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VSO returns to kick off summer in style

Dates changed due to Pemberton Music Festival



The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra is coming back to Whistler this summer, marking its third consecutive return to the resort with an ever-expanding program.

With the deal sealed in December, earlier than ever before, Whistler and the VSO can now promote its programming to the resorts' captive winter guests, highlighting what Whistler has to offer in its increasingly popular summer business, defined by a non-stop line up of festivals and events.

The timing of the announcement for an event six months out was deliberate, confirmed Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

"That's always something that we were concerned about, that we've got this significant percentage of our visitors coming in the winter months and we really want to reach out to them about what we've got going on in the summer," she said.

The VSO is set to perform three full-orchestra outdoor evening concerts at Whistler Olympic Plaza, on Canada Day (July 1) and again on Friday, July 4 and Saturday, July 5. There will be a special afternoon concert on Canada Day, as well as six chamber concerts in the village with brass quintets and string quartets.

All programming is free.

"This date change allows us to welcome summer with an even more significant program than previous years," said the mayor.

Originally slated for later in the summer, Whistler reacted quickly when it learned that VSO would be performing on the same weekend as the much-touted and talked about Pemberton Music Festival, July 18-20. It was moved to accommodate that festival.

"This will help with the Pemberton Festival attendance and recognition awareness as well," said the mayor of the change, adding that Whistler is looking to work with corridor partners as it considers its summer line up.

She also hinted at the growing partnership between Whistler and VSO, given that a recent municipal report encouraged the municipality to develop educational opportunities with well-established partners.

Wilhelm-Morden said it was premature to speak of those discussions, which could develop in 2015.

While the VSO events are free to the public, the municipality will kick in $245,000 in 2014 to bring the orchestra to Whistler. That's the same funding as last year. The money comes from the "original programming" budget in the municipality's $3 million Festivals, Events and Animation (FE&A) program. That money comes from the province in the form of a Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) grant, based on hotel room tax.

"It is a great pleasure for the VSO to perform in one of the most beautiful concert settings in the world," said Jeff Alexander, president and CEO of the VSO. "We are delighted our performances at the Whistler Olympic Plaza have become an annual event, and look forward to engaging with the audiences there in 2014 through the full orchestra and chamber music presentations."

Tourism Whistler confirmed resort occupancy for the VSO weekend in 2012 was 63 per cent and 73 per cent, for the Friday and Saturday nights. Last year, occupancy was 77 and 90 per cent for the Friday and Saturday nights.

"We don't have any data in terms of uptake as it wasn't a ticketed event," said Patricia Westerholm, Tourism Whistler's manager of communications. "However, the anecdotal feedback from visitors was definitely positive, and the plaza was packed for all performances."