Harmony in action: Chineke! Orchestra and OrKidstra
The Chineke! Orchestra’s visit to Ottawa on March 16 and 17, 2023, is now tied as one of my absolute favourite OrKidstra experiences. Together with our performance at One Young World in 2016, these two events symbolize OrKidstra’s dedication to building community through the universal language of music. The experience was an absolute joy and filled with leaps of growth for the entire OrKidstra family! It was true harmony in action.
Founded in 2015 by the double bassist Chi-chi Nwanoku, CBE, to provide career opportunities for Black and ethnically diverse classical musicians in the UK and Europe, Chineke!’s mission is: “Championing change and celebrating diversity in classical music.” Originally scheduled to perform in Ottawa in April 2020, and after some challenges with arrival due to weather and other factors, on March 16, 2023, the Chineke! (pronounced CHIN-neck-ay) Orchestra made their stunning North American debut in Ottawa at Southam Hall at the National Arts Centre. Thanks to the National Arts Centre, younger instrumental students and their families (ages 8-13) had the chance to attend the afternoon dress rehearsal and older OrKidstra students (ages 13-18), staff, and teachers were given complimentary tickets to attend the evening performance. Before the concert, Chi-chi spoke with award-winning journalist Adrian Harewood in Peter A. Herrndorf Place in an illuminating chat about the creation of the Chineke! Orchestra which represents over 30 nationalities. Calling OrKidstra the “Pride of Ottawa,” Adrian then invited ensembles from OrKidstra to perform on the Canal Lobby stage (KidPlayers) and at the Glass Thorsteinson Staircase (KidStringers) to the delight of the pre-concert audience. The extraordinary Chineke! Orchestra concert featured music by Black composers Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Florence B. Price, and Canada’s own superstar composer and concert pianist Stewart Goodyear, under the baton of American conductor Andrew Grams. The program was truly inspiring and a breath of fresh air!
On Friday, March 17 from 11:30 AM to 1 PM, in the National Arts Centre, 25 OrKidstra teens had the amazing opportunity to work with musicians from Chineke! Orchestra including five string players with the KidStringers and five Chineke! winds/brass/percussion players with the KidPlayers. Led by OrKidstra Teaching Artists Ms. Renee and myself, with additional leadership from passionate, inspiring, and thoughtful conductor Andrew Grams, the morning was a musical journey filled with discovery and growth for our students in technique, musicality, harmony, teamwork, listening, and confidence!
At 2 PM, even more Chineke! musicians joined to create a true side-by-side experience for our 25 OrKidstra students. The KidStringers and KidPlayers came together in the NAC’s Canada Room to share what they had been working on with each other that morning – KidStringers: Palladio by Karl Jenkins, arr. Robert Longfield and KidPlayers: Mambo from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein, arr. Michael Sweeney – and work on Egmont Overture by Ludwig van Beethoven, arr. Richard Meyer together as an over 50-strong orchestra. Featuring musicians from almost 100 different nationalities, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and a wide range of ages and experience, the energy in the room was electric and the music and friendships made were unforgettable.
I love the photos below by amazing NAC photographers Curtis Perry and Greggory Clark, but nothing can capture the magic in the air on Friday! The kids were incredibly engaged, and I know what they experienced in just two days will inspire them for their entire lives. The generosity of spirit of the musicians and everyone backstage was awe-inspiring. Thank you to the National Arts Centre, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, to the Chineke! Orchestra, to Ms. Chi-chi and Mr. Andrew, and, of course, to our OrKidstra supporters for helping make this dream a reality for our students. This experience truly was harmony and community building in action!
Tina Fedeski, MSM
Executive & Artistic Director, OrKidstra
“It was a pleasure to work with the fabulous students and staff at OrKidstra earlier this month whilst on tour with Chineke! Orchestra in Ottawa. We spent the day playing together and working on ensemble skills, delving deeper into the repertoire that they are currently rehearsing for their upcoming performances. The students showcased their excellent musicianship and technical ability throughout the day, and it was incredibly enriching to work with such engaged, hard-working, kind and joyous young people. I was especially touched by OrKidstra’s values and felt the sense of ‘belonging’ upon which their work is built. This ethos is intrinsic to the mission of Chineke! and so it was wonderful to not only be invited to collaborate in this workshop, but be welcomed into another musical family with the same goals – music for all.” – Daria Phillips, bassoon, Chineke! Orchestra
“I think we all agree that the Chineke! Orchestra concert and workshop was a wonderful experience. We learned a bunch. ” – OrKidstra Student Mateo, 17, clarinet
“We were able to learn new things about our playing…At the start of the String Session we were just playing, and then at the end, we were playing together. It was a very fun experience.” – OrKidstra Student Ayaan, 14, viola
“I was sitting next to the Oboist from the Chineke! Orchestra and she was so into the music. She was moving her body, she was dancing with the music, and it inspired me to do the same. When I did that, I realized that I was enjoying the music so much more.” – OrKidstra Student Mariam, 15, flute