LGS at Work

The Lions Gate Sinfonia rehearse for the 2008 Christmas concert.


The Genesis of the Cascadia Project - Animal Tales

Often musicians don't have time to attend concerts, just to listen. An angel led me to one I attended at Kay Meek in the spring of 2009. I went mostly to hear my colleagues play but was curious about the handbell choir. I only knew the bells were played by a group of special needs individuals.

As I sat in the audience, I watched with interest as the handbell director put one or two bells in the hands of each person on the stage. On stage left sat the handbell performers, and in the middle of the stage, to form a  mirror horseshoe shape, was another group of individuals holding what looked like small harps and almost full-size cellos.

Shortly, all were ready and the director gracefully pointed to a handbell musician, and the beautiful mezmerizing tones of Mozarts' Ave Verum peeled out into the Kay Meek theatre. I looked around at my seatmates in astonishment and wondered, do they all think this is as incredible as I do?  I felt I had stepped into a world of purity and peace, and I couldn't breathe. I started to cry.

Each musician, so compelling to watch, waited with breathless and adoring anticipation for the cue from their magical director. As the director continued to “play” the handbell musicians, the accompaniment section in the middle of the stage laid down long drawn out pure tones and tinkling strums that added to the ambience. I was transported that night to a place I'd never been. I haven't been the same since.

A dream was born that night as I sat transfixed  – for Sinfonia Orchestra to present this wonderful community in a collaborative effort to the greater community. I felt even indignant that this group of wonderful human beings were relatively unknown. I was appalled I hadn't even known this wonderful group existed previously, and right in our backyard - North Vancouver. It became a mission. 

After the Kay Meek performance, I set up a meeting shortly thereafter with Lorna Fortin, Handbell Director, Patricia Smith, Executive Director of Cascadia and Ruth Tschannen, Eurythmy Specialist. It was March 2009. During this meeting, the dream gave birth to a May 2010 show called Animal Tales.  Because the companions love animals, the logical choices were “Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint Saens and “Peter and the Wolf “by Sergei Prokovief.

Now, professional musicians can learn a piece of music in two days, even one day, or one hour. The “companions” of Cascadia must practice for months.  

For a whole year, they perfected the movements about the swan, the elephant, the tortoise and the fossils. They also rehearsed non-stop for Peter and the Wolf, learning choreography and actions, how to be patient and how to act. Seven months later, as they gather in their big blue house near Mahon Park, they are still talking and laughing about it.  Their faces light up with a joy so pure it's painful. And humbling. And right.

Carolyn Canfield Cole, Spring 2009

This past Christmas 2012, the Lions Gate Sinfonia sponsored a tree in the Lynn Valley Community Association's Tree Walk in Library Square to raise money for the association and for the Lions Hamper Drive.