VIEWPOINT: Thoughts On The Cultural Olympiad

by Bruce Hoffman

I’ve watched with growing disquiet the rush by various artists and arts groups to disparage the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad. Since I was responsible for marketing the recent choral gala Welcome the World, a Cultural Olympiad event, I didn’t feel it was right to speak out.
Well – the gala has come and gone and now I’m free to do so.  I ‘get’ why some artists feel they can’t support the Olympics. I understand that they are linked to a provincial government that is deeply unpopular in the arts community for its ill-timed and poorly thought out arts cuts.
Still.
My partner and I are lucky to live close to English Bay, where tonight’s ever-changing performance of Vectorial Elevation seems to be mimicking the Northern Lights as the beams play amongst the low-hanging clouds. We love the new LED-based art that is popping up all over the city, and we hope to get tickets to Robert LePage’s The Blue Dragon.
I was lucky enough to get last minute tickets to the February 1st performance of Mahler’s 8th Symphony. There’s a reason this work isn’t done often, and that’s simply because it costs so much to produce, and I had never heard it before. This gargantuan work featured the Vancouver Bach Choir, members of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, an expanded Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and 8 stellar soloists. Because of the Cultural Olympiad, Vancouver was treated to two critically acclaimed performances of the work, both of which were sold out.
On February 6th we heard the Vancouver Symphony in a program that focused on the music of George Gershwin – but alongside that was a new work by a young student, which was paid for as part of the Cultural Olympiad.
On February 9 I had the privilege of singing with Chor Leoni as part of Welcome the World: A Choral Gala. This concert brought together two professional (paid singers) choirs, musica intima vocal ensemble and Vancouver Chamber Choir, and two choirs “amateur in name only” (non-paid singers), Elektra Women’s Choir and Chor Leoni Men’s Choir.  Each is recognized internationally as at the top of their game in their genres. It must be pointed out that such a mixing of “pro” and “amateur” choirs on the same stage happens rarely, if at all, and this concert would not have happened without the support of the Cultural Olympiad.
We sang together and for each other, as well as for the attentive audience of over 1000 people, and performed a wide-ranging program of music that was heavy on Canadian content. Two thirds of the works were by living composers. The camaraderie between the 4 choirs was palpable, as was the excitement from the crowd.
Now does this mean that I’ve liked everything I’ve seen or heard? Of course not. I’ve learned that Mahler isn’t really for me (I’m more an Early Music and Gershwin kind of guy), and yes, some of the art work around town goes over my head. Nonetheless, I’m glad that it’s here to experience, and that’s because of the Cultural Olympiad. So take in a show, see some art, submit a design for Vectorial Elevation, hear a concert you’d not usually attend.
You’ll be glad you did.
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Bruce Hoffman has been the director of communications for Chor Leoni Men's Choir for over fifteen years. His website is at www.brucecatcommunications.com

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