St. Alban’s hoping to help disadvantaged youth by supporting local arts programs

Violinist Michael Swan stands in front of Gillian Lyons while they play their version of traditional hymns at St. Alban's Anglican Cathedral on Nov. 3, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

“Kids that were involved in the orchestra weren’t interested in joining gangs and they became supports for one another.” – Kathleen Clarke

St. Alban’s Anglican Cathedral in Prince Albert is supporting two arts programs through a recital series.

The church is raising money for the Firebird North Sistema Music Project and Voices of the North with four concerts highlighting a variety of artists.

Saskatoon violinist Michael Swan and pianist Gillian Lyons played in Sunday’s concert. The pair performed their own versions of traditional hymns.

“Within the Anglican tradition, we have kind of a long association with music. We already had this recital project in mind. We thought ‘Well let’s help people, how can we help people?’ Let’s in a sense feed the system through helping youth with music,” said Priest and Curate David Butorac.

He said he wanted to help youth find their passion. It may especially help with those who are disadvantaged, who may otherwise lead a life of gangs, violence or addictions.

“We really just want kids to find something interesting that they love and really any music will do,” said Butorac.

“When you get really passionate about something, all the other things that you might do as a disadvantaged youth, which are probably a little bit more harmful to yourself, you’re not doing that. You’re falling in love with music; you’re creating music; you’re working with other people.”

Voices of the North has been operating for nearly 30 years. The initiative was founded by Sheryl Kimbley, who’s on the St. Alban’s congregation.

Voices of the North celebrates northern Indigenous artists during the Prince Albert Winter Festival and throughout the year, showcasing traditional drummers, musicians and dancers.

Firebird North Sistema Music Project, on the other hand, is just getting started. It will teach youth music, yoga and dance.

Kathleen Clarke decided to start the program in Prince Albert after coming across a similar one in Venezuela.

“The plan was to provide some activity for the kids after school. Something skill-based, something group-based,” said Clarke.

“There were so many other positive community benefits that grew out of that because the kids that were involved in the orchestra weren’t interested in joining gangs and they became supports for one another.”

She’s hoping those benefits will translate to the 14 kids who have registered for the program so far.

Clarke said they’ll be holding classes at King George Community School with 34 donated instruments.

She said money is one of their biggest hurdles so far with the program being free of cost to the youth. She thanked St. Alban’s for helping them kickstart the initiative.

“It means the world to me. It’s huge, it’s huge. It’s that circling around, giving and getting back. The donation is so valuable to our program,” she said.

“The fact that it’s this brilliant musician Michael Swan, Gillian Lyons, who are so incredibly talented, who are such kind people themselves and such supporters of the arts themselves, that it’s this concert of theirs that’s going back towards our program, it just feels so warm.”

Swan is the Concertmaster of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra and a well-known soloist beyond Saskatoon.

Lyons used to attend the St. Alban’s church and was influenced by John V. Hicks—the organist and choirmaster there during her childhood. She played the piano that was once owned by composer and music teacher Marjorie Hicks, John’s wife.