The catalytic moment that started a fine flourishing of Baroque music here in Victoria began in Brussels over 15 years ago. Brussels? Yes, that’s where Pacific Baroque Festival founder Brian Groos used to live, and first got a gleam in his eye about the sort of exciting, early-music happenings he could create back here on Vancouver Island. “I favoured going to period performance concerts throughout Belgium and Europe, and thought it would be a nice festival to bring to Victoria.” At a concert one night in Brussels, “I recognized the concertmaster, and it turned out to be [Marc] Destrubé from Victoria, performing with the Orchestra of the 18th Century. I told him my idea, and he seemed interested.” Once back in Victoria, Groos was at a crossroads. “I said to myself, ‘You going to do something about this idea, or spend the rest of your life wondering if you should have?’”
Groos did it. Destrubé came on board and became the artistic director of the Pacific Baroque Festival, now producing its 15th anniversary offering. Each concert references significant moments from past years’ festivals, says Groos. “We’ve taken elements from the character that we’ve created, and tried to represent them in the program.” This year’s five-concert lineup includes Vivaldi’s Gloria, with Victoria Children’s Choir and the Pacific Baroque Festival Ensemble; Ensemble La Modestine performing rarely-heard gems from the Düben Collection; and the PBF Ensemble and St Christopher Singers performing works by Henry Purcell.
Fifteen years ago, Groos says, “there weren’t many institutions in Victoria performing this music [on period instruments]. Now there are other groups who are interested in continuing this work, over and above the festival,” One such inspiration is the new partnership between the Pacific Baroque Festival, Christ Church Cathedral, and Early Music Vancouver, who are co-producing the inaugural year of a brand-new annual Pacific Baroque Series they launched this fall in Victoria. “I am thrilled the Pacific Baroque Festival is deepening its collaborations,” Groos says. “Victoria is now recognized as a vibrant centre for Baroque music.”
The Pacific Baroque Festival’s five concerts are held at the Victoria Conservatory of Music’s Alix Goolden Hall and Christ Church Cathedral. Festival tickets: pacbaroque.com/festival, 250-590-0523.