Learning the ABCs of the VSO

It’s back-to-school time at UVic for classical music lovers

Mikki Reintjes has taught a music appreciation class for eight years based on the Victoria Symphony Orchestra’s performance schedule. The class has been full every year it has been offered.

When she began teaching a course in music appreciation based around the Victoria Symphony Orchestra season, Mikki Reintjes wasn’t sure how much interest there would be.

Eight years later, as it was the first time it was offered, the University of Victoria continuing education class is full with 30 participants.

“It’s (for) people who are taking their first steps in classical music,” Reintjes says of the students, who range in age from 20-somethings to people in their 70s.

The eight-session course corresponds with selections from the VSO’s performances for the 2011-12 season. This year, students will learn about Gustav Mahler’s rarely performed “Das Lied von der Erde,” as well as Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.”

“Not many will know that it is based on poems Vivaldi wrote,” Reintjes says of his recognizable four-part composition. “Each season has its own sonnet and the music depicts the words in each sonnet.”

Symphony musicians make guest appearances in the class, complete with instruments. “Lots of people have never seen these instruments up close,” Reintjes says.

Although the course covers only the classical music playlist, there are many other performances on the VSO’s schedule this fall and winter.

The six-part Beltone pop series features Hollywood composer Sean O’Loughlin leading Music of the Silver Screen, including themes from Gone With the Wind, Lord of the Rings and Jaws.

Another highlight of the season will be Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9.”

“Some thought there was a curse in writing a Ninth Symphony,” VSO maestra Tania Miller wrote in a letter to subscribers, “others just didn’t know how to respond to such a masterpiece.”

There is also a four-performance holiday concert series and a three-part royal tea series; the latter consists of lighter matinée repertoires.

VSO executive director Mitchell Krieger says staying versatile is just one reason the symphony had 10 sold-out concerts last year and also how the orchestra has managed to stay in the black six of the last seven seasons.

“In a relatively small city such as ours, we have to appeal to a lot of different people,” Krieger says.

The 50 shows that the Victoria Symphony is scheduled to perform “give people who want to hear a certain kind of music the opportunity to do that, but provides enough interest so that some subscribe to many different series.”

For more information about the UVic course, Masterworks of Symphonic Literature, go to www.learningthatshapes.ca/fall. To check out the VSO season lineup, visit www.victoriasymphony.ca.

vmoreau@oakbaynews.com

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