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picture by Bill Blackstone
Renée-Paule Gauthier; Queen Elizabeth School
Picture by Bill Blackstone

It is often by going back to our roots that we remember what is important. During the past two weeks, I had the chance to do just that.
I was asked by the Ottawa Chamber Music Society to coordinate the creation of a concert series to be presented to school children around the Ottawa area. These concerts were offered for free to schools that might, in regular circumstances, have not been able to afford the presence of professional musicians within their walls.

picture by Bill Blackstone
Quintet at Lord Aylmer
Picture by Bill Blackstone
It is very difficult to be innovative in this field, since so many organizations have wonderful children concerts already going on. In the Ottawa area alone, I can think of the numerous great kids programs being presented by the NAC or MASC. And there are all the others that I am not mentioning.
Wanting to offer choices to the schools, we thought it would be great to have two different programs. One was all ready to go: Meet the double bass, a very entertaining and educative show put together by bassist Marjolaine Fournier. For the second program, I thought it might be interesting to go with an option that seemed to have not been too widely used yet in the area: a baroque ensemble with harpsichord. The goal was to put together a concert where we explored the descriptive qualities of music and stimulated the imagination of the children using repertoire from the baroque period (no need to say we had excerpts from the Four Seasons in there!).
picture by Bill Blackstone
Storm making at Lord Aylmer
Picture by Bill Blackstone
As a bonus, the people I had in mind to perform this show were perfect for the task: great musicians and gifted communicators! The team consisted of Laura Nerenberg and myself on violin, Sarah Ross on viola, Leah Wyber on cello, and Marie Bouchard on harpsichord. ! We had such a fun time, preparing and performing the show!!!
We also had quite the treat for the kids! It was important to everyone was to involve young musicians. It is really exciting for the kids to see other children their age play music, and it is a great experience for young performers to play in front of their peers. Thanks to the help of Nicole Presentey, we had with us Kerson and Stanley Leong, two young brothers with amazing musical gifts! I should say that it was quite the treat for us as well! They displayed wonderful technical abilities, a beautiful maturity in their sound, a sensitive musicality and a very solid stage presence! Watching them play brought smile to everybody’s face. These two young men are truly remarkable! They have a bright future in front of them.
Between June 9th and June 18th, the two different groups visited four different schools; Manor Park Public School, Queen Elizabeth School, Lord Aylmer School and York Street Public School. Words cannot describe how inspiring, refreshing, and touching it was for us to go play for and interact with these wonderful children!
Kerson and Stanley
Kerson and Stanley Leong at York Street Public School
In each school we had a different experience but we found the same enthusiasm and endless curiosity everywhere. These kids are hungry for music and knowledge. They put music making into the perspective it belongs to: it is a gift that has for purpose to stimulate imagination, touch your soul and bring people together.
It is hard for me to decide who enjoyed the experience the most, the kids or the musicians. I think we all took a lot in from the experience.


Addendum