In a perfect world, the Christmas season sees us slow down and smell the poinsettias, but the reality for most is a madcap sprint to the finish line that leaves our energy as depleted as our bank accounts.
It’s with that front of mind that electric violinist Victoria Yeh, joined by some very talented musical friends, will take to the Market Hall stage on Thursday, December 21st to present Timeless, her celebration of the winter that promises a welcome respite from all the Christmas hubbub.
Tickets to the 8 p.m. performance cost $35 ($55 for cabaret seating with VIP pre-show talk) and can be purchased in person at the Market Hall box office (140 Charlotte St, Peterborough), by phone at 705-775-1503, or online at markethall.org.
“For a lot of people, the holidays can be a very bittersweet or difficult period, especially those who have lost loved ones or are going through a difficult time in their life,” says Yeh. “It can be difficult being bombarded by holidays and Christmas. I wanted to offer something that celebrates the winter season, which is so Canadian and such a beautiful time of year, without it being just about Christmas.”
The concert takes place on the winter solstice — the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year — which, in many cultures throughout history, has symbolized rebirth, renewal, and the return of the light.
“In this age of social media highlight reels, we live in a time where we have unreasonable expectations of happiness,” Yeh notes. “But everything in life is impermanent. I wanted to honour that by creating space for people in happiness, sorrow, celebration, and even grief to come together during the holidays. This is an evening of music to lift our spirits out of the longest night of the year.”
VIDEO: Victoria Yeh performs Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending”
Timeless, says Yeh, will be very good for her own psyche as well.
“My first husband passed away on December 23rd nine years ago and Christmas has never really been quite the same for me since,” she reflects. “Each year, I get a little more hopeful that it’ll be easier. In some ways, it is — but it’s inevitable that grief will hit me at some point. It’s a time of year I need to be kinder and gentler with myself, and try to make new traditions.”
Timeless is being presented one year to the day since Yeh headlined her first Peterborough concert at The Theatre On King, having moved to East City just six months prior to start a new chapter after remarrying.
“I really wasn’t sure what the reception would be, but it was so positive,” recalls Yeh. “It sold out in two weeks and I had a wait list of another full house. I decided to dive off the deep end this year and go for Market Hall. They’re both beautiful venues, but Market Hall is a wonderful step up for us.”
Her audience, says Yeh, will be treated to a “similar concept” as the 2022 concert “but a very refreshed program.”
“It’s essentially violin through the ages. It starts with the Baroque era with a movement from Vivaldi’s Winter from Four Seasons followed by Invierno (Winter), which was written by the famous Latin composer Astor Piazzolla, a contemporary composer who’s best know for his tangos. It’s infused with quotes from Vivaldi, which is really creative, interesting and surprising.”
Yeh will also premiere a new piece of her own, titled “Winter In Canada,” which features “elements from Vivaldi and Piazzolla but also some very Canadian elements.”
Including Yeh, 16 musicians will perform, in the form of an 11-piece orchestra and her band, both called Spirit Awakens. Among the Peterborough musicians performing are Mike Graham, Curtis Cronkwright, and John Kraus.
The result, says Yeh, will be an orchestral classical beginning to the concert followed by a more contemporary jazz fusion sound in the second half.
Timeless marks the final show of Yeh’s six-concert music series Travel By Sound that started September 23 at Showplace with an original folk musical from Shipyard Kitchen Party titled Tom Thomson’s Wake, which was reprised on September 30 at Victoria Hall in Cobourg.
Next up was Canadian drum legend Paul DeLong’s jazz-fusion quintet ONE WORD, featuring Yeh, in concert at Market Hall on October 26. That was followed, on November 4, with a concert by the Northumberland Orchestra and Choir, of which Yeh is concertmaster, at Trinity United Church in Cobourg.
On Sunday, December 17th, Northumberland Orchestra and Choir will perform a 3 p.m. matinee dine-and-dance Christmas-themed concert at Cobourg’s Best Western Plus, with Timeless closing out the Travel By Sound series four days later in Peterborough.
Each Travel By Sound performance provides ticket holders with pre-show specials at local restaurants as well as discounts for overnight stays at local hotels. For the Timeless concert, Amandala’s is offering ticket holders a three-course dinner for $75, while the Holiday Inn Peterborough-Waterfront is providing a discounted overnight stay for $155.
“Overall, I’ve received great feedback,” says Yeh of the all-inclusive full night out offering, noting “Some people, who have travelled quite far for the shows, having taken up the offers.”
VIDEO: Victoria Yeh performs Jean-Luc Ponty’s “Cosmic Messenger”
The Travel By Sound series aside, Yeh is one very active performer, with her concert itinerary since moving to Peterborough dotted with performances not only in the city but also across central and southern Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. Add to that her musical score contributions to countless film and television projects, and her teaching of music students. If that’s not enough to keep her busy, she and Hesselink are in the midst of building a new house.
“It has been challenging to juggle everything,” admits Yeh. “I probably spend 60 per cent of my time doing administrative things and organizing and practicing and all that stuff.”
“My husband is in his second year of a one-year sabbatical,” she laughs. “He designed our home and is the project manager and general contractor. What I can contribute is vendor management and budgeting, and a little light labour where I can. We work really well as a team. Luckily our kid is a teenager and gaining independence.”
Reflecting on their move to Peterborough, Yeh says she left behind “a very established career in Toronto that I spent 16 years building.”
“We had planned to move to Georgian Bay. I spent about five or six years slowly building a fairly loyal audience there. Then we decided Georgian Bay wasn’t where we wanted to land after all, and made the choice to move to Peterborough. I was faced with the daunting prospect of having to restart my career from zero. I had no personal or professional contacts here. I knew I had to put in a lot of effort to hit the ground running to make anything of my career here.”
A year and a half later, mission accomplished.
“I’ve been so pleased with our move here — I feel like everything that I have done has been welcomed,” assesses Yeh. “The artistic community has been very welcoming. The business community has been helpful as well. I’ve been involved with the Chamber of Commerce and the DBIA. I also received a grant from EC3 (Electric City Culture Council), the local RBC Dominion Securities, and Kawarthas Northumberland Tourism to fund my concerts. There’s a long list of partners and sponsors that have gotten on board for this concert and the series. It’s been a huge blessing.”
Raised in Edmonton, Yeh recalls waiting for the school bus “in minus-32-degree weather, when your tears freeze on your face.”
“Ontario winters are a fairly pleasant breeze for me. We’re very into outdoor winter activities. Last winter, we were able to ski from right outside our front door over to Beavermead, and we skated in our backyard on the canal. We’re so thankful to be in this pedestrian-friendly city. It’s a really wonderful change from the anonymity of Toronto.”
As busy as life is for herself and her family, Yeh says her focus “is always on live performance.”
“It brings me so much joy, and so much energy, to be able to share space with an audience and really connect with them. I really enjoy that. But I’m an introvert, so I do find it tiring as well. I need to retreat back home and spend time totally alone, locked in a room.”
Besides holding down three downtown Peterborough residencies at Jethro’s Bar + Stage, Amandala’s Restaurant, and the Black Horse Pub, Yeh is composing the soundtrack for Grist, a proof of concept for a three-part mini-series filmed at Lang Pioneer Village by Peterborough-based Paradigm Pictures.
“I’m also doing a really cool thing with South Georgian Bay Media Association in Collingwood,” she says. “I filmed the first thing with them last August, which was a test on augmented reality and virtual reality. They filmed me in 3D and then built a virtual reality avatar of me performing. We’re trying to secure some grant funding to present that as a live augmented reality concert experience.”
“This year I’ve played the biggest and most ambitious shows of my career, but the Jethro’s residency reminds me of how much I still enjoy playing really small listening rooms where I can actually see and connect with every single person in the room. I can do really intimate shows with a very unique set list. I’m looking forward to maybe doing more house concerts next year and more small rooms as well.”
For more information about Victoria Yeh, including Timeless and her other upcoming performances, visit victoriayeh.com.
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