From the first sight of bongo drummers clomping through the halls of the Perez Building on stilts, it was obvious Sunday was no regular day at the University of Ottawa.

The 12th annual Family Music Fair, presented by the Ottawa Chamber Music Society and U of O’s music department, offered families and especially kids a day of music up close, with more than 100 short concerts and ample chances to chat with the musicians.

“The idea is to present chamber music to audiences that might not buy a ticket to a concert,” said Karen St. Aubin, the society’s marketing and communications coordinator.


The Perez Building, she said, specifically designed for the university’s music department, boasts great acoustics for these intimate, interactive performances.

This year, cross-town Carleton University also participated, thanks to the Carleton University Balloon Orchestra, who make their music entirely with balloons, drumming on them, filling them with beads and shaking them, deflating them and on and on.

Visitors were invited to try out the “musical petting zoo,” to bash on some drums or fiddle with a violin.

“We call it the family music fair, but it’s not just for children,” St. Aubin said, noting she noticed a number of seniors and couples coming without children.

Of course, there was plenty of kid appeal, like the brass performance of the Ambassador Trio — a.k.a. Don Renshaw, Karen Donnelly and Nigel Bell. Their gig included a musical story featuring Spongebob Squarepants and fun, familiar tunes like The William Tell Overture and La Cucaracha.

The trio, who tour schools as part of the National Arts Centre’s outreach program, got big laughs by demonstrating the proper way to get sound out of a brass instrument: Pursing the lips for a good loud, rude raspberry.

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