VSO music director Bramwell Tovey performs a special birthday song for student Anshal Prasad during an event at Surrey’s Royal Heights Elementary on Monday, June 4. (submitted photo: Surrey Schools)

VSO’s departing Tovey performs in Surrey one final time, at school concert

Royal Heights Elementary hosted the music director on Monday

Surrey’s Royal Heights Elementary played host to Bramwell Tovey’s final school visit as music director of Vancouver Symphony Orchestra on Monday (June 4).

Tovey played piano during the morning concert, a VSO Connects event that brings symphonic music to schools.

The maestro is set to retire from the orchestra following its current season of concerts. However, it’s more of a “re-wirement,” as Tovey calls it, than retirement.

“He will be as busy as ever, or even busier, with the BBC Concert Orchestra, teaching at Boston University and all of his guest conducting in L.A, NYC, Ottawa, Quebec City, Melbourne, etc. plus two weeks here next year,” Matthew Baird, the VSO’s public relations manager, told the Now-Leader on Wednesday.

At Royal Heights’ gym on Monday, students, staff and special guests heard Tovey perform in a school one final time, after 18 years with the VSO.

“It was outstanding,” school principal Catherine Hanna told the Now-Leader. “Not only did Bramwell play for our community and guests with such personality and connections to the audience, he stayed following the school performance and played further pieces for the seniors from Kinsmen Lodge. It was an exceptional closing VSO Connects performance – Bramwell’s last school performance. He estimates he has visited 200 schools during his career with VSO.”

Tovey played several songs, highlighting a variety of styles and composers.

According to a post at surreyschools.ca, he also showed off his composing chops by playing a song written on the spot for Grade 3 student Anshal Prasad – whose birthday was that day – using the letters of her name.

Royal Heights was treated to Tovey’s visit after receiving a VSO Connects grant, which included the “Meet the Maestro” event and a student tour of the Orpheum Theatre, the VSO’s home venue in Vancouver.

Seniors from Kinsmen Place Lodge were also invited to the school to hear Tovey perform “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” “As Time Goes By” and other tunes.

In the end, “There wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” Hanna added.

With the VSO at the Orpheum, the final concerts of Tovey’s tenure as music director will take place from June 16 to 18, featuring “a world premiere commission by Composer-in-Residence Jocelyn Morlock, and Mahler’s epic, stunning work of compositional genius, the ‘Resurrection’ Symphony No. 2,” according to a post at vancouversymphony.ca.

“This work is a dramatic, emotional journey that in some ways echoes Beethoven’s ‘Ninth.’ Sweeping in size and scope, the monumental symphony struggles with profound questions of life, death, and the afterlife, with equally profound writing and orchestration. Mark your calendar for this historic concert.”

In Surrey, a VSO concert May 14 at Bell Performing Arts Centre kicked off Tovey’s final month with the orchestra.

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VSO music director Bramwell Tovey speaks during a farewell performance at Surrey’s Royal Heights Elementary on Monday, June 4. (submitted photo: Surrey Schools)

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