The Pictures Project hits the Island Highway!

The Pictures Project has been a multi-year innovative project by the Vancouver Island Symphony. This wonderful piece encompasses the mission of the VIS: a one-of-a-kind immersive experience, featuring our musicians, with visual arts that showcases our community.

During the week of April 24-27th the Vancouver Island Symphony will be presenting Baba Yaga & The MAGIC Gallery to all grade 4 and 5 students in District 71 during the day, and “The Pictures Project” will be performed on Tuesday April 25 at 7:30 p.m. at the Sid Williams Theatre as part of the Symphony at the Sid Series.

“The performance of “The Pictures Project” this April is both an end and a beginning. It started in the pandemic when we needed to approach concerts differently – smaller orchestras, no live audiences, and a plan to reach people at home in meaningful ways. We began by commissioning BC composer/arranger Jason Nett to create a version of “Pictures at an Exhibition” for us. This piece was originally written by Modest Mussorgsky for piano, it has been arranged for all kinds of ensembles, including, and most famously, for very large orchestra, by Maurice Ravel in 1922,” explained Mark Beaty, Artistic Lead for The Pictures Project.

“It’s important to note the fact that Mussorgsky originally wrote Pictures for piano,” explains Beaty. “Nett worked exclusively from the piano score to create this version for 12 instruments. It was a challenging request from us because it was not a “typical” ensemble he was writing for. Our goal was to use this arrangement not only for our public concerts, but also for our education shows for all Grade 4 students. We wanted a small ensemble that showcased as many of the instruments of the orchestra as possible, while still being nimble enough to take on tour (and deal with physical distancing on stage (during covid!).”

“For the Pictures Project, we wanted an arrangement for 12 key instruments of the orchestra, in part because the future of large ensembles was uncertain in 2020, but more because it would be a perfect group to reach our grade 4 students, whom we were not able to play for during all the lockdowns.”

Fast forward to 2023! We have taken “The Pictures Project” arrangement for 12 instruments and created so many opportunities for everyone to learn about the instruments of the orchestra that include the following:

  • a full-length film of the VIS performing the piece.
  • Filmed 12 interviews with the musicians, each teaching a musical concept and sharing their instrument.
  • Wrote and produced “Baba Yaga and The MAGIC Gallery,” a show specifically for our grade 4 education program using Pictures at an Exhibition music.
  • Created a Vancouver Island art competition and exhibition for local artists inspired by listening to the different movements of Mussorgsky’s music.
  • And developed a touring show called: “The Pictures Project” that features a live performance of the piece, interactive components to explore Mussorgsky’s imagery, and the winning art entries, projected in sequence during the performance.

Mark shared “Personally, it has been a joy to work on this project. First, the music is remarkable. Mussorgsky’s ideas and writing are so powerful and evocative that, even after working intimately with the piece for three years, I do not tire of it. It is an endless well of storytelling. In fact, it has inspired us to generate more storytelling as part of all performances. I also love how this project brought artists of all kinds together during one of the darkest periods the arts have gone through in recent history. Filmmaking, theatre production, video editing, visual artists, and most of all, my fellow musicians of the Vancouver Island Symphony. The VIS musicians really got behind this project and helped bring the performances to life. This project means a lot to me personally and I am thrilled at the prospect of sharing it with folks up and down Vancouver Island, to spark conversation, and continue weaving the artistic fabric of our communities.”

Music, art, community, and your Vancouver Island Symphony – come and be a part of it all.

Check out more about The Pictures Project on our website: