Mozart and Mendelssohn up next for Bach on the Rock

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When Jean-Sébastien Lévesque was chosen as one of three artistic directors to work with the Bach on the Rock (BOTR) Chamber Orchestra and Choir for their 2021-22 season, he decided to jump on a ferry from Vancouver and see the group’s concert at Fulford Hall on Nov. 6.

Like everyone in the hall that night, he was surprised when the lights went out just as the choir and musicians, led by artistic director Marco Vitale, were set to sing and play their first notes.

“I secretly hope a power outage will happen again,” he told the Driftwood with a smile when asked how he would respond to that same situation.

Lévesque said he was impressed by how the group adapted to the sudden loss of electricity.

“Bach on the Rock members asking for help from the audience showed that there was a strong sense of community. And it surely added to the event: dimmed cellphone lights can be seen as a modern form of candles.”

Lévesque, who received his extensive musical training in Québec where he was artistic director of two choirs, now lives in Vancouver. He will be leading the BOTR concert titled A Tale of Two Prodigies at Fulford Hall on Saturday, March 19 at 7 p.m. and has chosen repertoire by Mozart and Mendelssohn, some of which illustrates how they were musical prodigies. One of the pieces — Mozart’s Missa brevis in d minor, K. 65 — was written when he was only 12 years old.

“Even if it is not as elaborate as some of his later works, this mass already shows an incredible mastery of composition,” said Lévesque.

The concert will also include Mozart’s Violin Concerto #5, K. 219, featuring soloist Victor Fournelle-Blain of the Montreal Symphony, who is Lévesque’s longtime friend and colleague.

“Victor has this ability to focus and this passion about music that seems to never fail to get everyone involved in the music with him,” Lévesque said.

Mendelssohn pieces in the concert are The Hebrides Overture, Op. 26, and the Psalm 42 cantata, which the composer considered his most accomplished sacred work. BOTR welcomes guest soprano soloist Gwen Jamieson from Victoria for the cantata.

Lévesque has enjoyed working with BOTR members and looks forward to sharing the magic of a live concert with a Salt Spring audience.

“An acoustic concert is something that we’re not used to anymore, with sounds created not by a digital recording but by actual voices of actual people, by bow hairs grinding on a string, by someone blowing into a wind instrument,” he said. “It’s also an experience that we share with the person seated next to us; something that is subject to the very moment, to the possibility of a power outage. That’s not a connection that we can experience through a TikTok video. That’s not something that we can experience even with the best sound system.”

Tickets for the concert are available on the bachontherock.com website or at the door.

Vaccine passports must be shown at the door and masks worn during the concert.

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