TSO String Trio (Katrina Chitty, viola; Mark Skazinetsky, violin; Igor Gefter, cello)
Collins Bay is one of the oldest and biggest prisons in Canada and hosts three institutions – minimum, medium and maximum. We have performed in the minimum in 2017, so were somewhat familiar with the environment. Our hosts (Nikki Smith and Janice Saunders) were extremely well prepared – the chapel was set up perfectly. We felt the excitement in the air.
Prison staff was numerous and enthusiastic, which was unusual and gratifying to observe. The chapel was packed. Men and the rest of the audience, which also included volunteers welcomed us very warmly. Only a handful have listened or attended a classical music concert in the past, all engaged in a lively conversation with performers and yours truly throughout the afternoon. It was nice to see Crystal Thomson, Acting Warden sneaking in for about 15 minutes and blending with the crowd. Rev. Gary Reynolds and Rev. Paul Kern were joined by Neil and Gertie Minnema, chapel volunteers.
As usual Stan has created an unusual painting. Once again we witnessed a remarkable and powerful synthesis of a music instrument, paint brush and the audience – creative, uplifting, optimistic, distracting. Katrina confessed, that as she played, she could not resist the temptation of “spying” on the painting creation process and that it emotionally positively affected her performance. Now only Collins Bay Maximum is missing a painting…
In his traditional “moment of truth” speech, yours truly delivered a message about being ALIVE and BEING in Canada in the context of the Humboldt Broncos tragedy. He also shared a story about the darker period of his emigration in Italy, when he was pretty close to committing a crime…
The Q&A period demonstrated clearly, that our audience the majority of which was under 35, have enjoyed the event and were actively curious to find as much as possible about the music, the performers and their instruments – composers, bow structure, childhood and much more. I only regret we did not have enough time for a traditional “post-event” cup of tea. Next time, perhaps as they want us back.
Our unanimous impression of this visit was extremely positive and optimistic – classical music has hit the right chord in men’s minds and hearts..