Hot Dam!

Okay bunnies, it’s confession time again.

I love going on school field trips.  And I’ve done them all:  from High Park and The Science Centre, to Tafelmusik and my latest:  The Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Young People’s Concerts.

Yeah, field trips invariably include rain, steamy schoolbuses and the $100,000 questions:  why is Billy sitting over the wheel again and who’s got a carsick bag?

Or there’s the constant head counting, on (1-2-3-4-5-6..) and off (1-2-3-4-5-6…) of every form of public transportation that this lovely city has to offer.  Ahh…those moments of horror when you think you’ve lost one of the little blighters delights, only to realise that they’ve taken off their hat and now you have to remember to find and count a head of tousled brown hair.

Because I’m a field trip veteran, the teacher often hands me the list of kids in my group with a nervous smile that says “good luck”.

Inevitably I’m in charge of either The Runner or the Talker.  If you’ve ever been on a field trip with a bunch of elementary school children, you know these two characters well.  The Runner is that kid who doesn’t think “stay with your group” applies to them and is never where you last put them.  If you look away for two seconds, they are usually as far away from you as is possible (don’t let those little legs fool you, The Runner can move like they’re channelling Usain Bolt and just so you know, the Science Centre is reeeaaaally big – but <ahem> I digress.)

The Talker on the other hand, is the one who is glued to you the whole trip, talking incessantly, until by the time you get them back to school, you know far, far more about them and their family than you probably should.

By now you’re probably thinking “Didn’t you say you love field trips?  Doesn’t sound like it.”  But truth be told, despite the stress <bows to teachers everywhere> I get it.  It’s a field trip, which means no matter where you’re going, it’s a day spent NOT AT SCHOOL – woot!

And for me, I get to go places and experience things that I’d never get to do otherwise….okay, fine – I’m as big a kid as the rest of them.  But I also understand that The Runner is just really curious and The Talker is often hilarious and they’re all a blast if you just see the world through their eyes.

And what better way to experience the world through the eyes and mind of a curious child, than my latest foray into the wonders of educational field trips in Toronto, a visit to “Lights, Camera, Orchestra!” part of the Young People’s Concert series presented by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and featuring the short film, “Dam!  The Story of Kit the Beaver.”


The audience, comprised of school groups from around the city, settled in to the always stunning Roy Thompson Hall for a whirlwind tour of the role that classical music plays in often surprising places, including some of the most iconic television, film and ballet productions in the world.  From Mission Impossible through Bugs Bunny, Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, Blue Danube and Jaws; the orchestra, led by the infectious enthusiasm and seemingly boundless energy of conductor Earl Lee, effectively illustrated  to the lively audience, how music tells a story.

Earl Lee conducts Lights, Camera... Orchestra @Jag Gundu

Sprinkled throughout the presentation were opportunities for the kids to get involved, and the students gleefully jumped in to voice the title shout from Leonard Bernstein’s “Mambo”.

Earl Lee, TSO (school concert) @Jag Gundu

Now I’ll admit, I was a little nervous when I realised that a large portion of the audience were armed with recorders – the instrument, not the device.  I played the recorder at school and well, we all know it doesn’t always do well in groups.  But when Mr. Lee and the orchestra led the recorder-welding students through a boisterous rendition of the theme from Star Wars, I was cheering – it was awesome!

And just when the kid in me couldn’t get more excited, the orchestra introduced us to Kit the Beaver.  Dam!  The Story of Kit the Beaver is a short film, commissioned by the TSO in partnership with the Toronto International Film Festival for the Canada 150 celebrations.

It is brilliant and so quintessentially Canadian.

I was blown away, not just by the animation of the story, but by how it was told so beautifully by the orchestra:  bringing home to the audience, the integral role of music to convey emotion in film.

I won’t give you any spoilers, except to say that I loved it.  Indeed, there was much ugly crying by the end, because, well – little beaver, big heart, huge dam issues and friends who save the day…<sniffle> it was <sniffle> fantastic!

Happily, you can experience Kit’s adventures for yourself – and you really, really should!  Bring your kids – and if you’re a sentimental blubberer like myself – your tissues, and head down to the TIFF Bell Lightbox to see it.  There’s even a Q&A with the director, Kjell Boersma on April 11th and 20th.

Be sure to check out the next TSO Young People’s concert –  The Hockey Sweater (the classic story by Roch Carrier with music by Abigail Richardson-Schulte) playing in April.


And to all you field trip moms and dads out there…I salute you!  May you always have a plastic bag in your pocket.


(Photo Credits:  Jag Gundu for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.)


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