On Sunday afternoon we attended a 'standing room only' concert at the Central Heights Church. It was not a church event, but rather a community event that needed a sizable venue. It was the Recycled Orchestra Canadian tour. It was an interesting and unique production and as I tend to address the good and the bad in my reviews of books, movies and concerts, I will get the bad out of the way first as there is plenty of good.
The 16 person orchestra is from Asuncion, Paraguay and the young people in the retinue are all from a community of 25,000 who live on the outskirts of the city, on and in and near the garbage dump. None of them spoke English so there was an interpreter. Naturally, any aspect of the program that was not musical took twice as long, and the orchestra leader loved to talk. The interpreter was not great, nor articulate, which made for some frustrating moments.
The instruments are all made from recycled garbage. One of their mottos is "They bring us garbage, we bring them music". The violins were tin cans and baking pans with wooden spoons used for frets and string supports. A guitar was made from two large candy tins. The base Viola was a recycled oil can. The saxophone was made from plumbing parts. Knowing this, it was surprising that any sound came out of the instruments at all. There was a cheap and tinny sound at times, and obviously the instruments were very difficult to tune to each other, and to keep in tune.
If one could overlook these aspects of the afternoon concert, there was much positive to take away. The event was a fund raiser for providing a community center for their city, and supplying funds for education for the children of the garbage dump. The fact that these kids were travelling outside of South America and playing to full houses speaks volumes about this wonderful opportunity that has been created for and by them. To find a vehicle to lift people out of poverty and give an opportunity for them to express the music within them, and bring joy to others while doing so is certainly a great accomplishment. Yes, it was too long and people were walking out, but the chance to see this amazing group of young people and what they have done with so little was worth it.