Quill and Quire

Book news

« Back to

Canadian picture book inspires symphony premiering at the Kennedy Center


A multimedia symphonic work inspired by Canadian author Kathy Stinson and illustrator Dušan Petričić’s picture book, The Man with the Violin (Annick Press), will have its world premiere Feb. 12 at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Based on Stinson and Petričić’s 2013 book, The Man with the Violin: Suite for Violin and Orchestra was co-commissioned by Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington. The production features a combination of Stinson’s text, which will be narrated by American journalist Michelle Norris (known for her work as host of NPR’s All Things Considered), an animated video component produced by Montreal visual design studio Normal featuring Petričić’s illustrations, an original musical composition by Grammy and Academy Award winner Anne Dudley, and a performance by Joshua Bell, the violinist at the heart of Stinson’s book. The sold-out performance is aimed at families and geared to children aged five and up.

The Man with the Violin tells of the day Bell performed, incognito, in a Washington, D.C. subway station as part of a social experiment by the Washington Post. More than 1,000 people rushed by during the hour that Bell played, oblivious to the musician’s identity. The resulting article earned Post journalist Gene Weingarten a Pulitzer Prize, and inspired Stinson to write her own story (winner of the TD Canada Children’s Literature Award) about a little boy who wants to stop and listen to Bell play, only to be pulled along by his rushed mother.

“Kathy Stinson’s wonderful book reminds us all to notice things; to listen and to be responsive to our world rather than going about in our own little bubble,” said composer Anne Dudley in a press release. “It has been very exciting to work on this project as it brings together live performance and ‘live’ animation to children who may be hearing this music for the first time.”

Though Stinson says she had little direct involvement with the production and will not be at the Kennedy Center premiere due to “various reasons,” she does plan to attend the Canadian premiere December 20 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

“Bringing music to The Man with the Violin feels like such a natural thing to do and some great talent has been brought on board to ensure a wonderful production,” Stinson told Q&Q via email. “I expect it will be great fun to hear my words being read aloud in that context, as Dušan Petričić’s images are being projected, and Anne Dudley’s original music is being performed by full orchestra with Joshua Bell, ‘the man with the violin’ himself, as solo violinist.”

Copies of The Man with the Violin and its companion, The Dance of the Violin, will be available at both venues.