Using music to support the Canadian National Institute for the Blind
By Savanah Tillberg, Arts and Culture Editor
On Saturday, February 3rd, the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra organized a remarkable evening filled with entertainment, laughter, and, of course, music. As a part of their POPS series, the TBSO proudly held their Music In The Dark event, in support of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).
The CNIB is a non-profit organization which seeks to support blind and partially sighted Canadians, enabling them to “fully participate in life.” The organization was founded in 1918, and upon entering its 100th year of service, is now “celebrating a century of changing individual lives and society as a whole.” The CNIB uses a variety of tools to help visually impaired Canadians, one of which is the Vision Loss Rehabilitation program. This program aims to enhance the “independence, safety, and mobility” of Canadians who suffer from sight loss by using personalized rehabilitative programming. With over 50 offices across Canada, the CNIB also offers community-based programs which help those with sight loss learn to more effectively navigate their homes and communities in efforts to provide them with the highest quality of life. The overall mission of the CNIB is to “ensure [that] all Canadians who are blind or partially sighted have the confidence, skills and opportunity to fully participate in life and no Canadian loses their sight to preventable causes.”
Conductor, Simon Rivard, and the TBSO arranged a thrilling show that incorporated pieces originally written and performed by musicians with varying degrees of sight loss. The show opened with a piece written by Bach, who suffered from vision loss late in his life. Soon after, the orchestra was joined by vocalist and song-writer, Kim Erickson. Erickson’s powerful voice filled the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium and the soulful and fairytale-esque quality to her singing was clearly received by the entire audience.
Before introducing the next guest performers, Rivard instructed the audience to put on the blindfolds which were given to them upon their entry into the auditorium. This unique component to the evening brought the ultimate goal of raising funds and awareness to sight loss prevention, to the forefront of the show. Wearing the blindfold, the audience members were instructed to pay special attention to the sound of the orchestra – and to allow their sense of hearing to be heightened in the absence of their sight. Throughout the night, several pieces were performed in which the audience wore their blindfolds, and each was an entirely different experience. The widely diverse nature of the pieces that were performed made the experience powerful and entertaining.
Following the first blindfolded experience, and the performance of Con te partirò, the next guest performers were welcomed to the stage. Hunt & Gather is a local band with an alternative rock sound. They combined their talents with our local orchestra and the result was quite spectacular. The local band performed three of their original songs in combination with the orchestra, and evidenced from the head-nodding and seat-dancing, it was clear that their arrangement was well received by the audience.
The next guest performer was Thunder Bay born, Allan Komenda. Komenda sang a touching original entitled, Somebody’s Dad, as well as a crowd favourite, Sweet Caroline. Although Komenda is not professional musician, his passionate performances were both impressive and enthralling. His encouragement of audience participation was a fun and engaging addition to an already stellar performance.
The final guest performer to join the orchestra was the publisher of the Chronical Journal, Clint Harris. Although the audience was not encouraged to wear their blindfolds during Harris’ performance, if they had, they might have thought that they were listening to Frank Sinatra himself. Harris chose to perform a variety of classics including New York, New York, and the ever-famous, Feeling Good. The entire second portion of the event alternated between beautiful orchestral classics and upbeat swing tunes featuring Harris’ vocals.
Ultimately, this was a phenomenally organized event which brought light to an important cause. The CNIB had an information booth set up throughout the evening where attendees could learn about the signs of blindness and the resources available to those who experience sight loss.
If you missed this POPS show, you have two more opportunities to attend before the end of the season. The next POPS is scheduled for March 10th and is entitled Jeans N’ Classics. This event is expected to feature the musical stylings of David Bowie and Prince, so it is sure to be a fun and uplifting show. As the TBSO aims to make the symphony as accessible as possible, student rate tickets are available on the TBSO website.