Concert Time Collective: Building a Classical Music Community in Miramichi

Written by Labib Palis and Natalia Bohorquez

Concert Time Collective started in 2021 with three newcomer classical musicians from different places who met in Miramichi and wanted to play music. Natalia Bohorquez (Colombia), Michael diBarry (USA), and Labib Palis (Colombia) started the Concert Time Collective initiative.

During our first summer, we collaborated with the Chatham Public Library in Miramichi to launch our inaugural chamber music series that took place at Elm Park, outside the library, over a month, with a concert happening every weekend. In the summer of 2022, we continued the series with a single performance. Michael returned to his home country, while Natalia and Labib remained in Canada, determined to keep the project alive.

Art creates vibrant communities; our mission is to make music happen, regardless of the circumstances or the place. While smaller rural communities may lack concert halls and diverse venues designed for chamber music concerts, a music venue can be anything – a park, a café, a theatre – and it is our goal to contribute to Miramichi’s diverse culture by transforming everyday places into concert venues, creating concert opportunities for our new hometown and advancing our music careers without having to relocate to bigger urban centers.

In 2023, the project began to evolve: we wanted to foster our community’s growing appreciation for chamber music by bringing in classical musicians and ensembles from all over New Brunswick. We started to feel the need for Concert Time to be more than a summer project. We envisioned a year-round programming to become part of Miramichi’s music culture. We started to play music together more regularly and organized concerts at home or in local cafes and eventually we realized we wanted to make a bigger impact. This led us to apply for our first artsnb grant.

Funding from artsnb was crucial in the development of Concert Time Collective. artsnb funding has been crucial to the development of Concert Time Collective. Thanks to a Professional Development grant from the Career Development program, we were able to have the concerts documented so that we could promote them. In addition, part of this grant was used to design a logo for our project, Concert Time Collective. Designed by Pantera Studio, our logo makes reference to our string instruments, the Miramichi River, and the beautiful natural spaces of Miramichi. Colourful and charming, our logo is designed to present classical music in an engaging and carefree way.

In our quest to present music creatively, we partnered again with the Chatham Public Library in 2024 to apply for an Artist in Residency grant to develop a project called “Music and Storytelling.” In this project, we combined music, literature, and theatre in an interactive concert series. We developed four interactive concerts, each featuring a different string instrument. Each concert had its unique charm: the first explored literature and story writing through music, the second enhanced stories with instrumental sounds, the third provided soundtracks for different tales, and the last involved readings and creating a script for a musical comedy. This project, running from May 11th to June 1st, 2024, left us with a script for a musical comedy which we plan to bring to life again.

Miramichi is a growing city. Over the past years, we have seen more and more immigrants arriving, looking for new activities and events, hoping to make this place feel like home. Many express a sentiment of nostalgia for the variety of events in bigger cities. Through our music, we hope to contribute to the fulfillment of this need, to diversify the cultural offerings in the city, to create musical experiences where new connections are made, and to help others feel that Miramichi can be their home too.

Art in New Brunswick holds great potential. With newcomers bringing diverse ideas, cultures, and expressions, and merging them with the already rich local art and culture, the province’s artistic landscape is becoming increasingly vibrant and exciting, and Concert Time Collective wants to be at the heart of it.

Stay up to date with Concert Time Collective‘s activities:

Instagram: @concert.time.collective