Family Road Trip #1: Toothpick Orchestra at Canada’s NAC

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Toothpick musicians by Go Sato

Toothpick musicians by Go Sato

The status of the often-used but seldom-valued toothpick just went up. On Tuesday, June 25 Canada’s National Arts Centre received a one-of-a-kind gift: a model of the NAC Orchestra made entirely of toothpicks! The model was created by Go Sato and consists of an astonishing 12,500 toothpicks. It took him 3 years to make, including three weeks of his personal holiday time to finish.

Sato immigrated to Canada 41 years ago, and has worked for Agriculture Canada and Agri-Food Canada as a Scientific Illustrator for 40 years. In a statement to the NAC about his gift, Sato said, “I want to give it to the NAC because Canada has given me so much in my life, and I love classical music.”

Cellist inspired by NAC principal cellist Amanda Forsyth (Photo courtesy of the NAC)

Cellist inspired by NAC principal cellist Amanda Forsyth (Photo courtesy of the NAC)

A long-time NAC Orchestra subscriber, Mr. Sato painstakingly crafted an orchestra of 61 musicians, the size based on a Romantic-era orchestra. The percussionist and the conductor, inspired by the Music Director Pinchas Zuckerman (wearing tails in this model) are standing, while the rest of the musicians sit on chairs or stools. Two of the musicians, the principal cellist (who is wearing high heels) and the principal double-bass player (who holds his bow with an underhand grip and sits on a backless stool), were inspired by the NAC Orchestra’s Amanda Forsyth and Joel Quarrington. As an added challenge to himself, Sato used only rounded toothpicks, which do not bend easily.

Go Sato with his replica orchestra (photo courtesy of the NAC)

Go Sato with his replica orchestra (photo courtesy of the NAC)

While there is a tradition of toothpick art, particularly architectural replicas of buildings, Sato believes he is the only person to have created a “toothpick” orchestra. He considers the most important toothpick art collection to be “Toothpick World” in Rochester, New York, which, incidentally, does not have an orchestra in its collection.

So if you’re headed to Ottawa this summer, stop by the National Arts Centre. It’s home not only to some of Canada’s finest musicians, but to unique and exquisite art, too. And while you’re there, take a close look at your ticket stub. The toothpick orchestra is the second gift that Mr. Sato has given the NAC: he previously created a model of the parliament buildings made out of NAC ticket stubs. Both creations are currently on display.

© 2013 Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya

Posted in Music, Uncategorized.