awesome, fantastic, wonderful, cool, special, great, soooo fun...
teamwork, harmony, smiles, perseverance, family, love, life...
These were some of the words used by the children themselves to describe how they felt about being part of it––pictures of the Kids holding up their words were projected on a screen the audience could see, as we waited for the performance to begin. The excitement was palpable. A large proportion of the audience was of course parents, siblings (some of the tiny ones very keen to join in themselves) and grandparents. The rest, well wishers like me.
In the foyer a string quartet of Orkidstra players was welcoming us with arrangements of Christmas carols. Inside the auditorium at the Bronson Centre, the other performers were still rehearsing. I went in. Tchaikovsky's Trepak, the Russian dance from the Nutcracker, was being conducted incredibly well by a young boy in a yellow t-shirt, 13 years old. Wow! Then the little ones (Kiddly Winks) finished practising their song and recorder piece, Fais dodo (my son learned that one at the French school in Berne when he was 4). It's easy because it only has 3 notes in the tune. In the actual performance their conductor and her assistants sat on the floor to direct them, so that they wouldn't hide our view of the children. Some are as young as 5.
As the concert finally got under way, the wind players processed in, down both sides of the auditorium, to take their seats in the orchestra, playing Deck the Halls from memory. This was an impressive feat but the audience was too distracted to pay them enough attention, parents still leaping up out of their seats to take pictures of their children up front. Things calmed down as we all stood up for O Canada. Then came the Tchaikovsky piece I mentioned, followed by an arrangement for strings of Jupiter from Holst's Planets Suite, performed by the Senior and Intermediate Strings who got two thumbs up from their conductor Margaret Tobolowska. She, along with Tina Fedeski, co-founded the Orkidstra projects.
The children––singers and instrumentalists––are mentored by a team of professional musicians along with young and old volunteers. I really like the fact that high school students and university students are involved in this way. The youngest violinists, Kid Players who aren't yet advanced enough to play in the Orkidstra, gave us a three-part piece in the mixolydian mode called Old Joe Clarke. After the beginner violinists came a small group of children playing a Song of the Wind on violas and the 'cello, assisted by two of their mentors. I wondered if one of the violas was the one I used to play, that I donated to the foundation. Someone was playing it somewhere in this concert.
As well as Fais dodo, the Kiddly Winks managed a syncopated song for spoken voices (whispering, chanting, shouting!) in 3 parts. It takes a considerable amount of effort and discipline to get little children to do this sort of thing; I was impressed.
10 Leading Notes was another inspirational shouting song involving everyone, with a tap-tap-clap-fingerclick accompaniment from the audience. Then the Kid Singers (middle school age) sang a two part song with a solo cello obligato. Heartwarming story: the 'cello was played by a young man who had come to Canada as a 7 year old refugee, had heard and seen the 'cello at an OrKidstra event and had demanded to learn it. He's now the leading 'cellist in the OrKidstra. The Singers also sang an African song to a drumbeat, Zulu Mama, with the children doing dance actions as they sang, especially the little boy in the Afro haircut.
A 14 year old girl (the one whose word for the OrKidstra was "life") introduced the next two items, one of which was an arrangement of the theme music by Klaus Badelt to Pirates of the Caribbean, challenging music––I wrote on my programme: "Well done!" It was rhythmic and dynamic. Having accomplished musicians in the orchestra to help the children make a good noise makes a difference, eggs them on and masks their hesitations and mistakes.
"Energy and joy happen here," said the Executive Director Tina Fedeski. The whole team, all 200 of them or so, then performed a sloppy number called We are the World which I didn't think much of; they followed it with Beethoven's Ode to Joy from the 9th symphony. "Everyone -- please join us!" so I sang along to the words on the screen, definitely not Schiller, but still. Last of all "Everyone" sang Jingle Bells as well, the orchestra being conducted by one of its chief sponsors, but this lady had been outshone as a conductor by the little boy we'd seen earlier.
In the foyer as we came out little boys were already tucking into the chocolate cakes on the table with as much enthusiasm as they'd had for the music, and older people were dropping cheques into the donations box. I hope they raised loads of money. The Kiddly Winks were getting tired. "It was long," said a little girl. "It's past my sleeping time!"
Here's a recording of the OrKidstra and singers made in 2012. Read the "show more" notes to see what they were doing (I was there on that occasion too):
"I believe in the power to change things. I believe in power of youth!"