Family Day, February 8, 2014

Falaise Community Hall, Vancouver BC

Composition by Democracy!  Can it work?

Mark Haney proved it can with EAST SIDE ANIMALS, in which he led 75 “non-musical” primary students to connect with music and their imaginations to compose themes for 8 animals. Their work over several months culminated in a magical, packed, free public event featuring a mask-making workshop led by Diane Park, with Mark’s finished musical work performed by an ensemble of Vancouver’s finest classical musicians!  EAST SIDE ANIMALS was truly a community event, through which neighbours met each other, artists made connections, and many people enjoyed their very first contemporary classical music experience in this relaxed and welcoming setting.

We are proud to have met our ambitious objectives with the East Side Animals Community Composition Project:  to create an exceptional piece of contemporary classical music; to actively engage children with its creation; to connect those children to the history of the place in which they live; and to create new connections for the children and their families within their extremely diverse (economically and culturally) community.

Thank you to the many young composers at Nootka, Thunderbird and Vancouver Christian School!

Mark Haney created and led this Community Composition Project, part of the Falaise Park Field House Residency, with guests Nicole Lizee, Krista Woodlet and Mark Takeshi McGregor, and the assistance of Diane Park. Masks by Diane Park and Lesley Rawling. Video/photo documentation by Diane Park.

  • Justin Beaver (trombone) Jeremy Berkman
  • Professor O the Owl (cello) Marina Hasselberg
  • Sir Chubby the Bear (double bass) Megan Bradfield
  • Lady A the Crow (clarinet) AK Coop
  • Ms. Cranium the Crane (bassoon) Ingrid Chiang
  • Boom Boom the Woodpecker (flute) Paolo Bortolussi
  • Fluffy the Fox (violin) Mark Ferris
  • Pinky the Salmon (viola) Marcus Takizawa
  • Mask performers:  Danielle Girard and Koralee Nickarz

Initially Mark spent 8 weeks working with 75 children in 3 East Vancouver schools; a grade 1 class at Nootka, and grade 5 classes at Thunderbird and Vancouver Christian. Inspired by the animals depicted in Falaise Park’s beautiful stone mosaic, I led the children in shaping the musical themes for 8 indigenous animals, having them connect their imaginations with sound and music through careful listening. All material was voted on, arranged and edited by all 3 classes – Composition By Democracy! From the animal’s attributes and names (ie Justin Beaver) to the melodies and musical structures, every student had a chance to shape every aspect of these themes. Guest artists Nicole Lizee, Krista Wodelet and Mark McGregor enriched the experience further. As the weeks passed, the children’s musical vocabularies expanded, and their attention to details increased. The level of engagement and enthusiasm (including from “difficult” students) far exceeded our expectations, as did the musical themes that resulted from this phase.

In the next phase, Mark spent several weeks creating a cohesive musical piece from those themes and orchestrating them for chamber group. He wrote narration that pulls together the “personalities” of the animals as decided by the students, as well as the history of the neighbourhood, and even the process of community composition that created the piece.

According to their teachers, students at Nootka and Thunderbird (both “have not” schools) are rarely able to attend events held outside school hours; thus, Friday afternoon, February 7, we held a “rehearsal” to which the 3 classes were invited to come hear the finished piece – we even hired a school bus to transport those classes to our venue, Falaise Community Hall. 8 of Vancouver’s finest professional musicians performedEast Side Animals. The children loved the performance, and seemed astonished at what they had accomplished and at the praise the musicians gave them for helping compose such a great piece of new music! It was magical.

Finally, Saturday, February 8, around 100 people participated in our free Family Day event. In spite of being located in an area of the city most Vancouverites have never heard of, the Falaise Community Hall was packed! The event started with Diane’s animal mask-making workshop, which was a huge success, as was the performance of East Side Animals. The wonderful music and narration held the audience entranced, including the many young children in attendance.

We could not have envisioned a better result to the East Side Animals Community Composition Project!