| Sipikriva Girl | Edited extracts
BUTAWENG – The Queen of Paradise Orchestra was established beside the sea in idyllic Baro Village in West Sepik in August 2018
The orchestra and its classical music school are the brainchild of the religious family of the incarnate word working in Vanimo, who were inspired by a similar project in Venezuela.
Baro village is the home of the Holy Trinity Parish and initially 50 children from the five villages of the parish serves participated in the project.
Since then the orchestra has expanded and children from Vanimo have joined for a complement of 97 students.
“We are teaching the children and leaders to read and write music,” says Fr Miguel de la Calle.
“The goal is to use music as a means of knowing and loving God, and a concrete means of evangelising the beautiful cultures of PNG.
“For some children getting to the meetings involves a great deal of sacrifice, as they have to travel over 30 kilometres to reach the school.”
The presence of Master Jesús Briceño from Caracas, Venezuela, between October and December 2018 saw the beginnings of violin classes and the first official performance by the Queen of Paradise Orchestra.
Other programs were introduced including musical language courses, recorder classes, violin classes and the children’s choir.
In 2019 new classes were introduced in viola, cello and double bass and in December the first string orchestra in PNG officially debuted.
Master Jesús teaches all the instruments and directs the orchestra and choir while Sr Cielos teaches children the flute along with music theory.
Local orchestra leaders from each village plan and undertake logistics for their village groups as well as assist at practice.
Why music and not some other pursuit? It seemed to the religious family that music was the most accessible tool to aid the development of individual children and the country.
“Music has a special quality that goes beyond words or language and speaks directly to the soul, which is why it is such a useful tool not only for discipline and teamwork but also for the overall spiritual growth of individuals,” says Fr Miguel.
“Throughout our years of mission in PNG, we saw the important role that music has in the local cultures and, knowing that music is a powerful tool, we decided to develop this natural skill that lies within most children.”
The children usually let teachers know the type of instruments they like, but with careful observation the teachers know which instrument is suited for each child.
One of the best stringed instrument players is Christina Pasika, a double bass player, the only player in PNG.
The first instruments – 20 violins, two violas, two cellos and the double bass - were donated by a Catholic priest and his parishioners in Surabaya, Indonesia.
The orchestra is now getting additional instruments from Singapore with the help of Italian benefactors.
“They are very fast music learners!” says Fr. Miguel.
So far the Queen of Paradise Orchestra has performed only within West Sepik Province.
The first performance outside the villages was a private concert for members of parliament who had gathered in Vanimo.
Two other concerts have also been held in Vanimo: a private concert at Vanimo Beach Hotel, and the large Christmas concert in December which was attended by more than 700 people at the Medallion Hotel.
Both concerts were also live streamed.
“The audience at both events were completely blown away,” says Fr. Miguel. “They did not expect to hear such a wonderful variety of music from a group of village children.
“Truly the performances were beyond anyone’s expectation as the children gave impressive performances including solos, duets, trios, the flute choir, the stringed orchestra and the choir and orchestra together.”
The Orchestra has a concert on a YouTube Channel showcasing the good it is doing for the children through music.
There is also have a GoFundMe Page where donations can be made.
Despite a promise to help in the construction of the classroom, the PNG government has still to help the religious family in completing the building.
At present the children still learn and make music sitting outdoors or in their partially completed classroom.
Dr Hazel Kutkue is based at Braun Memorial Rural Hospital at Butaweng near Finschhafen, part of Lutheran Health Services in Papua New Guinea