A crowd applauds Lauren Margison and Melissa Stephens performance during Highlands Opera Studio’s OTF Resilient Communities Grant acknowledgement and 2022 Volunteer Appreciation celebration held at the Haliburton Highlands Museum on Thursday, Jan. 6. /TIM YANO Special to the Echo

HOS receives $92,100 grant for pilot projects

By Vivian Collings

Opera programs in Haliburton County are going up an octave thanks to a $92,100 Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) Resilient Communities grant.

Highlands Opera Studio (HOS) received the grant in the summer of 2022 to fund their most recent pilot projects.

A reception was held on Thursday, Jan. 6 at the Haliburton Highlands Museum by HOS where Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott spoke about the significance of the grant.

“This investment, provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, is creating more opportunities for our community to get involved with the arts,” said Scott from an HOS press release. “These funds will ensure that the Highlands Opera Studio is able to share the gift of experience and creativity, in person and virtually.”

Valerie Kuinka, general and co-artistic director with HOS, said that since the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been apprehensive about returning to in-person gatherings, which has hindered HOS events.

She said the OTF grant is helping the opera studio to reimagine two of their major pilot projects to become more accessible and safe for all.

“This grant will enable HOS to streamline and upgrade all our activities while reconnecting to and expanding not only through the unequalled experience of live performance in indoor venues, but also online or even outside, therefore giving people in the community improved access to programs and events offered by Highlands Opera Studio for years to come,” Kuinka said in her speech at the event.

Klara Oyler, representative from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, spoke and said getting to see the impact of OTF grants locally is very heartwarming.

“[This grant] is helping you continue to engage with your audience while also helping to open the doors for people of all ages to discover a musical style that has actually captivated audiences for centuries,” Oyler said.

The grant will help fund digital equipment for theatre and outside use as well as the hiring of operators to train HOS staff for its use.

“For some people, the pandemic has created a lasting apprehension to return to live events in confined spaces, and has also resulted in a serious lack of qualified professional theatre technical personnel, impacting the ability to prepare and present live staged events,” Kuinka said.

COVID-19 may have changed willingness to be in close contact with others, but HOS hopes to relieve this anxiety by implementing the new equipment.

The event opened with a screening of a 15 minute film featuring Cree First Nation using new technical equipment purchased with funds to get an idea of what can be achieved with new equipment for HOS.

The night concluded with musical numbers performed by singer Lauren Margison and Melissa Stephens playing the keyboard.

Information about the Highland Opera Society’s 2023 digital viewing options and special free, unlimited online streaming of past events for summer season ticket holders, online Pay-What-You-Can si nging lessons, Highlands Opera Club, and other upcoming special community events will be available in the coming weeks.

Visit www.highlandsoperastudio.com for more information.

The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF), an agency of the Government of Ontario, and one of Canada’s leading granting foundations celebrates 40 years of grantmaking in Ontario and making a lasting impact in communities. Last year, OTF invested nearly $209M into 2,042 community projects and partnerships, which included funding for the Government of Ontario’s Community Building Fund. Visit otf.ca to learn more.