Proms Island Style

The Vancouver Island Symphony’s season finale, Proms Island Style, will, according to Guest Conductor Arthur Arnold, blow the roof off the Port Theatre!

The Proms is an audience favourite, but what will make this performance unique and Island style?

“Islanders make it island style!” explained Arthur. “Islanders make it happen and bring the enthusiasm and participation.  There will be fabulous music of course, and something for everyone. It will be a blast”.

Arthur is so passionate about his craft. He always knew he would be a conductor. “Apparently at three years old I was standing on chairs conducting. I just wanted to conduct. I don’t know why. I was always listening to classical music, and I loved it. There was that time though, when I decided I was going to be a farmer. My daycare lady lived on a farm and one day during haying season, the weather was threatening rain and it was imperative that the hay be brought in immediately. I was only 12 or so at the time and could not handle the huge bales, so I was given a crash course in driving the tractor. I absolutely loved it. But in the end, music won out.”

Arthur describes himself as a simple man. He loves to connect and help others do the same through music. “Music is such a strong language. How it connects me to my audience is what fills me. It is intimate and powerful.  I feel it is tangible, but, unlike a painting on a wall that you can see, touch and feel, music needs to be re-created to become the art form. Imagine Rembrandt is giving you detailed instructions on how to paint the Nightwatch, and then you must paint it in front of the audience. This process of re-creating is what makes music unique.  It will never be played or conducted in the same way twice.” Music has a language of its own and can unite all people.  “When my students come from all over the globe for the PRISMA Festival (Arthur is the Artistic Director) – they arrive on a Sunday and on Monday we hold our first rehearsal. These students do not all speak the same languages, but the music units them. They all speak music. It is spectacular to watch.”

“As humans, we long for music. For me, it is not just about striving for perfection, although we want to be our best, it is about passion and holding space for the music. Sharing that beauty and joy is my goal for every concert. When you do something with heart, you inspire and spread joy. It is a celebration when we connect.”

Since his resignation from the Moscow Symphony Orchestra in March of 2022, Arthur says he has had more time to just be. His schedule was frantic. He loved it, but it was a crazy lifestyle of flights, rehearsals and concerts for over 2,000 people in historic halls. “I got caught up by the demanding lifestyle. Now I have my freedom back. I have space for more relaxation to do what I want and to do other things that also fulfill me and give me joy. During the pandemic I discovered a passion for spinning wool and knitting sweaters! Life can be very serendipitous.  I am always so excited when everything falls into place. I spent the summer in England and stumbled upon a wool mill. The owner is an avid trombone player! Imagine how excited I was to find out they were short-handed and needed some help last December.  I was able to help herd their 150 Dorset Down sheep, work the industrial spinning machines and even play at a children’s Christmas concert. “

“At the wool mill, there was this antique circular vintage sock-knitting machine. I was so intrigued by it. They are very hard to come by. Rare and expensive if you happen to find one.  When I returned from England to my home in Powell River, I had the opportunity to talk with one of our big supporters of the PRISMA Festival and Academy, and low and behold, he had a circular sock machine!  He told me he didn’t use it and was more than happy to loan it to me!  I love it and I can create a sock within a few hours. This synergy, how life unfolds, is what makes me tick. It is the same in music. On stage, I know what I want from the piece, but there are 80 people on stage with me. What do they want from the music? For me, conducting is finding a balance of leadership and freedom for the individual musicians. That creates elasticity in the music. Music needs space. The musicians need space, and we give that to the music.”

Interview by Christine McAuley