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‘Human emotions are universal’

Baroque music trio La Modestine to play March 10 in Whistler
Members of the Baroque music trio La Modestine, left to right: Marc Destrube, Natalie Mackie and Marco Vitale.

Fans of Baroque music will want to keep track of the Whistler Chamber Music Society’s (WCMS) next concert. 

La Modestine is a chamber music trio composed of violinist Marc Destrubé, Natalie Mackie on viola da gamba and harpsichord man Marco Vitale. They’ve made it as far up Highway 99 as Squamish before, but March 10 will be their inaugural performance in Whistler. 

The 17th and 18th centuries were a time of social, religious and political upheaval in Europe, and these shifts allowed a distinct style of music to take shape. Churches and courts alike were clamouring for music, giving composers free rein to experiment as they pleased. The result is what we now know as Baroque music. 

“What I’m excited about for this particular program [we’re playing in Whistler] is just the sense of wonder and the way one can take a group of three people and express human emotions on a pretty raw level,” says Destrubé. “The music of the time is maybe about as close as classical music gets to pop music. Pieces are generally short—they're four or five minutes—and they're very expressive.” 

Shared history 

Destrubé is well-equipped to bring the Baroque era to life on stage. His career highlights include being co-concertmaster of Amsterdam’s Orchestra of the 18th Century, first violinist with the Axelrod String Quartet, director of the Pacific Baroque Festival and concertmaster of the CBC Radio Orchestra in addition to various other gigs and guest roles in Europe, Australia and the United States. He’s also a respected teacher who has visited the Moscow, Paris and Utretcht Conservatories. 

The other members of La Modestine have similarly-decorated resumés. 

Mackie has played with numerous ensembles across North America, including the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra, Victoria Baroque, New World Consort, Les Voix Humaines and baroque orchestras of Seattle and Portland. She is a University of British Columbia alum with postgraduate credentials from the Hague’s Koninklijk Conservatorium. 

Vitale is an Italian national whose career has taken him across Asia, the Middle East and both Americas. He co-founded Victoria’s Contrasto Armonico, a group specializing in Baroque operas, and some of his other Canadian ventures including directing the Denman Baroque Festival and Workshop, the Salt Spring Baroque Music Society and conducting the Victoria Symphony. 

Destrubé and Mackie have played together for more than three decades in many ensembles, with Vitale initially joining them at the Pacific Baroque Festival. They hit it off and decided to continue collaborating. 

“You know how you can talk in a different way to your own family members?” asks Destrubé rhetorically. “In music, having a shared history [is likewise valuable]. All three of us studied, worked or played in the Netherlands, and there was a whole movement in the 1970s and 1980s there—an alternative, slightly rebellious movement in the performance of old music. Part of what makes us get along as musicians is that we all come from a little bit of the same background.” 

‘Music that speaks to us’

Five-time Grammy-winning electric bassist Victor Wooten likens studying music to learning a language, and Destrubé agrees. Much like how children pick up languages by speaking with adults, musicians should spend time with fellow musicians who have talent and experience to offer. That way, everybody gains. 

La Modestine has proved a mutually uplifting project for each of its members, who remain committed to delivering Baroque music in its authentic form. They use period instruments based on those from centuries ago, which can deliver a softer and more resonant sound than their modern counterparts. Plus, they’re all students of the genre who are not content with resting on their laurels. 

Why do Destrubé, Mackie and Vitale find the Baroque era so compelling? 

“First of all, it’s great music and it’s a pleasure to hear,” says Destrubé. “I feel, as a society, it's always good and important to reflect on the fact that things come around. The more things change, the more they're the same. It's wonderful to experience music that was written several hundred years ago, and for it to speak to us in a very direct way. 

“Human emotions are universal, and they don't change that much between time and place.” 

La Modestine performs March 10 at 5 p.m. at the Maury Young Arts Centre. Tickets and further information can be found at