A local singer-songwriter is sharing Canadian winter through song with children across the globe, through the Grand Philharmonic Children's Choir project, Children’s Choir Connecting.
During the pandemic lockdowns, the choir connected online with eight other children's choirs in India, South Africa, Scotland, Germany and the United States.
"Each choir takes a turn, teaching us music of a celebration in their culture," said Andrea deBoer-Jones, conductor of the Grand Philharmonic Children's Choir (GPC) and the organizer of this project.
Each of the choir sessions is themed around a holiday. In October, the choir in the U.S. wrote a song to teach children about Halloween. This month was the GPC’s turn, so they decided to teach kids around the world about snow-filled Canadian winters.
“The choir in India, for example, doesn't really celebrate Halloween, so it was very cool for them. And then in turn, the choir in Mumbai taught all of the kids about Diwali,” said Ella Latta Suazo, who is the assistant conductor of the GPC, and composed the song they will be performing.
On Sunday, local children will share photos and videos of themselves playing in the snow, and the online group will sing Latta Suazo's "Winter Canon" together, using Latta Suazo's recording as a guide.
“It’s really special,” she said about having her song performed in this way. “It’s also really special to have the children’s choir sing my song, because they’re such a special part of my life. So it’s very exciting.”
Latta Suazo is also a student of Wilfrid Laurier University's community music program, which allows students to explore diverse musical styles while using music collaboratively to make a social impact.
When she was looking into universities, she initially wanted to become a music teacher. But when she discovered the community music program, she thought it would be the perfect fit.
“I just felt it aligned so much with my values of doing more with music, rather than just picking an instrument and mastering it,” she said.
The program offered her a space to work on developing more skills than just one instrument, as well as a chance to learn more about community and “how music can be used to bring people together.”
“And I just really thought, after how much community the Grand Philharmonic Choir has given me, that I really wanted to have the skills to be able to give back to the community,” she said.
In terms of the impact music can have on a community, for starters, she said that music is a great way to connect people.
“For example, in a long term care home, the residents may know each other, but through music activity, they might interact more, and form relationships, make friends, that sort of thing. Or it might even be a way for the care workers at the long term care home to get to know their residents better. So it's just a way to connect people and unite people in different contexts.”
Because of feelings of isolation caused by the pandemic, she believes there is a more urgent need to make connections, which is why initiatives like the choir project are so important.
While Latta Suazo still wants to teach, she said she’s no longer limiting that idea to a classroom.
“There are so many other ways that I can make an impact with music. I think my horizons have been broadened, and I’m interested in community work and facilitation more now,” she said.