Quills Quotes & Notes: Articles and Stories by Rosemary Phillips


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Calvin Dyck - Violinist, Director, Producer, Teacher


Making a difference in the world of music

An article by Rosemary Phillips

Calvin Dyck - Violinist
Calvin Dyck
Photo by Heydemann Art of Photography
Hats
Calvin the violinist
Bringing music to life
Songs Strings & Steps (Watch a Video)
Collaboration
Symphony By The Sea
Adjudicator
Links to more information

Calvin Dyck doesn’t talk much about what he does – he just does it! “I don’t know what to say,” he laughed. “There are so many things that we are doing.”

What Calvin will happily talk about in any interview is the music, a concert program, the achievements of various artists, and he’ll even sing a few bars of music now and then. What he doesn't talk about freely are his personal accomplishments. But, those who work with him and know him will agree that Calvin makes a difference in the lives of so many people of all ages - with his music, directing and teaching.

Hats
Where to start? Calvin wears many hats – and loves wearing them (figuratively and literally). Besides being a family and community man, he is concertmaster of the Vancouver Island Symphony (now in his 16th season), director and conductor of the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra (AYO), and producer and director for various organizations, groups and events, including the highly popular Songs Strings and Steps shows. He’s a teacher, adjudicator, conductor, recording artist, member of chamber orchestras, a sought-out soloist and an all-round really enthusiastic, infectious, talented, loved and respected musician. Actual hats worn in performances have been bright yellow with flowing plumes, three-cornered, plaid, French beret, Russian fur...

Calvin and Yellow Canary Hat Calvin in Plaid Hat Calvin and Russian Fur Hat

Hot Canary Hat

Plaid Hat
Photo by Norma Czerny

Russian Fur Hat

Calvin the violinist
Calvin is a violinist extraordinaire, a master of his instrument which, when played, sings and soars. “Music gives me energy,” he explained. “I just love performing. The energy just comes while I’m playing, and I feed off the music and the audience. I was brought up to always put my whole heart into what I do.” And he does!

His formal biography will tell you how at the age of five he took up the accordion after a travelling salesman came to the family home. When he was eight, a college aptitude test recommended a career as a tug-boat captain, but that very same year the violin called to him. He took lessons and continued on to study at Biola University and the University of Southern California, where in 1991 he received his Doctorate of Musical Arts in Violin Performance. He’s a doctor all right, a doctor of music, and wherever he goes he lifts the listener, viewer and fellow musician away from all troubles and worries by taking them into the heart, soul and joy of both classical and popular music. This is doctoring of a very enjoyable kind.

Calvin has travelled the world with various musical ensembles and enjoys a wide variety of engagements including playing for musicals, weddings, films and recording sessions, and one memorable highlight - playing for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics. Another highlight was travelling across Canada with the Abbotsford Virtuosi and the British Columbia Boys Choir's 45th Anniversary Cross-Canada Tour - with a performance on Parliament Hill for the 2014 Canada Day Celebrations.

Calvin Dyck - Violinist
Calvin just before a performance in 2007
Photo by Rosemary Phillips

As a guest soloist for recitals and with orchestras Calvin takes his art very seriously, yet with a twinkle in his eye. Before a performance with Sinfonia of the North Shore (Lions Gate Sinfonia) in North Vancouver he said, “Often when I start working on a piece I play the whole thing through then I mark things in the margins as to what needs attention. Then I’ll ‘woodshed’ those passages!” This writer had visions of a little shed out back, a stack of wood and an axe with a music stand, some music and a violin. “I chop up the piece into fine little portions,” he chuckled in response, “and break them down into the smallest denominator, so when I put it all back together it’s finely honed and examined.” That’s why when listening to a virtuoso practicing we may hear a few bars played over and over again – the ‘whittling away’ to get the perfect expression.

Bringing music to life
“One day it occurred to me that just the sound alone of music and the instrument isn’t enough. If the music is portraying a particular group of people, like Gypsies, you can describe the fire and the dance, paint a picture, then all of a sudden it’s more than beautiful sounds, it’s a time and place and emotion.” And so Calvin and pianist Betty Suderman created ‘The Golden Violin’ and ‘From Moscow to Madrid’, theatrical recitals of romantic gems and soul-stirring classics, from Copland and Gershwin to Beethoven and Mozart, with props, visuals and storylines that lead the audience on a musical and (imaginary) legendary journey of Calvin’s very own Cuypers golden violin.

Songs Strings & Steps
That was the beginning... what came next was ‘Songs Strings & Steps’, a series of concerts presented to sold-out audiences for the last fourteen years in his hometown of Abbotsford, British Columbia. “The production team originally wanted to create a community concert that is visual with stunning costumes, choreography, props and projected images, lighting and special effects,” explains Calvin. “With designs by Sylvia Friesen we have been able to present blockbuster shows for all ages and musical tastes. We highlight familiar classical and popular music in a totally dramatic and theatrical experience.” And of course, there are always surprises! (See the following YouTube video of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme music with Calvin conducting while wearing a tri-cornered hat. And watch for the surprise!)



Calvin and his creative team, which also includes his wife Heather and a host of community volunteers, have pulled together multi-dimensional shows combining top-class professional and amateur artists and youth trained in music, dance and theatre, the talented AYO and various guest artists.

Themes for SS&S shows have included everything from movies and journeys around the world to pirates, cars, country-hoe-downs and chocolate, and Christmas specials. (For more information on these concerts see below and visit the interview with show designer Sylvia Friesen.)

“I really hope this is all about building something into people’s lives,” continues Calvin. “I enjoy these unusual kinds of projects. It’s wonderful to see the kids catch the bug and play. It’s about more than technique. Music brings people together. With the AYO it’s also their social life.”

Calvin Dyck - Violinist
Calvin Dyck and Natalie Choquette
Photo by Heydemann Art of Photography
Collaboration
Calvin is always interested in collaborative projects. In 2007, he hosted Natalie Choquette, opera comedienne and the Vancouver Island Symphony for a concert in Abbotsford. In 2011 Natalie returned for a special Valentine show with Songs Strings & Steps, and again in February, 2015 for Life, Laughter and Love. In the fall of 2011, Canada’s sensational guitarist Daniel Bolshoy joined Calvin and the AYO on stage and in 2012, the dynamic pianist Ian Parker performing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concert No. 1 and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Calvin has also hosted young child-prodigy pianist Kevin Chen to perform with the AYO, giving Kevin his first opportunity at the age of seven to play as a guest artist with an orchestra. And, tenor Ken Lavigne launched his latest recording at the 2014 SS&S Christmas Concert.

“Eight years ago, Wayne Jeffrey and I started a chamber orchestra in the Fraser Valley. We have performed about concerts in Surrey, Langley and Abbotsford, and where possible, we use local musicians.” Another project with Wayne has been the ‘Carnival of Animals’ in Langley. “We held auditions and had Kwantlin Polytechnic University, Langley Music School and the Western Conservatory piano students performing with the orchestra. Local elementary schools contributed poetry and paintings. It was a tremendous amount of fun.”

In 2013 Calvin became involved with the Bakerview music Academy, an 'el-Sistema' - inspired after-school group music program for children in Abbotsford. It is offered at no charge, promoting positive change through the power of music.

Symphony By The Sea
Another major collaboration for Calvin is with the Vancouver Island Symphony (VIS) for summer concerts titled Symphony by the Sea, held by the sea in Maffeo Sutton Park in Nanaimo. Besides fulfilling his role as concertmaster with passion and joy, he has been integral in introducing new ventures and concert ideas for the orchestra. About the VIS he says, “I really enjoy working with artistic director Pierre Simard, and, unlike a top-down organization, the VIS, Pierre and executive director Margot Holmes, empower musicians to run with their own ideas. They have been very supportive in bringing back the summer pops concert and in giving me the opportunity to conduct the orchestra for these shows. The first year was a bit of an experiment, as I did it mostly myself, assisted by tenor Ken Lavigne, the guest artists, and musicians who took a reduced fee to help make it a success. There were 1800 in the audience. Last year (2014) the crowds came back and brought along friends, and we counted about 4000. This year (2015) it’s going to be an even greater success!”

Adjudicator
“My musical life is very multi-faceted. I’m a member of the Canadian Adjudicator’s Association and so I travel across the country. I always feel I learn something from adjudicating the students of other teachers, like a new way of interpreting a piece of music, being introduced to new music... always learning.”

Music for Calvin is a passion, a profession and a pleasure. And so it is, that Calvin’s aim is to always make music exciting, entertaining and enjoyable for every age and taste.

Calvin lives in Abbotsford with his wife, Heather, and their two children, Christine and Andrew. Besides making music, he enjoys the challenges and adventures of family life, gardening (and growing huge pumpkins), reading, and travelling.

Links to more information

For more information about Calvin Dyck, his performances, the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra and Songs Strings and Steps visit Calvin’s web site. And, for information about Symphony by the Sea visit the Vancouver Island Symphony web site.

There are many more articles on this site about great musicians and artists - (see Articles Index) - including: Daniel Bolshoy, guitarist; Ian Parker, pianist; Natalie Choquette, opera comedienne; and Ken Lavigne, tenor.

   

Copyright Rosemary Phillips, Quills Quotes & Notes Enterprises, 2013
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