Culture Days Project Assistant Reuben Finley recently spoke with Niagara Region’s award-winning composer and music educator Ennio Paola. Having introduced participants to pieces inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy at the City of Welland’s Public Library in 2010, this year Paola once again turned to municipal representatives in his search for a suitable venue. The Niagara Falls City Hall will be hosting his Culture Days 2011 activity, which will introduce participants to the history and melodic lines of Ragtime music. Click here to read Ennio Paola’s Sharing A Significant Music®™ activity description.
Culture Days -- What is your name and what do you do? What city and province are you in?
Ennio Paola -- My name is Ennio A. Paola. I’m the Founder, Collaborative Composer, Artistic Curator and Director of Significant Music®™. I live in Pickering, Ontario.
CD - How did you first hear about Culture Days?
EP -- Initially, through an ad in the Toronto Star. A few days later, I responded to a Call for Artists published in the Welland Tribune to participate in the 2010 City of Welland Culture Days.
CD -- What inspired you to get involved?
EP -- Immediately upon learning about Culture Days, I was drawn into the movement by a number of key factors, namely the quality of the project, its scope and the online support provided. Culture Days is a multi-layered, cross-disciplinary, pan-Canadian cultural movement. It encourages self-mobilized grassroots and collaborative involvement by individuals and organizations of all sizes. At both the provincial and national levels, participants are provided with free tools made available via solid sponsors and supporters, who add further credibility to the project.
CD -- What activity did you organize for Culture Days 2010 and what made it unique?
EP -- My Culture Days 2010 activity was titled Sharing a Significant Music®™ / SOUNDtracks: Deciphering the “Dante and Music” Code. It was presented at the Welland Public Library. That particular project was based on two original solo piano works of mine which were acknowledged in the scholarly text “Dante and Music: Musical Adaptations of the Commedia from the Sixteenth Century to the Present” by Prof. Maria Ann Roglieri (Ashgate Press, Aldershot, UK). Incidentally, a copy of that text was donated to the Welland Public Library a couple years ago and catalogued in the Library’s Local History Section... I suppose that means that through my compositions, I’m already recognized as a notable historical figure in my community! (laughs)
Since medieval times, a staggering number of visual works have been created in connection to a particular Cantica (Book) or Canto (Poem) within the “Divine Comedy” - Gustave Doré’s illustrations are well-known examples of this. Unfortunately, when it comes to music, examples have been few and far between. With “Dante and Music” however, there now exists a much needed, well respected resource on this topic. Aside from showcasing a fair number of noted composers such as Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti, Granados and Dallapiccola, Prof. Roglieri analyzes and presents a generous account of lesser known works, including my two contributions on this subject, “LUX IN TENEBRIS: La Commedia di Dante ~ Cantica I: Canto I (Lost In A Dark Wood) and Cantica III : Canto XXXIII (Dante Beholds the Universe)”.
For my Culture Days 2010 activity, a select number of musical excerpts by other composers opened my presentation, which was immediately followed by an examination of the creative process of musical composition. Amongst other things, participants were acquainted with the original alpha code I created for Cantica I: Canto I (Lost In A Dark Wood).
CD -- Are there any moments during the lead up to and during Culture Days weekend that really stand out in your mind?
EP -- Audience attendance, though small, was supported by a mix of on-site staff, young student walk-ins, and friends ranging from ones not seen in years to others who drove two hours to attend. Audience feedback was highly positive, with most finding this presentation to be a satisfying experience, which in retrospect could only happen as a result of Culture Days; Culture Days has the flexibility to encourage projects based more on artistic merit than financial gain.
CD -- After your first experience with Culture Days in 2010, what longer-term benefits or lasting outcomes have you identified for continued annual participation? Challenges?
EP -- Awareness, inspiration and new connections were some of the main benefits. For me to have participated as one small voice within a larger artistic community was indeed an honour. I came away feeling “quasi-torn” that my own commitments, along with time and distance, would not allow me to attend and participate in a number of interesting Culture Days Weekend offerings taking place across Canada.
Experience causes me to believe that connections established during Culture Days 2010 will encourage many towards a continued, annual, participation. The Culture Days weekend is indeed a year-long “Days of Culture” endeavour --- one that supports Canadian culture at home, and in a global arena. Culture Days’ success and long-term community benefits can only be measured as a year-round process in cultural engagement. It’s more than a three-day event - Culture Days promotes cultural awareness as a year-long endeavour. That last point cannot be stressed enough. Municipalities which have in that sense fully embraced Culture Days have designated and supported regional point persons, kept up to date with Culture Days Newsletters and participated in the regularly scheduled free Culture Days Tele-Info Sessions. Their success stories are an inspiration for communities across the country.
CD -- What did you learn from your experience of Culture Days that would be useful for other activity organizers to know?
EP -- Visit the Culture Days Web Site often, sign up to receive Culture Days e-Newsletters, participate in as many Tele-Session Conference Calls as possible, keep in touch with Provincial and National Culture Days representatives to share your voice in the development of a Pan-Canadian artistic movement for all.
CD -- Can you give us a hint as to what you are planning for your 2011 Culture Days activity?
EP -- For Culture Days 2011, “Sharing A Significant Music®™” is entering the first year of a four year commitment to celebrating the original Pan-American | Pan-Canadian Ragtime Era (1897-1917); the Ragtime Revival Period in Canada (1960’s-1980); including related music forms. A companion “Rag Times and Eclectic Related Music” catalogue of works will be used as a resource to discuss “Ragtime Music in Canada”, with emphasis placed on local-regional contributions to the genre. Furthermore, a planned hands-on Rhythmic Activity will demonstrate steps involved in “ragging” a simple melodic line. Not to be missed!
CD -- What do you feel is the impact of culture in your community?
EP -- Due to the limited access to concert halls, art galleries and theatres in the Welland-Niagara and West Durham regions, neighbouring communities take in a greater share of economical and non-economical benefits of arts and culture. In my opinion, the greatest impact of culture comes directly from arts instruction and through the contact students of all ages have with teachers when they study music, dance, visual arts, etc. I therefore truly believe initiatives such as Culture Days to be vital in providing best opportunity scenarios for artists and instructors of various arts disciplines, to advance the future directions culture will take within their own community --- and beyond.
As a personal credo, I have found the following three ideals optimum, as handy reminders, on a regular basis: 1) when handed a lemon ... make lemonade! 2) always move forward with a tradition of success! 3) never, ever, ever, give up ... on Culture!
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