BY MACKENZIE SCRIMSHAW TIMES & TRANSCRIPT STAFF
The MetroTones present “An Evening of Musical Memories” at the Moncton Wesleyan Celebration Centre on Saturday, June 9 at 7:30 p.m.
The MetroTones are a chorus of approximately 80 adults from Metro Moncton and the surrounding area.
“The chorus sings a wide array of pop and Broadway tunes from the roaring’ 20s to the present, in four-five-six-part harmony,” says co-director Pat Dickie.
On the proram for Saturday’s concert are several well-known classics including Simon & Garfunkel’s 1969 hit Bridge Over Troubled Water and Leonard Cohen’s arrangement of Hallelujah.
The MetroTones give to a local charity every June after performing their annual concert. This tradition began in 2001 when the chorus was launched.
This year, the MetroTones have chosen to give all proceeds from their ticket sales to Sistema NB, a local orchestra for children in Grades 1-5.
Sistema NB will also perform at the MetroTones’ concert on Saturday.
Approximately 60 children involved in Sistema NB in Moncton will perform in a woodwind, brass and percussion ensemble in the atrium of the Wesleyan’s Celebration Centre during intermission.
Having already heard them rehearse, Pat says she and the MetroTones’ director Peter Butler are extremely impressed with the children’s formation, direction and mission.
Sistema NB is a free, after-school, orchestral music program. Its aim is to make social change through playing music together.
Sistema NB strives to break down barriers of exclusion that would otherwise keep underserved children from participating in extracurricular activities.
“It’s quite expensive to own and maintain music instruments,” says Don Matheson, executive director of the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra, “And it’s quite expensive to attend music lessons.”
Sistema NB gives children a chance for daily, group orchestral music lessons under the instruction of professional musicians in what Don describes as an “intense and highly-motivated environment.” They rehearse three hours a day, five days a week.
“These kids have acquired tremendous musical ability,” says Don. “It’s because they’re getting professional musical instruction from professional, performing musicians.”
However, “Sistema New Brunswick is first and foremost a social program and the outcomes we strive to achieve are wonderful transformations in the behaviour and the confidence and the teamwork and the dedication of these children,” says Don. “These outcomes are most definitely being realized.”
The children are also making strides musically.
“We’re also seeing the development of some wonderful young musicians,” says Don. “Some of our musicians will undoubtedly be qualified to audition for the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra, even as early as this coming season.”
The New Brunswick Youth Orchestra founded Sistema NB in 2009 – the first program of its kind in Canada.
The orchestra modeled Sistema NB after El Sistema in Venezuela.
Sistema NB music director Antonio Delgado, also the conductor of the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra, spent many years in the El Sistema program.
Antonio began playing the organ when he was eight. His love for classical music began that year when he attended a concert in Venezuela with his mother. “It was the very first time that I saw a symphony orchestra and I just fell in love with it,” he says.
Antonio, who got involved in the program when he was 10, says it would’ve been impossible for him to buy an instrument or to play with other musicians without El Sistema. “El Sistema gave me that opportunity,” he says. Antonio also credits El Sistema for the majority of his musical and academic education. “My approach to language was through music, as well,” he says.
Antonio’s conductor in Venezuela suggested that Antonio go to Europe and study with his (the conductor’s) teacher in England. “So I learned English that way,” he says.
Returning to Venezuela after completing several summer courses in England, Antonio started conducting operas. In this role, he had to learn some Italian – his third language. “The most famous (operas) are written in that language,” he says.
Seven years ago, Antonio was appointed musical director of Venezuela’s main theatre in Caracas. As musical director, he travelled to several countries attending conducting invitations.
Antonio became a Moncton resident two years ago. “The reason I’m here now is because of El Sistema,” he says. “I owe a lot to El Sistema.”
As music director, Antonio says he’s seen many changes in the children, many of whom don’t come from musical backgrounds. These changes include better attention, focus and discipline, a greater number of goals and a drive to improve.
Comparing Sistema NB to its predecessor, El Sistema, Antonio says, “It is a different environment, but the spirit is the same and the results are the same.”
“The El Sistema program in Venezuela is one of the largest social programs in Latin America,” says Don. “There are over 400,000 children doing free, after-school, music orchestral programs.”
In 2009, three of the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra’s board of directors – president Ken McLeod and two other executives – travelled to Venezuela to learn about El Sistema.
During the week they spent in Caracas, Venezuela, the trio met with Dr. José Abreu, the founder of El Sistema. Their goal was to learn as much as they could in order to adopt El Sistema’s best practices at home in Canada.
“They wanted to adopt these tremendous practices in Canada,” says Don, emphasizing the traits El Sistema instilled in local young people through its programs – self-confidence, dedication, teamwork and concentration.
After their return, the orchestra initiated a one-year pilot project to test the feasibility of a Sistema program in Moncton. In 2009, 50 local children took an interest in the program.
“We were overwhelmed with the success and the popularity among students and families in the communities,” says Don.
Sistema NB has since embarked on a plan to expand Sistema programs province wide.
Last September, a second Sistema NB opened in Saint John. Approximately 40 children are now involved.
This fall, a third centre will open in Richibucto, with a fourth centre planned for September 2013.
Today, there are approximately 160 children involved in Sistema NB at the Moncton centre.
Sistema NB plans to expand each centre by 50 children per year.
Every year, the MetroTones call out to the public for suggestions of a local charity to support, before voting as a chorus. This year, the MetroTones voted in favour of supporting Sistema.
“It’s very, very heartwarming to know the Metrotones chose Sistema New Brunswick as their charity of choice for 2012,” says Don. “It’s going to be fun to perform during intermission at their concert.”
The MetroTones request that each audience member also bring a non-perishable food item. All collected food will be donated to Food Depot Alimentaire.
“To date we have raised over $54,000 and collected more than 16,000 pounds of food,” says Pat.
This year, the MetroTones will also present two scholarships to two Grade 12 students pursuing post-secondary music studies.
The MetroTones’ An Evening of Musical Memories will feature what Pat refers to as “classics from throughout the ages.”
Within the chorus is a female quarter called the Metrelles who will perform Dream, a song recorded originally by Frank Sinatra and most recently by Michael Bublé.
Together, the chorus will perform numbers by artists from the Carpenters to Neil Diamond.
Pat says the chorus’ selections “will bring back memories to each and every body in the audience,” promising the MetroTones will perform something to please everyone.
●WHAT: The MetroTones ‘An Evening of Musical Memories’ featuring Sistema NB
●WHEN: Saturday, June 9 at 7:30 p.m.
●WHERE: The Moncton Wesle yan Celebratio n Centre
●TICKETS: Available at Sobey’s Vaughan Harvey in Moncton, the Point Park PetroCan in Riverview, Morning Glory Gifts in Riverview, and all Jean Coutu pharmacies and Read’s Newsstands in Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe. Tickets are also available in advance from any chorus member, or at the door. Cost is $10 plus a non-perishable food item(s).