A too-rare treat echoed through the halls of Princess Alexandra School last week – the sound of classical music.
The school was happy to invite the Juno-Award-winning chamber group the Gryphon Trio to play and delve into some music education and history on Feb. 22. It was special for students, especially given they are without a music program this year. It’s sparked talks of the group returning to the territory to push for a musical education program of their own.
Violinist Annalee Patipatanakoon, Roman Borys and Jamie Parker all teach in the music faculty at the University of Toronto and when they tour, they take their teaching to the road. The trio is looking to bring Listen Up!, a music program its members pioneered, to communities North of 60. The program involves engaging students in projects that incorporate art, poetry and performance into musical pieces throughout the year.
“There’s more impact this way than from one brief visit,” said Patipatanakoon, who has been working on the project in Ontario since 2009.
“Students put the work in and feel like they have a hand in the way the music is presented.”
The program would initially begin in Yellowknife with help from the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre and hopefully trickle down to the communities, said Patipatanakoon.
The trio played a mix of music from contemporary to classical composers and related the subject and setting behind the pieces to the modern day.
They began with a piece by Franz Joseph Haydn, challenging students to imagine what it was like to live 250 years ago.
“This was a different world,” said cellist Roman Borys.
“This was a world without TV, Internet or Xbox. So what did people do in their spare time? Books weren’t that available so they got together in their living rooms, their chambers, and played music. This is why they called it chamber music.”
Students were introduced to works by the romantic period’s Antonin Dvorak, contemporary Yellowknife composer Carmen Braden and the trio’s personal favourite, Beethoven.
“Beethoven had long hair and a grumpy face, but he was a really complex guy,” said Borys. “He was so passionate about what he did he serves as a mentor for people everywhere who are pursuing their dreams.”
Without a full-time music program, PA vice principal Carolyn Carroll said the school is working with what it has, adding that visits from musicians enrich the curriculum and help students.
“These visits are always a benefit to the school,” said Carroll. “As soon as funding allows, (the music program) will be back, but we do what we can with the opportunities we have. We are very lucky to have resident musicians on staff that incorporate what they can into the curriculum.”
— Angele Cano