Opera Kelowna brings the music to the people

The society is serenading seniors as a way to give back during this difficult time

Opera Kelowna’s artists are using their talents to bring smiles to the city’s seniors in a series of performances titled Sidewalk Serenades.

The chair of the board of directors for Opera Kelowna, Allan Neilson, said they knew there are many residents who don’t do well with being cooped up inside.

“This initiative is really an opportunity for us to find out what we can do for our community during this time because there are a lot of people in the community who don’t do very well in a shutdown situation like this,” he said.

“In particular, one of the groups that are vulnerable to isolation and the mental health issues that come with it are our seniors. So we decided to find a way to bring them some joy.”

Neilson added they know long-term care facilities are hotspots for COVID-19 outbreaks across the country, so they’ve been extra careful with their performances.

Opera Kelowna put on the first performance for Sidewalk Serenades on April 24. They put on a second performance at Glenmore Lodge on April 29. Neilson said the singers each prepare their favourite songs and perform those, instead of having a prescribed setlist. He also said each performance has a different number of singers each time, depending on the songs and the location.

“It’s not great right now, especially in these conditions under which we’re living, but this is something to hopefully help them feel better and brighten their day and let them know that despite all that’s going on right now, there’s still this intrinsically beautiful art-form called opera,” Neilson said.

He added that the Sidewalk Serenades is a great platform for their artists to keep performing.

“As you know, all across the country and various performing arts groups, there’s a lot of anxiety right now on the part of singers and performers who just can’t do what they were born to do, as well as the financial implications of not being able to perform but (Sidewalk Serenades) gives them a way to still do what they do best.”

Neilson said the group’s main priority is to sing to residents at seniors’ care facilities but other residents can also request a serenade in their neighbourhood, provided Opera Kelowna’s singers are available to do it.

He said the pandemic has been devastating not just for Opera Kelowna, but for many other performing arts groups throughout the country.

“We had a very exciting 2020 season that was supposed to kick off in May and go through the summer, but we’ve had to postpone it for the next season. We’ve also had to put on hold our training program for emerging artists,” Neilson said.

“It’s been difficult… besides having to cancel the bulk of our season, our sponsorships and grants have also dried up. Everybody is going through a downturn in terms of what they can support these days. These are difficult times and we need the community now more than ever, but in the meantime, we really wanted to make the best out of the situation and give back to the community.”

For more information on Sidewalk Serenades and to suggest a residence for a serenade, visit Opera Kelowna’s website.

READ: RDCO hosts Okanagan Shines Spring Poetry Contest

READ: Ballet Kelowna feeling the impact of COVID-19 shutdowns

Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
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