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Breaking down barriers is goal for Prince George Symphony

The Prince George Symphony Orchestra is looking to break down barriers for music lovers who might be a bit reluctant to tackle classical music, said music director Michael Hall.
PGSO humming bird
PGSO music director Michael Hall, left, and artist storyteller Darin Corbiere, talk about the upcoming family-friendly concert The Hummingbird & The Fire.

The Prince George Symphony Orchestra is looking to break down barriers for music lovers who might be a bit reluctant to tackle classical music, said music director Michael Hall.

First up in their lineup of concerts is The Hummingbird & The Fire, which is a narrated, multimedia family concert to be presented on Sunday at UNBC’s Canfor Theatre at 2 p.m.

This event is a collaboration between the symphony, Gustav Mahler, Anishinaabe artist and storyteller Darin Corbiere (Waab Shki Makwa) and English/Portuguese composer Duncan Fox to create a unique local telling of this ancient tale.

This is a parable that tells the story of a little hummingbird who tries to put out a forest fire - one drop of water at a time. This family-friendly event reflects on the dangers of rapid climate change the world faces currently and how daunting it may seem to be making large-scale societal change.

This is a much more ambitious take on PGSO’s usual children’s programming.

“We are very happy to be involved in this unique local project,” Diane Levesque said, who is the president of the Northern Indigenous Arts Council and worked as a consultant on this event.

The project came about with the help of Roxi Dykstra, accomplished violinist, violist, music educator and arts administrator, who will be the concert master.

Corbiere, the storyteller of this piece, came to love classical music as a child when he first heard the cello on the radio.

“When I was a kid I heard the cello on the radio on one of those clear summer nights when nobody was around,” Corbiere recalled with a wistful smile on his face.

Fifty years later he was inspired to pick up a cello during the lockdown and learned to play a few notes.

“So I find myself in this moment and it’s coming around full circle with this dream, I suppose, I had as just a kid – I’m not playing – thankfully,” he laughed. “But I get to tell the story accompanied by a symphony orchestra – and wow, how awesome is that?”

There is a special connection for Corbiere as he brings that performance to two schools he has impacted with his art in the past. The story will be told to students at Heather Park and Ron Brent schools Friday where students and teachers alike helped make community art projects that are still gracing the foyers of each school to this day.

“So whether by coincidence or by design, I don’t know, but I am grateful to connect with lots of good people and we get to do something really amazing,” Corbiere said.

The project is funded by the City of Prince George’s MyPG Community Grant and the Prince George Community Foundation and tickets to the show are available.

The next event is The Discovery Concert: Mozart that takes place April 30 at Vanier Hall at 7:30 p.m., featuring the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro and Symphony No 40 in g minor.

“The idea of this concert is to break down perceived barriers about audiences coming to classical concerts,” Hall said. “I hear lots of things like ‘it’s really not for me, I don’t know anything about Mozart or classical music – it’s for old people, it’s for rich people’ – I hear all that and it’s a shame because these concerts are for everyone.”

Hall is looking to offer an atmosphere where people will come to relax and get to know a great composer. There will be a big screen above the orchestra that will display images of Mozart and his music.

“So there will be a visual element to it,” Hall said. “I will be talking about the piece, giving the audience an inside track as to why Mozart composed the piece the way he did and what to listen for in this piece – why it’s so exciting, how clever Mozart is in writing this theme compared to that theme. So if you’ve never been to a concert this is the perfect one to go to because of the way we will bring you into the world of Mozart and also if you already love the symphony you might want to learn more about the composer.”

The more you know, the more you may enjoy the music and gain an appreciation for it, added Hall.

Tickets for that show are also available.