Saturday, September 30, 2023
September 30, 2023

Bach on the Rock ready for a busy weekend

Fans of music from baroque, classical, romantic and contemporary eras have two concert events to enjoy on Salt Spring this weekend. 

On Saturday, June 10, Bach on the Rock (BOTR) chamber orchestra and choir will return to its namesake roots with a largely Bach repertoire for its final concert of the season. BOTR artistic director Jean-Sébastien Lévesque has put together a program of three contrasting J.S. Bach pieces for a concert called Bach to the Future, as well as a commissioned piece, set for Fulford Hall on Saturday, June 10 at 7 p.m.

Then on Sunday, June 11 at 3 p.m. at All Saints by-the-Sea, Lévesque and two colleagues — violinist Victor Fournelle-Blain from Montreal and Salt Spring horn player Margaret Fisher — will team up to present a recital of two works: Camille Saint Saëns’ Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor and Johannes Brahms’ Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano in E-flat major. This event is a fundraiser for the BOTR Music Society. 

Saturday’s concert includes Christ lag in Todes Banden, one of the earliest cantatas written by Bach for Easter and using the text of a hymn by Martin Luther. Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C major will feature BOTR musicians in a multi-movement work with uplifting French-style dances. The third Bach piece in the concert is the Violin Concerto in A minor, with soloist Fournelle-Blain. Lévesque said the concerto will be familiar to many.

When programming his first season as artistic director of BOTR, Lévesque wanted to support a young composer in creating a piece especially for his chamber choir and orchestra. He said Britney Do — a graduate of the Vancouver Academy of Music composition program who has trained in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestral Institute and plays violin with VSO School of Music ensembles — came highly recommended. Do’s piece called Prey to AI will premiere at the June 10 concert. 

As artificial intelligence is a huge topic in society these days, “It’s a work that fits in with this moment,” said Lévesque.

Fournelle-Blain and Lévesque have played together on a number of occasions. At the Sunday afternoon fundraiser at All Saints they will perform Saint Saëns’ Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor, a work known for its technical difficulty. San Francisco Symphony program writer Scott Foglesong described it as “a dazzling showcase for both instruments.”

Fournelle-Blain has played with numerous orchestras and ensembles, including the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, where he held the position of principal viola. He is currently part of the McGill University faculty. 

Fisher will join them for the beautiful Brahms trio. She was an active performer in several orchestras and chamber groups in Alberta before moving to Salt Spring Island, and now plays in concerts with the Vancouver Island Symphony, the Victoria Symphony, the Civic Orchestra of Victoria, the Sooke Orchestra and Bach on the Rock.

Along with leading ensembles in Québec and being the pianist for Les Voix de le Montagne before moving to Vancouver in 2020, Lévesque has played piano with well-known musicians and singers, developing a broad repertoire along the way. He was mentored by Jean Saulnier in achieving his master’s of music degree from the Université de Montréal, and participated in master classes with pianists and teachers such as Jean-Philippe Collard, Jacques Rouvier, Louis Lortie, John Perry and Marc Durand. Lévesque has been director of Bach on the Rock’s chamber orchestra and choir since the fall of 2022, developing a unique musical community and leading the group in presenting impactful concerts.

Tickets for both concerts ($25 for adults, $5 for youth) are available on the website or at the door.


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