After one curtailed season and one cancelled season, White Rock Concerts is back.
The subscription classical concerts series – an annual feature of Peninsula cultural life since its founding by artistic director emeritus George Zukerman some 65 years ago – has scheduled a new season for 2022, starting in January.
Scheduled are three concerts previously put on hold by COVID-19, plus one new concert, and early indications are that subscribers are more than ready for a new season, provided COVID-19 protocols are followed, according to White Rock Concerts board chair John Leighton and artistic directors Elizabeth and Marcel Bergmann.
And while long waiting lists for series memberships are a thing of the past, White Rock Concerts advises prompt action on subscription renewals – and new memberships – to avoid disappointment.
Espana! (Jan. 14) will combine two piano quartets with a four-piece percussion ensemble around the theme of favourite pieces celebrating Spain; while Duo Concertante (Feb. 18) will team the timbres and dynamic possibilities of violin and piano.
In The Young Beethoven (April 1) Zukerman will present a new ensemble dedicated to playing some of the composer’s earliest works, while The Best of Chor Leoni (April 29) will feature the singing and engaging stage presence of Vancouver’s internationally-celebrated men’s choir.
“We normally do seven concerts,” Leighton explained, “but since we’re starting in January we decided it was best to keep to these.”
“It’s about 60 per cent of our usual season,” said Elizabeth Bergmann (she and husband Marcel are best known for their dynamic concerts as the Bergmann Piano Duo).
There are a few new wrinkles necessitated by COVID-19 restrictions, Leighton and the Bergmanns explained.
Deciding on a 50 per cent occupancy limit, White Rock Concerts will offer two performance times for each Friday concert – one at 4:30 p.m. and one at 7:30 p.m. – at the series’ regular venue, White Rock Baptist Church (1657 140 St.).
“Although we could have 100 per cent houses right now we couldn’t be sure that provincial authorities wouldn’t cut us back to 50 per cent again,” Leighton explained.
And to minimize indoor exposure time – and discourage mingling – the concerts, generally an hour long for the coming season, will be presented without intermission.
As with all other live performances, concertgoers will have to present a B.C. Vaccine Card, plus photo ID – as well as their series membership cards – at the door. Proper wearing of masks will be required at all times, of course.
Early indications are that subscribers are reassured by the precautions and smaller houses, and subscriptions seem to be evenly split between choosing to attend 4:30 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. performances (one time option must be pre-selected for each subscriber for the entire season).
“I think, given our demographics, a lot of subscribers welcome a 4:30 performance,” Marcel Bergmann said, while noting that White Rock also aims to present music that appeals to younger audiences which isn’t just “your father’s CD collection.”
And, thanks to Leighton’s persistence at the computer keyboard, for the first time it is possible for White Rock Concerts subscribers to renew memberships – and others to apply as new members – completely online through a TicketBud event site accessed through the series’ website, although those who prefer can still mail in membership application forms in the traditional way.
“This has been on my to-do list for a long time; but if there were ever a time to get this done it would be now,” Leighton said.
The long-delayed Espana concert will bring together two quartets of pianists – the Bergmanns and Ann Louise-Turgeon and Edward Turgeon, and the Canadian Piano Quartet (Gael Chabot-Leclerc, Greg Samek, Daniel Tones and Colin Van de Reep) – and the four members of the Fringe Percussion Ensemble, in a performance sure to challenge some views of the possibilities of the piano as an ensemble instrument.
In instrumentation alone, this would make it one of the most unconventional performances in the season, although, as Elizabeth Bergmann notes, the program features “a lot of classical standards” – including the title piece by Chabrier and a new arrangement of Ravel’s Bolero.
Duo Concertante will feature the award-winning wife-husband team of Nancy Dahn (violin) and TimSteves (piano) performing Cesar Franck’s romantic masterpiece Sonata in A major, along with Beethoven’s joyful Spring Sonata.
“They’re one of the leading piano and violin duos,” Marcel Bergmann commented.
“They’re on tour currently, so it just fit perfectly to put them into the schedule,” Elizabeth Bergmann said.
The Young Beethoven concert is a COVID-delayed celebration of the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth – and a reminder that in his time he was “quite a musical revolutionary,” as Marcel Bergmann noted – featuring violinist Nancy DiNovo and clarinetist Jose Franch-Ballister and the entertaining and informative introductions of Zukerman.
Chor Leoni will feature the popular choir’s signature style and repertoire, including works by Whitacre, Lang and Esenvalds as well as “rollicking folk songs” and excursions into popular song.
“It’s going to be a wonderfully entertaining program,” Marcel Bergmann said. “They’re definitely one of the favourites of the White Rock Concerts audience.”