For arts organizations across the province, space is at a premium these days. As the pandemic continues on and health and safety guidelines remain in place (either limiting the use of spaces, or closing them altogether), there’s not a lot of options for choirs, music, dance and theatre groups, and others to have safe, socially distanced rehearsals, practices or performances. But one local arts organization and business are showing that it can be done.
Formerly known as the Newfoundland Symphony Youth Orchestra, CALOS Youth Orchestras is a community-based orchestral music organization (affiliated with Memorial University) consisting of young instrumentalists from St. John’s and surrounding communities on the Northeast Avalon and the Clarenville area. For just over four decades now, the organization has been providing musicians aged 8-25 with accessible, high-quality orchestra and ensemble experiences, as well as public, competitive and outreach performance opportunities.
“CALOS has established itself as one of the foremost training organizations for young musicians in this province and has proven instrumental in developing the musical, emotional and social growth of its members,” says Geoffrey Spencer, Office Lead Partner at McInnes Cooper’s St. John’s office and Chair of the Board of CALOS Youth Orchestras.
The pandemic has changed how a lot of arts groups operate, including CALOS, Spencer says, with many taking their activities online. But for those seeking physical spaces in which to practice, that can accommodate social distancing guidelines, it hasn’t been easy.
“While Memorial University’s School of Music is continuing online, it has closed its facilities, which has resulted in CALOS losing access to its rehearsal space. CALOS had attempted to proceed by way of weekly Zoom meetings, but it was no substitute for in-person rehearsals. A musician cannot get the orchestral experience from a Zoom meeting!” Spencer says.
CALOS began searching for rehearsal space around the city, Spencer says, but faced challenges around COVID-19 concerns and social distancing restrictions. But their luck soon turned around after reaching out to Charlie Oliver and the team at Martek Morgan Finch and Southwest Properties, who own Atlantic Place, about possibly using the downtown space.
“Their response was overwhelmingly positive. Not only did they provide the main floor for rehearsal space for the full orchestra, they also provided an office suite on the third floor, which enables separate sectional rehearsals for the brass and percussion section, woodwinds section and strings section,” Spencer says.
“Just a few months ago, CALOS was facing an uncertain future due to the pandemic and the closure of its rehearsal space. But thanks to Charlie Oliver and the team at Martek, CALOS is able to rehearse again as a full orchestra and can continue to provide a high quality orchestral experience for the benefit of its young musicians.”
The partnership, Spencer says, is a great example of how the business community can help the arts to weather the current storm. Brandon Copeland, Vice President, Management Services at Martek Morgan Finch, says it’s one of which they’re proud to be part.
“Martek Morgan Finch and Southwest Properties are happy to partner with CALOS for this endeavour. In a time of such uncertainty, music raises spirits and provides a pause from the world around us. We’re happy to be able to create a partnership that brings this relief to our building for our tenants and our visitors,” he says.
“Moreover, we’re happy to be working on an initiative that can add some vibrancy to our city’s downtown as we approach the holidays. We welcome everyone to the building to come and listen to these exceptional young performers.”