On Fiona Black's first night in Buenos Aires, she took in a performance that blew her away.
Visiting the Argentine capital, "the home of tango," last week as an invited guest at BAFIM, the Buenos Aires International Music Fair & Conference held Sept. 19-21, Black was treated to a show by the 15-piece Orquesta Típica Fernández Fierro.
"I loved them," the North Vancouver resident says.
"I thought they were really good, really contemporary, really kick ass for tango. Obviously Astor Piazzolla has had a huge impact and has shaped much of tango in Argentina but of course everyone is trying to do their own take on it.. .. They were really fun and I've not seen a full tango orchestra before."
Such is life for the director of programming for the North Shore Credit Union Centre for the Performing Arts at Capilano University. For the last 17 years, since the theatre's inception, Black, 47, has been tasked with scouring the globe to bring the best acts from around the world to share their passion with local music lovers.
"It's a hard life," she laughs.
Black attends music conferences fairly regularly, giving her an opportunity to hear new artists and meet with their agents and managers in hopes of one day presenting them on the North Shore.
"I feel very strongly about seeing a group perform live before I invite them or I try to get the group to come here to perform. It's got to be special, it's got to be amazing. I set the bar pretty high," she says.
Argentina proved fruitful and Black was grateful to have been one of three Canadians, the other two were from Toronto, Ont., who were invited to attend.
"I got to see tons of music and meet some great people," she says.
While Orquesta Típica will remain on her radar for future years, Black is currently focused on the launch of the North Shore Credit Union Centre for the Performing Arts's 2013-2014 season. This year's offerings are divided between a number of series, including Jazz, Global Roots, Theatre, Speaker, and Classical & Choral. The lineup is diverse, offering a mix of new and returning acts, and represents the growing collaborative approach arts presenters are taking on the North Shore.
Black has gone to great pains to ensure there is truly something for everyone.
"Definitely I try to have a really nice mix so that there's hopefully music that will appeal to a wide range of people," she says.
Due to her extensive travels, world music has become a strong passion of Black's and she's excited to be kicking off their Jazz series with Brazilian artist Vinicius Cantuária Friday, Oct. 4. "We've never had him before, (he's) a beautiful artist, I can't wait," she says, adding in March 2014, a second Brazilian artist, Márcio Faraco, will be returning to the Capilano University stage.
This year, they're also bringing back fado singer and composer Antonió Zambujo, who connects the music of southern Portugal with Brazilian pop, Feb. 2, 2014.
"We had him a couple of years ago for his debut in North America and it went really well," says Black. "People loved the show, so it's very satisfying to bring him back to the series."
The season has a strong focus on Africa this year with Malian artists Habib Koité and Bamada Feb. 7, 2014 at Kay Meek Centre, along with fellow Malian artist Sidi Touré in a fusion duo project with Lousiana artist Cedric Watson April 8 at the Electric Owl, both part of the Global Roots Series.
Another ensemble making their Capilano debut is France's Paris Combo who haven't played the market in more than 10 years. They¹ll play at Cap April 19, 2014.
"I love to introduce new artists constantly," says Black. "I think new blood in the series is key to keeping fans of our series and regular attendees interested. We certainly bring back artists that do really well and are favourites. I try to give a little bit of space in between their appearances so that I don't over expose them in the series.
"Obviously I'm conscious too that if I introduce an artist that's brand new to North America even, it can be a bit risky. People don't know who they are. I have to hope that they trust, that they'll come out, that however we describe and we put up YouTube clips that it will be appealing to people, that they'll be adventurous enough to take a gamble and come out to see a brand new artist. We've been pretty lucky in that way. It's nice to have that latitude," she says.
When asked what she attributes to their success over the years, Black says she credits their consistency in the quality of shows they've offered, as well, in the last few years they've been doing co-presentations with other venues, including Kay Meek, the Electric Owl and Presentation House Theatre.
This season, they're copresenting Joel Fredericksen, a bass opera singer from Munich, Germany who will be doing a solo early music performance accompanying himself on the lute, entitled Orpheus, I am, at Presentation House Theatre Feb. 4. "I see lots and lots of performances and I'm really committed to matching the artist with the venue," says Black.
They've also partnered with the PuSH International Performing Arts Festival again this year for a presentation of Ethiopia's Krar Collective, a latenight show Jan. 25, 2014 at Performance Works.
"You don't want to sit down to this band, you want to get up and dance and have some fun. This is a venue that can support that," says Black.
Some other big names featured this year include jazz legend Pat Metheny, performing as part of the Pat Metheny Unity Group, at the Vogue Theatre March 3, 2014. This is the second time Cap has presented a show at the Vogue and it's the first time Metheny has performed as part of their season.
Kicking off the Global Roots Series Tuesday night is famed Canadian performer Ron Sexsmith at Kay Meek Centre at 8 p.m. "He's just a great songwriter, great singer," says Black. "There's no one
who sings or sounds like Ron and I think that's one of the biggest compliments you can pay an artist is when you can say no one sounds like them, they sound completely unique and original and that's Ron to me. It will be a great kick-off for the Global Roots Series."
Opening for Sexsmith is P.E.I.-born and Halifax area-based singer-songwriter Jenn Grant, who previously worked with Sexsmith on her 2007 debut, Orchestra for the Moon.
Apart from their extensive live music lineup, Black is excited about two Speaker Series engagements they're presenting this fall, including the "grand dame of gothic horror herself, Anne Rice," who will speak to the second work in her new series about werewolves, The Wolves of Midwinter, Nov. 7 at Kay Meek. Former Prime Minister Joe Clark will speak on his new book, HowWe Lead Canada in a Century of Change, Nov. 25.
The 2013-2014 Cap Theatre Series marks a blend between four student productions by the university's Exit Twenty-Two (A Bedfull of Foreigners, Pride and Prejudice, Witness for the Prosecution and The Drowsy Chaperone), and two touring Arts Club Theatre Company shows: Driving Miss Daisy; and Chelsea Hotel, a celebration of the songs of Leonard Cohen.
"For fans of Leonard Cohen, you won't be disappointed," says Black.
As part of their Classical & Choral Series, the Capilano University Festival Chorus and Capilano University Singers will present Cap Goes Celtic! Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, followed by Mozart's Requiem April 12-13, 2014.
"(It's) always consistently great, always very aweinspiring when you have a 200-member choir onstage. The acoustics in our theatre are outstanding and really lend themselves to those kind of shows. Lars Kaario, our music director for the choirs, always blows me away with his tasteful selections of what he's going to perform - He's just a very inspiring conductor and he gets great work out of his choirs and his musicians," says Black.
For tickets and more information on the 16th season at the North Shore Credit Union Centre for the Performing Arts at Capilano University, visit capilanou. ca/nscucentre.
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