Landmark Victoria organ in the spotlight at this year’s Pacific Baroque Festival

Landmark Victoria organ in the spotlight at this year’s Pacific Baroque Festival

The Pacific Baroque Festival returns with a grand opening that includes a musical tour of Europe featuring the organ at Christ Church Cathedral, a landmark in Western Canada.

“The organ in the cathedral is actually something very special. Not only is it the largest organ on Vancouver Island at just over 4,000 pipes, but it is also fairly new in terms of what organs would be in terms of year of construction,” said Mark McDonald, opening night’s solo organist. McDonald is also the assistant director of music at Christ Cathedral and curated the music for the opening show.

Built in 2005 with incredible precision and craftsmanship, the organ emulates building practices from hundreds of years ago. Costing more than $1.5 million, this masterpiece features thousands of different parts—mahogany, oxbone, padauk, ebony, white oak, rosewood, and more—all assembled to create an unforgettable, resonant tone.

The concert on February 15th is entitled “The Grand Tour” and takes the audience on a musical tour of the English, French, German and Italian schools, including works by Handel, Muffat and Vivaldi. It is intended to musically emulate the historical “Grand Tour” tradition, in which upper-class Europeans traveled across Europe to visit the great cultural centers of Paris and Rome.

McDonald will play two organs: the large organ, which stands 40 feet behind the audience, who will watch the projection on a screen, and a smaller organ with the ensemble on stage.

The opening performance fits the theme of this year’s festival – music for distracted times.

“As I reflected on our retreat from ‘troubled times’ to our favorite concert halls, I reflected on past eras of change and disruption and how music-making has been affected,” said the festival’s artistic director Marc Destrube in a press release.

Destrube chose music composed during the period of “chaos and oppression” in England leading up to the execution of Charles I.” In some ways, the shows are a homage to post-chaotic hope and prosperity when 18th-century London was in decline. Century after that time became a cosmopolitan center of cultural activity.

McDonald will perform at the two shows at Christ Church Cathedral (February 15 and 19). Ensemble of the week will also feature two violins, two viols, lute, harpsichord, organ and the soprano voice of Arwen Myers.

Other Pacific Baroque Festival shows include The King’s Fiddler (Feb 16, Alix Goolden Performance Hall), A Sad Pavan for these Distracted Times (Feb 17, Alix Goolden Performance Hall), Foreign Inspiration – Visitors From Across the Channel ( 2 Feb 18, Alix Goolden Performance Hall), Choral Evensong – Music Divine (19 Feb, Christ Church Cathedral) and more.

Individual tickets are $30 and festival passes are $100. Visit for more information.

Arts and light music festivals

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *