The Chan Centre Presents 2018/19 series launches on September 22, 2018 and runs until April 27, 2019. With a 10 acts line up composed of artists that range from a Galician bagpipe player to a jazz ensemble, Hawaii’s first official poet laureate to a South African acapella group, Co-Managing Director Joyce Hinton could not be more enthused about the season ahead.
The Chan Centre has been bringing in internationally renowned musicians and artists since its opening in 1997. While many things haven’t changed about the concert hall, its performance selection has taken a turn for the modern under Hinton’s guidance.
“When the Chan Centre first opened, it was primarily thought of as a classical music venue, and … so that was a lot of what was being programmed,” she said.
“When I came on board and I started the [Chan Centre Presents] series, I really wanted to invite other people that were not perhaps in that audience.... I wanted to go, ‘Hey we’re [a] really diverse campus and we live in a diverse city. Let’s bring the top artists from other musical genres into the Chan Centre.’”
However, even with the wide variety of genres and the careful curation of international star power, a visible portion of Chan ticket subscribers are still outside of the student demographic. Whether it be a financial barrier, or a perceived intellectual one, Hinton wants to spread the word that the Chan Centre is accessible to all.
“I think that people are put off a little bit by how formal the Chan Centre looks, and it is a formal concert hall,” she said.
“But ... for instance we’re bringing in Goran Bregovic, a Balkan music artist [who is] a huge star in Europe. And if people were to see his concerts on YouTube, everybody’s up dancing! We allow drinks in the hall. We allow dancing! … It’s just that we’re not doing mainstream North America, we’re bringing ... a lot of the younger artists but not necessarily wanting to compete with other things going on around town.”
So while the artists in the Chan Centre Presents series may not be names you would see on a marquee at the Vogue or Orpheum, Hinton argued that the talent they’re bringing in may be just as exciting. Plus, they are working to make their shows more affordable to students.
“We have a student rush program, which we’re dying to expand," Hinton explained. Two weeks prior to the concert, you can buy a $15 ticket with a UBC student card. There are a minimum of 26 student rush tickets available per show and as some of the artists may be more expensive to see at other venues, Hinton believes that this is a unique opportunity for UBC students.
“[These tickets are selling out] quite often,” she added. “It is a little show specific. For instance, Anoushka Shankar, last time she came, we had almost 100 students.”
Sitar player Anoushka Shankar is one of the performers returning to the Chan this fall, alongside a range of other artists. Notably, Aida Cuevas — known as “The Queen of Mariachi” — will be gracing the stage, as well as the young female folk trio I’m With Her and jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin. There will also be a unique multimedia production that pays tribute to Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks, entitled “No Blue Memories.”
“I'm really trying to bring in a lot of women and I try to look at age, ... different regions of the world, and really try to make people feel included in our community and welcomed,” Hinton said. “And also to break down barriers! I always think that the arts in particular is just one fantastic way of lowering barriers and igniting curiosity about each other’s cultures.”
It was cultural exchange that came to mind when looking for a description of this season’s overarching theme. Hinton was particularly inspired by the political turmoil in the United States and how that impacted people’s visions of each other.
“You know, every time I hear about a wall being built, I just want to book more Mexicans,” she laughed. “I just want to present a really different alternative to what we hear in the news and the right-wing movements.... This is such a great way of taking away people’s fear and lack of information about each other. Because artists do it so beautifully, and you can’t help but get a glimpse of who they are and where they’re from.”
To the students who may still feel disconnected from the grandiose halls, suited senior citizens in the lobby and performance descriptions that include words like “virtuoso” or “Galacian bagpipes,” Hinton urges them to give the Chan a chance.
“Just to experience it, even if it just captures a bit of their imagination. You don’t have to understand it. You just have to experience it.“