This is a picture of a set of hand-painted coasters one of our recent house guests gave us as a way of saying thanks. They do a good job of conveying the look of some of the houses where they are from, which is the city of my birth: St. John's, Newfoundland.
Our guests were two delightful young men who are choristers from a school called Holy Heart of Mary, and their names are Ben and Evan. They are both in the front row of the picture above, Evan the tall fellow to the left, and Ben the chap in glasses towards the right.
The HHM choir is participating in an exchange with Fenya's group, Cantilon Chamber Choir. Billeting such as this makes it far more affordable for youth to see more of Canada, which is why a federal group called SEVEC facilitates it, I suppose. When our household agreed to participate, I imagined us hosting a girl close to Fenya's age, not a pair of 16 and 17 year old boys. Discovering this didn't worry me except in terms of their downtime while here: my sole experience with teenage boys peaked about three decades back, when I was one.
Still, for all that's changed, much hasn't; they took me up on my offer to go to the Star Wars: Identities exhibit, and hung around the space exhibits afterwards as well. The next night, while I made supper, they set up Rock Band on the Wii and diverted themselves for quite some time. The six of us played some Zombie Dice and Tsuro on Monday night, but the nights after exploring the waterpark and amusement park at West Edmonton Mall saw them turn in pretty early. They are polite, well spoken and charismatic young men, and it did me good to be around adolescents so far removed from the stereotypes I promised myself I would never buy into.
Sunday afternoon, we got to see both choirs perform, along with another school choir from Stony Plain. I never tire of hearing the polyphonic instrumentation of group voices, and since HHM have an almost equal number of male and female voices, the sound is quite a bit deeper and richer, although perhaps not quite as polished as Cantilon. Having all three choirs singing at once was almost impossibly powerful and moving, consisting as It did of nearly 90 trained voices.
While here, both choirs (and several others from the Edmonton area) got to participate in a workshop and choir performance with Finnish a capella group Rajaton, which was quite the experience.
Next weekend, Fenya and the rest of her choir mates will be off to St. Johns for some more group rehearsals and some performances, as well as a chance to see where I was born, and where I haven't been back to since I was 9 years old. I think we might have to rectify that at some point, but for now, at least one of us is going, and there will even be some friendly faces once she gets there.