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Ignoring a treasure in our midst

I was in conversation with Andrew Bennett, CEO of the KW Symphony. He was telling me about a comment he hears, again and again, from first-time concert attenders: “I had no idea they were that good!”

Posted on Sun, Dec 1st, 2019 8:47 pm by Paul Knowles

I nodded wisely. But inside, I was cringing a bit, because while I have attended KW Symphony concerts in the past, it’s been years since I did, and I am just as guilty of forgetting that “they are that good.”

Andrew and I sit on the board of the Arts Awards Waterloo Region, and I wasn’t sure I could look him in the face at our next meeting if I didn’t act on his unintentional hint.

The next concert scheduled was “Shane Cook’s Celtic Canadian Roots,” a kind of fiddle fusion featuring Cook and his band of kitchen party-style performers and the full KW Symphony.

To steal a phrase, “I had no idea”.

I’m not going to pretend to review the concert – that would be a tad presumptuous, and would do nobody any good, since the event was held a week ago. But I will say… “Terrific!” I’d heard, and loved, lots of Celtic music before. We had Ashley MacIssac, the Irish Descendants and Laura Smith, at our New Hamburg Live! Festival, and enjoyed every moment. And I have heard quite a bit of symphonic music, and always enjoyed that, too.

But the combination thereof, brilliantly arranged and performed, was a revelation. I started smiling from the first note. I stopped… well, I have not stopped smiling, yet.

We all know the stereotype – people who live a few blocks from Niagara Falls but who never bother to go look at the Falls. Or Torontonians who have never visited the CN Tower or the Royal Ontario Museum.

I think we – you, me, our neighbours – are guilty of the same stereotypical behaviour. We live minutes from the greatest live theatre in North America and we don’t bother going. We live in a community with one of the best symphony orchestras in the country, and we ignore it. And this orchestra has worked very hard to develop a series of concerts with something for everyone – including, this year, everything from Mozart to Ella Fitzgerald to Harry Potter – and two evenings when the movie, “Back to the Future” is shown while the orchestra plays the score, live! C’mon, tell me you wouldn’t like a single one of those performances!

If we ignore such treasures in our midst, everyone loses. We lose, and so does the orchestra, because the arts don’t exist in a vacuum. They need our support – but the personal return on investment for that support is amazing. Did I mention I’m still smiling?