Today I watched an outdoor performance of Alice in Wonderland presented by the Canadian Children’s Opera Company.
Over the past few weeks it’s been a joy to see productions that signal a return by many companies forced to the brink by the pandemic, often with a celebratory tone regardless of what was being presented.
That was especially so for today’s Alice, with libretto by Michael Patrick Albano and composed by Errol Gay, premiered in 2015 and offered this year in honour of its composer, who passed away in 2019. In addition to Alice, Errol had also composed A Dickens of a Christmas and Laura’s Cow: the legend of Laura Secord.
I was impressed watching the complexities of the music in Alice. The cast had memorized their parts, the music sometimes made challenging modulations, with nary a missed cue or note. I have no idea how much rehearsal it took for them to achieve this level of perfection, only that it’s tremendous fun to watch, observing the supportive parents gobbling it up.
There’s a page telling us the CCOC’s history:
Founded by singer, broadcaster and impresario Ruby Mercer and Music Director Lloyd Bradshaw, the company was designed to offer young people top quality instruction in operatic and choral singing, stagecraft and drama. This training, paired with numerous and varied annual performance opportunities, places the CCOC in a central position in the Canadian opera scene.
I was thinking how useful this would be as part of an education. You may well ask me “what do they mean by “children”? What are the ages? To be honest I didn’t know. They seemed pretty sophisticated. So I consulted their website https://www.canadianchildrensopera.com/.
Wow, there’s a great deal of detail there for a parent considering sending their child.
This is no idle recreation. CCOC have carefully studied the subject given that they’re coming up on their 55th anniversary. They break down their activities by age cohort. As they tell you in a couple of places on the site (especially if you’re a parent hoping to find a placement for your child), they “have 6 choirs for children and youth grades from JK and up.”
Their choirs include:
• Butterfly Chorus (JK & SK)
• Ruby Chorus (Grade 1 & 2)
• Apprentice Chorus (Grade 2 – 4)
• Intermediate Chorus (Grade 4 – 7)
• Principal Chorus (Grade 6 – 10)
• Youth Chorus (Grade 10+ and boys with changed voices)
Today’s performance was accomplished by members of that “Youth Chorus”.
If you follow the links for each age group’s choir, you’ll see that this is a fully developed curriculum, well-planned to train the prospective performer in musical theatre, let alone opera. If you’re considering it for your child, have a look at their page titled “Auditions – what to expect“.
I can’t imagine a better pathway for someone who hopes to end up in a post-secondary theatre programs such as the ones at universities or colleges in this country. But never mind career. This is a brilliant way to socialize children in an environment encouraging discipline, goals, and the exploration of personal limits. If they learn something, so much the better, but at the very least their activities are creative and likely to foster confidence. At a time when some schools are reducing their arts education the CCOC’s offerings could be vital.