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Once Around the City: Of armadillos and musical notes

Isabelle Hernandez, 6, right, of Stamford practices in Norwalk City Hall Wednesday, along with other INTAKE students, for Saturday night’s annual Gala Concert with the Norwalk Youth Symphony.

NORWALK, Conn. – Armadillos suffered at one point to create the type of music being played Saturday in a concert combining the talents of the Norwalk Youth Symphony and children with INTAKE (Instrumentally Native Taking on the Classics).

The annual Gala Concert will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday in Concert Hall, and will feature “special and one-of-a-kind performances by the Norwalk Youth Symphony’s Concert Orchestra and Marimba Union Musical from Antigua, Guatemala. On this day, Beethoven’s Egmont Overture will merge with traditional works for the Guatemalan national instrument: the marimba,” according to a press release from the mayor’s office.

INTAKE students practices in Norwalk City Hall Wednesday for Saturday night’s annual Gala Concert with the Norwalk Youth Symphony.

But Carlos Bolters, an INTAKE music teacher, was leading a rehearsal Wednesday that included children playing a Charngo, which he said was inspired by guitars brought to South America hundreds of years ago by the Spaniards.

“It’s a very popular instrument in South America — Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, and Ecuador as well,” Carlos Bolters said. “… The native people loved the guitar but they didn’t have the technology to shape the guitar so they had the idea that the body of the instrument is made out of the armadillo shell. So that is where the size of the instrument (came from). It was a very sad day for the armadillos but happy for the music.”

Now the instrument is made of wood.

Isabelle Hernandez, 6, was among the kids getting ready for the concert.

“She is so excited,” said her mother, Paola Hernandez. “This is her first month and she is already playing the notes, she already knows the notes. She knows E, she knows A minor, E minor, C major — it’s amazing.”

Hernandez said she moved to Stamford from Ecuador 14 years ago, but she doesn’t know how to play the charngo.

“I hope she grows up loving the music,” she said.

Bolters said the concert will feature “a little of everything.”

“It’s very eclectic,” he said. “We have folk music on CD’s and the kids are going to sing a full tune. But then soloists like me are going to play solo, are going to play viola and charngo with a flutist and a guitarist. The music is a combination between classical and folk from South America, so a little of everything.”

New exhibits at Stepping Stones

On Thursday, March 20, Stepping Stones museum celebrated the debut of Express Yourself, which focuses on social-emotional learning, and an updated and expanded national traveling version of its award-winning Healthyville exhibit, which teaches children important health and wellness lessons.

The two new experiences include play-filled activities and educational messaging that foster learning by doing.

All of this activity is part of the museum’s commitment to growing its Healthy Children, Healthy Communities initiative, which has promoted healthy living for children, families and communities since its launch in 2006, according to a Stepping Stones press release.

Visitor from the East

A celebration to commemorate 20 years of international exchange between the Center for Global Studies (CGS) at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk and Kojo High School, Japan, is planned for Monday, March 24.

Takahisa Yamada, Principal of Kojo High School, Kojo, Japan, is making the trip to Norwalk to honor the anniversary of this long-standing relationship, according to a press release. Mayor Harry Rilling and Norwalk Public Schools Superintendent Manny Rivera will join with administrators, teachers and students from the CGS that morning in welcoming Yamada.

Located within Brien McMahon High School, the Center for Global Studies is an inter-district, international studies magnet school that focuses on Arabic, Chinese and Japanese language, history, and culture, the release said.

Over the past two decades, more than 500 American students have spent two-weeks living with Kojo families, attending school and experiencing Japanese culture. A similar number of Kojo students visited Norwalk, living with CGS families, attending Brien McMahon High School, and experiencing American culture.

CNNA meets Monday

The monthly meeting of the Coalition of Norwalk Neighborhood Associations (CNNA) will take place at 7 p.m. Monday, March 24, at Norwalk City Hall Room 101.

Norwalk Director of Finance Thomas Hamilton will present an overview of his 2014/2015 Operating and Capital Budget recommendations. There will also be a question-and-answer session.

CNNA member associations are encouraged to attend, and all Norwalk residents are welcomed.

For more information visit the group’s website.

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