Sometime after 70, roughly, most of us will face the most intense mental and physical challenges of our lives. So why do so many people over 50 think it is OK to get weaker as they age? I mean in terms of cardiovascular ability and muscle mass. My plan, and it has worked for a few years now and I am in my mid sixties, is to each year be noticeably stronger this year than last year. I expect this will work until at least 70, hopefully longer. I’m in training.
Dylann McPherson is a multi-talented (music, dance, acting, painting) artist who just graduated from LV Rogers Secondary School this year. She is an example of something I go on about a lot: there are many people of high school age in this town whose talent and accomplishments go mostly unrecognized and underestimated in the adult world of Nelson. If you watch this video, look at what she does starting at about 3:25. This performance, with Dylann as soloist, is by a small group of Corazón members at the choir’s year-end concert in June 2012.
Corazón is a 65-member auditioned youth choir in Nelson B.C. directed by Allison Girvan. I am the group’s manager.
I have decided to post this experimental video I made recently, experimental in the sense that I am new to making videos.
There is some background to it. When my daughter Rosie was about 13, she and I spent a weekend at the Yasodhara Ashram on Kootenay Lake. It introduced her to some new things because we temporarily joined a group of people living a spiritual retreat life, eating silent meals together, participating in a devotional practice, and working on the grounds and buildings and fields for the sake of the community. She is a very thoughtful person and this alternative lifestyle gave her lots to ponder.
One of the reasons it made an impression on her was that so many of the people living there were young: they were in their teens, twenties, thirties. There was some gray hair too of course but it was mostly a youthful presence. We worked a couple of half-days– that was part of the weekend stay there. Our job was slicing apples and canning tomatoes in the summer kitchen. This was food they’d grown there at the Ashram and were preserving.
Rosie really loved working in the summer kitchen.
Here is the video, taken in the fall of 2011. The “attitude” shown by Rosie in a couple of places is just because I didn’t warn her I was going to video her and she was a bit uncomfortable about that– actually she still really likes it at the Ashram.
At Corazón’s year-end concert last May, the grandfather of one of the singers remarked, “Those boys don’t look like choir boys. They look like basketball players!”
Some of the Corazon boys in the rehearsal room at the Rocky Mountain Festival in Banff, May 2011 (Photo by Bill Metcalfe)
Corazón’s director, Allison Girvan, has succeeded in overcoming the perception among many young people in Nelson that choral singing is uncool for boys. Five years ago there were no boys in Corazón and now there are 20—just under a third of the 67-member group.
Of course there are bigger stereotypes about teenagers than what kind of kid wants to sing in a choir, and Corazón is busy destroying some of those too.
...and some of the girls (Photo by Bill Metcalfe)
Audiences sense immediately that the teenagers in Corazón are not superficial, addicted to their phones or the net or junk food, lazy, uninformed about the world, slaves to peer pressure and fashion, or too young to take seriously as artists. Of course some of them may have bits of those characteristics, but that’s because they are human beings, not because they are teenagers.
Audiences can sense also that these singers are not just lone music geeks, but are travelling busily in the mainstream of teenage life, propelled by other artistic activities, sports, homework, parties, part-time jobs, social media, and networks of friends.
Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountain Festival, 2011
Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountain Festival 2011
But they are different, too, in their own way. For many of them, their Corazón life exists outside their usual social and family networks. From different towns, social groups, and ages (12 to 21), they are here together because they love to sing and because their beloved mentor, Allison, fosters their singing with style, patience, humour, rigour, and unwavering respect for them and the music within them.
Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountain Festival 2011
As a result of all that, audience members see, often with tears unexpectedly welling up, that Corazón embodies the things that youth at its best can offer us if given a chance: playfulness, humour, curiosity, openness to new experience, a fresh perception of the world, huge ability to learn, creativity, concern for the planet, potential for artistic excellence now, and the ability to form incredibly deep friendships. Most of them have more of those things going on than do most adults.
And the singers get a chance to explore and not supress those things, outside of school and conventional peer relationships and family, in a multi-age, safe, expertly mentored artistic community.
In my little part time job as their manager, I get to appreciate this, observe it, try to enhance it in some small ways, enjoy their company every week at rehearsal, and go on trips with them sometimes. I get to work with one of the greatest mentors of young artists anywhere, and to be at the service of one of our town’s most excellent performing groups.
The thing I liked most about it was that it made a bunch of teenagers look good.
I’m talking about my radio documentary that was aired recently on CBC’s North by Northwest about the amazing situation at LVR where Robyn Sheppard has a class whose only project for the entire school year is to make a feature film, with the help of mentoring expertise from the community. It is called Project Turquoise Snowflake and it has a website.
Several high school students said some things in that documentary that make my head spin. They are so insightful and mature and funny. You can listen to a podcast of the documentary here.
They make me grateful that we don’t have to totally rely for inspiration and creativity on adults, who, despite the fact that we like to make disparaging comments about teenagers, don’t have a great track record. Nuclear accidents. Financial ruin. People starving. (The teenagers notice this.)
Here’s a photo of another great group of teenagers.
And speaking of mentors....Dylann McPherson, Gillian Lippert, Hannah Lingard, Rachel Berg, with another of our great mentors of young people, Allison Girvan, from a concert by Corazon in Trail BC March 2011, photo by Bill Metcalfe