The moment that the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) began playing part of Vivaldi’s iconic The Four Seasons, I was taken back to the last time I had heard it: at the Chan Centre, in 2013, played by this very same symphony, except instead of my boyfriend, it was my father sitting next to me.
I have always felt a fondness for classical music, not so much because of a personal adoration, but rather due to a deep love held by my dad and grandmother. Going to the symphony was one of their favourite things; it bonded them, thrilled them, comforted them. I grew up in a house in which sometimes my father would blast concertos so loudly that the walls would vibrate.
That time I took my dad to the symphony, it had been nearly six years since his last visit. When my grandmother died, he stopped going, and taking him that night, I like to think, sparked a sort of reawakening. I’m not sure how often he listens to classical music these days, but part of me believes that when he’s sitting in his home office and my mom is at work, he’s playing Beethoven or Stravinsky between conference calls.
The transformative power of music is far-reaching and undeniable, showing itself in many facets of life. I may not listen to symphonies on my own time, but they represent a cherished part of my childhood, an encapsulated image of my grandmother. It is feelings like these that I think the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra represents, in one form or another, and it is memories like these that I believe it hopes to create for both youth and adults.
The Vancouver Symphony Ball, then, is the VSO’s night of gratitude and celebration. The 2017 gala took place at the Vancouver Convention Centre West and featured a Champagne reception, silent and live auctions, a multi-course dinner, and, of course, performances by the symphony. In that sense, it is like no other fundraiser in the city: who else has a live orchestra playing while you nibble on vegetable spring rolls and sip white wine?
“The purpose of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra is to transform lives through music,” Andrea McLean, co-chair of the gala, told the packed crowd. “It is to transform the lives of children.” To emphasize this point she mentioned the VSO Orchestral Institute at Whistler, which allows promising young artists to train under the orchestra and its music director. “It is designed to give inspiration to the next generation of musicians,” McLean said. “Please remember that when the live auction starts!”
It was recently announced that long-time and beloved VSO music director Bramwell Tovey, who will be stepping down after the 2018 season, is to be replaced by Dutch conductor Otto Tausk. Tovey has long been synonymous with the symphony, and his passions extend to educating young people, as well, through the VSO School of Music. It was his dream, and as president of the symphony and school Kelly Tweeddale said at the gala, “the legacy that Bramwell Tovey will leave for this community is not only what the ensemble has become, but also the School of Music.” He will undoubtedly be missed.
After the speeches, the symphony began to do what it does best: make music. Create audio light and beauty. As the ensemble played, I leaned over to my boyfriend. “Hearing classical music makes me think of my dad,” I said blandly. Hearing classical music makes me think of my dad. That’s the best I could do? There was so much more to say. But instead I chose simply to listen.