The Queen of Paradise Orchestra Project of Papua New Guinea

The Queen of Paradise Orchestra Project

In 1975, the year El Sistema was founded in Venezuela, a tiny new country was founded on the other side of the world: Papua New Guinea. One of the world’s least explored and most rural nations, PNG would seem to have little in common with the homeland of El Sistema. But in 2018, El Sistema came to Papua New Guinea.

The story begins in 2016, when Father Miguel de la Calle, an Argentinian priest who leads a Catholic mission in Papua New Guinea, and his colleagues, Father Martín Prado and Father Tomás Ravioli, decided to create an orchestra for the children in their village of Vanimo. Father Miguel traveled to the Philippines to observe the El Sistema program Ang Misyon; inspired by what he saw, he resolved to bring El Sistema to Vanimo.

In search of a leader for the new program, Father Miguel invited Venezuelan Maestro Jesús Briceño Barrios to visit in 2018. Maestro Briceño, who studied orchestral conducting at the Simon Bolívar Conservatory, had been Music Director of the Carrizal Núcleo in Venezuela’s Miranda Province for the past five years. He instantly felt a connection to the children of Vanimo. In 2019, after spending many months designing a curriculum and creating a working plan, he became the first Music Director of the Queen of Paradise Orchestra Project of Papua New Guinea. He immediately started a two-part choir, a recorder choir, a violin ensemble and music theory classes. It was the first such program in the country’s history.

Our orchestra is unprecedented in this area—no one had ever seen anything like it before we tuned our instruments for the first time in 2018.

“One important strength of this project,” says Maestro Briceño, “is that Father Miguel firmly believes that children are the most fundamental part of the growth and development of the nation.” He adds that Father Miguel greatly admires the teachings of José Antonio Abreu. “He has told me, ‘We want to see that music can reach children and young people here, just as this happens in your country.’”

Their parents are extremely enthusiastic as well. “We parents are full of joy,” said the mother of Eliora, a violinist. “Our children are learning something completely new. I want Eliora to dedicate time to learn the violin well.”

The program’s goal is to create, through music, a culture of discipline, teamwork, excellence, and harmony. “I have been so impressed by the way these children took to their new music school with a huge desire to learn,” says Maestro Briceño. “And they love it. We’re on this path, with full dedication.”

The Orchestra now (2023) comprises about 100 students and includes a Children’s String Orchestra, a Children’s Choir, and a Sweet Flute Ensemble. Along with growth has come a rise in the quality of the repertoire and pedagogy: the work of making musical connections gets better every day.

Our repertoire includes classical music from across the world, Latin American folk music, and a variety of Christmas songs. We’re always exploring new possibilities, new rhythms and sounds, to enrich and vary the musical experience of our students. They love to play every kind of music! They also enjoy the beautiful challenge of perfecting each piece in classes, workshops, and rehearsals.

In September 2021 the children orchestra reaches out to the Capital of PNG, for the Independence Celebrations Week, invited by the PM, James Marape … after the Port Moresby tour, the children are now ‘motivated’ and excited for the journey ahead.

That’s the purpose of this project: “It elevates the human formation of these children through the social, cultural, and educational aspects of their lives.

“We seek to give these children the necessary elements for a healthy growth and human enrichment, being conscious that through musical education, we effectively collaborate in order that they may reach all of their personal potential and learn the values of life, in favor of their growth and dignity, despite the adverse circumstances of their life.”

The greatest challenge? “Adequate resources!” says the Maestro. “As we grow, we need to be able to cover the expenses of instruments and, most important, teachers.” “We are seeking the aid to collect important human resources in order to continue developing the objective of our project. That is why we require professors in distinct orchestral areas. Currently, we count only on the presence of Master Jesús Briceño, who is the Musical director and violinist. Likewise, we require the economic assistance that would permit us to acquire all that the structural apparatus of this project involves.

He adds: “We invite anyone interested in this work to follow us on Instagram and write us emails. And if you make the long journey to visit us, you will be welcomed with joy!”

The Queen of Paradise Orchestra

E-mail: qopaproject@gmail.com
Instagram: @queen.of.paradise.orchestra
PNG Padre Miguel: WhatsApp: +67572490983
IVE Fathers & SSVM Sisters

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