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Orchestral manoeuvres

Sarah McLachlan with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, MusicFest Vancouver's gala opening concert, tonight at 8 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre. Tickets: $200/$125/$110/$90. For more information on the festival visit

Sarah McLachlan with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, MusicFest Vancouver's gala opening concert, tonight at 8 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre. Tickets: $200/$125/$110/$90. For more information on the festival visit

WHEN the curtain rises tonight on the 2011 edition of MusicFest Vancouver, two worlds will collide, seeing the repertoire of a world-renowned pop music songstress given symphonic treatment.

The annual summer festival boasts 10 days of classical, jazz and world music performances at various venues throughout the city, and kicks off at the Orpheum Theatre this evening with acclaimed performer Sarah McLachlan and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

The festival's gala opening concert, which will feature works from throughout McLachlan's career and marks her first-ever performance with the VSO, is being conducted by Vancouver resident Leslie Dala.

"It's a really great show, there's a lot of variety in the context of the material and . . . I think it's a very enjoyable evening for people; whether they're coming more from the classical world or more from the world of being fans of Sarah McLachlan or pop music in general," he says.

This is the second time Dala, music director of the Vancouver Bach Choir and the Vancouver Academy of Music Orchestra, and chorus director and associate conductor with the Vancouver Opera, has conducted a MusicFest opening gala. In 2007, he worked with the Vancouver Opera Orchestra and soloists Measha Brueggergosman and Richard Margison.

"It's a great festival and it's a treat for me to be part of the opening gala and also to do this show," he says.

Last month, McLachlan performed at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre with the Colorado Symphony and with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra at the storied Los Angeles venue.

Both engagements garnered positive reviews, including from Dala, who attended one of the two Hollywood Bowl shows in preparation for tonight's concert.

"When I spoke with (McLachlan) at the Hollywood Bowl, she was really excited about, first of all playing that venue, and just doing a show with an orchestra and her comment was, 'It's quite amazing the feeling of all that sound, all that power.' I think she was really enjoying that," he says.

Dala felt the orchestration provided a nice added dimension to her music, which tends to be very lyrical and intimate, without compromising the writing in any way.

Dala was also impressed by McLachlan's demeanour, describing her as "the most gracious and kind and humble person."

"Everybody I spoke with said what an extraordinary person she is and how there are so few people like her who really, given her status in the pop world, having sold over 40 million albums, you would never know that from having a conversation with her. There's no ego. It's really lovely," he adds.

With that in mind, Dala expects members of the VSO to also be excited about sharing the stage with her.

"She's just very magnetic and I think that's the kind of thing that musicians like when they're onstage, that they're really feeling that 'Wow' the person that they're collaborating with is just really on and has a lot to say and I feel that, that's certainly the case with her," he says.

Following tonight's performance, Dala has a busy summer ahead of him. He'll head back to Banff, where he's been preparing for a production of John Estacio's Lillian Alling, which he's conducting this month as part of the Banff Summer Arts Festival. Back in Vancouver, he'll conduct The Marriage of Figaro, featuring the UBC Opera Ensemble and the Vancouver Opera Orchestra, at Bard on the Beach, Aug. 29 and Sept. 5. And in the fall, he'll conduct West Side Story, which will open Vancouver Opera's season in October.

"I fell in love with music when I was pretty much a little kid. . . . I just find that it's something that I really can't live without," he says. "It's so wonderful to be able to work on great masterpieces from 300-400 years ago and to work on brand new things, to collaborate with people, whether they're singers or instrumentalists and from various genres. It's so great. It's always changing. I just find it incredibly, satisfying isn't even the word, it just gives you so much back, so I just feel very, very lucky to do what I do."