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Celebrate Canada Day with the VSO

The orchestra returns to Whistler Olympic Plaza for shows on June 30 and July 1

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Update: The Resort Municipality of Whistler announced on Friday that the VSO concerts will now be at 7 p.m. rather than 8:30 p.m. on both June 30 and July 1 because of cool, wet weather in the forecast.

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's (VSO) Canada Day weekend shows have become an important part of Whistler's summer calendar.

Every year since 2012, the musicians have travelled up the Sea to Sky Highway for a pair of free shows at Whistler Olympic Plaza, where locals and visitors of all ages gather on the lawn to take in the music in front of the mountain backdrop.

"It's a great venue and a great opportunity for the orchestra to get into the community outside of where it routinely performs," says Matthew Baird, PR manager with the VSO. "It's a good thing to take the orchestra to where the people are as well as having them come to our home. (The Whistler show) always has a family friendly vibe to it."

This year's concerts—which take place on Saturday, June 30, and Sunday, July 1—mark a special occasion: it's the last time music director maestro Bramwell Tovey will lead the orchestra.

Tovey marked his last official concerts with the VSO earlier this month, but the Whistler shows will be his "last time standing in front of the orchestra as the long-time music director."

Since the beginning of the year, he's been the new principal conductor at the BBC Orchestra in the U.K., as well as the director of orchestral activities at Boston University School of Music.

As the longest-serving conductor in the history of the VSO, Tovey's new title with the organization will be music director emeritus.

"He'll still have a home in Vancouver, but he'll be spending more time in England and on the East Coast in Boston," Baird adds.

But before he bids farewell, he'll celebrate Canada Day in Whistler. Saturday's show will include the overture to "Candide" by Leonard Bernstein—chose to mark the centenary of his birth—as well as "The Lark Ascending" by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Tchaikovsky's "Symphony No. 4."

Then, on July 1, celebrate Canada Day with music that ranges from Shostakovich's "Festive Overture," a selection from the opera Samson and Delilah, and "Londonderry Air." The finale will feature Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture."

"Take (some time) and listen and enjoy the music. Put away your cell phone—ignore Donald Trump—and just enjoy the experience ... The environment in Whistler allows for that. People are there to enjoy themselves and they're not so pressured that they're running to and from home on a mission," Baird says.

Also returning this year: the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Institute at Whistler. Running from June 24 until July 3, that program invites 90 advanced music students ranging in age from 15 to 25 to Whistler with the aim of "training the next great generation of aspiring orchestral musicians."

Locals will be able to watch six of their performances at various venues—ranging from outside the Maury Young Arts Centre or the Audain Art Museum to up at the Roundhouse—over that time.

"Walking through the village, in front of the gazebo and just to have that drive-by experience of saying, 'Oh my goodness, I had no idea this was going on,' people are delighted with it," Baird says.

If you miss the shows in Whistler you can also catch the VSO's slate of summer performances—which are particularly accessible and aimed at a younger crowd—around Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.

They include Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in Concert—during which the VSO will play during a screening of the popular movie; Symphony in the Park at Deer Lake Park; and VSO at the Movies: Star Wars: A New Hope—In Concert, which will screen that film as the VSO performs.

"A lot of people's first exposures to 'classical' orchestral music is in films and soundtracks," Baird says. "When people see an orchestra close like that, they don't realize just how many people it takes to do a soundtrack. That's always remarkable."

The two shows in Whistler, meanwhile, take place on June 30 and July 1 at 7 p.m. in Whistler Olympic Plaza.

For more information on all the shows visit vancouversymphony.ca.

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