I'D HEARD RUMOURS about a new museum of architectural history on Fort Street, but I’d never been inside it until I investigated Wentworth Villa’s fourth-annual music series, curated by artistic director Sarah Fryer. “The museum is still establishing itself,” she explains. The Villa, which in 1863 was one of the first homes built in the young city, has recently appointed a director to help them develop more exhibits highlighting the significant architecture of Victoria and early life of English settlers in the post-Fort-Victoria era.
As soon as the exhaustive and beautiful renovation of the heritage building was completed a few years ago, Wentworth Villa developed a music series to invite the public in to enjoy the space and connect to the meticulously restored property.
Fryer, herself an opera singer, has a long history in the music business, with connections to wonderful performers and artists in various parts of the world. The intimate series of concerts in the charming 108-seat cathedral-ceiling performance space (added in the 1950s), “brings in people who otherwise might not have a chance to perform in Victoria.”
“The acoustics are excellent for chamber music,” she enthuses. “The audience sits quite close, and the chairs are comfortable. Everyone in the room has a good view of what’s going on; people who like to see what a keyboard player is doing can sit behind them and look at their hands.” Pianist Irwin Shung performs on September 8, playing Bach’s Golberg Variations. On September 29, The Vetta Quartet will perform Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 4 in C minor, and selections from Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. November 2 and 3 the Villa welcomes tenor Isaiah Bell and collaborative pianist Anna Cal, performing Schubert’s powerful, 1828 song cycle. All concerts end with a Q&A session with the artists. In all there are seven concerts in the season, which runs through May 2020.
The Vetta String Quartet
Wentworth Villa is open to the public every Thursday-Saturday, 11-4, and guide Michael Opalski is delighted to tour visitors through the Villa’s fascinating details and archival collections. “The goal is to slowly build awareness for the museum…[this] comes from the music program, rather than architectural angle; it’s a tough battle to get ourselves more known locally,” he says. After enjoying my tour, I can say the Villa is definitely worth a visit—with or without music.
Wentworth Villa Architecture Heritage Museum is at 1156 Fort St. 7-concert pass is $240 ($150 students), or $40 per concert ($25 students). Call 250-598-0760 or see wentworthvilla.com for more information.