The Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra known as VICO has been described as “music without borders” and “fusion music on a global scale.” The renowned orchestra will make its USA debut at the invitation of the Glacier Symphony on Sept. 22-23 at two venues in Kalispell.
Offering a uniquely Canadian approach to diversity, the 18-piece orchestra features musicians performing a colorful fusion of traditional and contemporary music that spans centuries and continents. Western classical strings and winds will share the stage with traditional instruments from China, Iran, the Middle East and India among many others.
Adding a local touch will be Glacier Symphony principal trombonist Hank Handford, who will appear as a soloist on “The King is Dancing” and Glacier Symphony Music Director John Zoltek, who will conduct VICO at the Sunday concert.
This “Equinox Music” weekend opens the Glacier Symphony’s 36th concert season and includes a chamber concert with smaller intercultural ensembles at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, in the Black Box Theatre at Flathead Valley Community College, and a full orchestra concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, at Flathead High School Performance Hall.
The VICO was founded in 2001 and is one of the first concert orchestras in the world devoted specifically to performing new intercultural music on a grand scale, according to the Vancouver Sun. It is currently the only professional ensemble of its kind in Canada. It strives to be a fresh and relevant voice of contemporary music and build bridges of imagination to make connections between performers and audiences of all ages and backgrounds and to perform orchestral music that transcends cultural, social, political, geographical boundaries. The Vancouver Sun describes it as “a world music super-group” and CBC Radio has called it “the United Nations of music.”
A look at the concert repertoire offers a window into the kind of music one can expect to hear. “Suite concertante” (Farshid Smandari) dramatizes Iran’s history over the past 150 years, through the analogy of four Persian rugs and in “Sambhasana,” a Sanskrit word meaning conversation, the East Indian tabla drum is featured offering a conversation between two players (composer Niel Golden and guest tabla player Shawn Mativetsky). Improvisation will feature a quartet of Middle Eastern instruments: the Persian santur, tar, and tombak with the Arabic oud.
Small ensembles of musicians will perform at the Saturday chamber concert and larger pieces will be performed on Sunday, including a tongue-in-cheek work called “Taste of Taiwan” (Lan Tung), “The King is Dancing” (Moshe Denberg) and “Inside the Spirit House” (Mark Armanini).
Another highlight of the performance is a nod to an American pioneer Henry Cowell, in a rare performance of his early intercultural American classic, “Persian Set.”
Maestro Zoltek will conduct the full 18-piece orchestra that expands upon the musical collaboration between Eastern and Western cultures. For example, in “Taste of Taiwan,” voice, flute, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, violins, viola, cello, and double bass, will be combined with Chinese erhu, a long-necked instrument with two strings played with a bow; sanxian a long-necked fretless lute with three strings; zheng a 21-string zither-like instrument, and various percussion instruments. For “The King is Dancing” Handford will be featured on trombone, joined by flute, violin, guitar table, percussion and electronic tambura or drone.
“This concert brings together some of the world’s most imaginative composers,” Zoltek said. “I have had the honor of guest conducting this amazing ensemble over the past two years in Vancouver during their Global Soundscapes Festival. This wonderful community of musicians and composers are dedicated to the idea of bringing cultural understanding through music that combines multiple traditions all at once.
“These concerts are an exciting opportunity for our patrons to experience this multicultural sound world and to hear a collection of traditional instruments not often heard in concerts,” Zoltek continued.
The concert will be the only U.S. performance on VICO’s 2018 tour. Zoltek has had the honor of conducting the orchestra for the entire tour.
Local sponsorship for these Equinox Music concerts is provided by Freedom Bank and Anderson Broadcasting. Support for VICO is provided by the Canada Arts Council and British Columbia Arts Council.
Tickets for the Saturday concert are priced at $5 to $22 and the Sunday concert is priced in a range of $5 to $37 and are available online at www.glaciersymphony.org or by calling 406-407-7000. Both venues offer handicap accessibility.