Chinese music group celebrates anniversary of program for newcomers

Toronto Public Library and settlement agency partners celebrate 16 years

Chinese music group performs
Musicians perform at the mini concert to build connections through Chinese music. (Marcia Dubsky/Toronto Observer)  

Toronto Si-Zhu Chinese Music Ensemble performed a mini-concert Oct. 12 at the Toronto Reference Library to celebrate the 16th anniversary of the library’ partnerships program to provide information and activities for newcomers to Toronto.

The group brought many different instruments from Chinese culture for the event.

“This year’s theme is to build connections and is to highlight the connections that we have lost during the pandemic,” said Elsa Ngan, senior services specialist for multicultural services at the Toronto Public Library.

“It’s a way to remind everyone to rebuild and to reconnect,” Ngan ssid.

The program, Library Settlement Partnerships, is funded by Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Canada, enable multilingual settlement workers from 15 Toronto Library branches to provide one-on-one information, and group activities for newcomers, according to Ngan.

“It is one way to bring everyone together to celebrate the partnership and to celebrate something like this concert,” she said.

The ensemble performs at open concerts, senior homes, and various community events to promote traditional Chinese music, according to a pamphlet handed by the Library at the event. 

The music program included music from Chinese culture such as “Melodies of Beijing Opera,” “Dance of the Golden Snake” and “Weaving the Rainbow.”

Yang-qin and Gu-Zheng play a duet at the concert at the library. (Marcia Dubsky/Toronto Observer)

Daniel Kwong, secretary of the band, said these events help immigrants to connect with people of different cultures. 

“Chinese music is an important element because we have a large number of Chinese immigrants every year in Canada,” Kwong said.

“We want to take this opportunity to welcome Chinese immigrants here, as well as to introduce Chinese music to other people who live in Canada,” he said. “They might not be too familiar with Chinese music.”

According to the 2021 census, more than 1.7 million people in Canada reported being of Chinese origin.

According to Kwong, immigrants are most vulnerable when they come to Canada and they need help from both the government and programs at large.

“The programs offered by the LSP are great because they help newcomers to get a job, help them to settle down, find a place to live and most importantly, help them to linger on with their own culture,” Kwong said. 

Coming to these events is a way to connect with others who might have similar questions about settling in Canada, organizers said. (Marcia Dubsky/Toronto Observer)

“We want them to continue here so that Canada continues to be the most diversified, cultural country in the world,” Kwong said.

In his speech to the gathering, Daniel Kwong said China is a big country with complex geographical regions and diversified features.

“Such diversities are reflected in 56 ethnic groups, different dialects and very distinct cultural traditions, including music. Today, our ensemble chooses a few sample pieces to showcase these different styles,” he said.

Helen Yu, a band member, who has lived in Canada for 40 years, says the concert helps community members to understand Chinese music better while being open to different music.

When she first came to Canada 40 years ago there were no programs like those provided by the LSP to help newcomers.

“They just started with these programs for the last 10 years,” Yu said. “We are very happy that the library offers these programs to help newcomers and also happy that they invited us to come.” 

Program’s impact on newcomers

According to Ngan, the LSP served more than 32,200 newcomers, and they delivered more than 740 group activities in 2022.

“We know that one of the first places for newcomers to visit is the library,” Ngan said.

Toronto Si-Zhu Chinese Music Ensemble performs “Dance of the Golden Snake.” (Marcia Dubsky/Toronto Observer)

Newcomers who’ve recently moved to Canada are invited to be part of these events and to utilize the library’s resources, she said.

“We have multilingual collections, free programs, language support, and also materials that help with careers,” Ngan said.

The events celebrating connections happened Oct.10–21 in 15 Toronto library locations.

Some of the events offered during the LSP week included an opportunity for Youth to connect and learn about community resources at the Thorncliffe branch, and a community information fair at Agincourt Branch.

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Posted: Nov 5 2023 8:48 pm
Filed under: News