children from low income families receive free group and individual music lessons and learn [...] respect, compassion, teamwork and responsibility through playing and singing together.I went to hear the children play and sing at Ottawa University this afternoon in celebration of Angela Hewitt's appointment as their "Ambassador," and what a top-notch occasion it was. Laurence Wall of CBC radio was the very professional Master of Ceremonies, who had offered his services for free. There was a lovely surprise at the end of the concert for those of us who weren't expecting this, when Ms. Hewitt picked up a violin and Mr. Wall picked up a cello and joined in behind the children for their abbreviated, but spirited rendering of Beethoven's Ode to Joy.
Not all 350 children from the program were taking part today but there was a good, representative sample and Mr. Wall interviewed some of them during the concert, including an enthusiastic little chap of six years old who had to stand on a chair to be seen and heard. He said he liked being in this music school 100%. Their Artistic Director Tina Fedeski said a few words too, pointing out that between them the children know 42 languages as well as a 43rd language: music.
It's not all earnest, ultra classical music that they play, by any means. The concert began by a row of juniors sitting cross-legged at the front of the hall, playing so-doh, so-doh on their xylophones, which eventually morphed into John Williams' theme from Star Wars ... and then all the children joined in, the singers singing "Wel-come --to the orKIDstra!" to the tune, the instrumentalists playing its accompaniment full blast. This was followed by music from a local composer (present today, playing the piano part, in fact)––Dr. James Wright of Carleton University. He had composed the setting for young voices and accompanying strings of Jack Layton's touching, deathbed Letter To Young Canadians which I have mentioned before in this blog. It is somewhat lightweight music but, like the letter, it's sincere, and the lady sitting behind me was saying that she cries every time she hears it. OrKidstra students gave the "world première" a couple of years ago. The thought I always have when hearing this song is that children who repeat over and over during their rehearsals
... love is better than anger, hope is better than fear...will not grow up to be bad people. Words tend to go in, if they're sung, and these are good words.
Other items on the programme featured Angela Hewitt herself, who played three of the Spanish Dances by Grenados for us on the piano, and Bach's 3rd Brandenburg Concerto, performed by the senior string plays, whom she conducted. She's a versatile lady; she speaks excellent French too––Parisian French! The most thrilling moment was when she accompanied young Peter Perez (now aged 14––he has been in the OrKidstra since the age of 8) on his clarinet. An extremely musical and dedicated young man, he played the first movement of Saint-Saens' Clarinet Sonata, of which I know every note because Chris and I used to have a go at it. I could therefore appreciate better than some how very well it was accomplished, but the whole audience gave them a spontaneous standing ovation.
When Ms. Hewitt officially received her Ambassadorship at the concert she took the microphone and said exactly what I think and feel:
"We have to get it out of our head that music is just for the élite ..." and she finished her speech with: "Here's to Music, and to sharing it with as many people as possible!"
She'll make an excellent Ambassador.