Rosemary Thomson, pictured here conducting the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, will conduct the Orchestra North Symphony Orchestra performance of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” Aug 16. File photo

Dykstra passionate about music and the north

The artistic director of the classical music festival shares her thoughts on the Aug. 10-17 event

Roxi Dykstra is passionate about northern B.C. and making it a musical Mecca.

As the driving force behind the Orchestra North Summer Program and Spirit of the North Classical Music Festival (SNCMS), Dykstra

“Both of those projects have a really interesting effect of drawing closer connections between northern communities,” she said. “We feel more of an identity of being northern and it’s way easier now musically to work together with a lot of these different artists in different communities including students. I’ve seen students work together, teachers and students, because of relationships built by projects like this and the awareness [that] we have the talent, we have the will, the resources, we’re just geographically challenged, so if we can overcome that somehow, we can do amazing things.”

Despite having an international professional career as a violist and, most recently, music researcher at Kunstuniversität Graz, the University of Music and Performing Arts (KUG), in Graz, Austria, Dykstra is a Bulkley Valley girl, through and through.

“Living far away makes me realize the world is small and this is my home, absolutely,” she said.

We’ve got musicians coming from a whole bunch of different countries, also around northern B.C. and Canada, so that’s really exciting to get together these people, a lot of them have not yet met, but they’re performing together, That’s in a way a real feat, but , but it’s also, in a sense, especially in the classical music circle, the festival experience is very exciting for the audience, but actually very much rewarding for the musicians as well.

Since returning to Smithers in late July, Dykstra has been tirelessly working toward putting on a world-class event in the upcoming SNCMS.

“We often get these European festivals that invite fabulous musicians who don’t necessarily play together regularly, or know each other, but the idea is to showcase that kind of talent and collaboration in the festival,” she said. “I really enjoy that kind of side of things and the international part of this festival being highlighted this year.”

Part of that international flavour is Pedro Miereles, principle concertmaster with National Opera Theatre of Portugal, who wowed Bulkley Valley festival-goers last year.

“He’s a phenomenal concertmaster, so that’s been a real treat to work with him,” she said.

“I also, more recently, have been working with him as a chamber ensemble musician, that means in quartets, we recently played in a quintet together, we have a little bit of duo work that we just did recently, since last year after the festival, so I guess he liked playing with me too.”

Dykstra and Miereles will be sharing some of that duo work at this year’s event, which involves transcriptions keyboard to strings of Johann Sebastian Bach’s famous “The Well-Tempered Clavier” preludes and fugues.

“Which means it’s not tempered tuning anymore for one,” Dykstra explained. “And for two, we sustain sound whereas keyboards, when they’re played, the sound decays, so suddenly it creates a marvellous different experience of this really famous piece.”

“My research is about the opportunities that transcription allows a performer,” she said, noting another festival event in which transcription will play a key role, the Orchestra North Symphony Orchestra version of “Rhapsody in Blue,” George Gershwin’s famous 1924 composition for solo piano and jazz band.

“Because of being up here and teaching in Orchestra North, our summer program, we don’t always have the instrumentation we might require,” she said. “For example, we’ll do “Rhapsody in Blue,” we actually happily have most of the instrumentation we need, but there’s a couple of things we don’t have, and it’s going to be a phenomenal performance anyway, but thanks to transcription we’ll cover those parts with other instruments.”

She noted most listeners probably wouldn’t notice, but those that do often find the modifications interesting.

“That’s the other thing I’m trying to show with my research as well, is that it actually opens up literally different avenues and different facets of a piece when you’re willing to make a change.”

“Rhapsody” will be conducted by Rosemary Thomson, music director of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra.

“What a fantastic leader,” said Dykstra. “What a woman, wow.”

The performance is a seminal event at the festival.

“A concert of this scope in Smithers is not to be missed,” states the festival website. “During the Orchestra North Summer Program, musicians gather from all across the north, forming a symphony orchestra who work with professional faculty and conductors to create an impressive symphonic concert.”

The concert, scheduled for Aug. 16 at 7:30 p.m., will feature Dr. Jelena Vladikovic, a concert pianist and professor at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona.

“[She] has a son who lives here in Smithers,” Dykstra said. “So there’s all these interesting little connections that make artists so excited to come up here in a beautiful place and share music with the community. We’re really lucky here.”

Another one of those connections Dykstra is really looking forward to is Ludwig Duerichen.

“He’s one of our really fantastic violinists, who will come and collaborate with Pedro and with myself and with a few other people this year, so that’ll be really great,” she said.

He is also a nephew of Hans Duerichen, owner of Smithers-based Ardent Energy and designer of woodstoves.

The festival is not all classical music, though.

“Music I feel is a universal language, but sometimes there are certain types of languages that are less accessible if you’re not familiar with them and that’s part of the reason why we love also to do some non-classical things,” Dykstra said, pointing out several events on the schedule.

Classics on Main features approximately 100 musicians playing in quartets and quintets doing what she describes as “super-fun, low-key concerts” at eight locations on Main Street Aug. 15.

That is followed by the Family Folk Dance at Bovill Square.

“That’s just a riot, it’s so fun,” Dykstra said. “It’s not classical, but it feels very classical to us somehow, it’s very traditional.”

There is also the Jazz Lounge at the Bukley Valley Brewery, which, she said, is back by popular demand and Fiddling in the Museum, a perennial favourite.

“We love them as performers to get to go to these other styles of music,” Dykstra said.

This year there will also be a couple of concerts in Houston.

“We’re very excited to share a little bit with Houston as well, so do a little bit more throughout the Bulkley Valley,” she said.

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