring the best that humanity has to offer to bear on the problem of climate change. We’re not going to solve anything unless we work together,” Girard says.

Look out for information about upcoming performances on the School of Music website.


Banner graphic: Deborah Carruthers

Winter concerts on Livestream

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Watch the latest performances by the School of Music’s large and small ensembles on Livestream!

 

St. John Passion: Our grand, season-ending concert features an epic performance of the Bach masterpiece by UBC Choirs and Symphony Orchestra.

Peter and the Wolf: UBC Symphony Orchestra performs the Prokofiev classic, along with Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite and selections from Satie and Poulenc. With guest appearances by UBC President Prof. Santa J. Ono as Narrator.

Sanglots: Chansons of Love and Loss (Part 1 | Part 2): Terence Dawson, piano, and J. Patrick Raftery, voice, perform beautiful and melancholy works by Bizet, Fauré, Duparc, Barber and Poulenc.  

MOMENTmusic: UBC Symphonic Winds and Concert Winds perform works by John Philip Sousa, Frank Ticheli, David Maslanka, Ira Hearshen, and Aaron Copland

Bernstein, Prokofiev, Nielsen: UBC Symphony Orchestra performs Overture to Candide, Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major Op. 26, and Symphony No. 4 Op 29. With special guests Carter Johnson, winner of the 2018 UBC Concerto Competition, and Graduate Assistant Conductor Jaelem Bhate.

Unicornis Captivatur: UBC Choirs perform Mendelssohn, Sisak, Mozart, Gjeilo, Gabrieli and Paulus. 

“Decades later, you see the whole landscape”: Robert Silverman on performing Beethoven and finding your way as a young musician

By Andrew Hung

Robert Silverman

Robert Silverman

On Nov. 10th, renowned pianist and Professor Emeritus Robert Silverman performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 with the UBC Symphony Orchestra  to a packed house at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts.

Silverman, who first studied the Beethoven concerto as a student nearly 50 years ago, brought a lifetime of knowledge and accomplishment — and a continued sense of wonder — to the legendary work. And it showed.

“I can’t tell you how different the piece is [to me] now,” he says. “Some people who’ve been around for a while, every time they get asked to do something, they just take the music off the shelf, blow the dust off, and play it. Telephone in their last performance. I just can’t do that. I never have. This [concert] gave me the opportunity to relook at this great piece.”

For Silverman, the “Emperor” — as the concerto is popularly known — has lost none of its freshness and excitement. If anything, his appreciation of the concerto has deepened over years of studying, teaching, and performing.

“When one studies a piece for the first time, there are so many notes. Decades later, you just see the whole landscape. When you’re a pensioner, you don’t have the chops that you had when you were younger. But there are other things that are easier. Just understanding the piece, and how this fits in.”

Silverman’s “chops” are still formidable. The pianist pulled off the thunderous chords and virtuosic flourishes of the Beethoven masterwork with brilliant fluency. You can watch the performance online at https://livestream.com/ubcschoolofmusic. Here's a clip from a practice session:

There was a time, however, when Silverman could only dream of mastering a concerto like the “Emperor,” let alone performing with a symphony orchestra. Though he played piano throughout his childhood and youth, his parents never encouraged him to pursue music professionally. Instead, Silverman studied engineering at McGill and arts at Concordia. Making a living as a pianist seemed to be out of the question.

On finding his way as a young pianist

Even after he dropped out of engineering and headed to the Vienna Academy of Music to study piano, Silverman was unsure of the career possibilities that lay ahead. One day, he brought up the dilemma to his friend – what were they supposed to do once they returned to North America?

His friend’s answer was simple: “You’re going to go back, go to the States, get a doctorate and teach somewhere.”

“It was around then, in the early 1950s, that Silverman’s future alma mater, the Eastman School of Music launched its groundbreaking-at-the-time Doctorate of Musical Arts degree.” For the first time, musicians could graduate from school with hopes of obtaining a position at a university that would allow them to both teach and perform.

“That’s when I learned that there was some light at the end of the tunnel. I was lucky that I was talented and good, and also that the competition was not quite what it is today.”

That is not to say that Silverman didn’t face any competition at all. While at the Vienna Academy, he studied in the same class as future luminaries such as Mitsuko Uchida, known today for her interpretations of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Schumann. He remembers being daunted by the much younger virtuoso (she was 13, he was in his twenties).

Still, he persevered and returned to North America with a newfound sense of purpose. At Eastman Silverman studied with Cecile Genhart and Leonard Shure, the former assistant to Artur Schnabel, one of the great pianists of the 20th century. He absorbed the philosophies of both Genhart and Shure, who influenced him in different but significant ways. Genhart was all about “polishing and listening, getting the nitty gritty of it.” Shure, on the other hand, taught him how to play Beethoven in a way that stood out from other pianists. He remembers a masterclass that Shure gave on the piano sonatas as a life-changing experience. He also studied the “Emperor” concerto under Shure’s guidance.

It was these teachers who impressed upon him the value of a diverse and varied musical education — something that informed his own approach to teaching.

“It’s very important, I think, for everyone to be exposed to many different teachers,” he says. “I never felt that, when I taught, the students were my property. I tried to ensure that all my students got certain basic things that I understand, [such as] melody shaping and technique. On the other hand, I didn’t want them to sound like each other.”

The Robert and Ellen Silverman Piano Concerto Competition

One thing Silverman firmly believes is that all serious piano students, regardless of their teacher, should have the chance to play with a symphony orchestra.

“Professionally, if any pianist is going to “make it” as a career, playing a concerto and knowing how to do it is very important.  There are only so many opportunities to play with the orchestra. So my wife and I thought, rather than offer yet another scholarship, what can we do that would be good for the students and a good feature for the school?”

And so, the Robert and Ellen Silverman Piano Concerto Competition was born. Open to all UBC School of Music piano students, the first competition takes place in March 2018 and will run every two years thereafter. The grand prize? An opportunity to perform a concerto with the UBC Symphony Orchestra at the Chan Centre.

“[Maestro] Jonathan Girard is a great guy and a fabulous conductor. He doesn’t only conduct what he wants, but also considers the students’ needs,” Silverman says.

Learn more about the Robert and Ellen Silverman Piano Concerto Competition.

 

The Chan Centre at 20

Conductors James Fankhauser (left) and Jesse Read (centre) meet with Chan Centre architect Bing Thom backstage at the inaugural concert.  Photo: Daryl Kahn Cline

Conductors James Fankhauser (left) and Jesse Read (centre) meet with Chan Centre architect Bing Thom backstage at the inaugural concert. Photo: Daryl Kahn Cline

Celebrating one of Canada’s premier launching pads for talented young musicians

On April 8th, 2017, the UBC School of Music celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts with a special performance of Mozart’s Requiem and Dr. Stephen Chatman’s A Song of Joys, featuring UBC Choirs and Symphony Orchestra. The concert will be broadcast live on CBC Music at 8 p.m. PT / 11 p.m. EST as well.

Designed by renowned Vancouver architect Bing Thom, D.Litt. Honoris Causa (UBC), the Chan Centre is recognized as one of Canada’s premier musical venues thanks to its bold architecture and state-of-the-art acoustics. Over the past two decades it has also become an important launching pad for ambitious and talented student musicians.

“Without question, the Chan Centre experience is at the heart of our learning and artistic enterprise for everyone in the School. With this celebratory concert we want to thank the Chan family for their extraordinary vision and generosity, and to showcase the abundant talents of our students,” says Dr. Richard Kurth, Director of the UBC School of Music. 

For percussionist and M.Mus. student Julia Chien, performing at the Chan Centre is exciting — and a little terrifying. “It’s such a privilege. I’m always challenged beyond the limits of what I think I am capable of!” she says. Chien will perform the timpani solo in A Song of Joys.

Dozens of UBC Music students have parlayed their experiences at the Chan into exciting careers. Baritone Tyler Duncan (BMus ’98) credits the Chan with setting the stage (so to speak) for a life in music that has taken him around the world, with stints at the Metropolitan Opera, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and Carnegie Hall.

“I remember singing in the choir [at the inaugural concert] and being in awe of the amazing acoustics. I walked across that stage to receive my Bachelor of Music degree and one of my first professional jobs as a singer with Early Music Vancouver was there… the Chan feels like home to me,” Duncan says.

M.Mus student Julia Chien is the timpani soloist for  A Song of Joys .  Photo courtesy of Julia Chien

M.Mus student Julia Chien is the timpani soloist for A Song of Joys. Photo courtesy of Julia Chien

Other notable alumni include Cynthia Yeh, principal percussionist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, soprano Shirin Eskandani, who this year made her debut with the Met in Carmen, cellist Luke Kim of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and up-and-coming pianist Bogdan Dulu.

The Song of Joys concert features the next generation of incredible student musicians performing under the direction of School of Music conducting faculty Dr. Graeme Langager and Dr. Jonathan Girard.

The concert is dedicated to the memory of Bing Thom, who passed away suddenly in 2016. Thom’s vision and his attention to acoustic detail — he was an amateur musician, and an aspiring conductor before he decided to pursue architecture — are what made the Chan Centre the world-class facility it is today.

Visit http://music.ubc.ca/song-of-joys to read more about the anniversary concert and the history of the Chan Centre, including memories from School of Music faculty and alumni.

How to watch School of Music concerts online

Did you know? The School of Music broadcasts many of its large ensemble concerts online. You can watch incredible performances by our Symphony Orchestra, Choirs, and Bands via Livestream — as the concert happens in real time, or afterwards. Here's a selection of our winter performances at the Chan Centre for Performing Arts:

Holst, Saariaho & Navarro

  • UBC Symphony Orchestra
  • Jonathan Girard, Conductor
  • Aidan Mulldoon Wong, Clarinet
  • Plus a fascinating talk by Astronomy Prof. Jaymie Matthews

Bach & Laurisden

  • University Singers & Choral Union
  • Graeme Langager, Director of Choral Activities
 

New York Stories: Bernstein, Milhaud & More

  • UBC Symphonic Wind Ensemble
  • Robert Taylor, Conductor
  • Jaelem Bhate, Student Assistant Conductor

Tchaikovsky, Maunders, Williams & Southam

  • UBC Chamber Orchestra
  • Jonathan Girard, Conductor
  • Alex Toa, Student Conductor