Looking back on the history of Capilano’s foremost performing arts venue
Carlos Ascencio // Contributor
This year, Capilano University’s BlueShore Financial Centre for the Performing Arts is turning 20 and it’s going to celebrate it the only way it knows how – with an amazing program that includes Antonio Sánchez performing Birdman Live, The Donny McCaslin Quartet, and Sarah Slean among many others.
Even if it was built primarily as a resource for the performing arts programs, the theatre instantly recognized that bringing professional artists to work with the students was going to benefit everyone – the faculty, art lovers in the audience and of course, CapU’s host of student performers. Precisely, this is one of the most important criteria at the moment of programming – they want artists that are going to be pedagogically interesting for the students, so they organize workshops, showcases and master classes.
Fiona Black has been the director of programming at the BlueShore Theatre since its inception. Eventually, she and many others transformed the theatre into the heart of CapU. Sometimes, the process of bringing the artists her audience expects to see can take time, but over the years she has been able to build quality relationships and connections with different agents and managers, making the process easier.
“I’ve been exposed to a lot of music and I’ve set the bar pretty high, but they must be special too,” she said. “I’ve seen very technically brilliant artists, but they don’t move me. The authenticity must be there.”
What began as the Folk and Roots series has developed into the incredibly successful Global Roots series. “It’s incredibly satisfying to bring artists from around the world to Cap. I think it reflects Vancouver, it reflects our community,” said Black. “I want to showcase the diversity, and it’s a fabulous experience for people to hear artists from the source.” Another series carried out is the North Shore Jazz series, which has worked alongside the Jazz Festival each year in June, for the last 16 years.
Commercial artists tend to not make appearances in the musical series, as the theatre looks for opportunities to showcase talent they feel truly suits the show and its environment. The theatre had sold-out shows right from the beginning, but artists were not chosen simply because of big names. Working the program out and gaining an audience takes a lot of hard work and effort, especially with the vast amount of entertainment for audiences to choose from.
Social media has been helpful in this aspect. “You can put YouTube clips, people can really check out an artist before. Listen to Spotify and see if they like their music, people really can do their own research, they don’t have to go out and buy a CD and listen to the music before, there’s so much available that’s free,” said Black.
The world was a very different place when the BlueShore Theatre first opened in 1997. Over the years, social media has replaced local newspapers as the couriers of entertainment options in the city. The world has also changed in the grander scheme.
Joe Lovano, a well-known New York saxophonist and one of the Centre’s early jazz artists, was programmed originally on Sept. 11, 2001. Prior to the attacks on New York, his manager changed the date to Sept. 18, before the world suddenly and drastically changed forever. “The world was crazy and [the] internet was not as advanced as it is today so I was watching his website, all of his dates started to get canceled except for us and I almost felt disrespectful even contacting him about something as insignificant as a date when their city had been attacked,” said Black.
Lovano decided to start his tour at the BlueShore Theatre after finally getting a flight booked. “It was amazing, Joe really wanted to talk about what had happened and he was very happy to get back to work. It was one of the few times I remember when the audience gave standing ovation before he even played a note,” recalled Black.
This year, Black and her team tried to reach out to Lovano to bring him back for the 20th anniversary, along with Dee Daniels, one of the theatre’s first leading jazz artists. Daniels will be performing with her own trio, as well as with Nite Cap, the vocal jazz chorus of CapU.
Twenty years is a long time, but with CapU’s bustling performing arts programs, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the BlueShore Theatre host some of the best artists for another 20 years.
For the full lineup and further details visit: Capilanou.ca/BlueShoreFinancialCentre