Parlando: The COC Blog

10/26/2011

Isis and the Seven Scorpions Tour: Day Three

 

[This is a guest post by school tour manager and composer Dean Burry, who is currently travelling with the Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour. Dean Burry composed the children's operas Isis and the Seven Scorpions (currently touring) and The Brothers Grimm

My stay in Sudbury continues to be an eye-opening experience. I woke up to a beautiful sunny morning (though snow is apparently on the way) and was picked up by my driver for the day (ooh la la) Dick Perras. Dick is a retired music teacher from the area and we really hit it off. He had to drive me to the town of Levack, which is about 30 minutes outside of Sudbury, and proved to be an excellent tour guide. Apparently, Sudbury is built in the middle of a giant meteor crater which is why there is such a high concentration of mineral resources here. We drove across the centre of the crater and you could see the rim in the distance. In the centre of the crater is very flat and fertile farmland, which is a real contrast to the rest of the region. Dick and I had a great conversation about fishing, setting rabbit snares and hunting partridge. He told me that this was not a conversation he imagined having with a Toronto opera composer. I told him I was from Newfoundland, and then it all made sense to him. 

My schools were again very welcoming. It feels so good to be giving these kids their first opera experience. Doing workshops like this for young people sometimes feels like a performance in itself. As in Isis and the Seven Scorpions, I have to find a way to engage both the kindergarten students (be a bit of a clown) and the sixth graders (play it cool and laid back). I do a little exercise where I ask a child to pretend to read a blank letter while I play various samples of mood music in the background to demonstrate how emotion is conveyed through music. Today I asked five-year-old Emma to help me out. Not sure she knew what a "letter" was, but she did a great job. Another very rewarding day. 

Cool and Laid Back Clown signing off.

Photo © Dean Burry 2011

Posted by Dean Burry / in Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour / comments (0) / permalink

10/25/2011

Isis and the Seven Scorpions Tour: Day Two

 

[This is a guest post by Katherine Semcesen, who is currently travelling with the Xstrata Ensemble Studio school tour along with school tour manager and composer Dean Burry. Katherine Semcesen is the COC associate director, education and outreach.]

First day of workshops. A cold and rainy day in Sudbury didn't dampen our excitement about our first sessions. We parted ways to hit three schools in the Sudbury Catholic School Board. Dean went to St. Theresa's and I was assigned to St. Andrew's. Louise Franklin, principal of St. Theresa's, was extremely welcoming (with a bottomless cup of coffee for Dean... opera jitters).

First up a really fun group of kindergarten to Grade 3 students. The music teacher had done her research and prepared them for Dean's visit. After discussing what opera is and the story of the characters in Isis and the Seven Scorpions, Dean lead them in a song-writing activity of re-writing the lyrics to Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star in tribute to Halloween:

Trick-or-trick-or-trick-or-treat
Give me something good to eat
I'm a zombie what are you?
I'm a ghost who'll scare you – boo!
Trick-or-trick-or-trick-or-treat
Give me something good to eat

Try it... it's catchy.

An engaged group of Grade 4 to 6 students followed, who were very open to exploring opera (helps when the teacher is enthusiastic). They seemed fascinated by the Egyptian theme and asked lots of questions about how operas are created. I enjoyed a morning delivering a workshop at St. Andrew's Catholic School for a very well behaved group of Grade 2 to Grade 6 students. Highlight of the workshop: getting the students to make a scorpion with a group of peers using only their bodies (How would you create a scorpion tail with your body?). A 30-minute drive to my next workshop meant that I could take in the beautiful scenery while on the road.

Second workshop was as good as the first with a smaller group of Grade 5 to 6 students at St. Charles Catholic School in Chelmsford. Many of the students had not experienced opera before and were not afraid to jump into creative activities outside of their traditional classroom work. They were brave, fearless, and willing to try something new!

Looking forward to day three and meeting four more school communities!

Photo: Dean Burry leads a workshop. © Canadian Opera Company 2011

Posted by Katherine Semcesen / in Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour / comments (1) / permalink

10/24/2011

Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour: Day One

 

[This is a guest post by Dean Burry and Katherine Semcesen, who are currently travelling with the Xstrata Ensemble Studio school tour. Dean Burry is the COC school tour manager and composer of the touring opera Isis and the Seven Scorpions and Katherine Semcesen is the COC associate director, education and outreach.]

Clear skies and an open road... the perfect start to the COC's trip up to Sudbury! With every kilometre we travel outside of the city, the more excited we get knowing that we'll be bringing opera to people far beyond the city limits. There's a noticeable change in our environment. We're far from the concrete jungle of Toronto. The further we drive north the more beautiful the landscape. The change in the colours of the leaves is epic, almost on an operatic scale. Our first stop... the French River Trading post and The Hungry Bear restaurant. After a quick stretch and some samples and a large purchase of homemade fudge, we continue our journey to Sudbury.

First impressions... we're looking forward to exploring Sudbury in the daylight! En route we saw signs of a diverse arts community: the Sudbury Theatre Centre was holding acting classes for adults and we're staying not too far from the Sudbury Art Gallery. We're looking forward to our first workshops tomorrow for the Sudbury Catholic School Board.

Posted by Dean Burry and Katherine Semcesen / in Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour / comments (5) / permalink

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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001

 

 

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