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Anticipation grows for return of PRISMA

Musicians and audiences invited to experience something ‘bigger than yourself’
MUSIC IS MAGIC: [From left] Pacific Region International Summer Music Association executive director Melanie Munroe (with Arco), artistic director Arthur Arnold, and violinist Meg Pratt-Johnson, who intends to join a master class during the festival.

Pacific Region International Summer Music Association (PRISMA) is back from June 17 to 29, with anticipation growing for the grand-opening concert: Ice, Silk and Turkish Delight.

The festival promises many nights of music and performances, such as Stars Rising to Mahler's Majesty, Dances from Distant Lands (featuring world-renowned soloist violist Máté Szücs, former principal viola with the Berlin Philharmonic), plus master classes and limelight concerts.

PRISMA on the Beach on Saturday, June 22, is a highlight for many. The orchestral music festival and academy also draws thousands of people to Evergreen Theatre at Powell River Recreation Complex to experience live symphonic music and chamber music concerts. 78 accomplished students from around the world have been chosen to take part in rigorous orchestral training, which is, for many, a life-changing experience.

PRISMA co-founder and artistic director Arthur Arnold says the students invited to the two-week orchestral training are on the brink of becoming professional musicians.

"We try to train them that little bit extra so they are prepared to win a position in a professional orchestra, and that’s an incredibly difficult process," emphasizes Arnold. "We are providing students with the opportunity to play in a big symphony orchestra." 

Arnold said the students get a chance to perform incredibly difficult repertoire such as Mahler's Symphony No 5.

"There is so much going on in that score," adds Arnold. "This is not something you do every day."

When selecting the roster of pieces played during the festival, Arnold says he tries to strike a balance: challenging for the music students and attractive for the audience and supporters. 

In a co-presentation with qathet Film Society, the grand opening concert, Ice, Silk and Turkish Delight, will immerse the audience in sound and visual projections. 

"It starts with a piece that Canadian composer and trumpet player with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) Marcus Goddard wrote during the pandemic," explains Arnold. 

Antarctica: Life Emerging is a collaborative project that will take audiences on a musical and visual journey through the icy landscape of Antarctica.

"Marcus will conduct this piece and the principal cellist of the VSO will play the solo park," says Arnold.

The next piece, The Silk Road, starts in Venice, Italy, and makes its way east through Turkey, Azerbaijan and other countries on the Silk Road, and all the way to China.

"Folk music from each country will shine through while drone footage from each country will be projected with each movement.”

PRISMA executive director Melanie Munroe says this year's festival has been a lot of fun to organize.

"This is a unique year because we are partnering with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra," she adds. "Students will be going to the Lower Mainland five days earlier, and 14 students have been selected to play in the VSO on the Orpheum stage in Vancouver."

The 78 students will then be bussed up to the qathet region to begin a jam-packed couple of weeks of learning, performing and meeting fellow musicians.

Violinist Meg Pratt-Johnson moved to the northern Sunshine Coast last year and joined qathet Symphony Orchestra as concert master. 

"I have lived all over BC, but I was surprised when I came here; the music scene here is gigantic," says Pratt-Johnson. “I am so excited that we have an international music festival of this calibre right here.”

Meg will attend PRISMA concerts this year and visit master classes.

“I’m sure it will help my own playing,” she adds. 

Every afternoon will feature two master classes and two limelight concerts.

"If you have never been to an orchestra concert before, imagine you are inside of this sound and energy, it's an incredible treat you can give yourself,” explains Arnold. “It's healing; you feel understood, part of something bigger than yourself. It's a beautiful artform, and once you have tasted it you will never forget it."

Events other than PRISMA on the Beach take place at Evergreen Theatre, 5001 Joyce Avenue. Tickets can be found at the Powell River Kings office at Powell River Recreation Complex for the duration of the festival, or online at