Pierre Simard, conductor and artistic director of the Vancouver Island Symphony, brings The Waltz to Courtenay. Photo submitted (Dirk Heydemann)

Symphony at the Sid celebrates Strauss in Courtenay

Vancouver Island Symphony (VIS) is celebrating the new year in mid-January, with a popular Viennese tradition of lighthearted music and an elegant and entertaining soirée.

The Jan. 19, 2 p.m. performance of The Waltz is designed in keeping with “Salute to Vienna” New Year’s Eve events, that are growing in popularity worldwide, and features the most famous waltz ever written, The Blue Danube.

In Vienna, The Blue Danube waltz (actually not one waltz but a chain of five interlinked waltz themes) is played all year round, in restaurants, shops, and hotels and is Austria’s unofficial national anthem. Without it, the New Year’s concert in Vienna (or in the Comox Valley) would not be complete.

“The story behind this show is tied to Viennese tradition. The Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra for years puts on a New Year’s celebration, which features the orchestra performing waltzes and polkas every year,” said Pierre Simard, conductor and artistic director of VIS. “Johann Strauss was considered the king of the waltz in the 19th century. He wrote so much music, you could have years of repertoire with his music alone, and then his son Johann Strauss Jr. only added to that magnificent body of work.”

“Vienna was ‘the’ music city in the world at that time. Anyone who wanted to make it as a musician – had to make it there. It was the popular music of the time, and these composers embraced it and made it their brand.”

One only needs to Google “Salute to Vienna” to understand the depth and variety of the New Year celebrations, which normally take place on Jan. 1 and are a growing trend across Canada as well. VIS decided to extend the party into January and present its own version of the uplifting event. Patrons are invited to celebrate with a reception with the musicians after the performance.

Many of those celebrating this Viennese New Year tradition with VIS on Jan. 19 will be anticipating certain elements and music during the concert, adds Simard.

“As soon as the orchestra starts the applause erupts, and the orchestra gets up and takes a bow,” he said. “There are enough people in the audience who know this tradition and so others will likely follow suit, even if they aren’t sure why the applause is happening just then. Also, The Blue Danube is the epitome and is always played as an encore. That is a tradition that we will recreate here.

“We know our audience will love to welcome in the New Year with this rich Viennese tradition to lift their spirits.”

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