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A musical spectacle for the entire community

PRISMA on the Beach marks halfway point of the 2018 PRISMA Festival in Powell River
Arthur Arnold
Arthur Arnold will conduct the PRISMA Festival Orchestra this Saturday, June 16, for a free, outdoor symphony spectacular at Willingdon Beach. Robert Colasanto photo

When organizers put together the first PRISMA (Pacific Region International Summer Music Academy) on the Beach event six years ago, they weren’t quite sure how Powell River audiences would react. Filling Evergreen Theatre with 720 bonafide symphony lovers was one thing; drawing hundreds of families to Willingdon Beach to test their palates with a program of largely unfamiliar repertoire was another.

Erring on the side of caution, they created a pre-show padded with speeches and entertainment, leading up to a short symphonic sampler with plenty of surprises such as air shows and naval cannonades.

By the end of last year’s event, the crowd was begging to hear more from the PRISMA Festival Orchestra. Musical tastes had developed, bribery was no longer needed and organizers vowed to incorporate that feedback into their 2018 model.

“PRISMA on the Beach started off as a way to introduce people to the orchestra, and we really worried about trying to get people to the beach, trying to get them to open their minds to it,” says PRISMA operations manager and special events coordinator Kim Barton-Bridges. “Now, all these years later, people really just want to hear the orchestra, so that’s what we’re doing on Saturday, June 16, and we’re hoping that everybody’s going to be really pleased.”

PRISMA’s board and staff look forward to the event each year as it provides an opportunity to give back to the residents of Powell River, and local government and sponsors whose support has allowed PRISMA to grow and prosper. Making it free and informal ensures a world-class musical experience is available to the entire community, including those who might not otherwise be able to afford it.

"Music belongs to everyone and music is to share,” says PRISMA founding music director Arthur Arnold. “It’s important that an individual understands that the music is there for him or her. We [the musicians] play for other people, and that’s the first thing I tell these students and all of the orchestras I work with. We don’t know who is in our audience who may desperately need our music.”

When it comes to programming, Arnold has held nothing back for this year’s PRISMA on the Beach. Audiences will receive just as much musical wow-factor as they would at a ticketed PRISMA concert, perhaps even more.

“We’ll have the viola soloist from the Berlin Philharmonic, Máté Szücs, play a short piece,” says Arnold. “We’ll also play Tchaikovsky’s beautiful Rococo Variations for cello and orchestra.”

The latter is slated to be a “pass the baton” effort, which will feature eight PRISMA cello students and their instructor, Yegor Dyachkov, tag-teaming on the various sections of the solo part.

Works by Gabrieli, Hummel and Elgar will fill out the program, alongside a much-anticipated performance of the Harry Potter Suite.

As always, food and art vendors will be in abundance and attendees are encouraged to bring cash and arrive hungry at 5 pm. The orchestra will begin playing at 6 pm.

“We have some great food this year; everything from donuts, fries and baked goods to Syrian, Mexican, Indian and more,” says Barton-Bridges.

Staff from Sli City Grill will be on site cooking up a feast of Lois Lake Steelhead, generously donated by West Coast Fish Culture, with all proceeds benefiting Tla’amin Nation’s upcoming Tribal Canoe Journey.

“This will also be the official launch of the Let’s Talk Trash team’s mobile dishwashing trailer, which is really cool,” adds Barton-Bridges. “PRISMA on the Beach is trying to be a zero-waste event, so we’ll have real dishes and will be washing them on site, hoping to reduce our impact on the environment.”

PRISMA staff and volunteers will have a booth on site as well, selling limited-edition t-shirts, memberships and tickets to all four remaining performances. The PRISMA Festival continues until June 23 with plenty more in store, including a BC composers concert on June 20, a night of chamber music on June 21 and performances of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring on June 22 and 23.

Individual tickets are $25, festival passes are $90. Free student recitals and $5 masterclasses take place most weekdays. For a full schedule of events or to purchase tickets, go to