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Canadian Music Centre BC orchestrates new venue

Canadian Music Centre BC orchestrates new venue

by Marion Van Driel

European masters often come to mind when we think of great classical music. But there’s an ever-expanding creative network of composers right here in BC. Concert music is alive and well in our country and our province – thanks to the Canadian Music Center of BC (CMC BC). The organization has just completed a renovation of their home, the Vancouver Creative Hub (837 Davie Street), which includes rental space for local arts groups to rehearse, meet, audition, or do strategic planning; this is a performing center in miniature – with flex space for presentation of concerts and more. The revamped Vancouver cultural hotspot for new concert music is now a 40-seat black box theatre, providing audiences an intimate experience, …”the feeling like they’ve been a part of something very special”, says Sean Bickerton, director of CMC BC.

Church roots

Concert music has its roots in the church. “Music arose in the church…in the baroque tradition which came out of the monasteries … and the practice of writing the music down on paper came out of those monasteries,” Bickerton explains. He refers to the brave monks from the few Irish monasteries that had not been sacked and looted, who carried on the tradition of illuminated manuscripts, rowing across to European shores, “beginning to reseed and disseminate the learning that had been lost”, an action that led to the Renaissance. “To me there’s so much power in this tradition of written work,” notes Bickerton, explaining that there’s also a beautiful connection between faith and much of the choral tradition, which also draws its relevance from the early believers. New music composed for the Christmas season still draws from the faith story.

Accessible venue

The new Murray Adaskin Salon, hosting the premiere concert series within the hub, is a throwback to days past when people held recitals in their home salons or parlours. “It’s more relaxed – we allow people to bring wine into the venue – you can hear voices on the street,” Bickerton explains. In fact, at one point on opening night, a group of young people peered through the windows, curious about the instruments and music. “I like the idea of this being a little black box theatre right downtown and its’ interacting with the community.” Named for the late Murray Adaskin (1906-2002), BC composer and musician, the salon has all the ‘bells and whistles’ to provide ticket holders with a rich musical experience. A newly refurbished Heintzman Salon Grand Piano – purchased from Adaskin’s estate in 2002 – on which he penned compositions and taught many of this generation’s composers, is the theatre’s striking centerpiece.

2016/17 concert series

The new venue’s October 14 inaugural concert was dedicated to Adaskin, who was instrumental in ushering Western Canada into the new music scene. With more than 130 works to his name, his own music has been described as lyrical, witty, and rhythmically vital. The 2016/17 CMC BC Murray Adaskin Concert Series will present tributes to three other modern composers: Barbara Pentland, Jean Coulthard, and Elliot Weisgarber. The CMC has orchestrated each evening to begin with a documentary of the highlighted luminary, curated by an artistic advisor with a special connection to the composer and produced by award-winning BC filmmaker John Bolton. Reflecting on these “great minds, living right next to us, with this amazing rich output”, Bickerton suggests that not every work speaks to everyone, “and yet, if we were living next to Picasso and never took a second just to peek over the fence to see what he was painting, how we would have missed such a great opportunity in our life.”

CMC – developing music enthusiasts

The hallmark of Canadian music is the influence of a variety of cultures. “We’re lucky that we have a number of composer musicians in the city,” Bickerton notes. The CMC Canadian concert music encompasses electroacoustic, film scores, and improvisational work. Bickerton explains that the borders between genres blur since people are always experimenting – strongly encouraged by the CMC, a champion of professional development.

An expansive resource for educational activities, the CMC (, with a free extensive online lending library, uses a model of lifelong learning for anyone on their journey of appreciation for Canadian music. In addition to this its first concert season, Vancouver Creative Hub offers previous and new services for musicians and artist groups, with workstations, printing and binding services and affordable venue rental rates.

For more information on the 2016/17 Concert Season or CMC BC, visit

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