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Hemmingford concert raises money for ‘A Book for Every Child’

Sundays in Hemmingford are usually very quiet, but that was not the case on Sunday, February 18, as the parking lot at St. Romain’s Catholic Church was filled right up. The Hemmingford Community Library, in collaboration with Scholastic Canada, Caisse Desjardins, and the municipalities of the village and township of Hemmingford collaborated to hold a benefit concert. Claude de Bellefeuille (MP for Salaberry-Suroit) and Carole Mallette (MNA for Huntingdon) also supported the fundraiser.


The view from the balcony of St Romains Church as Isabelle Ricard takes the stage with<br >Otto Venti PHOTOS Yvonne Lewis Langlois

This is the fourth year for the project “One Book for Every Child” which gives a book to every student in both the English and French elementary schools in Hemmingford. The books are intended to be read for pleasure and are offered in support of UNESCO’s World Book Day, which advocates children having a choice of what they read.

Céline Daignault, president of the Hemmingford community library, greeted guests at the entrance of the church. As patrons filed in, they deposited their donations in a box at the church doors. The crowd of just over 100 was chatty, as people visited with neighbors and friends. Everyone seemed glad to be out and about, and eager to enjoy the four-part concert.

Musician Alain Lefebvre was the master of ceremony for this event. He thanked everyone for their support and introduced the musicians who were assembled on the main church altar. He was joined by Daignault, who spoke of her gratitude to all assembled but also thanked the many volunteers who run the library, which celebrates 50 years this year. “Volunteers are at the heart of the library,” she said. She also spoke with feeling of one particular volunteer, Jean Pierre Paiement, who had worked hard on this project but died suddenly before Christmas.

The music

Otto Venti, an ensemble of eight wind instruments, performed first. The group is composed of two oboes played by Jean-Michel Dubois and Anne Lise Sarter; two clarinets played by Caroline Morin and Jean-François Beaubien; two bassoons played by Philip De Quehen and Jade Jolicoeur, and two horns played by Denis Bellemare and Alain Lefebvre. The ensemble was directed by Jocelyn Veilleux. This type of wind orchestra was very popular at the end of the eighteenth century in Vienna.

Otto Venti is directed by Jocelyn Veilleux

The theme was “Dances and Folklore.” It began as Otto Venti performed two Hungarian dances by Johannes Brahms. They were then joined by mezzo-soprano Isabelle Ricard, who stepped up to the microphone to perform Kindertotenlieder#1. This piece by Gustav Mahler was based on poems written by Friedrich Rückert.

Isabelle Ricard is a gifted mezzo-soprano, but she has many other talents. She plays recorder and flute and has bachelor’s degrees in both industrial design and performance and classical singing from the University of Montreal. She sings with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal and will perform with Les Grand Ballets Canadiens and the Opera de Montreal later this year. With her partner Normand Guénette she also owns Chat Botté, an organic vineyard in Hemmingford.

Isabelle Ricard is accompanied by pianist Pierre McLean

Ricard then performed five songs accompanied by Pierre McLean on piano. Her full, rich voice frolicked through Francis Poulenc’s Les Chemins de l’Amour to end with a very dramatic O Ma Lyre Immortelle composed by Charles Gounod. Soprano Nathalie Germain was supposed to perform with Ricard but was unable to attend the concert as her father was ill.

For the fourth part of the concert, Otto Venti returned to the stage to perform the four movements of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 for the grand finale. The audience rose quickly in a standing ovation as the musicians took their final bows.

“It was a labour of love for so long,” says Daignault of the concert. The goal was to raise $2500 for the cause, and the concert brought in a good portion of that money.

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