By Roy Corbett
This year’s Spirit of the North Classical Music Festival will be held August 11-17, with concerts being held starting on the 14th.
Brought to you by the Bulkley Valley Classical Strings Society (and receiving grant support from the Bulkley Valley Arts Council, British Columbia Arts Council, and Canada Heritage) the festival is a chance for the people of the Bulkely Valley to listen to classical music performed by world-famous musicians, some of whom come from right here in the northwest, such as violist Roxi Dykstra.
Dykstra, born and raised in the Bulkley Valley, has been playing the viola professionally since 2004. She has spent three years in the principal viola position of the Prince George Symphony and is the founder and co-director of the Orchestra North summer program.
“Orchestra North is a summer music program for students of various levels of expertise, from beginners to advanced players,” said Sharon Carrington, pianist, workshop host, and festival adjudicator. “They are assessed as to what levels they are going to be in and they receive instruction according to those levels in various things like band, orchestra, smaller groups to larger groups.
“Roxi makes [the festival] appeal to the widest audience. She’s trying to encourage people to get involved in the classical music scene,” said Rosamund Pojar, festival promotions coordinator. “She wants people to get involved in music.”
Another performing musician and teacher is Pedro Miereles, principal concertmaster of the National Opera Theatre of Portugal. Miereles is a master of both violin and viola and has served as concertmaster for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
“Roxi’s been working with him in Lisbon, [Portugal]” said Pojar. “He came last year. He was just absolutely amazing. I was certainly blown away by him. So enthusiastic, such an energetic person. My husband, who never does standing ovations, was standing because he never heard such good music before. It’s really exciting for a small town like Smithers to get this kind of calibre of musician. We don’t get that kind of opportunity very often.”
Imant Raminsh (violinist, composer, and founding conductor of the Prince George Symphony) and Dr. Jelena Vladikovic (pianist and instructor) are but a few of the names attendees can expect to hear playing at the festival.
To Pojar, the festival is not just a showcase for beautiful music, but represents an opportunity for musicians to connect with other musicians, learn from mentors, and grow.
“There will be some really neat things happening,” she said. “The kids go around with their adult mentors and play classical music all over Main Street. They just move from one place to another. Usually a little group of two or three.
“If you are asking me about last year, I don’t think I had a favourite because everything was so wonderful. Well, the final concert has to be probably the most exciting because sometimes you get, depending on the kids and how good they are, you get to see the smaller kids get involved in a big performance. It’s always rewarding to see small, young local kids being able to play with a real symphony orchestra. I’d say the final concert makes you feel really good all over.”
Pojar recommends people who want to get the most out of the festival purchase a multi-concert pass early. The pass can be purchased before Wednesday, August 14 at Mountain Eagle Books and Interior Stationary for $45 ($35 for students), or during the festival at the door for $50. Admission for individual concerts is a minimum donation of $15 ($5 for students).