By Kyle Wells
The University of Victoria’s School of Music is marking its 50th anniversary and is inviting everyone, from alumni to faculty to the public to join in the celebrations.
The department started in 1967, a few years after the university itself had opened. Part of a push for fine arts, the department started small but grew dramatically in 1969 when a number of faculty were hired from the United States to come up and improve the program.
That same year the department’s current director, Christopher Butterfield, entered university at UVic, eventually ending up in the music department, studying harpsichord and composition.
“I spent four very happy years playing and learning and composing,” Butterfield said. “It was a good time.”
After graduating, Butterfield spent many years in the United States and Toronto, before making his way back to the West Coast in 1992 to teach in the department he had graduated from. Now he is at the helm of the department, full circle from where he started and excited to be part of the 50th celebration.
“It’s a very strong community and always has been,” Butterfield said. “That spirit’s never changed.”
To celebrate this community and the history of the department, the School of Music has put together a packed fall/winter lineup of performances, workshops, talks and events for current students, faculty, alumni and the public at large.
“I have to say, I’ve been doing this for a long time, but [the lineup] is the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen us put out,” said Butterfield. “There’s a lot of major people and major events.”
The signature event of the anniversary season will be the Gala Concert on Saturday, Dec. 2, which will see guest Timothy Vernon, founding artistic director of Pacific Opera Victoria, conduct the UVic Chorus and Orchestra through a series of pieces by Handel, Hindemith and Beethoven. School of Music faculty pianist Arthur Rowe and trumpeter Merrie Klazek will also appear as soloists for a work by Shostakovich. Plus, of course, there will be cake.
“That’s a major event that’s part of a whole alumni gala weekend for people to come and revisit the school,” said Butterfield.
On Friday, Sept. 29, violinist James Ehnes will lead a free masterclass with School of Music string sections in the MacLaurin Building. Ehnes has performed in over 35 countries on five continents and is one of Canada’s most beloved violinists.
“That’s a major coup, to bring somebody like him in,” said Butterfield.
CBC Radio’s On the Island host Gregor Craigie will add his voice as narrator during a Faculty Chamber Concert and Dinner: French Connections on Saturday, Oct. 14, featuring such entrees as Poulenc, Stravinsky and Saint-Saens. For this night, Owen Underhill, School of Music conductor, will join faculty and alumni on stage, with special guests, for this celebratory concert of stories and songs.
Polaris Prize winner Tanya Tagaq will be joined by Element Choir director Christine Duncan for a guest talk and workshop on Tuesday, Oct. 17. Tagaq is a Canadian Inuk experimental vocalist who blends throat singing with electronic, punk and rock music, and has played to packed festivals and concert halls all over the world.
For more information and a full lineup of events visit https://finearts.uvic.ca/music/.