An hour of free live music every Thursday

Photo of Colin and Dave Branter by Barrie Barrington
Photo of Colin and Dave Branter by Barrie Barrington

Quality performances in diverse styles by music instructors and more

By Caroline Ho, Arts Editor


On Thursdays at 1 p.m., students and others can step out of their worldly worries for an hour to immerse themselves in a free concert by professional musicians.

The Arts at One series is a set of concerts taking place most Thursdays at the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre, on the fourth floor of the New Westminster campus. Every week, a chamber group of professional musicians from the Lower Mainland—usually three to five people—puts on an afternoon show that is completely free and open to all audiences.

According to Music Department Coordinator John van Deursen, who spoke to the Other Press for an interview, the show is almost “too good to be free,” considering the quality and musicianship of the performers. “It’s great that it’s free, but people should realize that it’s worth much more than that,” said van Deursen.

Every week there’s a different show in a completely different style, with genres ranging from classical, contemporary, jazz, world, and more.

The first show of the semester, titled Painting with Sound Evocative, took place on September 14. The concert featured works performed on saxophone, violin, cello, and piano, including a piece composed by saxophonist and Douglas instructor Colin MacDonald: “Betty Takes a Walk,” a gorgeous three-moment work inspired by the paintings of Canadian artist Euphemia McNaught. Thursday’s show marked the first performance of MacDonald’s composition; according to van Deursen, usually three or four original pieces premier at Arts at One over the course of the season.

Some of the upcoming concerts include performances by Douglas instructors, like last week’s show. Other concerts feature other artists in the community and from the Lower Mainland. The next show (September 21) will be an alumni concert, with performances by past students from the Music Department who have since gone on professionally. This concert will be one of the more stylistically diverse of the series, since these former students’ careers have taken them in a range of musical directions.

Van Deursen told the Other Press that he can’t single out any one show that is especially worth watching—all of them will be similarly excellent in quality, and every viewer is bound to have their favourites based on personal taste. However, one noteworthy show will probably be the November 2 concert by Early Music Vancouver, an organization that promotes Renaissance and Baroque music. Early Music performs using remakes of historical instruments to reproduce the original sounds of centuries-old music.

Arts at One will not hold shows on November 9 and 16 because the college’s Theatre productions take place in the Laura C. Muir Theatre during those two weeks. On November 23 and 30, Arts at One will return with two Student Showcase Concerts, featuring current music students who demonstrate high-level performance. Over the next few weeks and months, the Music Department faculty will be noting which students are excelling and offering them the chance to display their skills in the Student Showcases, an opportunity that the students are usually eager to take.

Attendance to all Arts at One concerts is mandatory for music students who are taking private lessons. According to van Deursen, it’s important that aspiring musicians are exposed to live, professional-quality performances—sometimes by their own instructors—much more directly than through watching a recorded video. The students get to witness both the calibre of musicianship and the physicality of the performance.

Of course, attending one of these concerts is a very rewarding experience for all audiences, even those of us who aren’t necessarily musicians. Arts at One gives us the rare opportunity to remove ourselves from daily distractions and concerns.

“In our busy lives, we need moments of reflection,” said van Deursen. “We need a pause moment where you become absorbed in something that is not Facebook or your mobile phone … Once you’ve got your mind focused, you’ve gone through that experience, when you come out the other end of a concert, you find that a lot of your stresses have been reduced.”

With free admission cost, it’s certainly an hour well spent.