Consort goes Russian in 25th season opener

The Cowichan Consort Orchestra opens its 25th Silver Anniversary Season on Saturday, Nov. 7 with an evening of Russian Music.

The Cowichan Consort Orchestra opens its 25th Silver Anniversary Season on Saturday, Nov. 7 with an evening of Russian Music.

Robert Mari conducts the orchestra in selections by Liadov and Mussorgsky as well as Borodin’s famous Symphony #2. The Consort Choir is not part of this event.

The conductor’s own Russian heritage makes conducting the evening’s musical theme extra special for him.

“I am a tango man but my parents and my grandparents were born in Russia,” he said. “It’s going to be a very exciting concert. It brings me back to my Russian roots. The first two orchestras that I was music director of, when I was about 15 years old, were Russian balalaika orchestras. One was in Vancouver and one was in Victoria. I was music director/conductor and wrote musical arrangements for them. They were some of my first jobs as a conductor.

“This concert, we’re featuring the Borodin 2nd Symphony, which is a marvellous work. People may not know it by the name of it but when they hear the music, they will recognize much of it.”

Influences of Tschaikovksy, Rimski-Korsakov, and Stravinsky can be felt in this symphony, Mari said.

“It’s fascinating, beautiful, beautiful music.”

A group of eight Russian folk songs by Liadov features many sections of the orchestra, including what is called a “cello divisi solo” where the cellists all play different lines and the music folds together.

“There are parts of this that imitate balalaikas so it is all very Russian sounding. There is no chorus in this event, though. It’s all instrumental.”

The brass section is featured in The Great Gate of Kiev by Mussorgsky from his piano music entitled Pictures at an Exhibition.

“It’s a wonderful, colourful piece and I think most people will recognize it,” Mari said.

Orchestra publicist Joy Ann Bannerman last week urged instrumental band students in the Cowichan region to come out to hear the sounds of the brass and winds in this work.

The Borodin symphony features the brass as well with magnificent opening chords and the full orchestra in a celebration of beautiful Slavic music.

“Borodin was a chemist and it took him six years to write the symphony as he kept being interrupted by his teaching duties to his science students,” Bannerman said.

Tickets will be available at the door and Volume One Bookstore in Duncan.

Showtime is 7:30 p.m. at the Christian Reformed Church at 930 Trunk Rd. This venue offers easy access for wheelchairs, so why not bring the whole family to listen as their talented neighbours perform?

Tickets cost $15 for adults and $10 for students.

Note: the Consort is not doing a Christmas event this year because of a problem with securing bookings.

The next concert will be in February, featuring Mozart’s Requiem, Mari said, adding, “That should be quite spectacular.”