(Victoria, BC) – The Pacific Baroque Festival returns to Victoria next month presenting five superb concerts from February 15 through 19.

With the theme of Music for Distracted Times, this year’s Festival will musically transport you back to Baroque England of the 17th and 18th centuries – a time when King Charles II sat on the throne and London was celebrated as a center of artistic expression. As Britain prospered, so did the arts as a flourishing middle class sought to enjoy the finer things in life, including music. The ‘rage for music,’ as it was known at the time, created an environment where composers such as the iconic Henry Purcell flourished. As a thriving center of commercial and cultural vitality, London also attracted musicians from across Europe, including Georg Frideric Handel, creating what today might be described as an incubator of musical ideas.

“In thinking about this year’s festival and our emergence from ‘distracted times’ back to our favourite concert halls, I was reflecting on previous eras of change and disruption and how music-making was affected. I decided to centre in on the music composed during the period of chaos and repression in England that followed the execution of Charles I in 1649, and the time of artistic freedom and prosperity that followed the restoration of the monarchy and the reign of the arts-loving Charles II. This led to 18th century London becoming a cosmopolitan centre of cultural activity, as it remains to this day, attracting talented performers and composers from far and wide. This year’s Festival is just a taste of the many musical flavours that traveled to, and originated from that time and place,” says Festival Artistic Director Marc Destrubé.

Destrubé (Baroque violin) heads an ensemble of leading early music artists including acclaimed soprano Arwen Myers (who most recently appeared in Victoria in Festive Cantatas on December 16), organist Mark McDonald (Asst. Music Director at Christ Church Cathedral), theirbist Lucas Harris, viola da gambists Eva Lymenstull and Natalie Mackie, Kathryn Wiebe (Baroque violin) and Marco Vitale (keyboard).  See Artists’ biographies here.

This year’s Pacific Baroque Festival will feature performances at the Alix Goolden Performance Hall (907 Pandora Ave) and Christ Church Cathedral (Quadra Street at Rockland Avenue).

The Concerts:

The Grand Tour – Organ works from around Europe

Date/Time: Wednesday, February 15 at 7:30 p.m. (pre-concert talk at 7 p.m.)

Location: Christ Church Cathedral

Artists: Marc Destrubé (Director, Baroque violin), Mark McDonald (organ), Kathryn Wiebe (Baroque violin), Eva Lymenstull (cello) and Natalie Mackie (viola da gamba)

The ‘Grand Tour’ was a tradition for upper-class Europeans to travel through Europe to visit the major cultural centers of Paris and Rome. Follow along a similar path and hear the many styles of the 18th century European organ in this tour de force of organ music from the English, French, German, and Italian schools, including works by Handel, Muffat and Vivaldi.

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The King’s Fiddler – Ayres for the Violin

Date/Time: Thursday, February 16 at 11:00 a.m.

Location: Alix Goolden Performance Hall

Artists: Marc Destrubé (Baroque violin, director), Natalie Mackie (viola da gamba), Marco Vitale (harpsichord and organ)

The restoration of the monarchy in 1660 allowed music-making to flourish and drew composer – performers to write virtuosic music for their instruments. The German violinist Thomas Baltzar settled in London, and in 1661 entered Charles II’s service as leader of the king’s private music ensemble, the ‘Four and Twenty Fiddlers.’ A later arrival was the Italian Nicola Matteis, who published several volumes of his ravishing Ayres for the Violin in the 1670s and 1680s. This programme includes works by Baltzar, Matteis, and John Jenkins amongst others.

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A Sad Pavan for these Distracted Times

Date/Time: Friday, February 17 at 7:30 p.m. (pre-concert talk at 7 p.m.)

Location: Alix Goolden Performance Hall

Artists: Marc Destrubé (Baroque violin, director), Arwen Myers (soprano), Kathryn Wiebe (Baroque violin), Eva Lymenstull (viola da gamba), Natalie Mackie (viola da gamba), Marco Vitale (harpsichord and organ), Lucas Harris (theorbo)

​Cultural activity in England during the 17th century was disrupted by political, religious, and social upheaval; Thomas Tomkins wrote his Sad Pavan two weeks after the execution of Charles I and after the destruction of his organ at Worcester Cathedral. He unfortunately did not live to see the restoration of the monarchy and the renewed enthusiasm for the arts brought about by the reign of Charles II. It inspired a rich period of musical innovation, with music written for the church, the court and private salons, and the evolution of a distinctly English musical style epitomized by the music of Henry Purcell.

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Foreign Inspiration – Visitors From Across the Channel

Date/Time: Saturday, February 18 at 7:30 pm (pre-concert talk at 7 p.m.)

Location: Alix Goolden Performance Hall

Artists: Marc Destrubé (Baroque violin, director), Arwen Myers (soprano), Kathryn Wiebe (Baroque violin), Eva Lymenstull (viola da gamba), Natalie Mackie (viola da gamba), Marco Vitale (harpsichord and organ), Lucas Harris (theorbo)

With the advent of public concerts, the fascination with opera, and the opening of the ‘pleasure gardens’, London, as the largest city in Europe, became a hive of musical activity during the 18th century. The plethora of musical opportunities attracted foreign musicians to visit or make their home there. One could hear the very latest compositions played by the best musicians of the day, most notably George Frederic Handel, who became a kind of composer-in-residence at the Vauxhall pleasure gardens during the 1730s. This concert includes works by Handel in addition to those by J.C. Bach and Gemiani and others.

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Choral Evensong – Music Divine

Date/Time: Sunday, February 19 at 4 p.m.

Location: Christ Church Cathedral

Artists: Christ Church Cathedral Choir directed by Donald Hunt, Marc Destrubé (Baroque violin), Kathryn Wiebe (Baroque violin), Natalie Mackie (viola da gamba), Marco Vitale (harpsichord and organ), Mark McDonald (organ)

The Pacific Baroque Festival concludes with a Choral Evensong Service featuring the music of Henry Purcell, Thomas Tomkins and others. NOTE: This is a non-ticketed event; voluntary offerings are appreciated.

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Single tickets are value-priced at $30 Cdn ($25 for student and seniors) plus fees and taxes. A four-concert Festival Pass is available for $100 ($80 for students and seniors) plus fees and taxes.

The Pacific Baroque Festival is sponsored by the Renaissance Retirement Residence and The Magnolia Hotel & Spa. It is co-presented by Early Music Vancouver, the Victoria Conservatory of Music, and Christ Church Cathedral Victoria.

Listing Information:

2023 Pacific Baroque Festival

Dates: February 15-19,2023

Single Tickets:  Regular $30 (Students/Seniors $25) + tax & fee

Festival Pass: Regular $100 (Students/Seniors $80) + tax & fee

Concert details and Tickets: https://www.pacbaroque.com/2023-festival

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