Martin C. Barry
Students from a half-dozen Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board schools in Laval joined several hundred other pupils from all over the greater Montreal region at the Hellenic Community Centre in Montreal on Feb. 9 to perform selections of the French version of a children’s book and CD recording they worked on together which is based on the classic story of King Midas.
Continuing musical success
The many hundreds of proud parents, friends and supporters who attended the launch and concert heard not only from the project’s creators, but also enjoyed a mini performance of three choral pieces from the CD sung by 450 young choristers accompanied by the Ensemble Symphonique Panarmonia directed by Mark Dharmaratnam.
The new CD/book’s release followed the earlier success of music directors Dimitris Ilias and Maria Diamantis, as well as author and lyricist Glen Huser and composer Giannis Georgantelis, whose previous picture book/CD project, Le Temps des Fleurs, le Temps des Neiges, retold the myth of Demeter and Persephone.
Careful what you ask for
Illustrated by three-time Governor General’s Award-winning illustrator Philippe Béha and adapted into French by Robert Paquin, the latest work, L’Or du Roi Midas, invites readers and listeners into a world where the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for,” is borne out through a king who lusts for wealth and who responds to an offer by the god Dionysus that the king might be able to obtain anything he wants by simply asking that all he touches turns to gold.
At least 450 students representing more than 60 cultural backgrounds joined their voices to record the choral parts for this monumental children’s opera. The young vocalists came from 20 schools that are part of school boards all over the Montreal region, including the SWLSB, the English Montreal School Board and the Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys. The Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal’s Socrates-Demosthène schools were the project’s main partner.
Praise from SWLSB chair
“Communities are really diverse, and yet only together can a community really accomplish and create great things – and that means that participation is essential,” said SWLSB chairwoman Jennifer Maccarone. “So what’s been accomplished tonight is the collaboration of languages, of cultures, of regions and schools, and especially students. And it’s not just unique. It’s proof that when a community comes together, it is so powerful and inclusive. When we come together and we’re united for a cause, our power – in this case our voices – are unlimited.”
For music directors Ilias and Diamantis, it was more than a choir project. They noted that the young participants, while improving their vocalizing skills, also got a chance to discover the world of picture book illustrating, while learning how a professional-quality CD is put together from recording to mixing and editing. The young students also heard their voices soar while being accompanied by a symphony orchestra. And they got to meet some of the stars of Canadian literature, while having fun building their self-esteem, team spirit and discipline.
Six SWLSB Laval schools
SWLSB schools in Laval which participated in the project were Souvenir Elementary, St-Vincent Elementary, Hillcress Academy, Twin Oaks Elementary, Laval Junior Academy and Laval Senior Academy. The producers say that net profits from sales of the book/CD within the school systems will be donated to the participating schools to strenghten music education and literary exploration in their curriculum.