By contributor Kelly Whiteside

The Vancouver Island Symphony (VIS) kicked off their 22nd season on October 22 with the first show in their series entitled Lifting the Human Spirit. This series aims to explore the musical spirit of four centuries while also reflecting our own time and home on Vancouver Island.

This season’s first show encapsulated the symphony spirit, showcasing songs by Calixa Lavallée, Keon Birney, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Antonin Dvorak. In the spirit of the symphony, the musicians took the audience on an emotional ride with this varied repertoire, with the final goal of lifting our spirits.

The VIS began the show by bringing the audience to their feet for Lavallée’s “O Canada,” and filling our souls with pride—not only in our country, but in our successful symphony as well.

Pierre Simard, the VIS artistic director, introduced the next piece, “Moriarty”, with a dramatic vision of an angel destroying cities. He asked that we let the music, composed by the symphony’s own Birney, fill our soul and chase away our demons.

The epic chase continued with the first movement of Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto no. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18”. After the 11-minute movement, the audience let out an audible sigh of relief before moving onto the peaceful second movement and joyful third movement. This marked the end of the first half. With our spirits lifted, we took a break for intermission, preparing ourselves for the final piece: Antonin Dvorak’s “Symphony no. 8 in G Major, Op. 88”.

This final song felt separate from the rest of the chosen repertoire. It did not continue with the story we were presented with at the beginning, but wrote its own story instead, taking the audience through a wide range of emotions. Despite the upbeat ending, I did not feel my spirit as lifted as I did after the first half. However, it still fit the spirit of the symphony with the range of emotions it showered upon the audience.

Overall, the chosen repertoire worked well to tell a story and lift our spirits as intended. It fit well with the time of year, with Halloween approaching and ghost stories all around. Listening to a song composed by a member of our own symphony was refreshing, as was seeing the passion in the musicians as they moved their bodies with the music.

The VIS offers a wide variety of music this season, from baroque to rock. There’s something for everyone. Check back next issue for a review of their new mini-series, Symphony Soundbites.