Victoria Philharmonic Choir

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The Victoria Philharmonic Choir is a 60-voice auditioned choir based in Victoria, British Columbia. Conducted since 2009, by artistic director Peter Butterfield, the choir performs a wide range of a cappella and accompanied music, and collaborates with or performs with community and professional vocal soloists and musicians, including the Victoria Symphony.

Under the founding artistic director Simon Capet an international debate was initiated as a result of its production in 2007 of Handel's 1743 oratorio "Samson", which recast Samson as a suicide bomber in the 1940s.[1]


The Victoria Philharmonic Choir (VPC) was created June 2005, as a non-profit performing arts organization dedicated to arts and cultural innovation through the performance of high quality symphonic choral music, and partnering with other arts, culture and tourism organizations. It is committed to creating and nurturing a new standard of excellence in musical performance in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Founding artistic director Simon Capet led the choir until April 2009, when current director Peter Butterfield was appointed.

Vision and Mission[edit]

The Vision of the Victoria Philharmonic Choir Society (VPCS) is:

  • To provide Greater Victoria and Vancouver Island, and further afield when appropriate, with live performances of choral music of the highest professional standard;
  • To support the choral needs of Victoria's and Vancouver Island's musical community;
  • To mount its own independent choral productions; and
  • To develop and educate future generations of choral singers and choral audiences.

The Mission of the VPCS is:

  • To draw together, as the Victoria Philharmonic Choir, serious amateur singers who are willing and eager to continually develop their vocal talent, through commitment to the highest standards of choral excellence;
  • To create fulfilling concert seasons and summer festivals;
  • To arrange educational programs, workshops and seminars on both vocal technique and choral music; and
  • To cooperate with other arts organizations towards mutually beneficial ends.[2]

Current Season (2010/2011)[edit]

May 13–15, 2011: Verdi Requiem - As guests of the Victoria Symphony, in collaboration with the Victoria Choral Society

April 21, 2011: Bach St. Matthew Passion - Hosted by VancouverVoices and VvYouth at UBC's Chan Centre in Vancouver

March 12, 2011: Rockin' Handel and Bach at his Best - Handel Dixit Dominus and Bach Cantata 198

December 20, 2010: Family Christmas Carol Sing-Along Concert

November 20, 2010: Music for Twilight - Including Kodály, Daley, Casals, Mathias, Handel, Tavener, Whitacre, Moore and Holst

Previous Seasons[edit]

2009/2010 Season[edit]

July 24, 2010: Summer Choral Concert - Including Vierne Messe Solenelle, Faure Requiem, Bach Sanctus and Osanna

March 27, 2010: Bach St. Matthew Passion with VancouverVoices, VvYouth, Students of St. Michaels University School and the Victoria Symphony Orchestra

December 22, 2009: Family Christmas Carol Sing-Along Concert

November 13, 2009: Romantic Choral Jewels - Works by Brahms, Mendelssohn, Rheinberger, Schumann and Zigeunerleben

2008/2009 Season[edit]

Canadian tenor and conductor Peter Butterfield, a native of Victoria, was appointed as the music director of the Victoria Philharmonic Choir in April 2009.[3]

28 and 30 March 2009 Carmina Burana Carl Orff, with the Victoria Symphony.

November, 2008: The Seasons by Joseph Haydn

This was the final performance with the founding artistic director, Simon Capet. In his opening remarks Simon described how the choir has moved through the four seasons and now stands ready for the renewal of the new year.

2007/2008 Season[edit]

30 & 31 October 2007: The Spectre's Bride by Antonín Dvořák

Farquhar Auditorium of the University of Victoria

The fall performance was of Dvořák’s tale of a dead lover who returns to claim his fiancé with a live shadow theatre dramatization. Using the artistic design skills of popular animator Michel Gagné, of Disney and Pixar Studios and the shadow puppet artistry of Gemini-winning puppeteer Tim Gosley, the drama of Dvořák’s scary and compelling work will be cast in shadows on the walls of the UVIC Farquhar theatre as the choir and orchestra perform.

Antonín Dvořák's The Spectre's Bride, debuted to great acclaim in 1885 and for the next 20 years was one of the composer’s most popular and frequently performed works. But by the early 20th century it had faded from play, largely due to an awkward English language libretto. Capet came across the forgotten work in a London library nearly 15 years ago. Inspired by the beautiful, lush orchestration, he vowed to restore Dvořák’s ghost-story cantata to “audience favourite” status once again. This year a VPC chorister and writer, Mollie Kaye rewrote the lyrics of the work.

As the new lyrics were being written, Kaye, her self a puppeteer, and Capet realized the work’s dramatic and haunting tale would be perfectly suited to a live shadow puppet dramatization. They first contacted Gagné creator of the “Insanely Twisted Shadow Puppets” on Nickelodeon and the animator of Remy and Emile’s taste visualizations on Pixar's “Ratatouille.” Then they contacted Victoria-born, award-winning Gosley, now in Quebec, who has worked with Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock and Canadian Sesame Street, to bring Gagne’s designs to shadow puppet life.

The cross-discipline extravaganza speaks more to musical theatre than stolid oratorio and is typical of the approach that artistic director, Simon Capet takes to producing classical music. He is always striving to present works from the past in ways that have contemporary significance.

Dvořák (1841–1904) is one of the masters of the late Romantic era, whose well-loved melodies embody the folk traditions of his Czech homeland. Dvořák chose a popular Slavic legend for Spectre’s Bride and gives it a vigorous, gothic, musical interpretation. The story describes a young woman alone on a dark night, awaiting the return of her wayward lover. But when he returns to claim her heart, he is not the man he was. Will she follow him and become his bride? The gorgeous orchestral accompaniment with its unearthly harmonies portrays the grisly journey of spectre seducing a pious maiden. Dvořák's haunting and eerie folk cantata is a wild ride from the girl's bedchamber across the howling countryside to a satisfyingly graveyard conclusion.

The performances included the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, along with soloists Ken Lavigne (tenor), Anne Grimm (soprano) and Bruce Kelly, baritone .

8, 9 & 10 March 2008: Complete Incidental Music to Peer Gynt by Edvard Grieg

The Royal Theatre, Victoria, British Columbia.

The Victoria Philharmonic performed as guest of the Victoria Symphony in these three performance of the rarely performed complete incidental music to Peer Gynt.

2006/2007 Season[edit]

6 November: University of Victoria and 11 November 2006 Port Theatre, Nanaimo. Requiem by Karl Jenkins. Canadian Premiere performance

5, 7 & 8 April McPherson Playhouse Victoria. Samson by GF Handel

This performance was set in 1964 Palestine drawing inspiration from the King David Hotel bombing.[citation needed] This setting, which turned out to be very controversial, brought the choir to prominence in National[4] and International media[5][6] because although no words of the original oratorio were changed, Samson was cast as a suicide bomber rather than using his brute strength to destroy the temple of his enemies. The artistic director wished people to think about what motivates suicide bombing today in comparison to Samson's wish to destroy the Phillistine Temple. See also: Suicide attack#Background Most of those that saw the performance were touched by the performance, some of those who did not including Rex Murphy of the Globe and Mail were critical of updating timeless masterpieces in this way.

13,14 May Royal Theatre, Victoria. Choral Fantasy (Beethoven), Ave verum corpus[7][verification needed] (Mozart) with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra


External links[edit]