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Eclectic fare offered by Novalis Project
by Julie DeBruin - The Barrie Advance

A cosy little hall just west of Barrie will be home to world-class music this summer. Teresa O'Driscoll is the project co-ordinator for the summer music season at Novalis Hall, and she's excited by the talent that has been drawn together for this, the second season of what been called the Novalis Project.

The seven-sided hall, which seats 200, is part of Camphill Communities, a village in which volunteers and adults with special needs live and work together.

"I just find it enchanting," said O'Driscoll, who was first introduced to the hall and community a couple years ago. "I (thought) how wonderful it would be to bring great artists I've worked with over the years, and stimulate them as well. The acoustics are beautiful.

" The hall was named after Novalis, an 18th-century German poet and scientist who believed the human heart found creative expression in the arts.

The more the heart was engaged, the more fully people lived their lives and the more sincere people's interest in one another became, which provided a basis for social renewal.

O'Driscoll describes the project as a modest effort.

This summer's season offers something that can be enjoyed by all. Music, after all, she pointed out, has been a part of people's collective past for centuries.

The Irish performer came to Barrie in 2000 after she gave a concert at a local Anglican church. She is a singer, poet and storyteller.

"That's my thing," she said, from her office on the second floor of a restored home in downtown Barrie. She is also an author. Her first book, In the Deep Heart's Core, was published in 2000, and she is just putting the finishing touches on her second book, a journey of her life.

She had originally planned to return to her native Ireland following her performance, but decided to stay in Barrie, and shortly after, discovered Novalis Hall. Two of her children also live in this area and are involved in the project.

O'Driscoll is enthralled with the Camphill community and it residents.

"They focus on ability, they don't focus on disability," she said. The residents of the 280-acre community support themselves by raising and selling meat and vegetables, weaving and crafts. The villagers have also attended the performances. "The village listens with their hearts, it's a deeper way to experience music," she said.

The Novalis Project was born last year: its crowning glory was a performance by Symphony at the Barn Chamber Players. O'Driscoll explained this group is made up of gifted young performers from around the world who come to stay on a working biodynamic farm belonging to Michael and Dorothea Schmidt in Durham, Ont.

The performance was magical, said O'Driscoll, recalling the summer afternoon, where the performers mingled with the villagers and visitors who came from as far away as Toronto to listen.

This group will be playing at Novalis again this year. Its performance, From Classical to Jazz, an Exploration of Form, will be performed on Saturday, July 24.

The project has put be an emphasis on jazz this year. "It's the music of North America," said O'Driscoll. "It's a contemporary sound that highlights improvisation."

Jazz musicians can listen to each other ... how they come into harmony (and that) they have to come into harmony moment to moment. There is no better connection between the audience and performer. "Each performance is different, if they're doing their job."

The remaining two musical performances of the year will be Hilario Duran Trio out of Cuba. "Cuban music is the sound of community," she said, pointing out its culture has been shielded from America for a generation. "They have been isolated from the rest of the world for so many years. The music is such a natural expression of their lives," O'Driscoll added. Her daughter, Emer, will be singing with the group.

The final performers will be Esmeralda Enrique, Spanish Dance Company, set for Sept. 3.

Music isn't the only art to be featured at the hall this year.

O'Driscoll's son Robert, an actor, director and drama teacher, will be one of the leaders of the teen camp program.

The two-week drama summer camp will teach students voice and movement techniques, observation and imagination exercises, and games. It is geared for teens aged 15 to 19 and will run between July 5 and 16.

The Colour World of Flowers, is an art workshop running five mornings a week starting Aug. 16

"You just have to love colour and love gardens," said O'Driscoll. This program will be run out of The Carriage House at 105 Toronto St.

The Novalis Project is also bringing Dr. Michael Lipson, a clinical psychologist in Massachusetts, for a two-day workshop and lecture the weekend of July 30 entitled From Emotion to Feeling.

He will explore how emotions can be transformed into heightened creative feeling.

For more information on the Novalis Project, or any of its programs, call 739-4114 or check out the Web site at www.novalisproject.com.


The Novalis Project is sponsored by The Ita Wegman Foundation
© 2016, Novalis Project, novalisproject.com. All Rights Reserved.