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Baroque fest promises to ‘reduce you to tears’

Baroque Festival 1
Victoria Children’s Choir soloists (clockwise from left) Hannah Bild-Enkin

When the 34-member Victoria Children’s Choir takes the stage at Alix Goolden Hall on Saturday (Feb. 5), the singers will take their cues from the orchestra while their director sits in the audience.

“The drama and the music is up to them to convey – they’re in charge,” said director Madeleine Humer, whose love for Baroque music developed when she was a soloist in Europe.

The concert is one of five happening in this year’s Pacific Baroque Festival, which features both local and international musicians.

The choir members, aged 10 to 17, take to the Baroque style in a way adults tend not to, Humer explained. “Baroque music was a very intimate music; they didn’t have the huge concerts halls as now.”

That way of listening left the musicians more free to play with the notes, she explained. “At the time, people were more open to inventiveness ... (and) the kids being full of play and willing to experiment, they find this extraordinarily exciting.”

The energy of the children has also brought an enthusiasm to the orchestra, said festival organizer Brian Groos.

Baroque music brings out the feelings, he said. “It’s happy music, it’s soulful music. It works on the emotions.”

While the festival introduces audiences to new music each year, Bach, Handel and Vivaldi have headlined in 2008, 2009 and 2010. This year’s festival, called Stylus Fantasticus: Music for Bishops and Emperors, highlights the work of lesser known composers Heinrich Biber and Johann Schmezer.

“They often drew on the folk tunes of the day. You’ll find some of this violin music heading almost toward Canadian folk music,” Groos said.

Biber and Schmezer were composers to the Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna and the Archbishop of Salzburg. At the end of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648, nation states grew in the area of Austria and Germany, Groos explained. “Those that had wealth used to show their wealth through music.”

The four-day festival offers a rare opportunity for Victorians to hear this music performed, Humer added.

“The music is just extraordinary. It will pull you out of your seat. It can reduce you to tears.”

Baroque fans rejoice

• Pacific Baroque Festival runs today (Feb. 3) through Sunday at various venues.

• A free concert, Vespers in 17th century Salzburg, happens Sunday at 4:30 p.m. at Christ Church Cathedral.

• For schedule information visit