Families in Brantford gathered at Lynden Park Mall on September 25, to watch as various local performing arts groups entertained shoppers with both song and theatre.
The event, created as a fun way to promote the upcoming seasons of several musical and theatre groups from around Brantford, encouraged citizens to learn more about what the local performing arts organizations have to offer.
Participating groups included Brant Men of Song, Brantford Opera Guild, Brantford School of Instrumental Music, ICHTHYS Theatre Productions, Brantford Music Club, Brant Bell’A’Dears, Brantford Kiwanis Music Festival, Telephone City Musical Society, Theatre Brantford, Brantford Symphony Orchestra, Brant Taletellers Guild, and the Grand River Chorus.
With a number of diverse groups participating and performing roughly every half hour in the mall, it was clear to see that the Brant Performing Arts boastful slogan, “Join us for a day, stay for a season,” might actually come true.
One of the musical groups that performed throughout the day was the Brant Men of Song, an all male chorus that sang soft and soothing renditions of “Unchained Melody” and “Lily of the Valley.” As one of the older musical groups, the chorus has a long running history performing in Brantford and the surrounding area.
“Brant Men of Song is now in their 51st season,” says Bill Schatz, current conductor of the chorus. “I don’t remember how they started, except that they were a bunch of old guys that wanted to sing in a parking lot,” he said with a laugh.
“They formed in 1961 because they had an idea to get together to promote singing in the city of Brantford,” interjects Amy Groleau, former conductor and current accompanist of the group. “And, over the years they continued their idea and branched out into music lessons and concerts.”
Although the average age of the Brant Men of Song falls under what some would call “the senior category,” Groleau says they are now focusing on bringing in younger members.
“If any friends from Laurier want to join, then they’re more than welcome to. We’re looking to recruit new members as young as in their twenties,” Groleau explains.
“There is a limitation of gender, but age is definitely not a factor,” agrees Schatz.
Among the theatre groups that performed at the mall was ICHTHYS Theatre Productions, a community theatre company that launched in 2000. Their performances throughout the day included a scene from Macbeth, a humorous retelling of “The Three Little Pigs” from the Big Bad Wolf’s perspective, and a monologue from the Broadway musical Funny Girl.
The exceptional diverse range of plays that were being showcased at the mall is something that ICHTHYS founder and artistic director, Lorna Stratton, prides herself on.
“We like to do innovative and interactive theatre, often it’s surround theatre so that we’re in amongst the audience,” says Stratton. “Now we do four shows a year, two of them are geared towards children and families, and then we also have two adult shows as well.”
ICHTHYS mission is to increase the public’s awareness and appreciation of the performing arts by focusing on life issues and social themes that are relevant and thought-provoking, especially to today’s youth.
“I think theatre is important in a city of any size. There are a lot of kids that aren’t really into sports and they want to be able to do other things. And with our company we provide them with the opportunity to explore, to discover theatre, and to really discover themselves,” explains Stratton.
Many of the musical and theatre groups within Brant Performing Arts have similar beliefs when it comes to the importance of the arts in the city. The main goal of these groups is to promote their talent, interest both adults and youth in the arts they have to offer, and to develop Brantford into a more diverse and artistic community.