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  1. If “Cherish,” Dance Victoria’s annual fundraiser, were a young ballet student, it has now gotten up en pointe. After launching in 2015 at the studios on Quadra Street, which seat about 100, this year’s event will be Downtown at the historic Crystal Garden. Built in 1925, it seats 400 and offers much more space and accessibility, something all dancers—and dance supporters—can appreciate. The entertainment at Cherish showcases both fashion and dance, with a team of local performers moving and grooving down the runway (choreography by Victoria’s own Lynda Raino) while modelling clothing from local retailers (this year’s lineup features Tulipe Noir Clothing, Hughes Clothing, and Outlooks for Men). There are light appetizers, a silent and live auction, and a complimentary beverage for each guest. That first year of “Cherish,” Dance Victoria’s staff of four (plus volunteers) were run off their feet, handling myriad details for two annual fundraisers—spring and fall. Bernard Sauvé, DV’s general manager, says, “It was a lot of work. We decided to do one event a year, and really concentrate on that event.” Further post-mortem discussions among DV staff yielded exciting partnership ideas. “We think this event is really fantastic because it combines Women’s Transition House, a social cause, and Dance Victoria, an art cause,” Sauvé enthuses. “We know the arts make people feel better in general, and Women’s Transition House is helping the public with social issues.” Cherish has sought out venues with greater and greater capacity, moving from DV’s studios to the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, then the Fairmont. And now the Crystal Garden, part of the Victoria Conference Centre. Designed by Victoria architects Francis Rattenbury and Percy L. James, who were inspired by London’s Crystal Palace, it originally housed exotic gardens, dance floors and a saltwater pool. Sauvé feels that Crystal Garden is the ultimate venue for this fun, fashion-show-in-motion event, and that the accessible ticket price offers more opportunities for participation. “There’s more capacity for the audience, the runway will be longer…we feel that this time around, there is going to be space for people to mingle, to look at the silent auction…what we’re looking for is being comfortable, with the entire event allowing space for all of the activities.” Dance Victoria’s mandate is to enrich Victoria’s cultural landscape by bringing an annual program of internationally acclaimed dance to the Royal Theatre, and supporting the development of new dance at its studios in Quadra Village. Cherish is presented by Kirsty Thomson of Willow Wealth Management of Raymond James Ltd. Tickets, $85. Call 250-386-6121 or visit www.rmts.bc.ca. —Mollie Kaye
  2. 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. —Mollie Kaye
  3. Arts Editor

    AGGV House Tour

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    How better to spend a Sunday in September than wandering the Fairfield and Oak Bay neighbourhoods to peek into beautiful art-filled houses? This year’s House Tour is, as usual, an important fundraiser for the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Presented by the gallery and its volunteer Gallery Associates for 66 years, Bev Kallstrom, House Tour 2019 co-chair, says, “Once again, we are fortunate to have homeowners willing to open their wonderful homes to the public. The distinctive architecture and the exquisite variety of art ensure that visitors will enjoy a fabulous event.” For the first time, the tour includes Government House, the extraordinary home of BC’s Lieutenant Governor, The Honourable Janet Austin OBC, and the ceremonial home of all British Columbians. Four other outstanding properties—all in Fairfield and Oak Bay—are included on the self-guided tour which runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Besides their close proximity to one another, this year’s featured homes share “impeccably curated art collections,” often involving local artists. The diverse collections include work by Pat Martin Bates, Luke Marston, Nita Forest, Karl Spreitz and Louise Bourgeois. 1370 Dallas 1025 Monterey 1034 Sutlej 1648 Rockland Visitors will have the opportunity to chat with local artists working at each location, including six artists who will be working at Government House: Arthur Vickers, Deon Venter, Kathy Venter, Robert Amos, Lou-ann Neel and Judy McLean. Artists also featured at tour homes include: Kylee Turunen, Nancy Ruhl, Taryn Brown and Maryan Meek. Each stop on the tour also features imaginative floral creations from members of the Victoria Floral Artists’ Guild. Co-chair Bill Huzar says, “This year the funds raised from the tour will support Gallery exhibitions and educational programming for families and children.” Tickets for the self-directed tour cost $35 and are available at the AGGV, 1040 Moss Street and online at aggv.ca/house-tour or at GardenWorks (Oak Bay, Saanich, and Colwood), DigThis (Broadmead Plaza, Sidney), Munro’s Books and Ivy’s Bookshop. aggv.ca, 250-384-4171.
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    HORIZON LINES are elemental to us; humans have always had to orient to the landscape as a fundamental aspect of our survival. I look at Irma Soltonovich’s paintings of abstracted horizons and see things that may or may not be there; it’s a mirage, a mystery, and a map all at once. She applies paint to the canvas in calculations of sparse but effective visual cues—colours, contrasts, and geometry—so the viewer can, in a fraction of a second, place themselves into their own familiar landscape. I see specific and known places in Soltonovich’s paintings the way I sometimes discover a heart in a rock on the beach, or a face in the surface of a rusting metal door. Irma Soltonovich Scale, style, and subject matter all must convene in harmony in order for someone’s visual expression to land with viewers. Soltonovich’s large, horizontal, abstract landscapes have struck such a solid chord with so many that gallery owner Dawn Casson hosts an annual solo show for the artist, regular as clockwork. “If it’s August, it’s Irma,” Casson says, and that’s all collectors need to hear in order to plan their summer holidays around the Gallery at Mattick’s Farm and these shape-shifting, evocative works. In actual fact, Soltonovich’s subject matter is often drawn from the prairies of Alberta and Saskatchewan, Casson says. “She grew up in Saskatchewan; that’s usually her inspiration. Warm yellows, ochres, bits of greens and reds in them…they’re not super-defined…people see what they want to see. A lot of times people look at one and say, ‘It’s a water scene,’ and another person says, ‘That looks like the prairies to me.’ It’s in the eye of the beholder, I guess.” Soltonovich made the commitment to practicing her art full-time in 2013, after years spent painting part-time while working in the development and delivery of programs in the criminal justice field. “Of Self, Place, and Belonging,” new works by Irma Soltonovich, runs July 28 to August 25 at the Gallery at Mattick’s Farm, 109-5325 Cordova Bay Rd. Artist's reception August 11, 1-4pm, 250-658-8333, www.thegalleryatmatticksfarm.com. —Mollie Kaye
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    EVERY MIDSUMMER SINCE 1996, the Victoria Summer Music Festival has treated its audiences to distinctive, high-calibre, evening chamber music concerts—that’s 129 in 24 years—often to sold-out houses. Performers are chosen not only for their purely musical strengths but also for their ability to communicate with each other and the audience. This season of the Victoria Summer Music Festival, artistic director Arthur Rowe is bringing several performers and groups to the festival for the first time, presenting five concerts in all. Spanish clarinetist Jose Franch-Ballester, a recipient of a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant and the new clarinet professor at the University of British Columbia, will open the festival on July 23 and 25 with two concerts. He joins the multi-award-winning Pacifica Quartet in the first performance, and for the second will be in recital with Victoria Symphony musicians Terence Tam, violin, and Brian Yoon, cello, and VSMF artistic director Arthur Rowe. Next up, are two concerts by the Rolston String Quartet, winners of the 2016 Banff International String Quartet Competition on July 30 and August 1 (the latter with Arthur Rowe). The Ensemble Made In Canada: (l-r) Elissa Lee, Angela Park, Sharon Wei, Rachel Mercer The final concert of the festival is Ensemble Made In Canada, which is regarded as one of Canada’s premier piano quartets. Awarded the 2006 CBC Galaxie Stars Award from the Banff Centre for the Arts, EMIC was featured in 2008 Chatelaine Magazine’s 80th anniversary issue as “Women to Watch” and an ensemble that is leading the next generation of classical musicians. Featuring Elissa Lee, violin; Sharon Wei, viola; Rachel Mercer, cello; and Angela Park, piano, these highly acclaimed musicians will perform Mosaïque Project—a suite of newly commissioned piano quartets by Canadian composers, each inspired by a particular region of Canada. Get to concerts by 6:40pm to hear the informative pre-concert talks by the performers. All concerts are at the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall at the University of Victoria at 7:30pm, preceded at 6:40pm talk. Tickets ($35 each with 10% off for 4 or more concerts) available online. www.vsmf.org, 250-294-7778.
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    I AM MOVED as I watch an online video of last year’s Victoria Bicycle Music Festival (VBMF). The combination of elements—a lovely summer’s day; an ebullient pack of all-ages cyclists creating a colourful parade through neighbourhood streets; the sweet, intimate, relaxed performances of live music; audience-pedalled bike generators powering the musicians’ sound equipment—well, it turns my crank. James Davis is a co-founder and director of this third-annual, mini-music-fest-on-wheels. He’s hopped off his bike, commuting home from work, to speak to me on the phone. He tells me he was so inspired by a similar event in San Francisco that he founded a Toronto version of the fest in 2007. When he relocated to Victoria, “a group of friends— people I just met— the five of us organized the first Victoria Bicycle Music Festival in July of 2017.” The inaugural year of the mobile musical event went really well. “We started in Central Park, beside Crystal Pool, with a great couple of sets…rode over to Banfield Park in Vic West, had a couple of sets of music there, a dance party on that side of town—that was really great.” These outdoor concerts are free, accessible to anyone; you don’t have to be on a bike. Riders this year will start at Pioneer Square Downtown and tour through the city to Porter Park in Fairfield. It’s a compact festival. “We’ve got a very small footprint; we don’t have staging, we don’t set up tents, we set up everything we can fit on our cargo bikes,” Davis explains. For Davis, “Bicycling has always been my mode of transportation; I’ve never owned a car…I just love bikes—such an elegant, efficient, and intelligent machine.” VBMF’s headliner this year will be Rae Spoon, an award-winning non-binary musician and author who has released nine solo albums spanning folk, indie rock and electronic genres. Local singer/songwriter Elder Sister Plum and the Resistance Rising Choir will also appear. Festival headliner Rae Spoon Pioneer Square (1-3pm) and Porter Park (4-6:30pm). Free to all, but helmet will be passed for the musicians during each set. vicbikemusicfest.ca for more info. —Mollie Kaye
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