Halifax music presenter Cecilia Concerts believes everyone needs music. However, it is not always accessible.
Everyone deserves the opportunity to experience live music, but the way music concerts are traditionally offered means they are not always accessible to everyone. – Anna Plaskett
To help change that, they have teamed up with award-winning pianist Jennifer King and certified music therapist Anna Plaskett for a trio of sensory-friendly classical music concerts.
Each show has been designed to be accessible for autistic, neurodivergent, and intellectually disabled community members and their families.
The free shows, to be held at the Halifax Central Library’s Paul O’Regan Hall, will see King joined by a different musician each time, offering a variety of musical experiences.
Noise-reduction headphones will be available for use, and an adjacent “quiet room” for audience members who need a break from the concert environment. Lighting in the concert hall will be low, and those with hyposensitivity to sound are encouraged to come onto the stage floor during the performance, where the volume is louder.
Audience members will also be invited to move their bodies and vocalize along with the music freely. In addition, silent handclapping will be used to applaud the performers after each musical selection. Trained volunteers will facilitate these interactions so that family members and caregivers can relax and enjoy the performances.
“The process of preparing concerts has been eye-opening and educational for me, and the other musicians involved,” says King. “We are so excited to welcome and foster a new audience of classical concert goers in a warm, informal, and inclusive atmosphere.”
The first concert in the series, taking place on April 3, features award-winning Wolfville-based flutist Derek Charke with pianist King performing a program of works from the Baroque era by composers Antonio Vivaldi, Georg Philipp Telemann, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Giovanni Battista Martini.
In the second concert in the series on May 1, award-winning cellist Norman Adams joins King in performing a range of Romantic to contemporary works designed for calm introspection and contemplation.
The final concert of this first series takes place on June 5 with Symphony Nova Scotia’s French horn player Mary Lee and violinist Isabelle Fournier. They will perform with King a selection of fun and contrasting works from the Romantic Era by composers Edward Elgar, Charles Gounod, and Claude Debussy.
“Everyone deserves the opportunity to experience live music, but the way music concerts are traditionally offered means they are not always accessible to everyone,” says Plaskett. “I am excited to see and learn from the audience response and adapt the concert atmosphere to make it as welcoming, inclusive, and enjoyable for everyone as we move through the three-concert series.”
A series of introductory videos will be featured on the Cecilia Concerts YouTube channel before each concert as a guide to attending and preparing audience members for the shows.
Pre-registration for each concert is required online at ceciliaconcerts.ca, as seating is limited.
Cecilia Concerts is already planning a second, expanded season of eight shows next fall and winter.