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Music at Whistler takes audience to the movies and stage

Classic songs from the golden age of Hollywood and Broadway with Peter Krysa and friends

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Shall we dance? Shall we tap our toes, sing or hum along and feel swept away by the best musical numbers of yesteryear?

Peter Kyrsa hopes you will.

Krysa has pulled together some of the finest music from the golden era of Hollywood and Broadway for his latest concert, as part of his Music at Whistler series, An Evening of Classic Songs.

Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Harold Arlen and other great American composers will be represented in performances of "A Star is Born," "Over the Rainbow," "West Side Story," "Shall We Dance," "Goldwyn Follies," "Cabin in the Sky," "High Society" and more.

Artistic director of the Music at Whistler series, and the show's violinist for the evening, Krysa says it allows him to branch out further with music that interests him.

"This particular concert is not something that I normally do, and I am thrilled that we've been able to put this together in Whistler. I've played classical music all my life and only recently I've started stepping out of my comfort zone and play a little jazz," he says.

"It's very exciting. I'm always open to playing something new, it gets me going."

Krysa will be joined onstage by vocalist Greta Matassa, pianist Scott Dunn, and Jodi Proznick on bass.

The series is specially put together for Whistler audiences and is part of the Whistler Arts Council's 2014 performance series.

"The idea was a revue of the classic American songbook. And my pianist Scott (Dunn) was behind a lot of the programming. At the moment, he is in Vienna recording (April in Paris composer) Vernon Duke's violin concerto. This is his thing. He was a great help putting this program together," Krysa says.

"Our bass player Jodi Proznick is based in Vancouver and has her own jazz quartet."

Originally from Ukraine, Krysa plays with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Opera Orchestra and the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra in Seattle and previously had a long career in New York City and Boston. He has also performed solo and with the Moscow Soloists, the National Orchestra of Ukraine and Kiev Chamber Orchestra.

He has some reflections on the differences between jazz and classical musicians.

"With jazz musicians, it's a little more loose and freer. 'We can do this and this!' Krysa says. "With classical musicians, we like to know everything in advance, rehearse.

"Combining those two different approaches, that's part of the excitement. We come from different backgrounds. In the end, we're all musicians so we find a way to collaborate. The language of music is universal, I think."

Krysa likes the opportunity to improvise, that bringing in these modern musical jazz standards into his repertoire.

"With classical music, everything is written out and that is the score and it is played how the composer wrote it," he says.

"With jazz, I like that you can take a classic or standard and make it your own. At times it sounds like a different piece of music, but it's the same song and it's so beautiful."

He whittled down the great standards for the Whistler show.

"It was hard. You have to pick and go with your gut feeling about what might work better. Then you look at the program as a whole and see how it flows," he says.

Does he have a favourite?

"The ones with a good part for a violinist are great!" Krysa says, laughing.

"I can't really pick a favourite. Of course, Gershwin... Bernstein I get to perform because it's good for orchestras. Two years ago, Vancouver Opera did a production of Westside Story. People ask me this question a lot. My answer is always 'Whatever composer I am performing at the moment is my favourite now. I don't discriminate.'"

There are no plans to take the series beyond Whistler; the series had two concerts last year and Krysa will be back this summer.

Krysa also paid tribute to his closest collaborator, his wife Olena Hankivsky, a professor of public policy at Simon Fraser University. She has played her own part in the Whistler Music Series, with music suggestions and other input.

"She's not a musician, but she's an arts lover and it's our baby. She's very much behind the scene with the series and a very important part of it," he says.

Tickets to Music at Whistler are $26.50 for regular admission, $24.50 for seniors and students and $22.50 for Whistler Arts Council members. They can be purchased online at artswhistler.com or at Millennium Place.

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