China – July 19 – Reflections and Thanks

Submitted by editor on Sun, 07/19/2015 – 20:35

This performance tour is one of the best I’ve ever been on. We’ve seen and learned so many interesting things.

It wouldn’t have been a performance tour without concerts though.

It was lovely to see the group bond and grow closer, working together more and more as we kept performing. Our playing and ensemble coordination became more professional as we took the stage in the many beautiful but different cities. It was fascinating to see all the performance venues. One of the interesting things about performing, for me, is playing in new halls and having to adapt to the new acoustics. As a group, it can be challenging as there are several musicians all trying to acclimate to the new setting. However, we did it! Our performances were really well received. The group played amazingly, our violins mingling together, creating breath-taking music. The soloists were all incredible. Their performances were smooth, polished, and hauntingly gorgeous as well as thrilling. It was wonderful how our audiences appreciated the beautiful music we shared with them. Many children were in the crowd, and it was delightful to see their reactions. During our performance in Weifang, there were some adorable, enthusiastic young kids in the front row. Their eyes were glued on us, clearly enthralled. Their joy was clearly displayed on their faces, as they gazed at us with something akin to awe.

During one piece, before we even finished playing, they started applauding energetically. They clapped their hands over their mouths when they realized we weren’t quite done, but continued to clap quietly. As the last note faded away from our final piece, the audience gave us a roar of applause. The young children bounced up and down, literally.

At our last performance in Shanghai, we had a master of ceremonies who works at the only classical music station in mainland China. We even received flowers. It was very sweet of HZ to arrange for us to get them.

I personally feel that our performance in Shanghai was our best one. The theatre was beautiful, and the audience was very appreciative of our playing.

Our performance in Shanghai marked the conclusion of our tour in China. I am really thrilled that we ended on such a high note.

I would like to extend a huge thank you to the China 2015 Stellae Boreales Trip Committee for planning such a remarkable tour. You have given all of us memories that will be cherished forever. I would also like to extend my gratitude to the parents. Their unwavering support was a solid comfort. Whatever we needed or whatever happened, they were there offering their assistance. And of course, a big thanks to our wonderful coaches and our amazing pianist! We have learned so much from you all, and have grown as musicians. Thank you to my fellow musicians for being such wonderful friends and colleagues. I am thrilled to have gotten to know you better.

Congratulations to everyone for a wonderful tour!

~ SS-P

China – July 16 – Zhengzhou

Submitted by editor on Sat, 07/18/2015 – 22:39

The arrival in Zhengzhou, both tiresome and relieving, was welcomed by a sound sleep at a fancy hotel. I woke up to go shopping to buy some clothes at a “fancy Chinese designer brand shop” where an excursion to the bank with an assistant from the store was necessary to pay for the expenses! The adventure was tiring, but definitely shows to be a highlight of the trip!

– RD-R

China – July 14 – Qingdao

Submitted by editor on Sat, 07/18/2015 – 22:09

Our day started off with a delicious breakfast at the hotel, followed by a 2.5 hour bus ride to Qingdao. Having been to this hotel three days prior, none of the scenery was new, although, unlike the previous stay at this hotel, we were all given double bed rooms. After having arrived in Qingdao, everyone was then invited on a bus and walking tour of the city, followed by an afternoon at the beach. Many of us were exhausted and decided to stay back at the hotel to rest and practice for the remaining three concerts. Quite a few people took the opportunity to stock up on food for the sixteen hour train ride the following night. The hotel being attached to the Qingdao Poly Theatre, made for an easier night than most. After eating dinner at the hotel, we simply walked over, performed, and walked back. This led to an early night back at the hotel.

– ML

China – July 13 – Weifang

Submitted by editor on Sat, 07/18/2015 – 03:03

Today’s journey started with a delayed bus due to the fog. However, this delay enabled a brief stroll to the nearby coast, where the majestic crashing of the waves against the stone steps was admired. After the subsequent arrival of our bus, we began our relatively uneventful drive towards Weifang and arrived in the City of Kites in the early afternoon.

Naturally, being in the International Kite Capital, we visited the Weifang Kite Museum, the only museum of its kind in China. The museum provided a basic explanation of the history of kites and a brief overview of the various international kite contests. Highlights of the exhibition included its vast array of intricate and adroitly crafted kites, and a fascinating holographic projection of a traditional street of ancient China. The museum also featured an exquisite central courtyard with wooden lattices surrounding the court and dragon kites suspending from the ceiling.

Following our trip to the museum, we returned to the hotel for an early dinner at its German pub, then headed to the Weifang Poly Grand Theatre for our rehearsal and concert. The theatre was contained within a large complex of several artfully designed glass buildings. The theatre walls were lined with strips of pale curved wood creating the effect of oscillating waves.

Our solid performance, though not without mishap, was well-received by our audience. Their enthusiastic response was bolstered by three young girls in the front row who eagerly awaited the conclusion of each piece so that they could commence clapping.

This exhausting day ended with the return to our hotel, the Weifang International Financial Hotel, a sleek black building of glass with an extravagantly imposing lobby, where I retired to my room promptly upon arrival.

~ ML

“Escaping the Heat”

After our visit to the beautiful kite museum, I started back for our hotel. The most direct way back involved walking through a large park-like square which presumably was used for their famous kite-flying exhibitions. There were fountains which were turned off for the day, making me really feel the oppressive heat. A man sat in a small corner of shade, fanning himself while his caged pet bird sung. I felt sorry for his bird.

Wishing to have a little pick-me-up in the form of a caffeinated beverage and some air-conditioning, I ducked into a tea room. I was greeted by a nice young man who spoke with tentative English. Soon I was asked to sit down and shortly thereafter, in walked three women. “She is the manager,” the young man explained. “She will make your tea.”

After introductions were made, the manager started the tea ceremony. She carefully prepared a lovely fragrant white tea which didn’t colour the water at all. We drank from little shallow saucer-like cups. She kept adding hot water, swishing the tea leaves to steep, then pouring more. All the while locals were coming in, conversing, having tea, checking emails, relaxing.

I then, with the help of my new friend Ryan (his English name; since I completely butchered his Chinese name), asked to try some black tea. “We call this red tea,” Ryan explained. Again the ritual of preparation began. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the manager prepare the black tea differently than how she prepared the white tea. She peeled off thin layers of densely packed tea. It was delicious!

Photos were taken and an invitation for Stellae to come to the tea room any time was extended.

I felt like a celebrity. Ryan also wanted to practice his English with me on WeChat, but I explained that I didn’t have WeChat. However, I told him to keep practicing his English and that, in the course of one hour, his English had improved greatly!

Of course, the visit wasn’t complete before I purchased a “bar” of this heavenly tea. Back home in Canada, whenever I prepare a pot of this tea, I will think of the kindness shown to me in beautiful Weifang.

~ SM

China – July 12 – Yantai

Submitted by editor on Thu, 07/16/2015 – 12:19

Our day began with a rather pleasant surprise – a wake up call at 8 in the morning, which was warmly welcomed by the exhausted members of Stellae. The hotel which we stayed at the night before and the morning after was really something else. It included three floors of wobbly staircase railings, complicated door mechanics, and my personal favorite: a box of matches, tissues, and a well-placed sink.

The breakfast was nice and simple, as breakfasts should be. A bit of noodles and fried dough alongside rice congee and strangely flavored juices wake up most people, after all. It was truly a breakfast that fried food lovers would praise.

Unfortunately, the weather decided to take a turn. It started raining, which wasn’t much of a hinderance since our next destination was the bus which we would be using to travel to Yantai. The bus ride was only an hour long, which I thought was a relief. Doing nothing was even more tiring than going to school, which was awfully worrying considering the long flights, bus rides, and train rides to come.

The rain didn’t let up when we arrived in Yantai, which was a disappointment. The hotel rooms had bathrooms with glass walls again, which made me question how intimate the people who roomed together were supposed to be. However, the lunch we had at the hotel was, in my opinion, quite nice. However, they served some of the largest dishes at the end. Nonetheless, I was proud of my table’s members for eating some questionable items, namely the sea cucumber and the candied fish.

After lunch, we had several hours of free time. I spent the time holed up in my room playing video games while others braved the rain and visited a coffee shop. Some decided to play Never Have I Ever in the lobby, which escalated from child friendly to PG-13 quickly due to the help of the Internet.

As we left for the performance, another first violin for Butterfly Lovers and Morrison’s Jig was sick, meaning that the Intermediates had double the second violins than first violins for Morrison’s. After a quick pizza dinner, our usual rehearsal followed. We pulled through and gave a great performance along with another prodigious solo from AW. The audience seemed quite enthusiastic – they clapped immediately after we finished and before we bowed.

At the end of the concert, there was draw do decide which audience members could get onto the stage and take a photo with us. Perhaps we were more popular that we originally thought. Please, no paparazzi. As per usual, we received ice cream after, though I accidentally chose a run flavored one, as did many others.

Our bus driver was kind enough to to bring us to the coastline where we saw many waves and an interesting clock tower. A handful of us participated in one of OB-L and RD-R’s vlogs, even though RD-L was sick. After a short bus ride, it was back to the hotel and into the bed.

And that concludes another tiring day. Well, as they say, when in China, do as the Chinese do. That includes crazy J-walking, eating questionable items, and smiling for the camera no matter how many million photos the parents want.

A week left. LY out.

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China – July 11 – Weihai

Submitted by editor on Sun, 07/12/2015 – 10:52

Ed: Blog entry to come…

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China – July 10 – Travel to Qingdao

Submitted by editor on Sun, 07/12/2015 – 10:52

Our day started off with a delicious breakfast in the hotel. I hadn’t had eggs, cold orange juice and croissants for what seemed like such a long time! At around 10am, we headed to the bus to drive to the train station. Unfortunately, the bus driver took us to the wrong train station at first, which made us late. We had to rush to make it to the train. The food on the train was not good at all, so most of us were restricted to eating Oreo cookies, goldfish and chips for both lunch and dinner. We arrived at the hotel at around 10:30pm. Many of us had planned on ordering pizza but sadly the pizza place across the road was already closed. So instead, we had to go to a Korean Restaurant. My craving for pizza lead me to make the mistake of ordering cheese pizza at the Korean restaurant. It was not at all what I had expected. The “pizza” was nothing more than a large amount of cheese and butter on a thin tortilla. After the nutritious dinner, we walked back to the hotel and went to sleep.

~ SK

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China – July 9 – Shenyang

Submitted by editor on Sun, 07/12/2015 – 10:51

We began our day in Dalian and our rooms received a wakeup call at 6:15 in the morning. Breakfast was being served at 6:30 and our train to Shenyeng was to depart at 9:14. Breakfast was great! There were many different food options, I really enjoyed the chicken nuggets and the fried rice although many other people thought the rice was too bland and dry. Our train arrived late, we actually departed at 9:20, six minutes behind schedule. The train ride was only two hours long so it wasn’t that bad. The most difficult part of the train ride was getting off the train, since Shenyeng was only a stop we had a mere three minutes to get our luggage and ourselves off the train. We somehow pulled it off, during our first train ride we took almost 30 minutes, this time we reduced that time by 10 fold and we did it in only three minutes. Yay! For lunch we went to a Chinese restaurant, it had unique funnels on top of the tables which were designed to suck steam and smoke from the food, pretty interesting. To me the food had hints of Korean cuisine, likely because we were only 200km from the Korean border, North Korea that is. Yikes! Some dishes tasted great however others lacked the deliciousness, sadly we wasted a fair amount of food. The music exchange with the Shenyang conservatory of music went great. We played three pieces: Yao Dance, Slavonic dance and De Beriot. The audience seemed to really enjoy our performance. The conservatory also put on quite the show for us, they had two soloists along with piano accompaniment and two quartets, all of which played their pieces very well. We had a little meet and greet at the end of the concert and they were also quite impressed with us. The next stop was the hotel, but this hotel was special, there was a swimming pool! And upon further inspection the swimming pool was a full 25 meters by 11 meters. Best hotel so far! Quickly after checking in we had to leave for the concert. The concert went well, it took place at a state of the art auditorium with great acoustics. The place was also quite aesthetically pleasing. The best of the best when it comes to concert halls for a performance group of our size. We arrived back at the hotel at 10:00 pm and began preparing for the long nine hour train ride the following day.

– KH

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China – July 8 – Dalian

Submitted by editor on Thu, 07/09/2015 – 11:29

Today was a pretty adventurous and exhausting day. This morning, on our way to Golden & Silver beach, except when we almost arrived, our bus suddenly broke down. Instead, we spent some time at Fu Village beach. The beach was very rocky, with lots of seaweed. There were also a lot of tents and parasols. The weather was very nice. It was very warm and there was a big blue sky. We also went to a bridge, which we walked across. There was a lot of very nice scenery of the sea.

In the afternoon, we went to the Dalian Poly Theatre, which was extremely big and beautiful. The architecture of the building was very creative and fascinating. It was where we had a cultural exchange program with a young Chinese violin group at the Dalian Poly Theatre. There was a young soloist and she was absolutely amazing. I was amazed that she played such a difficult piece at such a young age. Also, there was the young violin group, who also played very nicely. Then, in the evening, we had another concert at the Dalian Poly Theatre. I think we did a pretty good job, considering it was pretty late.

But overall, it was an amazing day. I had lots of fun and I’m hoping that there is lots more to look forward to later in the trip!

~ KC <3

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China – July 7 – Travel to Dalian

Submitted by editor on Thu, 07/09/2015 – 11:22

Today concluded our stay in Beijing as we departed for Dalian. We ate breakfast at 6:30am, half an hour earlier than usual. This was to account for the heaviest traffic we’d yet experienced in Beijing as we made our way to the train station. We unloaded from the bus and started hauling our stuff through the throngs of people outside the station. Our group stretched out dangerously thin on the long walk to the entrance but we all formed up outside security, which we have to pass through before going inside. (I made good use of the wonderfully utilitarian fan that I got on our first day in Beijing, something that I would recommend to anyone that lives anywhere even remotely hot as it was hugely helpful.) The crowds thinned out once we were inside, until we got to our waiting area where people were packed like sardines waiting for the gates to the platform to open.

Our train left at 9:52am. The overhead bins were packed and although no one had their suitcases sitting on them my violin ended up at my feet. The train ride was a little over 6 hours since as a high speed train we cruised at 300km per hour. People from Stellae played cards and as often happens when we travel, most of us ended up socialising at one end of the car, despite having been seated throughout. Lunch was served on the train, and I was fortunate enough to have something to eat (I’m vegetarian, and so my options for food thus far had been mostly greens with rice). Over the train ride I take up a hobby of writing down Chinese characters that I see, taking the opportunity to starting to learn the language since we’re so immersed in it here.

We arrived in Dalian at around 4:00pm and made our way to the bus that Poly Theatre had arranged to take us to the hotel for the night. Traffic was heavy in the city and we took a while to get to the hotel because the highway was closed, so we had to go through the busy city streets. We took our stuff up to our rooms and ate dinner at the hotel. Afterwards some people went on a bus to visit a square in the city, but I stayed at the hotel, tired from our long day of travel.

– KH

Today, we embarked on the first train of many on this trip. The station was very big and incredibly crowded. I spent pretty much the whole journey through the station to our train trying not to be separated from my group. A highly stressful experience, and to think we have to do this almost every day!

~ NS-K

China – July 6 – Great Wall and Summer Palace

Submitted by editor on Thu, 07/09/2015 – 11:19

Today was a great, but exhausting day since we visited two of the greatest tourist attractions in Beijing, The Great Wall of China and The Summer Palace.

Our first stop was at the Great Wall after breakfast and a fairly long bus ride. The scenery was breathtaking. The mountains were covered in a wave of green and seemed to continue forever. On top of that, there was a shroud of mist that was covering the mountain range. It was not hot, so it was a perfect day to climb the Great Wall.

Our tour guide, Tao, told us that the steps of the Great Wall were steep and uneven. Well… that was 1000% correct! We found ourselves getting exhausted after the first (LONG) flight of stairs and stumbling every so often.

But, even in these odds, about half of us made it to the top of the nearest, tallest mountain.

Next we toured the Summer Palace after lunch. This is where the Emperor of China used to spend his summer and it was gigantic — I mean, there were so many pathways zigzagging around many old trees that led to incredibly stunning areas.

One of which was the “Harmony” Garden (rough translation). It was decorated with the traditional Chinese method: rocks, ponds, trees, flowers, and pavilion. The pond was filled with goldfish and beautiful lotus flowers and lilies. There were many many willow trees and bamboo as well as some neat porous rocks. With the many birds flying around, it really seemed like I was in harmony with nature.

After, we walked part of the long pavilion beside the Kun Ming lake and headed back to where we started on a dragon boat. Finally, we took our bus home and had a delicious dinner at our hotel. Afterwards, we had free time when some of us went shopping and others stayed and relaxed.

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China – July 5 – National Center for the Performing Arts

Submitted by editor on Thu, 07/09/2015 – 10:19

On the 5th of July, we had our first performance at the National Centre of Performing Arts in Beijing. Many people filled up the Blossom Hall on the roof of the theatre, including many of my relatives in China. We had the honour to perform for many distinguished guests including the Canadian ambassador in China. The concert, I felt, was excellent and received many well remarks from the audience. My dad called me over to take some pictures on stage with some close relatives. There were so many people that I felt crowded and I forgot many of their names. They all seemed happy to meet me whether or not they knew me before. My uncle told me that I was going to go eat dinner with them but including even more people. That night, I missed out on the Peking Duck dinner with the group but I had my own share in another restaurant. My grandpa, being the oldest “Wu” there, introduced most of the people sitting around me. There were many of my grandpa’s siblings, their spouses, friends and others from all around. Most of them were adults so I felt slightly left out of the group. We were all bombarded with excellent food and drinks with some getting a bit drunk. Due to jet lag and tiredness from the day, I wanted to leave but had to stay out of respect. My dad said my goodbyes and my uncle drove me back to the hotel.

– AW

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China – July 4 – Arrival in Beijing

Submitted by editor on Thu, 07/09/2015 – 10:00

After a couple of days of traveling, we finally got a decent meal at the hotel. We were served a variety of dishes on a spinning glass table which included pork, curry, and fish. I did not eat that much as I was using most of my energy to make sure I didn’t fall asleep as were most others. After dinner, we received our instructions for the next morning, stumbled sleepily to our rooms, and went to sleep before a big day ahead.

– DH-W

Note: The hotel has a large red neon sign saying “Welcome Canadian guests to the Beijing International Shipping Hotel”


China – July 3 – Our Adventure Begins

Submitted by editor on Mon, 07/06/2015 – 07:53

Our trip began at the reasonable hour of 10 am when we all met up at Ottawa airport. After a breeze through security and a painless flight to Toronto, we stocked up on over-priced sandwiches, and proceeded to board our 13 hour flight to Beijing. It was clear that this was the part of the trip people were most looking forward to. We started off keeping ourselves entertained with movies and card games, while being fed by in-flight meals and JL’s candy stash. But, as time wore on, the movies got boring, and we ran out of candy, so we proceeded to have Rubik’s cube lessons (shout out to SS-P & KH), play chess (shout out to KH & DH-W), and write stories by going around in a circle and taking turns contributing a word. As one might imagine, these stories did not make much sense, but it was still an amusing way to pass the time (shout out to SS-P, UM, JL, KH, DH-W, and of course E.G.M.). By the time we finished writing, we were about half way through our flight, and it was around 11 pm Ottawa time. At this point, many of the parents and some of the students tried to sleep, while the rest of us were content thinking we could beat jet lag by just staying up for 36 hours straight. In my row, we chose to stay up by listening to music. This worked well for a while, but by 12:30 am we started drifting off between the cymbal crashes in Dvorak’s 9th symphony (shout out to SS-P & UM). By the time breakfast came at 1:30 am, we had had a nice 20 minute “power nap” and were feeling alright. After breakfast, we began our descent into Beijing, finally touching down at the not-as-reasonable local time of 3:20 pm (3:20 am Ottawa time). Nonetheless, we were all excited for the great adventures to come – but particularly those that involved sleeping that night.

– OB-L

China – July 1 – Chinese Embassy Event

Submitted by editor on Mon, 07/06/2015 – 07:40

Last Wednesday, we were invited to the Chinese Education Centre for a reception and information session hosted by the Chinese Embassy. When I got there, I was greeted warmly by the Chinese Minister of Education. Everyone was really nice and welcoming. I found everyone inside socializing already. It was a really nice get-together. There were some short speeches made by the Minister herself, and then our very own UM. After the speeches, we were treated to a large buffet, provided by the embassy. The food was amazing, and I saw many people returning for seconds (especially the guys, *cough cough* DH-W). I got the chance to talk to lots of people at the embassy. We talked about the trip and what to expect in China. We were even taught a few Chinese phrases! I also had the chance to talk to some of the SB members who I really hadn’t had the chance to talk to before. This all led to a… pleasant debate between science nerds about the implications of immortality (copyright OB-L)…? (*sigh* what am I going to do with you, OB-L, RD-R, and SS-P? You really need to find some other things to do in your spare time :p) All in all, it was a fun experience for all of us and I had a great time.

~ JL



Minneapolis – thoughts

Submitted by editor on Tue, 06/10/2014 – 22:12

The most fun I had all trip was eating the food and going to the hotel’s pool.  From steaks, to burgers, to salads, to even yogurt parfaits, the food was simply delicious and I repeatedly stuffed myself day after day.  Food prices were also pretty cheap and this definitely added to the overall enjoyment.  After the exhausting days of touring and performing, there always was a refuge awaiting us for relaxation: the pool.  We raced, we swam (even synchronized swimming) and had a glorious time enjoying this hotel facility.  Although we stenched of chlorine after it was all worth it, considering that we were able to warm ourselves in the hot tub.  When the food and the pool are great, you know the trip will be great also.


Looking back on this past trip we took to Minneapolis, I noticed how different this trip was from the other trips Stellae has gone on.  When I thought about why that might be, I realized that it was because all our past trips have been tours for Stellae, whereas this   was a conference we were attending,  During our past tours, it was all about us, Stellae, whereas with this conference it wasn’t for us, it was about bringing the Americas together, and teaching the teachers.   With this conference, we had to work around the conference rather than having the coaches and parents doing all the schedule planning.  Another thing is that we didn’t really know the schedule and the plan until we go there, and often had to change our plan as we figured out what was happening each day.  Because of this, it sometimes felt constraining, though if we had known the plan ahead of time clearly, everything would’ve felt less constraining, and we would’ve been able to organise other stuff around it.  All that said though, the conference allowed an awesome opportunity to meet and interact with other kids from across the Americas and share and perform music with them, and all the concerts were great.


Minneapolis – May 27

Submitted by editor on Tue, 06/10/2014 – 22:10

Today we left Minneapolis and flew back to Canada.  At some unearthly hour in the morning, like 6:30am, we got up and ate quickly.  Then we walked from the hotel to the airport via a skywalk.  It was cool.  Then we flew with a pilot who very much enjoyed circling the airport and aiming the plane straight for the earth.  I wanted to puke.  But other than that it was a fabulous day.  I think that the whole trip was pretty intense with all the conference events but we had enough time to enjoy the pool, aquarium and mall that it was OK!  I think we were all a bit sad to leave the city, the people, and the all you can eat buffet.


Today was an exciting, yet sad day as we are returning home to Ottawa.  I kind of didn’t want to because of all the fun we had at Minneapolis, but of course that’s not going to happen.  The trip went pretty smoothly but I still get jumpy whenever there was a bump of turbulence.  It was a bit worrisome when it started to rain pretty hard before takeoff from Toronto.  Nevertheless, there were no problems and we arrived safely at Ottawa.  This whole experience was great and sitting here thinking about all the new people I got to meet or hear play, not to mention the pool, it’s just awesome which makes me excited for next year.


Minneapolis – May 26

Submitted by editor on Tue, 06/10/2014 – 22:08

Today was an extremely enlightening and memorable experience that served to be a perfect culmination to our Minneapolis tour.  Firstly, we awoke bright and early in order to efficaciously arrive at our 7:40am rehearsal for the final conference playdown.  This rehearsal was an extremely didactical, interactive and exhilarating experience in which we practised the musical pieces that we had specifically prepared for this prestigious event.  It was truly heartening to see the devotion of all the Suzuki students at the conference who, although they hailed from a multitude of cultures and ethnicities, were inextricably united by the golden threads of dignity, respect and musical enamourment.  This diverse tapestry of students truly represented the paragon principle that Suzuki created upon a foundation of love, musical eunoia and hope.  After we played the playdown concert – which was concluded with a Peruvian dance piece called “Saqras”, which was accompanied by vigorous dancing, the group assembled for a prosaic photo together to commemorate the trip and our time as a united group.  Afterward, we split into our individual groups to maximize efficiency and enjoyment.  I was given the coveted opportunity to return to the sprawling Mall of America, where numerous stores laden with fashionable merchandise beckoned me.  After a very successful shopping trip and a scrumptious pizza lunch, our chaperone group hastily returned to the hotel and met the rest of Stellae Boreales for a delicious final dinner, during which we could all socialize and express our excitation and special moments that we experienced in Minneapolis.  Finally, we returned to the hotel for a wholly refreshing swim and then concluded our hotel stay by allowing he gentle tendrils of fatigue caress us into a profound, albeit short, slumber.  Today was a very entertaining, emotional and wondrous experience that is surely a testament to the love and empowerment that music bestows on all who bask in its divine benediction!  I will forever cherish this day and this trip in my memory.


Yesterday, following a refreshing 6 hours of sleep on a floor almost as comfortable as a slab of concrete (having unfortunately been kept up by a trashy show that was equal parts advertisements as it was cops doing drug busts).  We went down for breakfast and a 7:45am rehearsal.  At the rehearsal, all the conference Suzuki students reviewed the 7 Twinkle variations, as well as a few more challenging pieces.  After the rehearsal we had a 30 minute break followed by the final concert.  At the concert there were around 150 students most (if not all) under 20 (and as young as 8) from all over the Americas.  The concert went well and followed a similar format to a playdown, except it was recorded and was posted online.  After that, Stellae split into two groups; one would go back to the mall, whereas the other would stay in downtown, and go walk along the Mississippi River.  The river was only a 15 minute walk from the hotel but it was very hot and humid in the sun.  So we did not stay long observing the flowering crab-apple trees, watching the sewage flow by, and “making it rain” (an extremely pointless and stupid app where you are presented with a stack of bills that you must swipe to gain money which can then be used to upgrade your earning rate.  I currently have 72 quadrillion dollars).  After the river walk, we had a hearty meal of free samples at a grocery store, and returned to the hotel by a free bus.  The two groups then joined again and we went for dinner at the News Room, a good place that seems lik a cross between a restaurant, a sports bar and a newspaper.  It also had a uh… unique see-through wall separating the two washrooms.  Back at the hotel we all went swimming and then a bunch of us watched a documentary about the World Wars.  It was interesting, but it ended at 1:00am. Getting up this morning at 5:45am sure was fun!


Yesterday we walked to the Mississippi River.  It was hot.  Then we went to some restaurant where I ate meat loaf.  At night, we watched a documentary about the World Wars.  When that ended, we watched “Criminal Minds”.  After that ended there was nothing, so at about 1:15am we went to bed.


Minneapolis – May 25

Submitted by editor on Tue, 06/10/2014 – 22:04

During the conference, the Stellae kids attended a Dalcroze class.  Dalcroze had an interesting and fun way of exploring timing and time signatures.  The guy running the class first had us warm up by giving us 5 counts to form a circle in the middle of the room, then as close as possible, then as far away as possible, that sort of thing.  Then in the circle holding hands we had a walking rhythm moving in and out.  “In-two-three, out-two-three” then we had to do the same thing following the music’s tempo.  As a twist, when the music changed to minor we had to do the same thing but facing outside the circle.  Later on we also had different moves for when the music changed time signatures; walking in partners for 2/4, walking in groups of 4 for 4/4.  We had to do the same thing backwards when the music was minor.  Another activity we did was boucing a tennis ball in different ways depending on the time signature.  2/4 = bounce-catch, ¾ = bounce-catch-catch, 4/4 = bounce-catch-toss-catch.  We also learned a way to conduct using different movements and the “Dalcroze” way of writing time signatures.


This past Sunday was the first time in my whole life that I enjoyed church.  The service started with us playing Intermezzo.  The church was beautifully designed – stained glass windows and a huge dome.  It was very much like Dominion Chalmers.  The homily was about love and how people who love you show you they love you.  He cracked a few jokes to keep the audience awake.  In addition to that you could understand him (very different from the mumbles of the priest at my church).  There was also a female minister which I was happy to see (no conservative no female priest rule).  Anyway…  I think it’s decided.  If not atheist when I’m older I will be Presbyterian.


Today was a busy day.  We had lots of exciting activities planned such as performing at a church service, a rehearsal with the Latin-American ensemble, a craft, a workshop, another rehearsal, then two concerts to attend!  Attending the church service was very educational for me, especially since that was the first time I’ve ever attended church!  The first rehearsal was fun and beneficial because I’m sure the majority of Stellae Boreales needed a refresher in some of the Suzuki pieces, especially the Bach Double.  The next engagement, the craft, was a nice moment when we go to take a little break.  We made bead counters; they help us count down from 10!  I think we all need help counting down from 10 especially when we’re distracted by the bright colours of the beads.  During the workshop, we learned how to incorporate music into our body language.  It was really fun holding hands in a circle.  I think we all learned a lot from that workshop.  I liked it because it was a fun way to learn about time signatures and other elements of music theory.  The second rehearsal was a blast!  We practiced the dance steps to a piece called “Saqras” which I’m sure we all enjoyed.  I speak for everyone when I say it was exhausting.  Luckily, our coaches and chaperones had mercy on us and let us relax rather than going to the two concerts.  This was bittersweet news because I was completely out of energy but I also would have loved to attend those concerts to expand and enhance my musical understanding.  Overall, this day was busy, educational and fun (I didn’t know those three words could be used in the same sentence!)  I am very pleased.


Minneapolis – May 24

Submitted by editor on Tue, 06/10/2014 – 22:00

In the morning, we all went to the Mall of America.  The mall was huge.  It had an amusement park, many restaurants and over 100 stores.  Me and my group went to go mini-golfing.  Mini-golfing was really fun, sometimes very hard to get the ball into the hole.  Next, I wanted to go get a new phone case for myself.  So I went along with MY and his mom.  After purchasing the product, we went to the food court and ate a burger combo at A&W.  As soon as we finished eating, MY wanted to go shop for some clothes.  So I went with them.  MY quickly finished shopping.  Me and MY were tired so we went back to the hotel and finished our day off by swimming.


Minneapolis – May 23

Submitted by editor on Tue, 06/10/2014 – 21:58

The morning started with a bus ride to one of the local schools.  The school was pretty small – only 100 students or so from grades 6 – 8.  We put up our normal combined performance (which went quite well) and then the Intermediates went.   The Intermediates’ performance was … less spectacular, to say the least.  Paragon Rag went well.  Pavane was a tad off its normal expectations.  Okay, so clearly Pavane needs work, but I say Por Una Cabeza would be a nice replacement.  Well, that’s that and so concluded our time at the school.


After our time at the school, we headed for a radio station in downtown St. Paul.  Compared to our disasterous performance mentioned before, this went more than a billion times better.  The workers there gathered as we started playing Jealousy.  During Jealousy, a mom wanted to get a close-up of AW’s face and didn’t want to wait.  You can get how awkward that was.  In the middle of Trepak, a man driving a cart had to pass behind our back row which was funny.  After this performance, we got back on the bus to sit and wonder how we would do on the evening concert.


We were waiting in the hall outside the ballroom, all in our blacks, waiting to be called in.  To be honest, it was a little nerve wracking, considering how much work we’d put into getting ready for this performance.  Once we were up there, though, we rocked it.  After us went the Boulder Strings group, who were also very good, though they had a tendancy to bob up and down a little.Their conductor was a man named William Starr, who is apparently quite well known in the Suzuki community.  It was his 92st birthday, which was nice, and so there were a lot of speeches in his honour which was … not so nice.  We must have had to sit through 12 different speeches, all of which were pretty much the same.  Afterwards, though, they gave us cake, and so all was well. ~CD

Minneapolis – May 22

Submitted by editor on Tue, 06/10/2014 – 21:56

It was a really normal day and nothing special happened.  We woke up, went to the airport, checked things in and boarded the plane.  The flight was relatively comfortable as it was a small plane.  When we got to Minneapolis we went to eat out 

at a burger restaurant.  The food was nice but it took like two hours for them to serve the food.


At the airport, there wasn’t anything so after we landed, we went to a restaurant and ate hamburgers but my order took so long that I was forced to steal fries from MV.  Eventually it arrived with the hottest peppers ever!  After that me and my roommates watched “Cops” until 1:00am.


Today was a pretty uneventful day, the usual airport business.  Going on a delayed plane flight and then transferring to Minneapolis.  Once we left the airport we took confusing instructions to go to the hotel.  The hotel was nice but it was a bit of a walk from the light rail stop.  The room was pretty nice but not fit for 4 people and I got demoted to the floor.  For dinner we all ate burgers and when we came back we watched TV and got our violins.  We tried to sleep but DB woke us all up.  After convincing him to be quiet, we all fell asleep.


Westminster Presbyterian Church

Submitted by editor on Sun, 05/25/2014 – 23:56

It’s another glorious day in Minneapolis, weather-wise, and SB played during the church service at Westminster Presbyterian Church this morning.  This magnificent church was built in 1897 and is found on the National Register of Historic Places.  Despite being told to expect a sparse turnout as it was Memorial Day weekend and many people were away, the church was full.  The clergy and congregation made us feel very welcome.  Indeed, the theme of the service and Pastor Brennan’s sermon was that of love and welcome.   SB played the Prelude (Intermezzo in A Major, Opus 118, No. 2, by Johannes Brahms) and the Postlude (Concerto for Four Violins, Allegro, by G.P. Telemann) to a very appreciative congregation, who broke into a spontaneous round of applause after the Postlude.  The voices of the Westminster Presbyterian choir raised in harmony was another highlight of the service.     Afterwards, I spoke to a member of the congregation who was very appreciative of SB’s performance.  As we exchanged compliments about the choir and SB, she explained that she was a former member of the choir, and that in her slightly-biased opinion, this was the best choir in the city, and for good reason–many members were professional singers in local opera companies or other singing groups.  It was our good fortune to have this opportunity to hear this choir, and for SB to perform in this historic church. ~AL


Cuba 2013 Photos – Day 2

Submitted by editor on Sun, 09/01/2013 – 08:53

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Cuba 2013 Photos – Day 1

Submitted by editor on Sat, 08/31/2013 – 16:18

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Cuba Tour – To Sum it Up

Submitted by editor on Fri, 07/12/2013 – 18:55

I think everyone would agree that our trip to Cuba was successful and fun. Humid air, hot sun, turquoise ocean, palm trees, dancing, busy market and hearing Cuban music were only a few of the highlights of the week. This trip made real to me how music truly is a universal language. Thanks to everyone who made this trip possible. It gave us so many amazing memories.



Cuba Tour – Highlights from Everyone
Submitted by editor on Tue, 07/09/2013 – 21:13
Cuba Si!

Highlights from the Stellae Boreales Trip to Cuba, 2013

The thrill of the first notes of the first concert that filled the sanctuary of the Iglesia del Carmen with rich, glorious sound. ~JH

Finding the culture absolutely thriving and diverse. I loved the turquoise waters of the beach, the waterfall and the caves. It was also such an eye-opening and enriching experience to meet and dance with the Cuban music students. ~EI

Insecticide on the airplane. ~EB

The colour of the cars, the jungle, the colour of the buildings, the old square, the colours of the clothes, the artisan market. The colours of Cuba! ~HL

Dancing! Spending time with such spectacular people! ~UM

Meeting the people at the music school and dancing with them. I also liked playing at the church and at the Canadian Ambassador’s house. ~SK

The last beach – 9 out of 10! ~AF

Swimming in the giant waves at the beach. ~RJ

Jazz Café or beach. Performing at the Canadian Embassy. ~BF

Talking to Cuban people, Cuban music and dancing at the Jazz Café. Swimming at the beach and at the waterfall. ~OB-L

Watching our kids learn salsa dancing from the Cuban kids’ expert moves. ~GH

Riding the CocoTaxi along the Malecon. Watching an appreciative crowd rise to their feet in a standing ovation for SB’s first concert. Alberto’s gracious hand as we disembarked the bus. Best of all, Martha’s smile. ~AL

I appreciated our tour guide, Martha, giving us such insight into Cuban life. ~LJ

Walking through the jumble of streets of Centro Habana with its density of Cuban life, crumbling facades, colour, old cars, hanging laundry, couples walking, children playing, card games and conversations. ~DH

Laughing with a wonderful group of people while learning about a very interesting country and listening to superb Cuban and Canadian musicians. ~SW

The great sense of pride I felt listening to our wonderful musicians perform in the beautiful venue of the Canadian Ambassador’s home. The warmth and enthusiasm with which we were received created a welcoming atmosphere and vibrant exchange between the Ambassador and our group. ~LI

Being entertained by the Canadian Ambassador to Cuba at his palacial, tropical residence. ~NL

Enjoying everyone’s joy engaging with all the Cuban musicians. ~SP

Improvising with students at A.G. Caturla Arts School. ~JG

The air, sea, beach, food, music and RUM! ~KS

Swimming, eating delicious food, playing cards and playing with Ensemble Alternativo. I love being in Cuba. ~DH-W

Getting sprayed with mist and water at the waterfall. The currents were very strong. ~AW

Dancing late into the night. ~JL

The enthusiastic locals, floating in the turquoise waves, and the friendly spirit of the group. Love Cuba! ~LA

Food, friends, amazing landscapes, Cuban music, dancing, meeting new people from an amazing but very different culture, and last, but not least, the beach and waterfall. ~AT

For me there was no highlight. This is my last trip with Stellae Boreales. I treasured every moment. Every day was special in its own way. ~SS-P


Cuba Tour Day 8

Submitted by editor on Tue, 07/09/2013 – 21:04

After a refreshing three-and-a-half-hour sleep, we headed down to the cafeteria for a hearty breakfast of bread. We had a last look at the hotel and its surroundings: the peacocks, the locals hanging out on the sea wall, the tiling patterrn on the lobby floor. Once we had loaded the suitcases crammed with tourist paraphenalia onto the bus, we watched the sunrise as we were driven to the airport. We unloaded our luggage and waited in the check-in line for a long time. The currency exchange centre had run out of Canadian money and instead we were given American money. Then we went to our gate. And boarded the plane. And eagerly watched the safety demonstrations. Fascinating. Our flight to Toronto had several confused or badly behaved passengers on it: one man refused to wear a seatbelt, another promptly stood up and began gathering his bags when we touched down. Every 15 minutes the pilot announced a period of turbulence that was to last 15 minutes. We passed quickly through cutsoms at Pearson. It was weird to be able to communicate so easily with the airport staff after a week of language barrier struggles. The airport’s free WiFi was put to good use streaming The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080 from YouTube. By trying not to look like criminals when passing security checkpoints, we ended up looking like criminals as a result of our forced neutral faces (at least I did. You know who this is.) After a delicious lunch at the airport, we went to our gate. And boarded the plane. And eagerly watched the safety demonstrations. One of the flight attendants burst out laughing while delivering an announcement in French and wasn’t able to finish. The plane’s take off sounded like dubstep. We flew to Ottawa at a “crusing altitude of 23 000 feet” with cabin-something Tyler. We were warmly greeted by friends and family and the weather (see what I did there?). What a comfort to be back in our rich country of standard plumbing and abundant toilet paper. Bye.



Cuba Tour Day 7

Submitted by editor on Tue, 07/09/2013 – 20:47

Today we visited the Santa Maria beach for one last mouthful of salty water. Luckily, the sun came out after the huge thunderstorm from the night before. To make things more exciting, there were some big waves! It was so much fun riding them as they pushed you back towards the shore.

Next, we headed over to the community centre to deliver some donations and get some Salsa lessons! The owner was so grateful for our donations as were we for the opportunity to learn how to dance. It was an amazing experience getting to meet the instructors and students. I think we were all wishing we could dance like them!

Next, we had some delicious food at a local restaurant.

After going back to the hotel and getting cleaned up, we headed over to a concert hall to perform, along with the Ensemble Alternativo and A.G. Caturla Arts School. They were all wonderful performances. We got standing ovations and fit in 5 bows! I think that was our best performance in Cuba!

After that, we went to a hotel for dinner with both groups. The food there was great and I loved bonding with the Cuban musicians. Leaving was hard; it felt like I’ve known these people forever! But, we had to go because we have an early start in the morning!


I’m writing this the day after I should have written it because there was no time yesterday (we danced until about 12:00pm). Anyway, instead of going to the beach, my mom and I decided to go to the Revolution Museum. We didn’t even make it to the front door because we were persuaded by a bike rickshaw driver, named Alexis, to take a tour of Havana. Alexis was extremely nice, and we ended up paying him more than 400% the rate, plus 2 cigars. Aftewards, we had Salsa lessons in the blazing sun before returning to our hotel. Then we had the concert and the dance with Cuban students.



Cuba Tour Day 6

Submitted by editor on Tue, 07/09/2013 – 20:33

Mission Objective

(Please note: Certain elements of this documentation may be slightly exaggerated.)

The sun pierced through the clouds igniting them with a yellow glow. The yellow rays reached into the girls’ room as they slept. It was bliss! Then suddenly, a piercing screech broke the silence. Hailey was up in a flash having a silent heart attack. What was that noise? Allison rolled over sleepily and smacked the alarm clock. Thus ending the noise and beginning a typical day for the girls on their trip.

Groggily, the girls stumbled over each other and threw things into their bags. Hailey grunted, Allison yawned and their roommate Brooklyn slept. After cough medicine, the girls set out on their mission. After a bus ride into the depths of the Cuban jungle, they arrived at a small tobacco farm. “Black market, eh?” Hailey asked. “Let’s check it out”, Allison answered. The girls scouted out the land. Checking, always checking for signs of their mission. Tobacco leaves hung from poles in the barn and chickens wandered aimlessly around. Instructions from the commanders whispered in the girls brains, “always remember to document.” Out came the cameras, wildly clicking, capturing anything that could be used as evidence.

All seemed well among the gently swaying palm trees and clucking hens. But suddenly there was a strange rustling in the bushes. The hairs on the girls’ necks stood up. Danger was coming. Out of the foliage it came, pouncing and growling – a drooling monster with sharp teeth and claws. It slashed at the air and gave a terrible cry. In a flash it was charging at Hailey’s legs. Its claws sunk into her leg and the monster circled around her. Hailey cried out for help. Not a moment too soon, Allison came to Hailey’s rescue. She kneeled down and with one swift motion, started petting the puppy. “I gotcher back”, Allison reassured.

After quickly testing and examining the coffee and tobacco, the bus rolled on and they continued on their mission. However, in what seemed like merely seconds, the girls woke from their quick slumber and stared anxiously out the window. Hailey let out a cry of horror, “We’re rolling backwards!” The bus was currently on a narrow winding road that was hugging the mountain side, and it was indeed moving backwards down the mountain. The girls grabbed their seats, their hands getting white at the knuckles. There was a car that sat motionless behind them, getting closer by the second. When death seemed to be closing in on them, the bus driver put the brakes on. Relief flooded the girls’ bodies and they began to relax. But tension was rising among the crowd on the bus. What lay ahead? What was looming up the winding road? Apparently nothing, because the bus was moving forward again shortly after.

A short stop to investigate a lookout and a restaurant followed. Next, was an endeavour so intense it had never been attempted by humans. Exploring Cuban caves. A steep incline to the opening lay ahead. Inside the cave darkness crept in and surrounded the girls. Water dripped from the cavern walls and ran down the girls’ backs. Hailey bent down and began to crawl through a narrow passage. The walls seemed to be closing in on her, and panic rose within her. When all seemed lost, she emerged from the passage and the space around her ballooned into a yawning cavern.

But their adventures were not over. A mysterious man in a boat beckoned them to come in and explore. The girls felt it their duty to investigate, so they embarked on the journey. After a short ride a light emerged at the end of the tunnel. It grew until it was no longer a mere light, but their hope of escape. Slowly putting out of the cave, the boat had charted its course straight for the sharp edge of a waterfall. At the last possible second, the boatman turned the boat full circle and the girls’ lives were once more spared.

The bus hurried away from the cave as they were told their final destination would be unreachable after a certain hour and it was still more than sixty minutes away. The girls thought that it would be good to take advantage of this time to rest so they would have maximum energy for their last endeavour of the day. They arrived with just under an hour to complete their last task. A narrow bridge led them across a trickling stream, and after paying a small fee, they began their trek up the mountain. The stairs were numerous, with multiple ups and downs, steep and dangerous. An ominous road could be heard in the distance getting louder as they approached. After one final flight of stairs they had arrived. The girls craned their necks to look up at 250 feet of crashing water. The spray surrounded them and their hair began to cling to their faces.

Allison was the first of the girls to venture into the water. The current was strong as she struggled towards the waterfall, not sure what she was going to find. The rocks were wet and she slipped several times. After taking a moment to catch her breath, she pulled herself over the last rock and lowered herself into the upper level of the rock pool. The flowing water was now powering against her, pulling her backwards. She looked up staring as gallons of water pounded towards her. The sight was phenomenal and mesmerizing but terrifying. Allison had never seen anything like it in her life.

She was about to turn and see where her partner was, when the rock beneath her foot moved. She lost her balance and her head slipped under the water. The fast moving water rushed around her, clouding her vision. She would not be able to hold her breath for much longer. Desperately she made one strong attempt to break the surface. As her head emerged, she found that she had drifted away from the falls. Hailey beckoned to her from the water below. Their time was up. The bus was waiting to take them back to base.

They padded onto the bus, tired, yet satisfied. But just when they thought they could relax, a note pad and pen was tossed at them. It was time to file mission reports. Hailey sat down and tried to find the words to say about the exciting day. Finally the bus rolled back to home base and the girls ran up to their room. In their room they saw their long black cases which contained items of instrumental value to their mission objective. They felt somewhat relieved that these items did not have to be used that day. Overcome with exhaustion, the girls reflected on their day and felt a sense of satisfaction with the exciting events that helped completed their mission.

~HL & AT


Cuba Tour More about day 5

Submitted by Heather on Fri, 07/05/2013 – 08:00

Today everyone rose bright and early after our dynamic dancing excursion, and enjoyed a hearty breakfast before leaving to attend a workshop/rehearsal with a professional Cuban ensemble named “Alternativo”. The exchange was held in a stunning old building adorned with pillars and gothic decorations that overlooked the ocean. We met the Cuban orchestra and had the privilege of performing “Jealousy” for them. It was an incredibly enriching experience to play our pieces for them in such an intimate and heartfelt manner. Afterward, they played a few selections for us, and I was profoundly impressed by their musical prowess and rhythmic precision. Their playing was intriguing but they played in such an effortless and impassioned way, that it was evident to me that an acute musical intuition and zealous passion were woven into their heritage. We were able to rehearse our exchanged pieces together, and although it was a concentrated rehearsal, I felt that it was both productive and enlightening.

We then loaded up our violins and drove to a beautiful restaurant that was located in a courtyard. The idyllic ambience and scrumptious food made it a very memorable meal that certainly satiated my appetite. At that very same restaurant, a new Cuban quintet arrived and we were given the opportunity to play for them as well. They were very loquacious and amiable and we got to see their first performance – since they had only founded their group a couple of months ago. Their musical style was very rhythmic and impressive. It was fascinating to see the ease with which they blended percussion, woodwinds and violins to create such mesmerizing music. One aspect of their performance that especially piqued my interest was their spontaneity and true passion and sentimentality. They seemed to thoroughly enjoy the music they played and that pure love and dedication to music really radiated from their playing, and made the experience even more auspicious for the spectators. We were even able to learn a few of their rhythms and beats, and combine different skills in smaller groups. By the end of our workshop, everyone was able to play together in a variety of different beats and it was an incredibly entertaining experience for both the violinists and parents alike! It was a unique opportunity to see a new musical perspective and to be unified even more poignantly through the ubiquitous language of music.

After returning to the hotel and enjoying some much-needed rest and relaxation, we drove to the Canadian Ambassador to Cuba’s home. The architecture and design was magnificent and the tropical foliage was luxurious to behold. Inside his spacious home, the Ambassador was very hospitable and greeted us formally as we entered the main area. I thought the design of the house was very reflective of Cuban and Canadian culture, and it was inspiring to see how seamlessly our cultures were shared! I found the venue very elegant, and the ebullience of the guests contributed to its friendly environment. I was motivated to perform with professionalism and conviction. I could really sense the tangible unity and solidarity that we gain from playing together and from sharing the gift of music with such a culturally diverse audience. Even after playing, the other guests were very effervescent and forthcoming and it was a perfect opportunity to explain the origins of Stellae Boreales and to converse about their own experience in Cuba. Overall, I was especially impressed by the Ambassador’s kindness and welcoming attitude towards our ensemble. He provided us with an outstanding chance to experience music with both Canadian and Cuban cultures. Today was an incredible learning experience that allowed us to delve even deeper into this vibrant culture and to explore the vivacity and diversity of Cuban music and I’m sure that it will be a highlight of our wonderful trip!

Heather’s blog 1 comment


Cuba Tour Day 5

Submitted by Heather on Fri, 07/05/2013 – 07:51

Today we got up and went to go do a workshop with the professional group “Ensemble Alternativo”. First we played for them and then they played for us. They were really good! Finally, we joined forces to play a couple of pieces, “Rajando a la Mateodora” and “Jealousy”. It was very nice to play with them; their coach is very good. The Spanish piece had a nice strong beat; playing it, you kind of feel as if you ought to dance.

After lunch, we performed a piece for the “Habaneros” string quintet. They performed several pieces for us; I loved every one of them. They all had a very strong beat and it made me feel like moving. After, the lead violinist had us all stand up and we were divided into 5 small groups. Each of the groups played a rhythm and we represented the different instruments. I was in the group that was the maracas. After we were all secure in our parts, he had us stop and then the quintet played a pretty melody. Gradually, he brought us all in group-by-group. I was amazed as each group was playing a different rhythm. You wouldn’t think that it would come together so well. It sounded really beautiful.

After the workshop, we headed back to the hotel. After a quick rest, we headed off to the Canadian ambassador’s home for a performance. The house was easily recognisable by the Canadian flag that flew in the entrance. The house was huge and beautiful. There was even a pool. Before we played, we spoke a bit to the ambassador.

The acoustics where we performed were nice. When we finished performing, the ambassador stood up and thanked us and then the greatly appreciative audience rose and gave us a standing ovation. Following our spectacular performance, we stayed around for a while. Then we headed back to the hotel, had a late dinner and went to sleep. In conclusion, it was a great day.

I know that personally, I am cherishing every moment I am spending here, as it will be my last performance tour with Stellae Boreales. I have enjoyed getting to see and know Cuban culture as well as getting to spend time with the people in this group. SB is a wonderful ensemble; the people in it are the best I’ve met. They are nice, polite, funny and take care to include everyone. SB has meant a lot to me these past few years and I hope that everyone in the group, present and future, will have as great a time as I did.


Heather’s blog


Cuba Tour More about day 4

Submitted by Heather on Fri, 07/05/2013 – 07:38

Today was very eventful, as we went to a Cuban school, visited an art gallery, went to the beach, and returned to the Jazz Café to listen and dance to some music.

When we first arrived at the Cuban school, I was kind of surprised about the nice greenery and space there was in the school. Right through the front gate, there was a lawn with gardens of trees and flowers, and then the entrance to the actual building. We performed inside, where there was a roof over our heads, but no door or wall on one side. Instead, the room was open to yet another garden, which could be seen from inside the school. Even though it was really hot inside, it was still lots of fun playing with the school orchestra. Actually, there were multiple groups inside and out of the first orchestra we listened to.

I guess I should explain how the performance was laid out: the school orchestra started with one piece, then we performed our four pieces, and the various school groups finished off the concert. There were also two solos, performed by school students, which were really good. According to the vice principal of the school, the groups had only been practicing together for two months, so the result was incredible! At the end of the performance, all the Stellae Boreales members, and the students at the school stood up and danced to the final pieces played by the school group. It was loads of fun, listening to the different groups play, comparing the piece styles between Cuba and Canada, and finally, giving out the donations. When the performance was over, we handed out some Stellae Boreales hats to the students and performers. It was great to see them all put them on right away. We also handed out pins in the shape of a Canadian flag, and other musical donations like strings and bows. It was amazing getting to see different types of music, and also how well they played.

Then we went to an art gallery to, well, look at art. The different types of art were interesting, with twists to what would look like, at first, for example, an insect. In this case, the sculpture of the insect was gigantic, with perfect details and everything for it to deserve a place in the art gallery. It would have been, for me, one of the highlights of the gallery, if not for the human inside the bug. Instead of a normal insect body, it was a human inside. That kind of really made me rethink my opinion of the piece. So yes, it was still one of the highlights of the gallery, but not in the way I thought it would be.

In the afternoon, we returned to the beach we had gone to on the second day here in Cuba. The “Jellyfish Beach.” Or, at least that’s what I call it. There are tiny, transparent jellyfish that swim everywhere while you’re swimming. If you move your arm through the water, you can feel them bumping into you. Today, we discovered something else, almost as interesting: a coral reef. There are tropical fish that hide under the rocks that dart out at you. They come in every colour: yellow, orange, blue, etc. So, AF and AW tried catching some with a plastic bag. It didn’t work. The last time we had gone to the beach, DH-W had brought a floating mini soccer ball and a water Frisbee, which we had passed around in the water. DH-W hadn’t gone to the beach today, and he hadn’t lent us the toys, so we tried to make a ball with a plastic bag by filling it up with air. I didn’t think it would work, and guess what? It didn’t. So, in conclusion, plastic bags are useless for catching fish and being a ball. After, we tried tossing around a plastic bottle. The wind kept blowing the bottle to destinations other than the one we wanted, so OB-L had this great idea of filling up the bottle with water. Then he threw the full bottle at his brother, AB-L, who missed the throw. They then started a brother-to-brother water fight. I concluded that the bottle wasn’t the best idea either. AW eventually found a coconut to toss around, but by that time, I was too tired to play, so I went to the shore and sat in the water, enjoying the waves. When we left the beach, I was kind of glad, because I was so tired from swimming around the whole afternoon, but I wish we could go back every day.

The very last thing we did today was return to the Jazz Café to listen to some music played by a known band here in Cuba. At first, when we were asked if we wanted to go, most of us had voted not to go, since we were all so tired from the day’s events. But then Karoly stood up and told us that we were all going to go. So, we got ready and went to the lobby to go on the bus to the Café. When we got down, three others weren’t there, and Karoly told us that he wasn’t going either, because he had a headache. So, the three boys didn’t have to go, and the rest of us who were still really tired were forced to go as well. Even though my mom asked me if I wanted to stay at the hotel instead of going, because she was staying behind, I voted to go to be with my friends. I think I made the right choice. In the bus going there, SS-P and I, being so tired, played “I Spy”. The only object we could think of was a tree. So, we played “I Spy” with a tree. Here’s how the game went:
SS-P: I spy, with my little eye, something that is green.
JL: Hm. Let me think. Is it a tree?
SS-P: How did you know? Okay, your turn.
JL: I spy, with my little eye, something that has leaves.
SS-P: Okay, wild guess here. Is it a tree?
JL: SS-P, you’re too good at this game! How did you guess it so quickly?!
And so on and so forth.
I think that PL, who was sitting near us, was getting quite annoyed, but when you’re bored, you have to do what you have to do. When we got there, we listened to a few songs before actually starting to dance. SS-P, UM and I were pretty much the only ones dancing for the first few songs, while everyone else was still drinking their Pina Coladas. We were taught some new dance moves by Martha, and I had lots of fun. After a while, AB-L got everyone up to dance, and started pairing up people to dance together. Let me just say that SS-P told me after that she wanted to kill him for his idea. We were there for the rest of the day, and some more into the morning.

This is also where I hand the blogging over to SS-P, because my blogging day is over. Actually, I’m writing this part the day after I’m supposed to write, because we were at the Jazz Café for the whole night and a bit into the morning of the next day, so to explain what we did, I had to write it today, or the day after my blog day. Anyways, all I have to say is that I had and am having an amazing time here in Cuba, and even though our trip is already half over, I’m looking forward to everything else we’re going to do.


Heather’s blog


Cuba Tour Day 4

Submitted by Heather on Fri, 07/05/2013 – 07:27

Wow! What a day so far!

This morning we had a chance to listen to a music school play violin, cello, flute, trumpet, trombone, piano and drums! They were really good! At the end, everyone was dancing and wow, those Cuban kids are amazing at dancing! For at least 1/2 hour, we were dancing with the kids, trying to figure out how to dance like them. After that, we gave out Canada flags, pins, Stellae Boreales caps and tons of smiles.

This afternoon was equally exciting. We first went out for lunch where I ate ham pizza (which, to my dismay, wasn’t very good). After that, we went to a beautiful, modern art gallery where we got to enjoy masterpieces of all styles, which very much reminded me of our very own National Art Gallery.

Some people didn’t want to come to the beach, so they took awesome taxis back to the hotel. The taxis were like motorcycles but had a 2-person seat in the back with a hood almost attached to it. It looked like every one of them was having a riot, but the next activity was even more exciting! While some went back to the hotel, the majority of the group went to the beach. The cloudy sky didn’t make today an ideal day for swimming so, there were very few locals and other people there.

I saw some really large dark spots in the water so I went to investigate and found… A REEF! It was really cool! There were tons of little fish which were just bigger than goldfish and… RAINBOW COLOURED! It was just like the movie “Finding Nemo” but there were less fish and less colourful corals. I brought the group to see and I spent an hour looking and trying to catch the fish.
So far, our trip to Cuba has been really exciting, but I can’t help but notice some really strange things going on here!

1) Animals on the highway: When you drive along the highway you will probably see a lot of animals on the side! I already saw 1 goat and 3 cows roaming free!
2) People on the highway: I saw a lot of people walking along and across the highway! They act like it’s a normal road even though there are cars going 90 km/h on it!
3) Clothes and people: Most people here are really well dressed but I’ve only seen about 4 decent looking houses (no chipped paint, broken windows or doors).
4) Toilets: No matter how good the restaurant or museum is, there are never clean bathrooms. Mostly, there are no toilet seats or toilet paper. It’s really gross!

Heather’s blog


Cuba Tour Day 3

Submitted by Heather on Fri, 07/05/2013 – 07:23

What an amazing day!

We started out by meeting the members of Novel Voz, an a cappella vocal group. First, we played some of our pieces for them, and then they sang us some of their songs. Since the group had no accompaniment, they used their voices to imitate the instruments. They were so good at it that I actually started looking around for bongo drums!

Later on, in the afternoon, we visited the Cuban artisan market, which was a really interesting experience. The vendors were all very enthusiastic – when you showed the slightest interest in something, they would excitedly show you the rest of the items in their shops. Very different from back in Canada! That evening, after performing at the hotel, Karoly treated us all to drinks, and we played Cheat (a card game). Though we all would have liked to see the fireworks, nothing much beats Pina Coladas with your friends!

Heather’s blog


Cuba Tour Day 3 (in rhyming couplets)

Submitted by Heather on Fri, 07/05/2013 – 07:20

I must explain. SS-P had previously joked that everyone had to write their blog post in rhyming couplets. On the day of my post however, I happened to think of a rhyme, then another popped in my head, then another! I thought to myself, hey, I could do this; I could write my blog post in rhyming couplets! So here you have it. I also wrote a normal blog, but hey, this cooler, more fun and unique! Here you go:

I jumped out of bed
And I hit my head

I went downstairs to eat
And I had a little treat

Next I had a shower
Now I smell like a flower

We got on the bus
Without much fuss

We went to the Jazz Café
To listen to Novel Voz and to play

A cappella was their game
I was awed when Novel Voz sang

Next we drove around New Havana
It was interesting and beautiful – man-oh-man-ah!

We saw the Canadian Embassy
The building with our flag flying free

We passed the City of the Dead
Upon seeing the tombs my sadness fed

We saw the Revolution Square
It was very impressive there

We almost left a parent behind
But we had the bus stop ‘cause we’re just that kind

We saw the University
It was huge and beautiful as can be

Next came our Cuban shopping spree
“If you buy it for 10, I’ll give you this for free”

I sure came back with a lot of stuff
If I carry it around I’ll soon be buff

Next we chill at our hotel
Nothing much’s happening, but all is well

Then we went down to eat
I ate rabbit as my meat

After we played by our hotel
In my opinion we all played well

Everyone else played some Cheat
While I finished this up nice and neat

Karoly bought us pina colada’s
To that I say “Hakuna Matata”

All I really wanted to say
Was have a Happy Canada Day!


Heather’s blog

Cuba Tour Day 2 (continued)

Submitted by Heather on Fri, 07/05/2013 – 07:15

Wow! What a day so far!

This morning we had a chance to listen to a music school play violin, cello, flute, trumpet, trombone, piano and drums! They were really good! At the end, everyone was dancing and wow, those Cuban kids are amazing at dancing! For at least 1/2 hour, we were dancing with the kids, trying to figure out how to dance like them. After that, we gave out Canada flags, pins, Stellae Boreales caps and tons of smiles.

After a lovely lunch, we went to the beautiful Santa Maria beach. The water was clear and the sand was soft. We even found jellyfish! Unfortunately, the salt water stung our eyes and burned our throats. We had a good time playing ball mostly out of the water. The water was just fine and because the sun was so bright, we dried off really quickly.

We came back to the hotel and got our violins. Most of us were very hungry but we lost our hunger when we played at the Iglesia Del Carmen church after a Sunday mass. It was humid and stuffy but we played really well. The crowd gave us a standing ovation and we almost had to give an encore. In fact, they were so pleased that they gave us cookies as a treat.

Our late dinner was satisfying. We were so tired after an early wake-up that we got to our room and fell asleep immediately. What a tiring but also thrilling day.

Heather’s blog

Cuba Tour Day 2

Submitted by Heather on Tue, 07/02/2013 – 22:14

Today was the second day of our trip. We all woke up very tired after a night with little sleep. After a good breakfast, we went on a tour with our tour guide, Martha, to old Havana. I learned that they had to reconstruct many buildings because they were too old. The best thing that I did was have lunch!

We learned a lot of new information, such as back in the day, there was much noise pollution and the government had to relocate the market to different areas. In the 20th century, many of the buildings had to be reconstructed and then were turned into shops and museums.

That’s all for now. I can’t write much now as I’m late for the bus!

Heather’s blog

Cuba Tour Day 1

Submitted by Heather on Tue, 07/02/2013 – 22:09

The first day of our Cuba trip was more tiring than I thought it would be. Although not much really happened, the grueling hours spent on the airplane really took their toll on me. Our plane to Havana was delayed, so we had to spend some extra time in the airport in Toronto. But it was all worth it by the time we arrived in Cuba. There are beautiful palm trees simply everywhere. What really surprised me were the shape of the trees in Cuba. They were all cut to look like wine glasses. I don’t know the reasoning behind this, but I had the impression that Cubans really care about their trees. The cars in Cuba are all really old and antique. So I guess they hadn’t bothered to make or buy new ones. By the time we had arrived at our hotel, we had to spend another two hours going through customs, getting baggage and exchanging money. When we finally did arrive at our hotel (12:00am) we got treated to a late night dinner of burgers and fries. After this meal, we were all just dying to sleep. So I guess my blog entry’s done, as I need to rest just as much as anyone, and prepare myself for the wonderful times we are going to have in Cuba. ~PL

Today was a crazy day. We all met up at the airport in Ottawa and took a short flight to Toronto. We waited at the gates in Toronto which got moved a coouple of times. Some students played their violins again in the airport. Eventually we got on our delayed flight set for Havana. When we arrived it was very humid and everyone was yawning. There was also a lot of lightning. We got on the bus at about midnight. When we got to the hotel we unloaded our stuff and had a literal midnight snack. We were served juice and burgers. Finally everyone got their room key and went to bed. That is how our first day went. Peace out!!!

PS. They sprayed the airplane with insecticide just before we landed in Havana!

Heather’s blog

Preparing for Cuba

Submitted by editor on Fri, 06/28/2013 – 13:01

Preparing for Cuba has been a fantastic endeavour. Fundraising started at the beginning of the year with a bottle drive, and the latest fundraising event was the June concert, which was wonderful, if I may say so myself. (Yes, I’m slightly biased) We were fortunate to also include the Fine Tuners (the junior performance group of OSS) and soprano Anja Heyner in that concert. Shortly after the concert, group classes ended, but not for Stellae! We folks, headed for Cuba, hunkered down to some hard-core practicing, both individually and with our extra rehearsals at Karoly’s. Along with the repertoire we’d been practicing, we also received two new Cuban pieces, Rajando a la Mateodora and the Cuban national anthem.

Also in preparation for Cuba we have been collecting musical tidbits (strings, reeds, tuners etc…) to bring to Cuba for those in need.

I know that everyone in Stellae Boreales is busy packing for this imminent trip. I know that we’re all pumped, let’s just hope that no one forgets their sunscreen, hat, swimsuit or instrument when we leave on Saturday.

We’re on our way tomorrow! YAY! ~UM



Stellae Boreales ready for 2012/2013 Season

            Stellae Boreales is back and we’re ready to tackle a brand new year!  We had an absolute blast at the Sellae Boreales retreat in September, when we got to see old friends and welcome our new friends DB, PL, AF and RI.  Though we had much fun talking, running around, making cookies and more, we also enjoyed learning and rehearsing our new exciting repertoire.  I’m sure we are all appreciative of the time and effort our wonderful coaches and accompanist put in.  You guys rock!  For all the people that allowed the retreat to work so smoothly we also thank you.

We have also started a fresh year of rehearsals,  this time in a new venue!  After the first rehearsal I’m sure we can all agree that Woodroofe High School will be an awesome venue for the Stellaes and other group classes.  Our whole group gets to rehearse in the auditorium under the instruction of Kit and Karoly and it is a wonderful spatious place to play.  The acoustics are incredible!  Stellae had a good solid first rehearsal and I think we’re going to have an absolutely stellar year!

~UM (Senior Stellae Boreales Member)

Washington DC Photos – Day 3

Monday, May 21 – Sightseeing and Performance at Abingdon Elementary
On our last day we did some more sightseeing, played at a very welcoming elementary school and went to see a show at The Kennedy Center.

(Photos taken by AL and DH)

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 Washington DC Photos – Day 2

Sunday, May 20 – Sightseeing and Performance at U.S. Botanic Garden.
On Sunday, we enjoyed visiting different museums, played at the U.S. Botanic Garden and then did some more sightseeing.

(Photos taken by AL and DH)

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Washington DC Photos – Day 1

Saturday, May 19, our first day in Washington DC.
We enjoyed a short bus tour of the city and then went on to Baltimore, Maryland to visit and play in the prestigious Peabody Conservatory.

(Photos taken by AL and DH)

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To Sum It Up

After a very short but exquisite trip we are now heading home.  I have had a splendid time here.  It has been great fun performing and interacting with everyone on the tour.  Some of my highlights of the tour were performing last night at a beautiful school where greatly appreciative kids watched us perform.  My favourite part of the performance was when we got to play with the little kids.  They were so cute!!!  I also very much enjoyed seeing the sights of Washington D.C. and getting to see all the lovely museums.
Everyone played awesome, and this has been a great trip!!!    ~SS-P

Today was the concluding element of our trip to the illustrious city of Washington D.C.!  We certainly had an idyllic experience in the American Capital!  Throughout the tour so far, we have had an arduous 12-hour journey through the scenic countryside, molded with sprawling hills, laden with lushly verdant trees.  The next day, after some enriching, historically-based sightseeing, we were bussed to the Peabody Institute – which was affiliated with the prestigious Johns Hopkins University.  The Peabody Institute was an architectural masterpiece, and was very ostentatious in its decor!  When we rehearsed and performed with the Preparatory students, I was struck by their prodigious talent, as well as the heartfelt sentimental value they seemed to channel into every sonorous note!  Our performance with them was both gratifying and inspirational – emotions perfectly complemented by the Italianate arches and intricate carvings that embellished the venue where we were playing!  Our other performance – at the Botanical Gardens – was preceded by a trip to the flabbergasting Air and Space Museum and was an exhilarating event that was spiked with especial vociferous flair and passion in Fandango and Sabre Dance!  Today, I was eager to fully absorb the magnitude and poignant opportunities Washington had to offer!  In the morning, I, along with a small group of people (the majority of group members were visiting the clandestine Spy Museum), shuffled down to the Holocaust Museum.  The museum was both a revelatory and heart-breaking experience.  It prompted me to question humanity and delve into the roots of apathy and cruelty.  Fortunately, the museum was a prolific testament to the many lives lost and served as a profound memorial to lives brutally ripped away!  After the museum, we were bussed to a school in Virginia, called Abingdon Elementary.  We zealously played our repertoire, and they were incredibly enthusiastic to play alongside our ensemble, with their fledgling Suzuki program.  After the performance, we received several beaming acclamations from the distinguished director of the school.  I thought it was a fulfilling and magnanimous concert, and it demonstrated that a mutual love of music can unite and band anyone, regardless of their ethnicity or wealth.  After that truly mesmerizing and satisfying experience, we left on the bus, as the adorable students complimented our playing and waved amiably.  That night, we dined at a sophisticated and sleek pizzeria, before deftly navigating to the grandiose Kennedy Center to watch the enigmatic “Shear Madness” ‘whodunnit’ play!  It was an audience interactive play, that was both humorous and suspenseful!  The kids were riveted, although I believe that some parents would rather have devoured a hearty coffee, and watched the opera!  The play was the breath of finality to our momentous Washington violin tour!  I will never forget the rash diversity and enrichment that I ascertained due to this town and I highly recommend Washington D.C. as a quintessential trip destination.    ~EI

Our tour in Washington, D.C. is now over, but we had a great time.  We were all really excited about this trip and had been looking forward to it for a long time.  This is what happened on our 2012 Stellae Boreales tour:
On Friday, May 18, we all had to wake up and be ready at the Kanata Pentacostal Church to meet the bus by 5:30 a.m.  I was really tired that day (not to mention the rest of the week!).  In the bus, I was sitting next to SS-P and behind UM.  We talked about lots of things that had happened and what we were going to do in Washington.  We finally arrived in Washington after more hours than expected because of the traffic and certain delays.  Then, we went to our rooms and went out to dinner at a noodle restaurant.  The food was really good there!  After, we went back to our rooms and went to sleep to prepare for the next day.
On Saturday, May 19, I woke up and my mom and I went to Starbucks for breakfast.  After that, we walked back to the hotel lobby and got back onto the bus.  I sat with SS-P and UM again, but this time instead of playing or watching movies, we listened to the tour guide who was explaining about the famous monuments of Washington D.C.  We got off the bus multiple times to see the monuments (the Abraham Lincoln Monument, the Korean War Monument, etc.).  They were all very interesting to see and learn about.  Finally, we finished the tour and went to the Peabody Conservatory to meet the other violin group.  The conservatory had lots of architecture and statues.  We had lunch and went to the Master Class.  All the participants did amazingly!  Then, we had a short break and rehearsed with the Peabody Violin Choir and Pre-Conservatory Violin Program students.  They were all really good players!  After that rehearsal, we practiced our songs by ourselves.  When we were finished, we went to dinner with the Peabody students.  After dinner, we went to tune for the concert, which was a big success!  We finally finished at the Peabody Conservatory and returned for the hotel to rest for the next day.
On Sunday, May 20, I went to the hotel lobby and met the other members of the group.  We got back onto the bus and went to the Air and Space Museum.  It was very interesting to learn about the different types of airplanes and the space.  We then got back onto the bus and drove to the Botanical Gardens.  We had lunch in the Gardens and had fun observing the plants, then went to prepare for the concert.  It was very humid in the building and all of our violins went out of tune because of it.  We got an encore and played Fandango, leaving hotter than even after Sabre Dance!  This concert was, I think, more of a success than even the first one!  Then, SS-P, UM, LA, CD, and I went to the zoo.   We took the Subway to get there and got frozen yogurt before we went in.  We saw lots of animals and had fun walking back uphill to get to the entrance of the zoo…  After, we went back to the hotel’s mall to eat dinner by the subway.  We got there an hour late…  In all, the day was very good!
On Monday, May 21, I went with SS-P and UM to the Holocaust Museum.  The museum was very “good” even though the concept of it was horrible.  After the museum, we went back onto the bus and met everyone else who had gone to the Spy Museum.  SS-P and UM both touched the shocking pens they got, but I managed to stay out of it.  Then, we went to Abingdon Elementary School for another concert.  We played with some of the Suzuki students there and had a lot of fun!  After the concert, we went to Fireworks Pizzeria.  The pizza and noodles there were really good.  Then we went to the Kennedy Center to see the show Shear Madness, a murder mystery comedy.  It was very funny and the view from the balcony at intermission was amazing!  They made it so that any of the suspects could have committed the crime based on the audience’s votes.  It was a great show!  Then, we went back to the hotel to get ready for the bus ride back home.
On Tuesday, May 22, we left the hotel at 8:00 a.m.  I was exhausted from all the activities we did in the week, but still managed not to sleep on the bus…  The bus ride home was shorter than the one to get to Washington.  We finally arrived back at the Kanata Pentacostal Church at 7:00 p.m. which was pretty good time.  We said our good-byes and separated ways.
Overall, the Washington, D.C. Performance Tour, 2012 was amazing, bonded the Stellae Boreales members even more, was a great experience, and we all had a lot of fun!  I’m sad that this year is almost over, but I’ll see everyone next year!    ~JL

At Abingdon Elementary School

Yesterday was my favourite day of the trip, because all the places we went to had funny moments.  Our first stop was the Spy Museum where the highlight was the gift shop (of course, for every museum).  They sold the coolest items like a shock pen that everyone tried afterward (except you guys, OB-L, SK and JL).  JW even tried shocking his earlobe and got an extremely weird feeling and reaction.  We rode the bus to Abingdon Elementary School.  All the kids greeted us and we ate lunch in the cafeteria where the tables folded up into the wall!  After the spectacular performance the woman in charge gave us cupcakes!  What was funny was that when UM was grabbing one, she spilt a couple and it got all over her skirt.  Some even fell on the floor!  I went to my friends’ rooms after we got back to the hotel.  After the pizza buffet, we went to see Shear Madness, a funny play about a case of murder.  There were many references made like the Capital One catch phrase and a song from Avril Lavigne (Girlfriend).  This was my favourite part of the wonderful day at Washington DC and vicinity.    ~KL

Today we were warmly welcomed at our final concert at Abingdon Elementary School by violist Kristin Gomez, Abingdon’s highly accomplished Suzuki strings teacher.  Our Stellae Boreales performers were in top form as they played to a rapt and appreciative audience of grades 2 to 5 students and teachers.  Rosemarie Klimasko hosted the concert, engaging the audience with informative and humorous anecdotes throughout.  A group of Abingdon violinists, violists and cellists waited quietly in eager anticipation of their participation in the final piece on the program – a joint performance with Stellae Boreales of French Folk Song.  It was such a joy to share the experience of this concert and see children inspiring other children.  All the teachers including Kristin and pianist Mr. Green were so enthusiastic in their praise of the concert and many students expressed their enjoyment of the concert as they filed out of the performance hall.

In speaking with Kristin afterwards, I learned of the incredible support of the “Suzuki in the Schools” program.  At Abingdon, students pay just $5.00 per year for the exclusive use of an instrument, 1 private lesson per week and 1 group class per week (which will be increased to 2 group classes per week next year).  When Kristin founded the program at Abingdon 8 years ago, it was a struggle to convince fellow teachers of the validity and effectiveness of the Suzuki program.  The merit of the program can be seen in the results attained.  By the time these Suzuki-trained students reach middle school, they are always the most developed and accomplished in listening, ensemble playing, intonation and tone production.  They enjoy music as well which is so important!

Mention must also be made of the delicious cupcakes we were treated to.  There’s something about music and food that goes so well together.  As Shakespeare said: “If music be the food of love, sing on.”   Music is a universal language and we made many new friends at Abingdon Elementary School today.    ~JG (accompanist)

The Beautiful Botanical Gardens

Today was an amusing day. Different groups went to different museums. In our case, we went to the Air and Space museum. We learned many things. Later, Stellae Boreales went to play at the botanic garden. There were many compliments from the audience. We played terrifically!!! Later in the afternoon, some people went sightseeing, some people went into museums and some people went shopping. In the end, everybody met at the hotel and we went to the Front Page restaurant to eat dinner. The meal was delicious!  ~AW, DH-W

After being kept up until 12 by J-WS and ER (and waking up at 5…), today was a fun, but truly exhausting day for me. We started off our day with a visit to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. ER bought a RIDICULOUS helmet. He’ll surely be ‘wooing’ the ladies with it. 😀 Afterwards, we proceeded to the Botanic Gardens for our second performance of the tour. The venue was excessively humid, but it was still enjoyable. The audience was very enthusiastic, and demanded an encore. Next, we broke off into a couple of groups that each set out on a valiant journey. My group ventured forth to the far depths of Capitol Hill. The architecture was truly awe-inspiring. I got an ice cream cone, and it was good. 🙂
Then we came back to our beautiful hotel (the mall) for an amazingly scrumptious dinner. I had a delicious baked chicken fettuccini that made me even more tired. I proceeded to fall asleep in my room, before being interrupted by the blog squad.    ~JW

Today was a fun yet busy day.  It started off at the Air and Space Museum.  Its size was intimidating but from what I saw it was very interesting and I wish we had had more time there.  After the museums we all regrouped and went to the Botanical Gardens.  According to the audience it was a great performance, even though we were all really hot in the humid air of the garden court.  Once the concert was over my group and I walked around Capitol Hill.  The buildings were impressive but we were all getting tired and we were happy to end our day with a delicious restaurant meal.    ~OB-L

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Visiting the Peabody Institute

We started off the day with a wonderful tour of beautiful Washington. We visited many brilliant monuments, such as the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Washington Monument. We took many pictures, as there were so many impressive sculptures!

After sight-seeing, we went to the prestigious Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. It was quite intimidating to see the gorgeous architecture of the building, especially the stunning library. J-WS, SP-S and ER participated in an inspiring master class with Rebecca Henry, director of the strings department. I’m sure she has helped them improve their violin skills!

We rehearsed in a very hot room with the Preparatory and Violin Choir of the Peabody school. It was so tiring, but extremely beneficial. It was great to meet students with similar interests. We took a ten minute break, and then continued, but solely with Stellae Boreales students.

Following the long rehearsal, we ate dinner in the Peabody cafeteria. AK received a pleasant surprise: a birthday cake! We sang “happy birthday” to her twice! She was very embarrassed.

After devouring the cake, we changed into our concert blacks, and entered the stellar Griswold Hall. The stage was a bit small for the combined efforts of both Stellae Boreales and the Peabody students, but we made do. To make up for the small hall, the acoustics embellished our sound.

At the end of the day, we were exhausted! I bet most of us slept through the two hour drive from Baltimore to Virginia. It was a jam-packed day, but we enjoyed it immensely!
~BF, SK and UM

A Musical Experience

J-WS and ER were practising outside to prepare for their masterclass with Rebecceca Henry. All of them were great successes, and none of us were bored although it got very hot. We then practised together with the Peabody violinists. Although our styles were very different, the rehearsals still went well.The final concert at the end of the day was amazing, with a grand finale of both Stellae Boreales and the Peabody violinists performing together. Our ride back to the hotel was not as slow as the voyage in the morning, and we played a word game to end the day. Actually, to end the day we had to write this blog.trololololololoololl

in lulu empire=trululululululululu…
~EB and ER

Today has been an amazing day, it was an honour for stellae and I to hear the Pea-Body students perform, and it was very fun to also play for them. I found that the Pea-Body students were absolutely fantastic, and I hope Stellae Boreales could someday gain as much talent and knowledge. Also, today was my birthday, and it was very nice of the parents to bring out a cake for me 😀 Above all, it has been a wonderful experience to perform with the Washington students, and it has been a great day!

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 Our Bus Ride to Washington DC

We set out with bags under our eyes and spirits high.  Five thirty a.m. and the sun was peeking over the horizon casting an orange glow on the dew tipped grass.  It was a nippy morning and our breath was visible but we proceeded to sleepily load our luggage and enter the tour bus.  Smiling parents waved warm farewells to their children…ok, end of creative writing lesson.  The day was good.  Lots of driving and trees and hills and trees *breath* crossing the border was surprisingly fast!  Haha.   ~HL

It was 6 a.m. and excitement was in the air, in spite of our being half asleep, as the bus pulled onto the highway.  Throughout the trip the bus was filled with talking, laughter, and card games. We were relieved to reach the hotel that night as weariness took over.  Tomorrow morning we would see the White House and other sights!    ~RJ

Our trip started early yesterday morning.  We knew that we had a long day of travel ahead of us but we were glad to be starting another Stellae tour.  It has almost been a year since our last trip and I love how tight these trips make us!  I must admit the bus trip was very long and even though we hadn’t done anything but sleep, eat, and hang out on the bus the ride tired us out.  When we finally got to the hotel we were ready for bed and excited for the next day to start!!!    ~PL
When traveling it is always thrilling to see new places and participate in new and exciting experiences.  However when in a group you get to share these moments with your friends, viewing things through your own eyes and also watching other’s reactions as they observe things from their own perspective.  I was able to share in a friend’s excitement as they left the country, crossed the border, and stayed in their own hotel room for the first time.  Another fabulous Stellae Boreales trip has started and I am ready for some amazing performance opportunities and to see things first hand that I’ve only ever previously seen in movies.    ~AT

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Iceland Reflections: Musings from a Stellae Boreales Coach

In 2004, I had a powerful vision, a dream to create a violin performance group for our senior students. This PG would rehearse weekly, require very high standards from our students, incorporate different genres of music in its repertoire, perform locally on a regular basis, and travel nationally or internationally on a frequent basis. Since then, our students, parents, coaches and accompanist have traveled to Victoria B.C., China, New York City and most recently, Iceland. We are the only Canadian Suzuki School to do so, and it has brought many accolades and opportunities our way, garnering many local requests to perform repeatedly at several highly visible events in our hometown of Ottawa. Our Iceland trip fortified my belief, that travel and performance opportunities for our students, is a remarkable prospect for musical advancement and social development for our young people. It fortifies the camaraderie between students in creating enduring friendships; these young people will be the future audiences of concert halls around the world, their love of music the common attribute shared by all! These travel forays provide our students wonderful glimpses of other parts of the world; worlds often quite disparate from our own, but always intriguing and fascinating to all concerned. For many, this was the first occasion they have traveled outside of Canada. Iceland is a wonderful country, the people resilient and stoic, despite the hardships they have had to endure throughout the centuries, a land full of “fickle volcanoes” that threaten to erupt almost daily. Yet in this land of mostly volcanic ash, the people have persevered and created an oasis of vegetation and architectural charm to their immediate environs. The student and parent blogs will reveal much about the Blue Lagoon, the fjords and the geysers. My favorite view, from the buses, were the magnificent Icelandic horses that frequently dotted the countryside with their lush manes and diverse colours. The concerts were absolutely wonderful, with far more people than we expected in the audiences; word travels very quickly in Iceland! I was incredibly impressed with the professionalism and commitment of the students in concert. They always gave their very best, and this was in clear evidence at all times! I, at times, became concerned that trekking through all the rugged terrain during the scenic jaunts, would tire them for upcoming concerts, but I was proven wrong every time; each concert revealed 22 smiling faces, exquisite ensemble playing, wonderful solos and elegant bows. We were afforded many standing ovations by the audiences, a true indication of the musical impact we left with the Icelanders. Also, under the initiative of Elaine Klimasko of the NACO, each of our students was given the opportunity of experiencing a master class with either Gudny Gudmunsdottir or Ari Vilhjalmsson (respectively, the recently retired concertmaster, and the newly appointed concertmaster, of the Icelandic Symphony). All of the students gained much from the advice and suggestions of these two kind professionals. A wonderful, exhilarating musical adventure! Credits for Iceland Trip: –  Maria Balakrishnan (tour organizer) Nan Laurenzio (second-in-command), Anka Pera, Scarlet Pollock –  Vicky Barham (my personal mentor who shared my vision every step of the road) –  Kit Barham (my indispensable co-coach, wheel-chair navigator and shopping companion) –  Judy Ginsburg (our indefatigable accompanist) –  Elaine Klimasko (master class teacher and coordinator with Icelandic teachers) –  22 great students and their wonderful families ~ I Adore all of You! –  The people of Iceland ~ Thank You for your Incredible Hospitality! RK (coach)

Some Final Thoughts (updated July 13, 2011)

I had every good intention of writing a blog post or two but got so caught up in our tour that I became a bit selfish with my time. It is difficult to know where to begin so I will start by describing the most wonderful aspect of the tour. The students of SB were nothing short of amazing. The performance schedule was gruelling but they somehow managed to be perform each and every time with energy, beauty and joy. A concert didn’t go by where I didn’t have a tear to wipe away! Their manners, stage decorum and passion for their music making was unbelievable to watch. These young people were the best ambassadors for Canada that anyone could imagine! I would personally like to congratulate each and every one of them for bringing their teachers, families and country so much pride! It was also a lot of fun to watch them interact in the down time and sightseeing. They frolicked and teased and sang and rolled down hills ( literally)! On the bus ride back to Ottawa they were all singing the Icelandic national anthem. The girls shopped for fun fashions and the boys just kept eating. If some parents did get a token souvenir or gift I am partly responsible for insisting that the boys buy some little thing for their mom’s! Jae-Won bought chocolates for his mother and kept asking me on the plane ride home if he could eat some of them! Rosemarie, Kit and Judy were their usual dedicated, hard working and supportive team. They were constantly there for all the students for any encouragement, suggestions or advice that was needed. A tour of this magnitude demands very long hours and dealing with a lot of detail. They went way and beyond their expected roles to be sure that the concerts were always organized and wonderful. Your children were in the best hands possible. It was great fun for Ed and I to get to know the students better and meet the parents and volunteers. Maria worked so tirelessly for many months and her hard work paved the way for a memorable experience for all. So many others did so much to help and contribute. This tour was the first time that we added master classes to the curriculum and I am happy to report that it was an excellent idea. All the SB participants had the opportunity to work with a distinguished Icelandic faculty and get another perspective on how to play the violin well . They worked on their technique and musical interpretation and are all better musicians now as a result. They sat for very long periods of time to hear and support their colleagues and were so attentive. I had a lot of fun teaching the Icelandic students and heard some wonderful and talented kids. As you all know, I am passionate about teaching and loved every minute of this part of the programme. We must continue these master classes for future tours. Iceland is a magical country and quite unlike any other place in the world. The air is so clean and the drinking water the best that I have ever tasted. We loved our trip to the Blue Lagoon and bathing in the warm geothermal seawater. I’m not sure that Ed and I look younger as a result but we sure feel better! We rented a car and travelled to many of the signature sights. The landscapes were breathtaking and in some ways haunting. The volcanic rocks that scatter the landscape make you feel like you are not on planet earth. I especially loved the views of the sea which, understandably, surrounded us. It is no secret that I love to shop and that I did! The fashion is fabulous and very European. I found clothing and food much more expensive than what we pay in Canada but yes, I was able to add a couple of new frocks to my wardrobe. Iceland is the home of soup and bread and it is probably because of the cool and often damp climate. This was my favourite part of the cuisine and we ate many a memorable bowl with fantastic rustic bread. Having constant daylight was another fascinating experience and the first few nights I just sat at my window looking outside when my watch read 3:00 am. People were walking, riding their bicycles or just hanging out. Very weird!! I never felt that fatigue that consumes us in Canada when it gets dark in the late afternoon. Before I sign off I should also mention that the audiences for our concerts were wonderful. The students got standing ovations and lots of bravos. This kind of response thrilled the kids and certainly motivated them to continue to do their very best and work even harder. I am still in a bit of a daze and hanging on to so many special moments from the trip. I don’t want the memories to fade too quickly! EK

What a positive adventure the trip to Iceland has been for everyone, children, parents, Icelanders, and tourists in Iceland. Our students were exemplary in both playing and behaviour. Truly any teachers would love to have such a wonderful young respectful group of students enjoying themselves and not only looking out after each other, but celebrating and cheering each other on. Hopefully this deep appreciatation and support for each other will provide a model for what life can be like, as opposed to the typical image of “lack” or “limited resources” that is so pervasive in society today. These students formed a “team”of the best calibre, and even if they are children, I think it would be valuable for experts in human capital and organizational structure to examine what these youth are able to do, as they achieve what is so challenging for adults to accomplish. Childrens’ capacities are often underestimated, and they themselves are usually perceived incomplete adults. Why not see students as whole and complete beings as they are, with the gifts of insight and understanding that they possess…that are so often able to pierce the veils and images  of adulthood. Our family members also on the trip were greatly supportive, helping out where they could. In fact, we were more of just one family, with parents and children interminigling in different groupings pending the day or hour. Everyone was welcome. It was lovely to witness the development of friendships, laughter and fun. Icelanders really enjoyed our musical work…in fact it was heart-felt. You could feel their intention to hear more, as if there was no choice but to play more…it was an interesting experience with a subtle and unique quality of its own. Perhaps this is somewhat like the power of their volcanoes and geysirs, always present and then expressed as needed. Icelanders’ love of the arts is well known, and it really showed up at our last concert, as we had many attendees despite it being a beautifullly warm evening. To give you context, there are no “snow” days for Icelandic children, just “sun” days when it gets nice and warm, and students are let out of school to enjoy these are events. So, to have any audiance on such a phenomenal sunny and warm evening was a real testament to the Icelandic appreciation of the arts. It is so rare to be received by an audiance like this, and a real blessing to have experienced. Although different, it reminded me in a way of our reception by the Spanish-speaking retirees who formed the core of a concert last year in New York. A big thank you to everyone involved, particularly MB, who made it all happen. To all the students, have a wonderful summer break. CB  (coach)

Our Last Concert

Today was pretty awesome!!! Actually, it was GREAT! The most memorable day…yes that’s right! First we got to do more sightseeing in this beautiful country called Iceland. Taking pictures from the top of cliffs looking out to the ocean to bathing in the Blue Lagoon…an experience of a lifetime. All of that to say that it was amazing. The lava rock fields that cover most of Iceland are absolutely mesmerizing…but maybe that’s just me…I found them really cool. The mountains and cliffs gave the most majestic views of the ocean and its waves hitting against the rocks. As for the Blue Lagoon, it makes your skin very soft and does many other benefits to your body as well. The perfect place to relax and indulge in the moment; floating easily in the milky sky blue waters, surrounded by lava rocks.  And that doesn’t include how inviting the resort looks…it’s so fancy and very hi-tech! Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. This day, this trip, this awesome experience.  Anyway, I had lots of fun with the amazing people who were on this trip. If anyone gets the chance to come to Iceland…DO IT!!!! You won’t regret it! Believe me it’s so GORGEOUS here!!!! Peace 😉 DT

What a lovely end to our week in Iceland!  Today it was sunny and warm as we took a tour of the Reykjanes Peninsula.  We stopped at a lava field which stretched as far as we could see in one direction and ended at a cliff facing the ocean in the other direction.  After eating our lunch and taking a walk to see the beautiful rocky shore we moved on to the Blue Lagoon.  Nestled in a lava field, the milky coloured salt water was heated by geothermal energy and divided into several separate pools.  We bought snacks and drinks from a bar set right in the water. In the evening we performed at our last concert of the tour which featured soloists, AT and ET playing the first mvt of the Bruch Violin Concerto in G minor and Schindler’s List by John Williams. When the audience clapped enthusiastically at the end of the concert the whole group performed, as our encore, an energetic Hungarian Dance no. 1 by Brahms. LT

Optional Activities

Today was so much fun! There were two activities, riding Icelandic horses or whale watching.  I went horse riding. The horses are so beautiful! By the way, don’t call them ponies or the horses will be upset! Although they are pony sized, they have a horses’ nature. The horses were very friendly and loved all the attention we gave them, I gave my horse my apple core from my lunch so that made her really happy, but don’t tell! We rode on a beautiful trail, the view of the houses from a hill was lovely! The horses were all so good and calm. One of the kids said, “This is like being in heaven!” The Icelandic horse is very special, its breed is still pure because once you bring the horses out of Iceland, you can’t bring them back in. They were brought by the Vikings. They can also do two extra gaits, the Tolt and the Pace as well as the usal gaits, walk, trot, canter, and gallop. Icelandic horses are awsome! SS-P [huge_it_gallery id=”37″]


Evan’s Blog of yea… A new day! So many days passed so fast! Breakfast…a bad start. No salmon, salami, or croissants. I only had oranges and tomatoes. The only “breakfast combo” I had was fish and cheerios (just like the first day of Iceland.) I mixed my orange juice with one of the Koolaid sugar packs Jezlyn gave me (thanks Jezlyn!) but after I finished drinking it, I still had sugar on the bottom of my cup. The apple juice had honey in it. Weird lol? Oh well, I was waiting 5 minutes to get my key for my coat. I can’t believe so many people didn’t come! (Ahemmm, almost no little girls.) I felt bad that Ethan had allergies. I haven’t experienced any yet, but I’ve been having fun with videos like the coffee drinking (Devon can show you.) (Devon and Jezlyn playing angry birds. Was I supposed to write that?) Oops, oops, the museum didn’t open until 10:oo. Learning about the history of Iceland, seeing human viking skeletons, the Viking still has his bones connected to the body. Devon and Olivier moving 0.1km/hr, Jezlyn tasering me. Good museum though! Lunch was fine! I came a bit late to get bread, but I really enjoyed the soup. Walking to the master class, me and Devon were laughing louder than the busy streets of Snorrabraut (named that because drunk drivers are snorring.) … Dinner was awesome! There was chicken burgers and drumsticks! I took 12 drumsticks and 6 strips. “Sorry chickens, I was too hungry!” The concert was just fine. No need to talk about it, unless you want to hear about my dehydration. The convenience store visit was roger that. I got 2 Cokes and 1 water bottle. Coming back to the hotel, I just made a new video with Devon. I guess I’m done, because the last statement here is that I am writing my blog on Jezlyn’s mom’s computer. Good luck next bloggers and next day! ER

What an amazing concert!  This is Stellae Boreales’ 5th out of 6 concerts in Iceland and they just keep getting better and better.  Today’s concert was held at Bustadarkirkja Church and although the concert was not advertised until this morning and the weather was the nicest it has been all summer, there were still many attendees. As they played through their repertoire, the applause got louder and more intense with each piece, including a standing ovation for soloist Jae-won. When the concert was over, the audience gave the group a standing ovation which turned into clapping for an encore.  The group played Poeme for the cheering and teary-eyed crowd. All the violinists were so excited with the feedback that they had received that the chaperones decided to reward them with ice cream on the way back to the hotel. It was quite an evening to remember… NL (parent)

I have an Icelandic hero!   He is Oliver, our bus driver, who saved me from the humiliation of forgetting the concert programs.  We were all off the bus at Bustadarkirkja  and I was walking through the wide wooden doors into the lobby when I realized – no music bag that carried the box of programs that Sherry and I were to distribute to the audience!  What to do?  Olli was driving away but I ran out and told him my predicament.  Dare I ask?  Was he allowed?  Could he possibly?  Take me back to get the programs?  “I can do that” Olli smiled and replied. So I got a solo trip in a 48 seater coach to the FossHotel Baron and after a sprint to my room for the programs back to the church in lots of time to greet our audience. Thanks to my hero – Oliver! JH (Grandma)

What a nice day!  We started off the day by visiting the National Museum of Iceland.  I found it surprisingly more exciting than I thought it would be!  Charlotte, Jerry , Bennett, Ethan and me took funny pictures of us in costumes, listened to videos about Icelandic history and played on Nintendos and whiteboards after the museum’s visit .  Later, we ate a delicious lunch of fruits, soup, bread and carrot cake and headed off to the masterclass with Gudny.  She gave many helpful  tips at every single part of the pieces that my colleagues played.  I was happy to be there.  I found it hilarious how both Bennett and Jerry hurried to reach their cameras to film Jae-Won play Devil’s Trill! M-SP

For the past couple of days,  I have been a bit stressed I must admit.  But after performing solos at various venues across Iceland, I feel great.  I’ve learned many useful  tips by attending the masterclass es and I look forward to applying my new found knowledge to my future performance.  This has been an awesome trip! J-WS

Tonight was a brilliant night! We entered Bustadarkirkja to gorgeous organ music reverberating through the church: it was thrilling. We played our music beautifully. The music sounded great not only because of our expert playing but also because there were good acoustics. Simi was our first soloists, and she came up onto the stage looking confident even though she was nervous! She played the melody beautifully, the notes soaring into the church. The superb duet was played by Mathew and Laura, the two parts merging into one gorgeous piece.   Jae-won played his solo amazingly. The contrast was superb with the lyrical first part going into the quick exciting second part. The greatly appreciative audience even gave him a standing ovation! We finished with the combined repertoire. Ave Maria and Poeme were stirringly played and I’m certain they touched the hearts of everyone there. The Bach Double was a great contrast to the two slower pieces.  The audience began applauding and gave us a standing ovation! They kept applauding and we ended up giving three bows before we walked off. The claps began to get into a steady rhythm and before long they were asking for an encore! We played Poeme again even though many of us thought we should have done Hungarian Dance instead.  We stopped on the way back to the hotel for ice cream as a treat for such a stupendous concert.  Even though I was the first that got ice cream, I wasn’t the first to finish it! We had a successful concert and we had a lot of fun afterwards. Iceland is a great place to be! U.M [huge_it_gallery id=”38″]

Swimming in 10C Temperature

What an activity packed day!  I managed to sleep in until 8:35am!  When I got up I quickly threw on some clothes and went downstairs to the amazing breakfast buffet.  In the morning from 7 – 10am the hotel always has a ton of stuff laid out (smoked salmon, waffles, fruit, boiled eggs, bread, cereal, yogurt and more) and you can pick and choose what you want!  After a scrumptious breakfast, I went upstairs to pack.  We wouldn’t be coming back to Hotel Baron, so we had to pack a set of casual clothes, your muisc, your violin, your stand and your swimsuit and towel!  We left in our concert blacks. My grandma, Arlene, Michelle, Jezlyn and I went on a rather unsuccessful shopping trip before we had to meet in the lobby.  The one benefit of that shopping trip was that I changed my money into kroners.  After that we all got on a bus to Hallgrimskirkja because it was raining.  At Hallgrimskirkja we played a very short concert. I thought that the concert went very well!  It was an amazing experience playing in such a huge and beautiful church!  The acoustics were okay but not brilliant.  We ended up with quite a good turn out!  Since Hallgrimskirkja is such a big tourist attraction many people who came to go up in the tower watched our concert first!  After the concert we were given coffee, juice and cookies!  We then got back on the bus and went to Hotel Lind for lunch featuring smoked lamb on pita.  After lunch we went to a music school to meet up with other Suzuki students.  We had a practice for the concert that we were to play in the park.  We watched the blobbly seals get fed before we headed to the tent where we played the concert in.  The seals were so cute flopping and blobbing from the land to the water!  It was amazing to watch!  They made funny sneeze-snort sounds!  We played the concert.  On the last piece we couldn’t find our music and everyone else started.  So we had to play it by memory.  We then went back on the bus to go to the swimming pool.  It was a little awkward in the change rooms because we had to shower naked.  We had to wash thoroughly with soap before getting into our swimsuits.  It was awkward to us who weren’t use to it.  Swimming was great fun!  There was a water slide that was very fun!  It started like a normal water slide then it was dark, then dark with white bands, then dark, then dark with multi-coloured stars, then it becamse normal again and you popped out into the pool!  My friends and I did that quite a few times then we did some baskets with a ball and a net that was hung above the water.  This experience was very pleasant even though it was an outdoor pool because the water was quite warm!  After our swim we went to Hotel Lind for dinner, then back to Hotel Baron for a well deserved rest! UM

today was a very long, fun day 🙂 the best part of it, was that we got to sleep in until 9am.  At first we had a concert in the Hallgrimskirkja church, and we had a very large audience. after that we went to have lunch at Hotel Lind, and after that we went to a waterpark, and it was really fun there as well. AK

Today, we finally got the chance to sleep in, and it felt great. Our day started off with a short concert at Hallgrimkirkja with our largest audience yet. Following lunch at Hotel Lind, we had a joint rehearsal with the Islandic Suzuki group and a joint concert at the family zoo. After the joint concert, we had the option of going swimming or attending Elaine’s masterclass. I choose to attend the masterclass and heard works by Haydn, Bruch and Viotti. Overall it was a great day! MM

Hot Springs, Viking Gardens and a Waterfall

Today was a full day.  It started early this morning with a tour of a Viking garden in Borgarnes, followed by a quick trip to the largest hot springs in Europe and finally ending with a spectacular waterfall.  It was chilly but sunny and our day ended with a concert after dinner which was much enjoyed by all who attended. I even saw one of the music students that we played with us on Friday in the audience.  Our day was full of fun with good friends.  This trip has been great and is only going to get better!!! PL

Today we went to the largest hot spring in Europe, a waterfall, and to a very beautiful garden.  The steam that came out of the hot spring smelt horrible, but it felt refreshing!  The lunch after that was scrumptious, and hilarious.  Evan had gotten coffee instead of hot chocolate, and Sara had added way too much milk in that!  Ethan also had coffee, but on purpose.  They were both hyper after all that caffeine!  After the concert, most of us were hungry, so we ate pizza around 12am and that tasted good! DL [huge_it_gallery id=”39″]


The Golden Circle Tour

On the 2nd of July we got on the bus right after breakfast to go on the Golden Circle Tour.  First of all, we stopped at the waterfall “Gullfoss” where we also had lunch. Then we went to the hotspring “Geysir” and “Litil Geysir”.  It was a very fun day! SK

Today we went on the Golden Circle Tour, but our guide said that it was more like a triangle because there were three places that were the most visited and their locations formed a triangle.  First, we went on a walk in the mountains and we got a great view of Iceland.  I got to take lots of pictures.  We went to see a waterfall second.  It was amazing watching the waterfall when I was standing right above it!  Last, we went to see the geysers.  We got to see one erupt three times in a row!  It was a lot of fun watching the gyser erupting; the guide told us that it was really rare for one to erupt three times in a row.  I had a fantastic day today and I hope I can have a chance to come back again! JL [huge_it_gallery id=”40″]

Canada Day… in Iceland!

The jet lag we are all feeling is slowly wearing off.  Thank goodness!  This morning we went to walk around the neighbourhood sights, which consisted of a lot of walking in circles plus a really cool church.  Lunch was delicious (PASTA!) and then we went off to play with an Icelandic chamber group.  That was pretty awesome, considering they spoke limited English and we spoke no Icelandic.  Now, after supper, it’s bedtime.  Just another busy day in Iceland! CD

Today, on Canada Day, we woke up to see the picturesque and breathtaking mountains of Iceland on the horizon. We shuttled downstairs for a scrumptious breakfast, and then proceeded to walk over to a gargantuan Lutheran Church situated in the heart of Reykjavik.  The architectury was masterful and intricate, and we were able to see and hear an immense, but stately organ. We thoroughly enjoyed this visit and thought it really exemplified the presence of culture and refinement in Iceland!  Afterward, we sauntered down to Iceland’s boutiques and browsed the unique selection.  We were scrutinizing some truly spectacular shoes, in varying colours and designs, but unfortunately the prices were far from affordable.  Finally, we were bused to the Nordic house, where we participated in a joint concert with an Icelandic chamber orchestra.  Their music was exotic, feisty, and expertly executed.  We were able to play a mixed performance of the Bach Double, which unified us in the ubiquitous language of music.  We socialized with members of the Icelandic ensemble.  It was a monumental day in the scheme of our tour. EI

Today (the 1st of July), we had breakfast in the morning and headed to a church called “Hallgrimskirkja”, which is the tallest church in Iceland.  It was really, really tall and we took the elevator to the top.  After lunch,we also met with the Suzuki chamber orchestra of Iceland. It was a fun day! SK [huge_it_gallery id=”41″]

Arriving in Iceland

Today, we landed in Keflavik at about 6:50am at the airport lan. We picked up our luggage and took a bus to Reykjavik.  The bus took us to our Hotel where some of us got our rooms.  We had breakfast, it hit the spot.  Evan says, “Cheerios are great, but Cheerios and fish are even better.”  And then we took a bus tour around Reykjavik.  When we got back from the tour we had a nap which we all needed.  At about 4:30pm a bus picked us up and took us to city hall where we had a concert for the Canadian ambassador.  It was really fun.  The bus took us back to our hotel where we changed and walked to Hotel Lind where we had lasagna and garlic bread.  Yum! We returned to our hotel where we got a good night’s sleep. DHW

The sun never actually set while we were on the plane. Maybe that’s why we’re all so tired. Actually, I slept for an extra hour on the bus, and completely missed a tourist attraction, which is all right because I needed some sleep to fill in for the 0 hours of sleep I got during the “night” on the plane. On the plane, we actually got to see part of Greenland. It was illuminated by the sun, which I was not used to because the time was 2:30 AM. My0 AM. My first site of Iceland was of  a volcanic glacier, and it actually looks like this all around Iceland. EB [huge_it_gallery id=”42″]

Our Long Journey

It was an early morning for many when we all gathered at the Tichbourne’s house, preparing for our 7 hour bus ride.  People once believed a sore throat could be cured by hanging a potato around your neck, was a quote on a NYF box from one of the stops on our way to Toronto.  Everyone was getting tired of travelling when finally we got onto our airplane for a sleepless night. OB-L

The long trip to Iceland was possibly the most tiring thing I have done; people sleeping and yawning every way you look.  The worst part is that I haven’t slept more than 5 minutes since 7:00 a.m. on the day of our departure.  When we arrived, we went on a tour to the capital city, Reykjavik, which pointed out the many interesting features of Iceland.  On the tour bus, many people were trying to catch up on some sleep.  After our tour, we went to hotel and had much-needed break.  Following, we performed in our first concert, which took place in the Embassy of Canada for Canada Day.  The food that we were served was amazing, I must admit.  To our surprise, the former president of Iceland attended.  Overall, I believe that we had a fantastic start to our trip, enough though I am DEAD tired right now. Looking forward to tomorrow! BH [huge_it_gallery id=”43″]

June 5th Fundraising Concert

Stellae Boreales in concert at the National Gallery of Canada on June 5th,2011 [huge_it_gallery id=”44″]


Coffee House brewed up a large crowd!!

Stellae Boreales members, family and friends played to a full house on Saturday, April 4, night at their Coffee House fundraiser.  Thanks to everyone for the support that made this event such a success. [huge_it_gallery id=”45″]

Parent’s Pot Luck

Many thanks to Anka and Florin for hosting a pot luck.  A great time for the parents to relax in the midst of a very busy performance season. 
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The Last Performance Continues….


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We boarded the bus this morning and had the benefit of a strategically positioned flyover of some fighter jets, in formation, right over the hotel parking lot. Our parking lot just happened to be across the Hudson River from downtown New York with a perfect view of the Manhattan cityscape. The Empire State Building seem to wink goodbye through the morning haze. Au revoir NYC!

Although we have boarded the bus, we are not too far removed from the high that we all experienced at the final evening performance. Last night’s performance was not only in the beautiful old New York Academy of Medicine with wonderful acoustics, but our audience and hosts filled the room with such expectation, energy, and enthusiasm that there was no escaping the excitement that permeated the room. The repertoire was perfectly suited to show off SB’s superb musical talent and the El Choclo Tango, the Caprice Basque, and the phenomenal Jealousy, just to name a few touched the heartbeat of the primarily Latin-American based audience of senior citizens. They were, in fact, moved to a roaring spontaneous applause several times throughout the evening. Many of the seniors expressed their appreciation for the inspiring and excellent music that was a treat for their ears and their hearts! There were even a few seniors circulating to get autographs from the “stars”.


Meeting a Nagasaki Survivor



The tour is nearly over, to everyone’s extreme sadness. We have had more fun than I could have imagined. On Monday, at the UN, I had the honour of meeting an atomic bomb survivor who had a little stand in the lobby. Upon talking to him, I learned that he was only five years old when the bomb hit, and only 2km from it on a train in Nagasaki. He got bad burns on his face, but was very lucky, as there was a doctor on the train, and they were treated. His family was also OK.

When I joined Stellae Boreales, I had no idea I would have this much fun. I am forever grateful to all the organizers. Thank You.


A Magical Conclusion


Yesterday we ended our last day touring New York with a trip to the top of the Empire State Building. After our last performance, we arrived at the Empire State Building at about 9:30 p.m. We were able to see all the lights of the city as they spread out as far as you could see. If you looked closely, you could even see the State of Liberty sitting off in the distance. The lights of the city were so spectacular and spread such an expanse of land. Ending our trip with fabulous view from the top of the Empire State Building was a wonderful finale.


If Only We Could Have Another Week


New York City was a blast! I really enjoyed the Museum of Natural History, shopping, the cruise around the city and obviously—performing! I find it very educational and fun to enjoy and learn new facts about our city, but even more with our violin friends! My very best friends, Eliza, Alisa, Miranda, and I enjoy our tour by being ‘casual’ (an inside joke). The last day, we visited the Empire State Building. The view was amazing! I really wished that we could enjoy another week in NYC after the fun visits and the activities around this city…After all, I am sooooo excited for our next trip in Vienna and I hope that the trip would be even more…SUPRISING!


A Fabulous Day


Yesterday was an amazing day! We went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the morning along with playing a concert for the students of Gramercy High School for the Arts. We had the choice of shopping, going to Central Park, or having a tour of Julliard. I went shopping and had a lot of fun! After that we went to the New York Academy of Medicine and played another concert to an enthusiastic audience!  To conclude the day, we went to the top Empire State Building at 9:30 p.m. We had a magnificent view of New York City at night. All in all, we had a fabulous day and I‘ll do it again if I could!


Only 9 Hours Left


9 hours on the bus is all that’s left of the trip. I wish I could stay longer, but then again, I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed. That was my first time in New York, and it was a great way to spend it. We managed to do a lot of activities, and I even went shopping


On Performances and Missed Homework

As we leave from New York back to Ottawa, we remember the wonderful times we spent there, from on the bus to top of the Empire State Building, it was all very fun. The concerts we performed at were totally awesome too. The audience was terrific and it was fun too. I just wish we could have had more free time tough. I never got too much time to do homework and swim, but I think I can make up for the lost time.


A Busy Day!


Today was a busy day! It seems we have to wake up earlier and earlier! We had an amazing day starting out Gramercy High School that was quite an experience. Later we did some shopping and went to the Academy of Medicine. We finished off by taking an eye opening trip up the Empire State building.


At the New York Academy of Medicine


Last night’s concert was great. The people were so open and friendly. They loved El Choclo and Jealousy and applauses while we played. It makes us want to play as well as we could for them and they gave us a standing ovation.


The Wow Factor


Today we went on a tour of Julliard. Our tour guide was excellent and did a great job providing insightful facts about the school. Just being in the school’s atmosphere made me want to start striving for excellence. I thoroughly enjoyed the Julliard tour.


In Search of Shoes

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 I noticed at roughly 9 o’clock last morning, just a few minutes before our group was due to perform at Gramercy High School for the Arts school, that I had forgotten my black concert shoes. This kind of thing tends to happen to me. It usually involves my Dad rushing home and driving my shoes over right before the start of the performance. But in New York, where all travel takes at least ten times longer than in Ottawa, I had a problem. After all, today was our big day. We had two performances, including our most important one in the evening at the New York Academy of Medicine. The situation was clear: I needed to buy a replacement pair in New York. Fortunately, my old shoes were ready to be replaced (I had already super-glued the soles back in place), so everything would fall in to place… or so I hoped.

So after an embarrassing brown-shoed performance at Gramercy Arts and a fabulous visit of the MET, I was off shopping. My group was dropped off on Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan, in front of the Gucci store. Everyone assured me that I would never be able to find a satisfactory pair at a reasonable price, even if I spent all afternoon shopping. I gave myself half an hour, and fifteen minutes later, I was leaving a discount boutique with a bag in hand and a fantastic pair of black shoes.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. The evening performance at the Academy of Medicine was a resounding success. Our group gave an excellent performance and we had the most appreciative audience I can remember. I had the chance to play Caprice Basque in solo, and I had the pleasure of being cheered on all the way through my piece by our Hispanic audience who must have been enjoying the Latin rhythms. And I was wearing a great pair of black shoes.  LC

At The Met

As the bus drove up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I was stunned by the magnificence of the architecture.  I found it equally as beautiful inside.  After enjoying some ancient Egyptian art,  I was delighted to be able to see some artwork by Monet and Degas, possibly my two favourite artists.  LT 

Kimchi Coming For Breakfast

Today I played the Bach Double twice – I was not supposed to play the first time, but I did!  And Kit has helped me to get some kimchi, so I’m  going to have some for breakfast tomorrow!  I had a wonderful day today – I saw the UN, and got pizza from Rosemarie J.  JS 

A Euphoric Experience!


This morning we had the honour to play at the magnificent United Nations building.  What a euphoric experience!!!!!!  Aftewards, we were able to socialize with some of the other children from the school of Opus 118.  It was truly memorable.  After a marvellous performance of the Bach Double, we returned to our hotel, and were greeted with delicious pizza.  We then proceeded to the pool, and finished off our amazing day by tucking in to bed.  EI 

The Foggy Day


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Today started out very foggy, and unfortunately this was the day when we went to the Top of the Rock.  Fortunately, though, it was still worth it, because the elevators had very pretty lights.  After this, we went to the UN, and performed in the lobby there.  We had quite a big crowd.  After we performed, we got to go on a tour, which was very interesting.  We also did another performance at Opus 118, and got to talk with the students there.  EB 

The Best Part of The Day


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Today was AMAZING!!! I had loads of fun everywhere we went, from the top of the Rock, to the United Nations. The best part of the day would definitely have to be the bus ride. All you can hear the whole time is Jae Won`s hilarious evil laugh.We also visited Opus 118 and had a concert with them, which was an amazing experience. The kids there seemed to be so young and small, but once they started playing it was mind-blowing. I`m looking forward to my last day in New York tomorrow, and hope to have as much fun as I did today. JW

A Great New York Day

This morning we played a concert at the United Nations, and then had a guided tour.  It was soooooo interesting:  there are 192 countries working together in the official languages of the UN, trying to solve the world’s problems – like hunger, disease and war.  We also played a concert with Opus 118, and it was the best concert experience ever.  I met a girl named Amanda who seemed very relaxed about her violin – until she started to play.  It was jaw dropping! On the bus, our coach chose ME as the winner of the smile contest.  We always have to remember to smile so that our audience knows how much we enjoy playing for them.  It was a great New York Day!  FT 




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The culmination of the Ottawa Kiwanis Festival is always the Highlights Concert.  Stellae Boreales enjoyed a very successful Kiwanis festival this year.  Many individuals competed and achieved excellent results.  The ensemble received first place in  STRING ENSEMBLE – SUZUKI GROUP PLAYERS in  TWO OR MORE PARTS and were invited to perform at the highlights concert.

As the ensemble is off to New York in less than a week, rehearsal time is at a premium.  Conditions were not ideal but they rehearsed never the less, in a corridor, backstage, before the concert began!

Further congratulations


Five members of the Intermediate Performance Group competed in different classes this week,  receiving excellent comments and results.  Three advanced to the trophy classes on Friday afternoon where Simi won the George Piers Trophy for Junior Strings and Alisa won the Matthieu Froment Savoie Trophy for Intermediate Strings. This morning Stellae Boreales performed in the Suzuki String Ensembles class along with several other senior ensembles and were awarded first place. 


All four members of the Senior Performance Group have been busy competing  in the Kiwanis Music Festival this week, individually and as an ensemble.  This  morning they played Concerto for Four Violins in B minor by Vivaldi receiving a mark of 93 and very encouraging comments from the adjudicator.

During the week three members of the group advanced to the trophy classes which were held this evening.  Congratulations to Christina who won the Edythe Young Browne Trophy Class for Senior Strings.

Next week several members of the Intermediate Performance Group will be competing in Junior and Intermediate string classes.

Playing for Seniors


January 10th was a very fun day for the Stellae Boreales members. We spent the afternoon playing at two retirement homes. It was really fun to play both concerts. The seniors seemed really pleased with our performances. We played our repertoire from our first Stellae Boreales concert of the 2008-09 season. We didn’t have our pianist which made it a bit harder, but it was still exciting.

During both performances our audience was surprised at how young some of the musicians were. Both groups, intermediate and senior performances group did a good job playing at both concerts. After we had played, some of the musicians went to talk to the seniors that lived in the retirement homes and gave them cards with information on the group. I also felt good after the concerts when they came to thank us for playing for them .


Having a Blast!


My first concert in Stellae Boreales was a blast! When we first arrived at the church, we started to practise all our pieces.  It was a lot of fun to practise and play together.  We also heard the senior performance group play. I really loved the Vivaldi Concerto in B minor.  Later, we had dinner and dessert.  Most of  the dishes were delicious.

After dinner, our concert finally started! At the beginning, the intermediate performance group, my group, played a piece by Bartok, Sicilienne by Faure and Fantomen by Ost. After that, there were beautiful solos, followed by the Senior flute ensemble.  At the end, all members of Stellae Boreales played 3 pieces:  Sleigh Ride by L. Anderson, Csardas by McLean and Romance by Shostakovich. My friends in the audience were very impressed. Their favorite piece was Sleigh Ride.

What an exciting concert!

M-S. P. (10yrs)

By Youth for Youth

 On Sunday October 5th  Stellae Boreales performed in a benefit concert called “By Youth For Youth” supporting school children affected by the China’s earthquake.  It was at Carleton University.  The proceeds will be used to deliver sports equipment and musical instruments to the schools.  It was a great privilege for us to perform as we traveled to China just three months ago. Our first piece was Romance by Shostakovich while our second was “The Butterfly Lovers”  which is a famous Chinese piece we learnt especially for our trip.  Other performers included other string musicians, pianists, vocalists and dancers.  The pieces were a mix of classical and Chinese folk music.  It was a very successful concert and a very worthwhile cause. LT (14yrs) 

New season, new faces


The Stellae Boreales ensemble regrouped for the exciting new season on a dark and stormy first weekend of September at the Long Island RCMP camp ground. The camp is fabulous and has a huge central cottage with a fully equipped kitchen including a hall for rehearsals and a dining area overlooking the Rideau River. Several small sleeping cottages surround the main cottage. Although a number of the ensemble were newcomers, Kit Barham, Rosemarie Klimasko, and Liko Yamane pulled everyone together and we practiced for many wonderful hours on our pieces. Yes, lots of practice time, but we had other fun too, we had the chance to cook a delicious meal (planned and organized by Vicky Barham), play soccer and enjoy many board games. Even though we had bad weather, it showed that we can all work together and thrive in a new and difficult situation, especially with help from all the volunteers. Hopefully we will get a chance to share the same experience next year, because we all know there is no better place to practice than with your friends in a nice camp ground. E.T.  15years (New photos have been added to the gallery. Just click on and of the latest photos, to the right of this post, and it will take you there) 

The Flood in Beijing 


On the second day of our trip in Beijing, me and my dad wanted to go out for a walk to the Forbidden City. First, we tried to catch a taxi cab. All drivers pretended they did not even see us. No-one stopped to drive us. Then we went to the subway station. We bought a ticket and took the train. When we reached our destination, the exit of the station was filled with people. Some of them were selling umbrellas. They were selling them for a good reason. It was raining very hard outside. We did not want to go for a walk under pouring rain and waited for a while, hoping the rain would end soon. After some time waiting we decided to go back. We hoped there would be more people selling umbrellas as well. When we got back to our station we saw even more people hiding from the rain. We bought two umbrellas for 20 Yuan, while the seller was asking only 10! That was lack of understanding from our side! But we made one Chinese person happy. When we opened our umbrellas, dad’s one broke right away. The seller pretended he did not see anything. I guess, our umbrellas did not have good warranty. We rushed to the hotel under pouring rain, trying to get to our hotel as soon as possible. But it was not that easy. The whole way from the subway station to our hotel became more like a river. The water reached up to my knees and in some places up to my waist. Some people fell into the water with a big splash. I could hear it from far away. Finally, we came to our hotel, all wet and tired, but happy that we did not drown in this flood. AK 

Spectacle d’acrobaties

Hier, le 15 juillet 2008, le groupe a été profondément privilégié de pouvoir assister à un fantastique spectacle d’acrobaties chinoises. Non seulement avons-nous été témoins des acrobaties incroyables, mais nous avons profité des numéros qui étaient extrêmement visuellement artistiques. Il y avait des pirouettes, des culbutes et des roulades, toutes presque parfaitement coordonnées ainsi que plusieurs pyramides humaines qui se constituaient d’une pure harmonie et d’un ballant exceptionnel de la part des acrobates. Au début, je n’avais aucune idée à quoi m’attendre. Tout ce que je connaissais était la situation familiale des familles chinoises : à cause de la surpopulation, chaque couple a seulement droit à un enfant. À cause de ceci, les parents poussent leur enfant unique le plus possible afin d’assurer son succès pour faire honneur à la famille. Comme je m’y attendais, dans le spectacle d’acrobaties se trouvaient plusieurs jeunes acrobates qui avaient évidemment été élevés de cette manière. Le niveau de perfectionnisme qu’ils ont atteint était étonnant, et je peux affirmer avec certitude que j’ai vu des choses auxquelles je ne m’attendais absolument pas… Comme dernier numéro, cinq motocyclistes exécutaient des trucs dans une seule sphère métallique, tous en même temps! C’était non seulement impressionnant, mais assez épeurant à mon goût. L’odeur de gaz était un simple prix à payer pour voir de telles acrobaties! En général, j’ai eu une expérience très positive en Chine et c’est encore difficile à absorber que nous sommes allés faire une tournée en Chine. D’un côté, j’ai hâte de retrouver mon rythme de vie au Canada, mais la Chine va certainement me manquer! CS-D


The Flood in Beijing 

Spectacle d’acrobaties

Hier, le 15 juillet 2008, le groupe a été profondément privilégié de pouvoir assister à un fantastique spectacle d’acrobaties chinoises. Non seulement avons-nous été témoins des acrobaties incroyables, mais nous avons profité des numéros qui étaient extrêmement visuellement artistiques. Il y avait des pirouettes, des culbutes et des roulades, toutes presque parfaitement coordonnées ainsi que plusieurs pyramides humaines qui se constituaient d’une pure harmonie et d’un ballant exceptionnel de la part des acrobates. Au début, je n’avais aucune idée à quoi m’attendre. Tout ce que je connaissais était la situation familiale des familles chinoises : à cause de la surpopulation, chaque couple a seulement droit à un enfant. À cause de ceci, les parents poussent leur enfant unique le plus possible afin d’assurer son succès pour faire honneur à la famille. Comme je m’y attendais, dans le spectacle d’acrobaties se trouvaient plusieurs jeunes acrobates qui avaient évidemment été élevés de cette manière. Le niveau de perfectionnisme qu’ils ont atteint était étonnant, et je peux affirmer avec certitude que j’ai vu des choses auxquelles je ne m’attendais absolument pas… Comme dernier numéro, cinq motocyclistes exécutaient des trucs dans une seule sphère métallique, tous en même temps! C’était non seulement impressionnant, mais assez épeurant à mon goût. L’odeur de gaz était un simple prix à payer pour voir de telles acrobaties! En général, j’ai eu une expérience très positive en Chine et c’est encore difficile à absorber que nous sommes allés faire une tournée en Chine. D’un côté, j’ai hâte de retrouver mon rythme de vie au Canada, mais la Chine va certainement me manquer! CS-D

Ce qui m’a frappée durant ce voyage…

Au retour, quel accueuil chaleureux! Heureusement que je n’ai pas décidé de rester en Chine, j’aurais manqué ça! Ce fut deux semaines bien remplies, très bien même, avec son lot de petites aventures qui nous font encore sourire. Ce qui m’a frappée durant ce voyage… Déjà vu une fleur de lotus? Les couleurs et les feuilles sont magnifiques. Elles me font penser au développement musical des jeunes durant notre voyage. Les belles grosses et grandes feuilles vertes étaient déjà présentes avant de partir tandis que la fleur aux couleurs vives s’est lentement ouverte pour nous laisser voir sa beauté dans toute sa magnificence. Impressionnant à voir et entendre! En 2 courtes semaines, ils sont devenus de vrais professionnels! L’endroit qui m’a le plus charmée : le Temple du ciel de Beijing (Temple of Heaven) : un endroit où les gens dansent, jouent à toutes sortes de jeux, font de la musique, etc. On sentait la joie de vivre chez eux. Ils nous incluaient dans leurs jeux; c’était magique! Un vrai ciel sur terre! Nous avons aussi été témoins d’une partie de « ping-pong »… (en l’honneur de Ping! … Oui, je sais, tout le monde y a pensé…) entre le professeur de musique de Shanghai et nul autre que … Rosemarie! Mise au jeu : les élèves de Shanghai nous interprètent une pièce folklorique chinoise, assez bien exécutée, suivie d’un solo de violoncelle, une pièce de Dvorak. C’est une pièce très difficile à jouer. C’est le tour des canadiens : Double concerto de JS Bach et Jalousie. Ils sont solides comme du rock et on voit comment leurs 2 semaines de tournée les ont rodés, frisant la perfection. La balle est aux chinois : un autre solo, d’un altiste, cette fois. Et c’est à Rosemarie! Toutes les têtes, sans exception, suivaient la balle sans en manquer une seconde. Elles se tournent vers Rosemarie. Catherine accepte son invitation à jouer. Elle s’exécute avec brio et simplicité. Liko, malgré une rage de dents, accompagne Catherine de main de maître. Nous sommes tous très fiers d’elles. La balle bondit dans le camp des chinois. D’un bond, ils décident de nous faire entendre un jeune violoniste talentueux. « Et il n’a que 11 ans! », ajoute le professeur! Finalement, la balle tombe dans le centre de la table : « Pourquoi ne pas jouer ensemble? », de proposer Rosemarie? Ils jouent la Danse hongroise No. 5, solidement dirigée par Kit suivie d’une version différente du « Butterfly Lover’s Concerto ». Stellae Boreales poursuit avec la version qu’on connaît dans laquelle Laurent nous fait honneur. Bilan de cette grande joute à jamais inscrite dans les annales de Suzuki : succès sur toute la ligne! Les chinois ont très apprécié que Stellae Boreales joue une pièce composée par un compatriote. De plus, ils ont tellement aimé Jalousie qu’ils veulent obtenir la partition. Par-dessus le marché, ils désirent venir rencontrer les professeurs et élèves de l’école Suzuki à Ottawa. Bravo! Mission accomplie! Les souvenirs se bousculent. Ceci n’est qu’un chapitre. Nous en avons vu de toutes les formes et toutes les couleurs, accordées aux goûts de tout le monde. Tout a très bien été, les concerts comme les visites! En trois mots : un voyage magnifique! Claire S.

East meets West at the Shanghai Children’s Palace

The China Welfare Institute Children’s Palace (CP) is a beautiful marble and glass structure built in the 1950s. On July 13th , we celebrated ABT’s 12th birthday at lunchtime, in a restaurant located across the street from the CP. Then we proceeded to the large orchestra classroom on the CP 10th floor, for our musical exchange with the CP orchestra. About 30 CP parents sat at the back of the classroom, watching their children practice. It reminded me—as a long-time Suzuki parent—of our own Saturday group classes in Ottawa. Our Shanghai guide, Julia, translated as the CP teacher, Mr. Lin, introduced the CP orchestra, which ranges in age from 8 to 16 years, and comprises a senior group and an intermediate group, very similar to SB. That said, the CP orchestra is a lot bigger than SB, with 12 cellos and a double bass, about 11 violas, 8 1st violins and 8 2nd violins. They started off with a polka Hora Spring. Then, after enthusiastic applause from the Canadians for the CP performance, our own SB (all wearing their red SB T-shirts) played 3 pieces—Bach DoubleJealousy, and Butterfly Lovers. Mr. Lin graciously praised SB, saying It doesn’t matter how big your group is, it is only the talent that matters, and you have all the talent. We can learn a lot from you. It is clear that you practice a lot at home, and we need to learn to practice like you. He explained that this was the first time that the CP senior and intermediate groups had practiced Hora Spring together, and that they will get better as they practice more. Then, the CP orchestra proceeded to play Hungarian Dance, and this time they produced an even bigger sound as brass and woodwind sections were added. Happily, Hungarian Dance happens to be in the SB Intermediate Group’s repertoire. We had arrived at the CP with open minds, as we had no idea of what was going to be involved in the musical exchange and were ready for anything. Here was an opportunity that our coaches seized immediately, for a spontaneous amalgamation of the two orchestras. The SB Intermediate Group unpacked their violins again, and inserted themselves in the violin sections of the CP orchestra, and all the young musicians, Canadian and Chinese, strings and winds, played a full, rich and joyful rendition of Hungarian Dance together. Rosemarie congratulated all the students, saying Even though we speak English and you speak Chinese, this joint performance proves that music is the universal language! She complimented Mr Lin and the CP orchestra. On investigating their practice regimen, she turned to SB and declared loudly (as only Rosemarie can do) Stellae Boreales DID YOU HEAR THAT? TWO HOURS REHEARSAL EVERY SUNDAY! PR Then SB musicians mingled with the CP orchestra for conversation, and discovered that many of the students have excellent English language skills… I enjoyed talking to the other children, some of whom had very good English. It was fun to hear IPG play Hungarian Dance No.5 with the orchestra. 
LGT I thought the orchestra played very well for their “practice” and playing the Hungarian Dance with them was a lot of fun. It was interesting talking to the other kids about practicing and daily lifestyle. 
SS-S I thought that the orchestra played very well. Even though I found it somewhat hard to communicate with the Chinese children, it was an enriching experience. 
LG I enjoyed talking to the kids because I got some insight into how their music program works. 
BW A very interesting experience was had in exchanging words and music with the young Chinese musicians. Given how hard it was to communicate in English or Chinese, this exercise further stressed the universal nature of the language that is music.
AD It was a little awkward at first but once we’d played our pieces it was fine. I talked to tow giggly kids, one embarrassed, one talkative and one who didn’t speak much English. Over all it was a wonderful experience. 
AT It felt a bit weird at first but it got better. It was fun playing the Butterfly Concerto for them because I could tell they enjoyed it. 
DS-P It was a fun experience to play for them and having them play for us. I also enjoyed getting to know them; one of them asked me for my email. 
CS-D Being able to interact both musically and socially with Chinese musicians our age was very enriching! It was really interesting to see the IPG perform Hungarian Dance with the orchestra and I could tell that the children enjoyed the experience very much. CD. But most importantly it was the musical exchange that brought a smile to all our faces. 
SS I wasn’t too sure how to approach the students but I decided to go towards the cellists. I found it surprising how some spoke very good English and others barely any.

Buddhist temple and the silk factory

Today was another wonderful day in China. Because of our concert this afternoon, our morning was filled with two visits. The first one was at a famous Buddhist temple, known for its Jade Buddha statue. At first, we saw similar statues that we had seen in the Lama temple in Beijing. However, there is no doubt that the jade white Buddha, which we saw near the end of our visit, was like no other. The facial expression was peaceful and serene. People came to give fruits as an offering to their spiritual leader. Our visit was short but it was worth it. When we were done with the temple, our tour guide Julia told us that we were to go to a silk factory. As we stepped in, we were greeted by a young lady. She started off by explaining to us the five steps of the life of a worm. When the worm is an adult it creates a web around itself as it is attached to a leaf. Worms can either do this step alone or as couples. The singles have a smaller cocoon, and the couples a larger one. Depending on the type of cocoon a different process is done to collect the thread which will be used to make silk. For the singles, they have to kill the worms by putting the cocoons in hot water. Then, they take a brush and stir it in the water with the cocoons. The thread from each cocoon gets attached to that brush. Then each thread is inserted in a machine that pulls it until the entire cocoon is unthreaded. My interesting experience at the factory was to pull the sheet of silk just to see how stretchy it was. I and three other members of the group grabbed a part of the silk and pulled at the same time. It was incredible how far we could go. We were then introduced to all of the things we could buy made with one hundred percent silk. A full store of scarves, clothing, purses, and many more were in the store. Carol asked me to pick a present for ABT so I picked out a nice green silk scarf for her. I wish her a wonderful Birthday. SS

Huangshan (Yellow Mountain)

Our adventures in Huangshan, in English Yellow Mountain, began and consisted mainly of our scaling and exploring the mountain of the same name, Yellow Mountain. In this small and rural Chinese town of 1.5 million, Yellow Mountain is the main tourist attraction, being as it is one of the most famous and beloved mountains in China. From our homely Huangshan hotel it took around 1 hour to reach the base of the cable car we were to take up the mountainside. There was a light drizzle at this time, 11 a.m., and most who were going to venture up the mountain had outfitted themselves with a cheap, 10 Yuan ($1.50 Can.) poncho. The cable car ride was a 15 minute journey up the face of the mountain; the rain, wind, and mist/fog kept the ride exciting, even though it unfortunately severely limited visibility. Upon reaching the top in our cable car, we hiked around the 900 metre mountain. Due to the large amount of fog and mist, our view was greatly obstructed but regardless, we climbed to the top (i.e. we climbed the stairs that led to the peak). Because the peak was unprotected by trees or the face of the mountainside, it was surprisingly windy at the top of Yellow Mountain, and after 5 minutes there we’d had enough and wanted to return to one of the 3 or 4 hotels on the mountain for lunch. The existence of these hotels depended on porters carrying goods and supplies from the base of the upper most cable cars to the hotels. Surprising to me, the method of transportation of these goods is very old-fashioned; the porters carry goods wrapped in enormous bags on each end of a pole and carry this across their backs, up and down the hundreds of steps to the hotel. After lunch, half of our group ventured out in the rain for a 2 hour trek to the Great Canyon of the West See. The rain and wind had picked up substantially by this time, so by the time we had reached the Great Canyon, everyone was wet, most soaked. With clear visibility, the view would have been amazingly, but traversing through the sometimes gale force wind and sheets of rain was definitely one of the high points of my trip; it truly had an epic feel to it, even if I had to dry my clothes for the next 2 days because of it. Following the cable car journey back down through the mist in the middle of the afternoon, we drove back to our hotel, soaked but satisfied and happy, to have dinner. After dinner we went to a tea shop where we experienced an elaborate Chinese tea ceremony, most of which was so complicated that I forget even now. Many different types of tea, from green tea to rose tea to chrysanthemum, in which a flower is placed and when boiling water is applied to it, it blooms in the tea and gives off a flowery taste to the tea. After this, we went along the shopping street of Huangshan, but it was one that was more oriented towards the needs of the locals, which gave us both a true Chinese shopping experience and a chance to save money with cheap goods and bargaining. Upon return to the hotel, a well-deserved rest was had after such an exciting and rewarding day in Huangshan, China. AD

Medical Excursions of The Occidental Tourist. 

My 2006 edition of Frommer’s China provides a small section of advice to the unfortunate traveler who needs to seek medical help, but little did we expect that we would be turning to that page on the very first day of our China tour! On the last weekend before leaving Canada, we heard that SS injured herself in a spectacular tumble off her moped.  When we were at the Toronto airport lounge, waiting for our flight to Beijing, SS pulled back her large gauze and duct tape bandage to reveal the oval shaped gash across her knee.  At the time it was developing a nice crusty surface.  Unfortunately, after the rigour of the long journey, and our first morning of sightseeing in Beijing in 34°C weather and 98% humidity, the wound became infected and swollen.  Sage was limping painfully and she needed a doctor. At about 1:30 pm, while the rest of the musicians were having their first rehearsal at the hotel, our guide Ping went out to hail a cab to take SS and I (one of the four parent chaperones), to the nearest hospital.  One after the other, the taxis refused to stop, even when empty.  This was perplexing. When at last we grabbed a taxi that was unloading passengers at the hotel door, the driver explained to Ping that taxis were no longer allowed to stop on that particular street (the fine was $300 CDN). After we arrived at the main hospital entrance, reception told Ping that we needed to go to another part of the hospital.  This is when we discovered that the Beijing hospital covers an impressive number of city blocks.  We followed Ping to the other building, with SS bravely hobbling along, obviously in pain but without a word of complaint.  Inside that building we followed Ping along a long dark corridor, to another reception desk.  At that reception desk we were sent to a third building.  We followed Ping to that building, where, on the fifth floor, we met a concerned nurse who asked how old SS was.  This was very promising progress and SS and I answered eagerly, in unison, with the single required word, but our contribution to the discussion ended there, rather abruptly, due to the arrival of a second nurse who appeared to have different opinions about where we belonged.  A vigorous and loud debate ensued, in rapid-fire Chinese, with SS and I watching back and forth like on-lookers at a tennis tournament.  All we understood was that Ping was strenuously advocating for treatment for SS, for which I was deeply grateful.  Then a third nurse appeared, who looked at SS and nodded while she was being briefed.  Suddenly the matter was decided. Ping told us we had an appointment with the doctor. Hooray for Ping!  He explained that the doctor was back in the first building, and before we went there, first we had to go to the bottom floor in the present building to pay the cashier. Eventually we met with Dr. Chen in Clinic Number 15, and this time the consultation actively involved all four participants—the thirteen-year-old musician, the parent chaperone, the guide, and the doctor. At the end, SS was prescribed a dressing, antibiotics, Chinese traditional medicine for pain and swelling, and an x-ray. For the doctor, writing each prescription seemed to be an arduous task—every time he wrote out SS’s name at the top he chuckled, shaking his head, and commenting to Ping. Then Ping explained to us what the doctor was finding so funny. SS’s name involves seven syllables, each of which would require a separate icon in Chinese, and the hospital computer system accepts only 3 or 4 icons at the most. The doctor had never seen anything like it. Our trio then tackled the arduous task of carrying out the steps required by each prescription, which meant more cashiers, long corridors, and waiting rooms. When we finally completed our hospital visit, the humidity had reached 100%, and SS and I sheltered ourselves from the torrential rain while Ping walked blocks to find us a cab. He received a text message that there was a hailstorm in parts of Beijing. SS and I arrived back at the hotel at 5:30, with half an hour to spare before dinner. Ping had another hour’s subway ride before he got home that night. I will never forget the kindness and understanding of Ping while he was helping us that afternoon. PR

A coach’s perspective

…so here we are in China, and three concerts in, the kids are doing fabulously! Most excitingly, our musical delivery is still improving…it would be nice to have another 2–8 weeks of tour over here…perhaps visiting Manulifee-Sinochem’s other 30 or so branches around China, particularly Chengdu, Xian, and Kuming. The students are definitely becoming more comfortable drumming up the energy to play after a long day, and most importantly now have a real self confidence in themselves and the ability to consistently provide a great performance. There is a deeper level of commitment too, with impromptu extra rehearsing as individuals or small groups…often when still tired. We are still working on looking a little happier, and holding the emotion of love to engage the audience at a deeper level. When the kids do achieve this, it really shows immediately on their faces. We have been very well received by the audiences. Of course, their concert favourite is the Cai arrangement of the The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto. We are most grateful for Naxos Digital’s support on this matter. It would be nice to have further opportunities after the concert to speak more more with the audience, however, most people are heading home with their young children to sleep. The pre-concert violin Petting Zoo has been a hit with Chinese families. The children are sometimes, like our own, a little shy, but generally thoroughly enjoy getting to try to play the instruments. There is also a certian excitement too interacting with Westerners. Throughout the trip, there have been encounters with young children, or even older kids and adults warmly engaging us with their English. Our encounter for today was solving a youing woman’s problem…a messy Rubiks Cube thanks to David’s skills…she was totally delighted to have a made up cube adorning her purse. Well, tomorrow we have our penultimate engagement, and it should be fabulous…bravo to the kids…they have been angels the entire trip…true ambassadors.

The View from Huangshan

Very different from Beijing with its striking highrises, manicured gardens, and bumper-to-bumper traffic, Huangshan is a city of only 1.5 million with low rise buildings, and scooters and bicycles (no helmets) as the predominant mode of transportation. Our hotel was adequate, but just barely.  _DSC1935The first morning we traveled through rural countryside to the Yellow Mountains, noting roadside stands of fruit – and cellphones! Rice paddies and gardens dotted the landscape.  As the landscape became mountainous, we were amazed to see steep slopes cultivated with crops, particularly tea bushes special to the region. Stands of fern-like trees waved prettily in the breeze, bamboo we discovered. We transferred to gondolas and scaled the mountain. We then hiked 1.5 km. in rain and fog up – and down – stone steps winding up the mountain to a LUXURY HOTEL where we enjoyed yet another best meal ever! En route, we saw porters carrying loads of watermelons, soft drink cases and linens on either end of a bamboo rod across their shoulders. Two porters carried an elderly woman seated between them on a bamboo carrier. After lunch, a hardy subset headed out for a two hour mountain hike—in rain, high winds and whirling fog It was the experience of a lifetime: sheer cliffs, breathtaking glimpses into the valleys below, narrow tunnels, graceful pines growing out of granite. A chain-link fence edging a cliff was hung with hundreds of padlocks, affixed by newlyweds who tossed the keys into the valley below as a symbol of their eternal love. Completely sodden head to toe but with smiles all around, we rejoined our group at the hotel where I enjoyed a really excellent tall latte 🙂 CN Postscript: On the way up the mountain our guide informed us that we were in the region where Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was filmed. When boarding the gondola to go back down the mountain, our own Crouching Tiger (a.k.a. Pat the chaperone) used her quick reflexes and strength to aid an elderly gentleman who had slipped on the wet concrete and fallen directly in the path of the oncoming gondola. Officials came running from all directions and soon the gentleman was seated and recovering from the shock. Crouching Tiger boarded the gondola with us and we proceeded down the mountain. When I commended her for her rapid response, she humbly said it was not a big deal to hold back one gondola. I pointed out that in holding back one, she was actually holding back all of them. But apparently that is all in a day’s work for a Crouching Tiger. HAT

Huangshan Ink Factory 


While in Huangshan we visited the only and remaining ink factory in China where the ink is made completely by hand. We were able to see each step of the process and view some beautiful calligraphy nnd artwork. The black ink used for calligraphy is made using pine branches. The branches are broken into pieces and burnt in little porcelain bowls. A larger bowl placed over the top forms a lid which becomes coated in black soot, the basis for the black ink. To this base is added twelve Chinese herbs and the mixture is formed into a paste. Long ago the ink maker would mould the paste into a stick by pressing it in his fist, which forms it into a bamboo shape. Now the paste is pressed into wooden moulds, which often have designs carved into them. The ink sticks are baked ???? Grinding stones are also carved at the factory. They are made from local black stone carved into a tray with some type of decoration added. At the end of the tour we browsed in the showroom. Sticks of ink were available in a range of shapes and sizes for both artwork and writing. Grinding stones of all sizes, some with elaborate carving were also displayed. Our tour guide demonstrated the process of grinding the ink stick onto the stone with some water in order to prepare the ink. Using a brush of horsehair and some rice paper she wrote the Chinese characters for the city. Several of our group tried the brush and ink. Several of us now own some of the handmade black ink and natural brushes and look forward to trying them out back in Ottawa. HAT

China Potties

I had just finished two glasses of Sprite and a bottle of water and boy, did I have to go! After I finished my yummy Chinese meal, I ran to the bathroom and flung open one of the stalls. I stopped. I looked around the stall. Where was that toilet? As my eyes met the floor I let out a frustrated sigh. Sitting there, on the floor, was a porcelain hole. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I eyed it with suspicion. How was I supposed to sit on it? Which way am I supposed to face? By this time I was so desperate to go that I just sighed, made an exaggerated gulp and shut the stall door. As I exited the stall to wash my hands, mortified, I thought to myself, “Never, never again!” LMG

Day 8: Leaving Beijing

Easy day, but nevertheless enjoyable.  I seem to finally have conquered my jet-lag as I was able to sleep without interruption from 10:45 to 6:45.  The previous nights had been pretty horrid, with as much time spent sleeping as trying to sleep, so it was nice to finally get the full night of rest which I feel we all deserved! It was our last night in Beijing and we consequently spent much of the morning packing away our belongings and assembling our suitcases in the lobby for transfer to the airport.  I also had to pay my hotel laundry bill, which turned out to be quite a complicated affair since I had accidentally used the form for sweaters instead of socks…It would have been easier (and far cheaper) for me to wash all my laundry my hand, but (and forgive me for sounding extremely full of myself with these next words) I just don’t have enough time.  Between concerts, rehearsals and sightseeing, the few hours of free time which I have is used up with private practicing.  So unless I can find the energy to stay up past eleven o’clock at night (which I can’t), I have to used the hotel service and stoically weather the raid on my pocketbook. Speaking of eleven o’clock at night, it’s currently 11:24, so I should get to bed.  Quickly, I’ll just mention the other activities of the day. _DSC1466

  • We started off with a trip to the zoo to watch the mythical Chinese pandas. It was certainly wonderful to see real, living pandas, but the cages were extremely small which was quite unfortunate.
  • After lunch, we visited the Lama Temple, one of the most important Buddhist places of worship in China. It was simply spectacular, with elaborate carvings, beautiful paintings, and many, many, many statues of Buddhas. I also had to chance to meet up for the third time in two days with my absolutely wonderful cousin Pascale who has been living in Beijing for ten years and knows the city like the inside of her pocket.

The day, alas, ended on a delayed flight and a Burger King meal.  Our plane left more than two hours behind schedule and we only got to our hotel in Huangshan after midnight.  But, hey, you can’t have everything! LC


Chinese National Orchestra Concert Hall

On July 7th, Stellae Boreales gave a concert that the Chinese would never forget, in a good way of course! This concert took place at the Chinese National Orchestra Concert Hall in front of an audience of approximately 300, consisting mainly of the families who work for our presenting sponsor Manulife Sinochem.  Although this was our second performance in China, it was our first formally structured concert.  For half an hour before the concert, a few members of Stellae Boreales conducted a petting zoo for the children at the concert.  This experience was enriching for both the Chinese children as they learned how to hold the violins and for those who got to assume the role as teacher in this interacting activity.  And the smiles on the children’s faces definitely made the whole experience worth it! As for the concert, I have to say it was definitely one of our finer performances which came with all the hard work, practice, and dedication from each member of Stellae Boreales and especially Rosemarie, Kit and Liko.  One could also tell that the audience really enjoyed the music because of their thunderous applause and their enlightening comments afterwards.  Everyone performed very well under the pressure and gave it their all in this very important concert leaving both the performers and audience delighted. CD_DSC1362

A Rickshaw Ride

_DSC0953 On Monday morning we visited a drum tower and surrounding neighborhood, then took a rickshaw ride through a hutong, visiting a family home on the way.  Holding the largest drum in the world, the drum tower was formerly used to let people know when to get up and go to work.  The drum beat could be heard from five kilometres away. While we were there we watched a short drum performance. When we had finished our tour of the tower we were taken in rickshaws around the hutong neighborhood.  Hutongs are old lanes where homes are built around a courtyard. Often different family members live in the homes surrounding the courtyard.  We stopped at a family home where the owner served us tea.  Although the whole morning was enjoyable the rickshaw ride was the most fun. LGT

Peking Opera

The Peking Opera was  very enjoyable but very different from the operas that you see in Canada.  Before the opera began two men were serving tea and the funnels of the kettle were really long and the servers were using martial arts moves to pour the tea.  Also while that was happening it was possible to watch four of the opera performers apply their very elaborate and unusual makeup. There were three components to the opera.  At the beginning there were musicians playing a piece with traditional Chinese instruments.  Then there was an excerpt about a young lady trying to get to her lover but her uncle, who was supposed to bring her by boat was playing around. The second excerpt was about a buddha sending eighteen warriors to destroy a Monkey King because he became too strong.  It was really cool because they choreographed the fight scenes really well, making it fun to watch. DP

Design, color, bake, polish!

CloisonneIn the afternoon of this day we had the chance to visit a cloisonne manufacture and see, step by step, the making of these brass pieces upon which designs are carefully formed with minuscule compartments. Each compartment is to be filled with drops of color, then baked and polished, six times. The cloisonne pieces are, for the most, plates and vases, but also bracelets, earings and Christmas tree decorations. They portray dragons, phoenixes, peacocks, flowers, in an endless variety of color. We were then taken to a small workshop where we each had a designed for us to fill with color. I was very impressed with the attention given to the perfection in color and smooth texture. The talent and patience of the workers we saw are truly remarkable, and I think everyone enjoyed this very interesting and artistic activity. V S-D

The Great Wall of China

Concert at Great Wall Yesterday we traveled to the Great Wall where we played our first concert of the trip. It went well; the locals seemed to show great interest in The Butterfly Lovers Concerto. The weather was perfect and allowed us to climb up the wall itself. The trek up was exhausting but when you reached the top the view was breathtaking. You could see miles and miles of mountains. It was amazing to be standing on such a massive piece of history. Overall it was an amazing day! MM

Out and about in Beijing

Day 5 in Beijing and FINALLY my luggage has arrived.  Word to the wise, a red ribbon in China is NOT a distinguishing feature.  During rehearsal on Day 3, I headed out, solo, in search of some emergency supplies, like hairspray!  At the major intersection in front of the main railway station, I waited through the green light where no break in the traffic appeared. As the light turned red, I joined the throng of Native Chinese who crossed against the light, dodging eight lanes of traffic.  Watch the cars, advised our guide, Ping, they will run over you.Left and two blocks down I entered the massive Henderson Mall. In three hours there, I did not encounter one other Caucasian.  I was the visible minority, watched with curiosity wherever I went and followed closely in every shop by salespeople helpfully suggesting beautiful dresses, special price for you, lady and, inexplicably, face lightening products.  In Canada, I am a size 4, even a size 0.  In China, I’m large.  Although Visa was readily accepted, the shopkeepers and even customers closely examined my card from every angle, and tried inserting it into the orifices of various machines .  No luck, it was offered back to me and my supply of Yuan was quickly depleted. With essentials in tow, I navigated three floors back to the main entrance only to find torrential rains—and hail.  Back to the mall for one last purchase, an umbrella, before heading back along steaming sidewalks and roadways being vigorously swept; after all, it’s the Olympic year:-) CN

Summer Palace

Yesterday we were supposed to have a concert at the Great Wall. However, it was raining so we did the Sunday activities instead. Our first drop-off was the Temple of Heaven. This temple is surrounded by a park which is particularly popular for doing exercises such as dancing, tai chi with a ball and paddle, and shuttlecock. Asian shuttlecock (or Jiànzi 毽子) is a lot like Hacky Sack except it has round disks on the bottom and feathers on the top. We joined in a game with one man and several Chinese people laughed at our inexperience. It was fun though and several people bought shuttlecocks. The temple itself was very beautiful and there was an amazing view of the city. After lunch we went to the Summer Palace. When we walked in I didn’t think much of it, but as we kept walking we saw the lake, the mountains and the temple. The lake is connected to the moat of the Forbidden Palace. The Empress would have traveled to the palace by boat. The mountains were layered in different colours of blue. On the closest mountain was the Summer Temple. After walking through the palace some of us climbed the many stairs to the temple. On the way up my camera batteries stopped working. Having no spares I asked other people to take pictures for me. After coming down we went on a quick boat ride round the lake, took the last of our pictures and stepped into the wonderful joy of the bus AC. _DSC0439For dinner we went to a fancy restuarant to have Peking Duck. After several dishes of meat and vegetables the cook brought out the duck and sliced it in the doorway. We were then shown how to place some duck, cucumber, spring onions and sauce onto a pancake, which we rolled up. After the fabulous dinner we retired to our rooms for a sound sleep. ABT

Slide Show

Clicking on the pictures on the side bar takes you to the Flickr site where the pictures are hosted. You can find a slide show link on the Flickr page. Alternatively, just click here HERE to see a slideshow of the photostream, Ed.

Aggressive marketing

Today we visited the Pearl Market in Beijing. It is a four floor market selling clothing, electronics, jewelry and trinkets. Here are some impressions from our intrepid shoppers: It was really quite exciting! It was fun to debate prices LG It was very stressful because the vendors really wanted to make the sale so they were forceful. BW I liked the way you got a cheaper price than what they told us. However, I didn’t like the way they called at you as you walked past. ABT INTENSE SASS-S It was a fun experience but rather stressful. The sales people were very persistent. LGT The way the vendors came at us while we innocently walked by and looked at their products was a bit intimidating and stressful. When we bargained the prices down it definitely made it worth it. From hearing stories afterwards of experiences and strategies used I feel more than ready to tackle the markets and their vendors again! CD I’ve already been through a similiar experience when I went to Algeria but the vendors are way more aggressive here. In my group we found had the great idea to speak only French and pretend not to understand them when they spoke English to us, this saved us from the excessive harrassment. Overall I learned not to approach an object if I don’t really have the intention of buying it and bargain, bargain, bargain! SS Challenging but very fun, especially bargaining. DP Very aggressive, pushy, touchy must be persistent. AD It was fun, and thrilling, the sales people were very aggressive. MM Some people were yelling at us to buy stuff, it was fun. AK Found the whole atmosphere of bargaining very entertaining. SI Incredibly intense, frightening at times but very interesting. CS-D Unreal LC (there will be more photos soon)

Tian’anmen Square and the Forbidden City

Tia Today was our first day after our long 13 hour flight and everybody felt a bit tired. However, once everybody got seated on the tour bus the group seemed to be much more lively. We began our day with a tour of Tian’anmen Square which is very big. There were many tourists taking pictures and admiring the numerous buildings. Afterwards, the group visited the Forbidden City, which is absolutely stunning. The Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum, is huge with ongoing squares, stairs and archways. It’s hard to describe how detailed the buildings are with their numerous decorations that make them so breath-taking. It was a very good first day apart from the humidity (it was really hot). I can’t wait to see what we do tomorrow. BW 


Arrival in Beijing

Twenty three tired but delighted travelers arrived in Beijing last night. Some slept on the plane and others caught up on some movie viewing or magazine reading. It was amusing to see that the first person to fall asleep was our sleep therapist’s daughter! The connection in Toronto was simple and our guide was waiting for us on arrival here in Beijing. As we moved through the massive terminals we got our first taste of the heat which we will become accustomed to I’m sure _DSC9771We were treated to a tour of the Eastman violin factory after leaving the airport. All the workers had stayed late especially for our group, so that we could see the violin and cello making process in action. We were able to borrow two cellos there for our cellists to use while we are in Beijing. While on route from the factory to the hotel there was hardly as sound in the bus as 90% of the group had a little power nap. On arrival at the hotel we were ushered straight into the restaurant for a delicious meal. Our rooms and very comfortable and our food is excellent.

Farewell Concert

With less than a week before we depart for China the musicians, coaches and chaperones are busy and excited.  Yesterday the musicans gave a terrific farewell concert in the atrium of City Hall.  We were privileged to have a representative from Manulife (our presenting sponsor), Marina Kun, the Mayor of Ottawa, several enthusiastic city councillors and representatives from the Chinese embassy in our audience.  Also present were a faithful group of well wishing friends and family members.  Click on the video below to see excerpts: [youtube=] The group has one more rehearsal in Canada before flying out next week to begin the two week tour.  Our first concert is at the Great Wall of China a couple of days after arrival.   As expected many musicians are expecting the Great Wall to be the highlight  but there is great anticipation about other aspects of our trip also. Here are a few comments from the musicians who are looking forward to:

“Experiencing a new culture and way of living and being able to interact both musically and socially with kids our age over there, The culture and playing music, Discovering Chinese culture and performing, Trying new foods, Meeting Chinese kids and visiting the Summer Palace”


In Concert

Submitted by editor on Sun, 06/22/2008 – 03:04




Submitted by editor on Wed, 04/30/2008 – 00:30

It was 12:00 in the afternoon of the April 13th fund-raising concert. Most of the Stellae Boreales group had already arrived. We started warming up for the concert, even though it was still a few hours away. The anticipation was overwhelming, yet exciting. We all had a little snack before we went to rehearse with our teacher. When it was almost time to go on stage and play, we realized that the audience turn-out was absolutely phenomenal! We were very proud to perform “Butterfly Lovers” for the first time. The concert went really well and all that practising really paid off. It wasn’t only the Stellae Boreales group playing at the concert. We also had the honour of a famous Pipa player joining us, and two amazing cellists. After the concert, everyone went to the basement of the church to have some delicious deserts and to participate in the auction and silent auction. There were a lot of high bids for the items and we managed to raise close to $8000 in total! LG —– Il était environ midi, le jour du concert du 13 avril. La plupart du groupe Stellae Boreales était déjà arrivé à l’église. Nous étions tous excités. Juste avant d’aller pratiquer pour le concert, nous avons mangé une petite collation. Nous avons pratiqué un peu, puis nous avons performé. Il y avait beaucoup de gens dans l’audience! Nous étions très fiers d’exécuter le “Butterfly Lover’s Concerto” pour la première fois. Le concert s’est bien déroulé parce que nous avons pratiqué beaucoup. Stellae Boreales n’était pas le seul groupe qui a joué. Il y avait aussi une spécialiste du Pipa, en plus de deux autres violoncellistes. Après le concert, tout le monde est allé au sous-sol pour manger de délicieux desserts. Il y avait aussi une vente aux enchères. Il y avait beaucoup d’offres élevées puis le groupe a reçu un total d’environ 8000$ !

Successful Concert

Submitted by editor on Mon, 04/21/2008 – 08:46

On April 13th, Stellae Boreales held a major fundraising concert for our trip to China and was it ever a success! So much had to go into making it a success such as the selling of tickets, the pursuit of auction items and sponsors, the setting up of the reception room and concert hall, and the making of desserts, to name a few. There are many to thank for this! Not only was behind the scenes very important, but also what the kids brought out on the stage to the audience. This was only achieved by the dedication and hard work of fourteen talented performers and their coaches. With the extended and numerous amount of rehearsals and the many hours of individual practice, the music that was brought to the audience was very polished, well prepared, and wonderful to listen to. With the success of the silent auction, the live auction, and the selling of tickets we raised far more money than ever imagined! Thank you to everyone who made this possible. CD —— Le 13 avril, Stellae Boreales a performé dans un concert bénéfice pour notre voyage en Chine, et ce fut un grand succès! Il y avait tant de choses dont il fallait s’occuper: la vente de billets, l’obtention des items pour la vente aux enchères et les commanditaires, la préparation de la salle de réception et de concert, la préparation des desserts, etc. Il y a beaucoup de bénévoles à remercier! Toutefois, il n’y avait pas que la préparation arrière scène, mais en plus ce que les jeunes ont créé pendant le concert. C’est grâce au dévouement de quatorze musiciens talentueux et leurs professeurs que ce fut un si grand succès. Avec les nombreuses pratiques et plusieurs heures de pratique individuelle, la musique était maîtrisée, bien préparée, et merveilleuse à écouter. Avec le succès de la vente aux enchères ainsi que la vente de billets, nous avons ramassé plus d’argent que nous aurions pu imaginer! Merci à tout le monde qui a rendu ceci possible. CD

In the media

Submitted by editor on Fri, 04/11/2008 – 19:00

Musicians and coaches will rehearse today for tomorrow’s concert. Parents will also continue their preparations for the dessert and auction to follow the concert and take care of last minute details to make the afternoon a success. Jill Laforty, from the CBC, spent some time with the group at last Saturday’s rehearsal. You can listen to her interview and comments here: Stellae Boreales is also featured in today’s Ottawa Citizen, so pick up a copy or read about it here: See you tomorrow at McLeod-Stewarton United Church on Bank Street, beginning at 2:00pm.

The Butterfly Lovers’ Concerto

Submitted by editor on Tue, 04/01/2008 – 21:49

The Butterfly Lover’s Concerto, which we started rehearsing two weeks ago, is certainly something different. The only time I’ve ever heard a melody even remotely like it was watching Disney’s Mulan (a story about a Chinese Joan of Arc)! Everything about the piece sounds Chinese; right from the slightly “exotic” title to the cheerful melody and slurpy slides. It’s actually quite comical to have to do slurpy slides when you’re used to needing to make them silent! But seriously, the Butterfly Lover’s Concerto is a truly important work of Music. It’s very modern (1959 to be exact), but has achieved in its few years of existence remarkable popularity and standing make it one of the most performed pieces in China and increasingly in the rest of the world. We’ve only got two more weeks before we have to perform it for a live audience, so we’re in a bit of a bind… Luckily, we’re using a wonderful arrangement prepared by Ottawa composer which is more technically forgiving than the original orchestration. The next concert is definitely going to be fun. Loads of new music, and a chance to hear the wonderful Pipa player Yadong Guan in concert once again. I certainly hope to see you all there! LJBC

Add some cellos

Submitted by editor on Sat, 03/22/2008 – 01:34

Recently the Senior Performance Group met with two cellists, also joining the China tour, to have their first rehearsal of a Corelli sonata they will be performing together. I believe it was something quite different for the violinists present, for unlike in their other pieces, played without a bass line, they now had something to tune and listen to, which is both easier and more challenging at the same time. In addition to this, Baroque music is quite a change from the normal repertoire that SPG is used to playing. However, I believe that the rehearsal went very well and much progress was made, even though more progress is to be made. Baroque music is hard to play for style and intonation, and in those areas I believe we can do more work. Having not played with the SPG before this rehearsal, I believe that the other cellist and I were both excited to be able to finally play with them and therefore connect better. Stellae Boreales is a violin performance group, and therefore most of the emphasis is understandably directed towards the violins in the group. However, this rehearsal was very helpful in starting to develop a bond between the violinists and cellists of Stellae Boreales, which will be essential for this Corelli sextet and the Butterfly Concerto. AD —– Récemment le Groupe de Performance Senior a rencontré deux violoncellistes avec qui ils iront en Chine, afin d’avoir leur première répétition d’une sonate de Corelli qu’ils exécuteront ensemble. Je crois que c’était bien différent pour les violonistes de jouer avec un accompagnement à la basse avec laquelle ils devaient s’accorder, ce qui rend la tâche d’une part plus facile et d’une autre plus difficile. En plus, le Groupe de Performance Senior n’est pas habitué à jouer de la musique baroque rendant le défi encore plus ardu. Cependant, je crois que la répétition s’est très bien passée dû au progrès immense qui a été fait, malgré le fait qu’il y en ait encore beaucoup à faire. La musique baroque est compliquée : il faut respecter son style et l’intonation doit être parfaite, choses sur lesquelles nous devons travailler. L’autre violoncelliste ainsi que moi-même avions bien hâte de jouer avec le groupe pour finalement être capables de connecter avec eux. Stellae Boreales est un groupe de performance composé uniquement de violonistes; l’accent est tout naturellement dirigé vers les violons lorsque nous pratiquons. Cependant, cette répétition était très utile pour développer un lien entre les deux instruments, chose absolument essentielle pour ce sextet de Corelli et pour le “Butterfly Lover’s Concerto”, prochaine pièce que nous devrons pratiquer ensemble. AD

Time does fly

Submitted by editor on Mon, 03/03/2008 – 10:45

The “Play In” that occurred on Saturday February the 23rd was a concert I really enjoyed. It wasn’t the repertoire that triggered this, but the fact that this concert brought back so many memories. I am sure that every student in the Suzuki School of Music has felt this way once before, looking back. When you find yourself standing further away from your old group class and you are about to play your new repertoire you really notice that you are gradually becoming a better violin player without even realising. It’s quite odd though to try imagine yourself in the shoes of one of the violinists playing before you, because everything seems ages away. I find it funny how music is always a part of growing up, and during these concerts you can see how much you’ve grown as a person as well as a musician. I can never really imagine myself getting better, but I find it much easier to look back upon all the memories. It’s important for the group to have many opportunities to play concerts for the general public, but it’s also important to have the chance to play along with the school. One thing is for certain, time sure does fly by. B.W. (14yrs) —– Le “Play In” qui a eu lieu samedi, le 23 février a été un concert que j’ai beaucoup aimé. Le Groupe de Performance s’y est joint au reste de l’école Suzuki. Ce n’est pas le répertoire en tant que tel que j’ai aimé, mais plutôt les nombreux souvenirs qu’il faisait naître. Je suis certain que tous les musiciens de l’école de musique Suzuki ont ressenti la même chose, si on recule dans le temps. Lorsqu’on est debout à l’arrière du groupe, loin des débutants, et qu’on est sur le point de jouer notre nouveau répertoire, le progrès et l’effort investi dans la musique est remarquable; nous sommes devenus les meilleurs violonistes, sans avoir réalisé le chemin parcouru pour le devenir. Il est étrange de s’imaginer à la place d’un des violonistes qui joue des pièces plus simples, parce que tout ceci semble faire tellement longtemps. C’est drôle comment la musique fait partie de notre évolution et pendant ces concerts, on réalise vraiment comment on a grandi en tant que personne autant que musicien. Je ne peux pas vraiment m’imaginer meilleur puisqu’il est bien plus facile de regarder derrière soi pour réaliser tout le progrès accompli. Il est important pour le groupe d’avoir beaucoup d’occasions de jouer en concert, mais il est aussi important d’avoir la chance de performer avec l’école Suzuki. Enfin, une chose est certaine : le temps s’envole! B.W. (14 ans)

Performing at the NAC

Submitted by editor on Wed, 02/27/2008 – 22:07

There’s something very exciting about spending a day backstage at the National Arts Centre. We had an enormous rehearsal room all to ourselves. Throughout the day conductor Boris Brott and orchestra member Elaine Klimasko came and worked with us on the Bach Double. The stage manager also popped in to give us some stage directions. We rehearsed on stage with the NAC Orchestra. After rehearsal we went to buy lunch in the backstage green room. During the first concert someone came to fetch us and take us to the wings where we waited for our cue to go on stage. Stellae Boreales followed the Christchurch Cathedral choir who sang Dona Nobis Pacem. We walked out and took a bow. Immediately the second violins began the Bach Double, followed four bars later by the firsts. After our vigorous and successful performance we were able to smile at the audience and take a bow before returning to the wings to wait for the curtain call. Our Saturday performances were the first of five spread over three days. It was a great experience and I feel privileged to have received such an opportunity. LGT (age 13) —

Il y a quelque chose de très excitant à passer une journée entière dans les coulisses au Centre National des Arts. On avait une pièce gigantesque de pratique juste pour nous. Pendant la journée, nous avons profité de l’aide du chef d’orchestre Boris Brott et d’une membre de l’orchestre du CNA, Elaine Klimasko. Aussi, la régisseuse nous a donné des indications sur les règles à suivre sur la scène. Ensuite, nous avons pratiqué avec l’orchestre du CNA. Après la pratique, nous sommes allés acheter notre dîner dans la cafétéria de l’arrière-scène.

Pendant le premier concert, quelqu’un est venu nous chercher pour nous amener dans les coulisses où nous attendions un signal pour entrer en scène. Stella Boreales devait passer après la chorale de la cathédrale Christchurch qui chantait Dona Nobis Pacem. Nous sommes finalement entrés en scène et avons salué. Tout de suite après, les deuxièmes violons ont commencé le concerto, suivis des premiers violons quatre mesures plus tard. Nous avons souris à l’audience après notre vigoureuse performance pour ensuite retourner dans les coulisses en attente pour le salut final.

Nos performances de samedi ont été les premières de cinq étalées sur trois jours. Ce fut une superbe expérience, et je me sens privilégiée de l’avoir vécue.

LGT (13 ans)

On stage at the NAC

Submitted by editor on Mon, 02/18/2008 – 07:59

As I mentioned in the last post Stellae Boreales spent hours at the NAC last week performing in five concerts with the NAC Orchestra. Judging from the accounts I heard it was a memorable experience. It was not all bright lights and applause, however, as you will read in the following descriptions from ensemble members. (Ed.)


In the concert with the NAC Orchestra I liked performing on stage with Mr Brott and lots of people watching me. Too bad Mr Zukerman wasn’t there. I also liked Mr Bach’s role, I thought it was funny for the audience. I ate in the green room. I think the food is a bit weird there, but it was good. During the big break my friend and I were playing the Bach Double over and over and making funny noises with our violins. It was really fun. A.K. (10years)


On February 10, 11 and 12 Stellae Boreales participated in five concerts with the NAC orchestra at the National Arts Centre. Most of our time was spent in our dark practice room doing our homework, talking or practicing the Bach Double Concerto for our concerts. It was a long wait in between performances, but the thrill of being on stage in front of an eager audience of young children and adults alike made what seemed like hours of doing absolutely nothing worthwhile. We would only play for a couple of minutes, then would quickly retreat to our ‘crypt’ of sorts, or perhaps go down the halls to the cafeteria to help ourselves to a semi-relaxed lunch until we were called once again for our next concert. I found it quite draining, and as soon as I got home I just went straight to the couch and lay there for the next couple of hours. Mind you, I would have done that no matter what my day was like. S.S-S(12 years) —-

Comme mentionné dans le dernier article, Stellae Boreales a passé plusieurs heures au CNA la semaine passée, performant dans cinq concerts avec l’orchestre du Centre National des Arts. J’ai entendu dire que c’était une expérience mémorable. Toutefois, l’expérience ne comprenait pas seulement des lumières brillantes et des applaudissements chaleureux, comme vous allez le lire dans les descriptions suivantes. (Ed.)


Durant le concert avec l’orchestre du CNA, j’ai aimé jouer pour un grand public, sur la scène avec M. Brott. Dommage que M. Zukerman n’ait pas été là. J’ai aussi aimé le rôle de M. Bach, j’ai trouvé que c’était amusant pour le public.

J’ai mangé dans la salle de répétition. D’après moi, la nourriture est un peu bizarre là-bas, mais c’était quand même bon. Pendant la plus longue pause, je m’amusais avec mon amie à jouer le concerto de Bach et à faire de drôles de sons avec nos violons. C’était très amusant!

A.K. (10 ans)


Le 10, 11, et 12 février, Stellae Boreales a participé à cinq concerts avec l’orchestre du Centre National des Arts. La majorité du temps a été passé dans une pièce de pratique sombre à faire nos devoirs, parler ou pratiquer le concerto pour le concert. C’était une longue attente entre les pièces, mais le sentiment d’être sur scène en face d’un auditoire a fait valoir toutes ces heures passées à ne rien faire.

On jouait seulement quelques minutes pour ensuite retourner à la sale de pratique ou à la cafeteria pour profiter d’un repas jusqu’à ce qu’on soit rappelés pour le prochain concert. J’ai trouvé l’expérience épuisante. Aussitôt retournée à la maison, je suis directement allée me coucher sur le sofa pour m’étendre pendant quelques heures. Mais, en fin de compte, j’aurais fait la même chose peu importe le déroulement de ma journée.

S.S-S (12 ans)

Back stage at the NAC

Submitted by editor on Thu, 02/14/2008 – 09:49

Stellae Boreales spent two and a half days at the NAC this week, performing in both the Young People’s Concerts on the weekend and the Student Matinees during the week. From all reports it was a wonderful experience enjoyed by both the performers and the audiences. A couple of members of Stellae Boreales are going to write about their impressions over the next few days but for now here are a few shots of the musicians back stage.



Thank you for dropping in to read about Stellae Boreales. Everyone involved with the group is very excited about this year’s performance opportunities, not the least of which is our tour to China. We are also excited about each musician and his or her unique contribution to the group. This blog is an attempt to share some of that excitement with you. I encourage you to leave a comment for the members of the group and other readers by clicking on the title of the post. After you have clicked on it a box will open at the end of the post where you can write your comment. We would love to hear from you. Ed. —-

Cette semaine, Stellae Boreales a passé deux jours et demi au CNA, participant au concert des jeunes la fin de semaine, et aux matinées pour étudiants/tes pendant la semaine. Ce fut une superbe expérience dont les membres du groupe ont profité autant que le public. Quelques membres de Stellae Boreales vont écrire leurs impressions dans les jours qui suivent. Voici quelques photos des musiciens à l’arrière-scène.

Merci de jeter un coup d’oeil au blog pour lire au sujet de Stellae Boreales. Tout le monde impliqué avec le groupe anticipe des opportunités de performance très excitantes, en plus de la tournée en Chine. Aussi, nos fidèles musiciens apportent tous et toutes une contribution, grande ou petite, bien unique au groupe. Afin de partager nos expériences avec vous, ce blog a été créé pour vous faire parvenir nos expériences. Je vous encourage fortement à laisser un commentaire pour les membres du groupe et les autres lecteurs, en cliquant sur le titre de l’article. Une boîte s’ouvrira à l’extrémité de celui-ci où vous pourrez écrire votre commentaire. Nous aimerions beaucoup avoir de vos nouvelles!

Our night at the Ball…

Submitted by editor on Sun, 02/10/2008 – 01:47

With the mention of the Viennese Winter Ball, my ears perked up. My cousin had twice had the chance to dance as a debutante at the Ball and I had seen the pictures of her beautiful dress and heard her stories. My heart started to race with excitement. As the days got closer and we finished up our rehearsals, we learned that we would start playing at 10:30 p.m. in the Martini Bar. As odd as that might sound, our group just got more excited about the fact that the Ball was going to be a huge experience – and an interesting one also! How could it not be, performing beside an ice martini bar in the National Gallery at the city’s most elegant event of the year?  At the start of our performance, there were not a lot people in the room to entertain but quickly, as people heard our music, they flowed in to listen. As promised, the debutantes’ dresses were amazing and their escorts were dressed to the nines, something I don’t often see being a high school student. Of course, Stellae Boreales managed to keep focused until we had finished performing. As a violinist in my second season with the group, I still feel surprised at what we are capable of and I thought the evening was fantastic. Judging from the e-mail we received from our coaches the next day about how well we played and how many people asked about our group, it was clear that everyone considered the experience to be a success which we would welcome again in the future. F.T. —- Lorsque j’ai entendu parler du bal d’hiver viennois, j’ai immédiatement tendu l’oreille. Ma cousine a eu deux fois la chance de danser comme débutante à ce bal et j’avais vu les images de sa belle robe et entendu parler de ses histoires. Mon coeur n’a fait qu’un bond d’excitation. À mesure que les jours se rapprochaient de l’événement, nous avons appris que nous allions jouer à 10:30 heures du soir dans le Bar Martini. Cela peut paraître étrange, mais notre groupe venait à peine de réaliser que le bal allait être toute une expérience hors du commun et intéressante aussi! Comment pourrait-il en être autrement alors que nous allions jouer au Bar Martini de la Galerie Nationale à l’événement le plus élégant de l’année. Au début de notre performance, il n’y avait pas beaucoup de personnes dans la salle mais très rapidement, les gens qui entendaient notre musique, affluaient pour venir nous écouter. Comme promis, les robes des débutantes étaient impressionnantes et leurs accompagnateurs étaient très chics, ce que je ne vois pas souvent chez les étudiants de niveau secondaire. Bien sûr, Stellae Boreales a réussi à maintenir une bonne concentration jusqu’à la fin de la performance. En tant que violoniste dans ma deuxième saison avec le groupe, je suis toujours surprise de ce que nous sommes capables de faire et je pense que la soirée a été fantastique. À en juger par les courriels de nos coaches que nous avons reçus le lendemain, au sujet de la façon dont nous avons joué, et le nombre de personnes qui ont posé des questions sur notre groupe, il est clair que tout le monde considère l’expérience comme un succès qui pourrait se répéter à l’avenir. F.T.

The musings of a parent volunteer…

Submitted by editor on Tue, 02/05/2008 – 19:41

Parents play an important role in supporting Stellae Boreales, enabling the conductors to focus on their all important area of expertise, the music. From designing and maintaining the ensemble’s website, drafting funding proposals, scouting performance opportunities, writing press releases, taking pictures and videos, organizing concerts, planning trips and retreats, carpooling, making sure the group is well “fed and watered”, and overseeing daily practices at home, parents are vital to the ensemble’s smooth running. My favourite role as a parent volunteer is driving the musicians to events. Last night, I drove a group of five to their musical debut at the Viennese Winter Ball. I had one young fellow suffering from the flu “quarantined” in the front seat and four giggly girls in the two back seats. Conversation ranged from diverse individual interests like horseback riding, snowboarding and music ‘other than classical’ to common interests such as the elusive perfect bow hold and the art of staying together without a conductor. As much as we parents contribute, the greatest commitment of all comes from the musicians themselves, some as young as 10. They practice daily – anywhere from one to four hours, rehearse together weekly, attend private and theory lessons, and perform often – on average twice a month this season. In addition to the fellow with the flu last night, another of the musicians was performing with a newly broken thumb, the group’s second digit casualty of the year. As I waited silently in my family van flanked by limousines, I could see Stellae Boreales through the vast windows of the National Gallery, dressed all in black like the pros with violins held high and felt a surge of pride as they launched into the Bach Double – all together and with perfect bow holds all around. CN —- Les parents jouent un rôle très important pour Stellae Boreales permettant ainsi aux directeurs musicaux de se concentrer sur leur domaine d’expertise, la musique. Ils s’occupent de la conception et du maintien du site Internet, de la rédaction des propositions de financement, de la recherche des possibilités de performances, de l’écriture d’articles pour la presse, de la prise de photos et de vidéos, de l’organisation des concerts, des voyages et de la planification des retraites, du covoiturage, de la supervision des pratiques quotidiennes à la maison et s’assurent que le groupe soit bien “nourri et abreuvé”. Bref, les parents sont indispensables à la bonne marche de l’ensemble. Mon rôle préféré en tant que parent bénévole est de reconduire les musiciens à des événements musicaux. La nuit dernière, j’ai reconduit un groupe de cinq jeunes au bal d’hiver viennois. L’un d’eux,un garçon, assis à l’avant, souffrait de la grippe tandis que quatre filles volubiles étaient assises à l’arrière. La conversation allait de sujets divers tels que l’équitation, la planche à neige et la musique autre que “classique” à des intérêts communs tels que la prise parfaite de l’archet et de l’art de rester ensemble sans chef. En tant que parents, nous contribuons beaucoup mais le plus grand engagement de tous provient des musiciens eux-mêmes, parfois dès l’âge de 10 ans. Ils pratiquent quotidiennement – de une à quatre heures, répètent ensemble chaque semaine, assistent à des leçons privées, étudient la théorie et jouent souvent en concert – en moyenne deux fois par mois cette saison-ci. En plus du jeune garçon qui avait la grippe hier soir, un autre musicien jouait avec un pouce récemment brisé, le deuxième du groupe à en être victime cette l’année. Comme j’attendais en silence dans ma vanne familiale entourée de limousines, je pouvais voir Stellae Boreales par la grande fenêtre de la Galerie Nationale. Ils étaient tous habillés de noir et, comme des pros, ils tenaient leurs violons bien hauts. J’ai senti une grande fierté quand ils ont commencé le Double Concerto de Bach – dans un ensemble parfait, tous les archets qui ne faisaient qu’un.

Rehearsing for the NAC

Submitted by editor on Wed, 01/30/2008 – 20:21

In preparation for our upcoming concert at the NAC February 9th, 12th, and 13th, we have all been working and practicing really hard. Our rehearsal last Saturday, January 26th, was probably our best rehearsal up to now. The closer we get to a big concert or performance, the more demanding our rehearsals get. The pieces are to be memorized and in rehearsal cleaned up so that they will be played at their best. The NAC is a very formal place when it comes to performance. During our practice, we had a guest that came and spoke to us about NAC etiquette. It was Elaine Klimasko, our music teacher Rosemarie Klimasko’s sister. She came and explained what it’s like to play there and described the atmosphere. It was really intriguing to hear and find out the differences between playing a family concert and playing at the NAC. It definitely shows that we have to work hard and step up our performance. She also helped us with the piece that we will be playing which is the Bach Double in D Minor and gave us a couple of tips and pointers to improve our performances. This is definitely a great experience and shows us where we need to improve before we go to China. —— Nous avons tous travaillé et pratiqué très fort afin de nous préparer pour nos prochains concerts au CNA les 9, 12 et 13 février. La répétition du samedi, le 26 janvier, a probablement été une de nos meilleures jusqu’à maintenant. Plus nous approcherons du grand jour, plus les répétitions seront exigeantes. On doit préparer et mémoriser nos pièces et lors des répétitions nous travaillons sur les détails d’interprétation. Le CNA est un endroit très formel quand il s’agit de performances. A cette pratique, nous avons reçu une invitée qui est venue nous parler de la façon de se comporter au CNA. Notre invitée, Madame Elaine Klimasko, est la sœur de notre professeure de musique, Madame Rosemarie Klimasko. C’était vraiment fascinant d’entendre et de découvrir la différence entre les concerts familiaux et les concerts du CNA. Cela montre que nous devons travailler fort et fignoler nos concerts afin de passer à un niveau supérieur. Elle nous a également aidés avec la pièce que nous jouerons, le Double Concerto de Bach en ré mineur. Elle nous a donné d’excellents conseils qui vont améliorer notre interprétation. C’est vraiment toute une expérience! Jouer au CNA nous permettra de mieux nous préparer en vue de notre voyage en Chine. DS-P (15 ans)

Playing for Seniors

Submitted by editor on Fri, 01/18/2008 – 20:18

Le 13 janvier dernier, notre groupe a eu l’occasion de jouer en concert à deux résidences pour gens âgés. L’exécution de nos pièces a fait preuve de notre niveau d’excellence et a été énormément appréciée par le publique. Personnellement, j’ai beaucoup aimé l’expérience.

Le groupe intermédiaire a commencé par Serenade. Les gens de la deuxième résidence où nous avons joué chantaient avec le groupe! Ensuite, ils ont continué avec La Cumparsita, un tango excitant connu de presque tous. Par la suite, nous avons entendu deux jolis duos de violoncelles qui ont évidemment été maîtrisés. Finalement, le groupe senior a joué Dancing Doll, pour continuer avec Praeludium And Allegro, pièce extrêmement puissante. Nous avons conclu ce concert par un solide concerto de Bach pour deux violons et Jealousy, tango aussi charmant qu’entraînant.

Habituellement, les gens âgés qui vivent en résidence n’y vivent pas par choix : beaucoup d’entre eux n’ont que de petits divertissements pour les garder occupés afin de remplir leurs simples journées. Comme vous pouvez alors vous l’imaginer, ils jubilent lorsque de jeunes musiciens viennent jouer pour eux. À l’aide de quelques pièces classiques, romantiques et modernes, nous leur avons transmis l’amour que nous éprouvons pour la musique.

À ma sortie, j’ai eu l’opportunité de parler à quelques-uns uns d’entre eux et ils nous transmettent de superbes compliments et espèrent nous revoir bientôt!

CS-D (16 ans)

On January 13th, our group had the opportunity to play in concert at two senior homes. All of our pieces showed our level of excellence and were incredibly appreciated by the public. Personally, I liked the experience very much.

The intermediate group started with Serenade. The people of the second senior home were singing along! Then, they continued with La cumparsita, a very exciting well known tango. Next, we heard two absolutely beautiful cello duets that were very well performed. Finally, the senior group played Dancing Doll, to continue with Praeludium And Allegro, an extremely powerful piece. We concluded both concerts with a solid Bach concerto for two violins, and then Jealousy, a charming and exciting tango.

Normally, seniors who live in residence do not live there by choice: a lot of them only have little entertainment to keep them busy. As you can imagine, they feel incredibly happy when young musicians come to play for them. With classical, romantic and modern pieces, we transmitted to them the love which we feel for music.

As we left, I had the opportunity to speak to some of them, and they were giving us superb compliments and hope to see us again soon!

CS-D (age 16)

Midori in action

Submitted by editor on Wed, 01/16/2008 – 09:25

The NAC provides open rehearsals about every month. Stellae Boreales made an excursion to one of these rehearsals which included the inspiring violinist Midori. Before the rehearsal began a lady told us a bit about the events leading up to the rehearsal. She explained to us that Midori’s plane into Ottawa had been delayed and when Midori finally arrived she proceeded to practice until two a.m. and still arrived for the nine a.m. rehearsal. Before Midori performed the NAC Orchestra played the ”Mother Goose Suite” which I quite enjoyed. The Suite is made up of several movements based on different nursery rhymes and fairy tales. When Midori finally played the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35 it was amazing. She just got up there and played fantastically. Her violin sung distinctly throughout the theatre. Perhaps her inspiration helped me play in my own recital this past Sunday, I wouldn’t be surprised. Signing out, A.B.T (11 years) — Le CNA offre des répétitions publiques à peu près tous les mois. Stellae Boreales s’est rendu à l’une d’elles lors d’une répétition avec l’inspirante violoniste Midori. Tout d’abord, une dame nous a informés du déroulement de la répétition. Elle nous a ensuite expliqué que l’avion de Midori a été retardé et quand elle est enfin arrivée à Ottawa, elle a pratiqué jusqu’à deux heures du matin. Malgré tout, elle est arrivée à temps à la répétition de neuf heures. Avant la performance de Midori, l’Orchestre du CNA a joué «La suite de Ma mère l’oye» que j’ai bien aimée. La suite est composée de plusieurs mouvements décrivant différentes comptines et contes de fées. Lorsque Midori a finalement joué le Concerto pour violon en ré majeur, op. 35 de Tchaïkovsky, c’était incroyable. Elle s’est simplement levée et a superbement joué. Son violon chantait distinctement dans l’ensemble du théâtre. Peut-être que son inspiration m’a aidée à jouer lors de mon récital dimanche dernier, je n’en serais pas surprise. Bien à vous, ABT (11 ans)

Stellae Boreales in concert

Submitted by editor on Wed, 12/05/2007 – 09:45

The fundraising concert on November 30th was a huge success. The group sounded absolutely amazing. We have all been practicing extremely hard lately and you could tell that it paid off. I know that the hearts of every one in the group leapt up as we walked though the doors and saw a full house. I feel that we played exceptionally well and the solos were outstanding. As I listened to the solos and to every one in the group I felt like I was listening to professionals. Yadong Guan was magnificent. I could hardly see her fingers as they flew around the pipa. I felt honoured to have performed at the same concert as her. I am looking forward to possibly performing with her in China. Wow, I can’t even think of any thing else to describe how amazing the concert was. I would like to thank every one who helped to make it possible. (P.S. if you missed this concert there’s always the one in April – mark your calendars now for April 13!!!)


M.M J (age 13)


Le concert du 30 novembre a été un énorme succès. Le groupe a très bien joué. Nous avons tous pratiqué extrêmement fort et on peut dire que ça a valu la peine. Je sais que le coeur de chacun a bondi lorsque nous avons vu la salle pleine à craquer de gens qui venaient nous écouter. Je pense que nous avons joué exceptionnellement bien et les solos ont été remarquables. En écoutant les solos et nos pièces de groupe, j’avais l’impression d’écouter des musiciens professionnels. Yadong Guan a été magnifique. Je pouvais à peine voir ses doigts tellement ils volaient rapidement sur le pipa. Je me suis senti honoré de jouer dans le même concert que Mme Guan. J’ai hâte de jouer de nouveau avec elle en Chine. Wow, que dire d’autre pour décrire comment le concert était épatant. Je tiens à remercier tous ceux qui ont contribué pour l’organiser. (PS : si vous avez manqué ce concert, il y en aura un autre en avril 2008. Réservez le 13 avril dès maintenant!) Cordialement,

M.M J (age 13)

Cultural Evening

Submitted by editor on Wed, 11/28/2007 – 05:21

On November 23rd, we all got together at LJBC’s house for a Chinese cultural evening, a practice and dinner. LJBC’s grandmother made some Chinese food for us and we drank Chinese tea. There was even a Chinese dessert. The group is really working hard for our next concert on November 30th at the McLeod Stewarton United church. The musician Yadong Guan was there to have her photo taken, because she is playing the Pipa at our concert. She had to leave before dinner because she has a two-year old at home plus she is expecting a second baby soon. Even though our practice was short, it was definitely sweet! Both the senior and the intermediate performance group sounded like a million dollars. When LGT, a girl in the senior performance group, did her solo, it was amazing! After dinner, a previous member of Stellae Boreales, arrived to teach us a little bit of the Chinese language. We really miss him in our group. He is so nice. We all had a tough time pronouncing the words and learning the differences! Even though we were having troubles, we all had a riot. We hope to see many people out there in the audience on November 30th. Thanks again to for LJBC and his family for inviting us to his home for our cultural evening! __ Le 23 novembre dernier, nous sommes tous allés à la maison LJBC pour une soirée culturelle chinoise, une pratique et un souper. La grand-mère de Laurent a cuisiné des mets chinois pour nous et nous avons bu du thé chinois. Il y avait même un dessert chinois.  Notre groupe travaille très fort en vue de notre prochain concert, le 30 novembre, à l’église United Stewarton McLeod. Nous avons été rejoints par la musicienne Yadon Guang. Elle jouera du Pipa chinois à notre concert. Elle a dû partir avant le souper, parce qu’elle a un enfant de deux ans à la maison. En plus, elle attend un deuxième bébé bientôt. Même si notre pratique a été courte, elle a été définitivement amusante! Lorsque les ensembles sénior et intermédiaire ont joué ensemble, le son était magnifique. LGT a joué un solo étonnant. Après le dîner, un ancien membre de Stellae Boreales, est arrivé et nous a enseigné un peu la langue chinoise. Il est vraiment gentil. C’était difficile de prononcer les mots et d’apprendre les différents sons. Même si nous éprouvions des difficultés, nous avons tous eu beaucoup de plaisir.  Nous espérons avoir beaucoup de monde lors de notre concert du 30 novembre. Merci encore à LJBC et à sa famille de nous avoir invités à son domicile pour notre soirée culturelle ! L.G.

Performing for the Ambassador

Submitted by editor on Thu, 11/22/2007 – 06:14

On October 26, Austria’s National Day, we had the opportunity to play at a dinner at the Austrian Ambassador’s residence. The Intermediate Performance Group started us off with an excellent performance of Hungarian Dance No. 5.The Senior Performance Group played Dancing Doll and everyone Jealousy. Two SPG members also performed solos: Tambourin Chinois and the1st Movement of the Saint-Saens Violin Concerto. In conclusion we played the Austrian National Anthem and all 250 people there sang along. It was a very different sort of performance than we are used to because people were milling around and talking. At times we could barely hear each other play! The Ambassador was very appreciative and generously gave each of us a gift bag containing several souvenirs of Austria. It went very well and was a great experience for all of us. LGT(age 13) — Le 26 octobre dernier, nous avons eu l’occasion de jouer à la résidence de l’ambassadeur d’Autriche pendant le souper de leur fête nationale. L’ensemble intermédiaire a commencé avec une excellente interprétation de la «Danse hongroise No. 5». L’ensemble sénior a ensuite joué «Dancing Doll» et enfin, tout le monde ensemble, «Jalousie». Deux membres de l’ensemble sénior ont également exécuté des solos: «Tambourin Chinois» et le premier mouvement du «Concerto pour violon» de Saint-Saëns. En conclusion, nous avons joué l’hymne national autrichien et les 250 personnes présentes ont chanté avec nous. C’était un type de concert très différent de ce que nous avons l’habitude de faire parce que les gens étaient tout autour de nous, bavardant ici et là avec l’un et l’autre. Parfois, on pouvait à peine s’entendre jouer les uns les autres! L’ambassadeur a vraiment apprécié notre musique et a donné généreusement, à chacun de nous, un sac de cadeaux contenant quelques souvenirs de l’Autriche. Tout s’est très bien déroulé et ce fut une très bonne expérience pour nous. LGT (13ans)

Austria’s National Day…

Submitted by editor on Fri, 11/09/2007 – 10:06

In anticipation for our performance at the Austrian Embassy on October 26th, 2007, the intensity of our rehearsals was notched up so that we could perform at our best. Pieces were being memorized and polished in order to get ready for this fabulous experience that would give us major exposure for our upcoming concert.  Rehearsals consist of senior and junior performance groups separately playing through and rehearsing pieces that we will be performing. Then Liko Yamane accompanies each group after the pieces are prepared. In the end we join groups and work on the pieces that everyone is playing together. This rehearsal structure allows us to get the most out of the time that we have together. CD (age 15) — En prévision de notre performance à l’ambassade d’Autriche du 26 octobre 2007, nos répétitions étaient plus intenses qu’à l’habitude pour que nous puissions jouer de notre mieux. Nos pièces ont été mémorisées et polies afin de se préparer pour cette fabuleuse expérience qui nous donnerait une exposition majeure. Nos répétitions sont composées de deux groupes, sénior et junior, qui pratiquent séparément répétant les pièces qui seront jouées en concert. Puis Liko Yamane accompagne chaque groupe lorsque les pièces sont prêtes. À la fin, les deux groupes se rejoignent pour travailler ensemble sur des pièces communes. Cette façon de faire nous permet de tirer le meilleur parti du temps que nous avons ensemble. CD (15 ans)

Inaugural Post!

Submitted by editor on Thu, 11/01/2007 – 10:24

The blog is one of the groundbreaking inventions of the last decade. By allowing individuals and groups to share their stories and ideas with the rest of the world, it has spurned creativity, debate, and innovation. It should therefore come as no surprise that Stellae Boreales has decided to take advantage of this marvelous technology and launch its own blog. So, in short, from now on, members of the group will be sharing their stories and experiences with you. Enjoy! A few things I’d like to mention in this inaugural post:

  • The first Stellae Boreales concert will take place at McLeod-Stewarton United Church on November 30th at 7:00 p.m.. All proceeds will go to our upcoming Manulife-Sinochem Stellae Boreales 2008 China Tour.
  • The members of the group are selling advertising in the concert program and website. Fresh off an advertising workshop after our last rehearsal, we are eager to build partnerships with the business community. Please send us an email if you’d like to place an ad with Stellae Boreales.

Signing off, LJBC (age 15) — Le blog est l’une invention marquante de la dernière décennie. En permettant aux individus et aux groupes de partager leurs histoires et leurs idées avec le reste du monde, le blog a accru la créativité, le débat et l’innovation. Il ne faut donc pas s’étonner que Stellae Boreales ait décidé de profiter de cette merveilleuse technologie et de lancer son propre blog. Bref, à partir de maintenant, les membres du groupe partageront leurs histoires et leurs expériences avec vous. Amusez-vous bien! Dans ce premier article inaugural, je tiens à mentionner:

  • La première de Stellae Boreales aura lieu à l’Église unie McLeod-Stewarton le 30 novembre prochain à 19:00 h. Toutes les recettes serviront à financer notre prochaine tournée « Stellae Boreales Manulife-Sinochem en Chine 2008 ».
  • Les membres du groupe vendent de la publicité dans le programme du concert et sur un site Internet. Après notre dernière répétition, nous avons suivi un atelier sur la publicité et nous sommes désireux d’établir des partenariats avec les milieux d’affaires. Veuillez nous envoyer un courriel si vous souhaitez faire passer une annonce avec Stellae Boreales.

Signature, LJBC (15 ans)