Conductor Nick Fairbank leads the orchestra that will bring his Sea Cantata to Sidney on Sunday.

Conductor Nick Fairbank leads the orchestra that will bring his Sea Cantata to Sidney on Sunday.

Peninsula swimming in festival of arts

Music, merriment add to flood of ArtSea Festival

ArtSea is seeing a flood tide in its second year.

The Sidney arts festival planted roots last year and has grown exponentially this year, to the relief of John Thorp who heads up the ArtSea Festival committee.

“The art show came first but we’ve always wanted to build something bigger around it,” Thorp said. The Sidney Fine Art Show opens today, for its ninth year, at the Mary Winspear Centre. It’s a world-class juried art show featuring work by primarily BC artists and tends to draw thousands of visitors to town.

“It’s been a goal of ours to build something around the art show, because that brings so many people to town and we wanted to create reasons for them to stay,” Thorp said.

The Community Arts Council of the Saanich Peninsula, which presents the art show, also moved up its annual fall studio tours to anchor the week-long festival. Now the days between are filling in fast. A groundswell of support is flooding the Peninsula as the second season of ArtSea that will see artists and businesses come together across the region.

“I think last year (for ArtSea) we had about six to eight businesses participating, this year we’ve got over 30,” Thorp said. “We’ve almost been more successful than we planned … It’s expanding around the Peninsula too which it was intended to do,” Thorp said.

After the Sidney Fine Art show kicks off the festivities starting today, highlights of ArtSea include the Sea Cantata concert at St. Elizabeth’s, a barbecue and music concert at ScotiaBank in Sidney, and the First Nations and Métis artists show at the art centre in Tulista Park.

Thorp is proud of the expanded music and broader venues. Businesses, tourist attractions and even senior living homes are providing spaces this year

A focal point will be Nicholas Fairbank’s Sea Cantata at St. Elizabeth’s in Sidney on Oct. 16

“That’s a full orchestra with Via Choralis and Viva Youth Choir … that’s the first time we’ve added a major event to the festival,” Thorp said.

Based on texts about sailing and the ocean by Robert Service, Robert Louis Stevenson, Lucy Maude Montgomery and Carl Sandburg, among others, the Cantata is a 30-minute work for the combined choirs with the ArtSea Festival Orchestra. Also on the program will be Handel’s Water Music.

“I was thrilled to be asked to put on the Sea Cantata again at the ArtSea Festival,” Fairbank said. “After the first two performances in Victoria and Sidney last spring I received a lot of positive comments from participants as well as from audience members. I think this is music that is easy to relate to, and of course people on the Island can connect with the nautical theme. I had fun researching the texts, and it is the words that suggested the music, so I hope people will also see and hear how I tried to illustrate the poetry through the music.”

The concert is Sunday, Oct. 16, at 7:30 p.m. at St. Elizabeth’s Church, 10030 Third Street. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students, and are available at Tanner’s Books.

Another boon, colourful banners boasting the festival status of Sidney went from four last year to about 40 this year.

“The town is really going to look as if something is going on,” Thorp said. “We’re really trying to make this whole area a destination … there is an enormous amount of culture and art in this area. It’s really exciting, it’s taking off … The concept of ArtSea has resonated.”

The Sidney Fine Art Show runs today through Sunday at the Mary Winspear Centre. The ArtSea Festival continues to Oct. 23. Learn more about the Sidney Fine Art Show online at blog.sidneyfineartshow.com.

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