Stories » Cecilia String Quartet reaches out to children with autism / Toronto Star

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Cecilia String Quartet reaches out to children with autism / Toronto Star

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Jaime Brisebois didn't know what to expect when she took her great nephew, Marcus, to hear the Cecilia String Quartet perform. Marcus, 8, has autism and the music-loving Brisebois knows the strict rules around behaviour and quietness in classical concerts would be hard for him to obey. But the Sunday afternoon concert in the lower level of the Sony Centre was different: it was designed specifically for children with autism. They could sit on pillows or on the floor; they could dance; they could sit quietly in a corner if things got too noisy. Marcus loved the show and, at the end, went onstage to meet the cellist and touch her instrument. "It was such a positive experience," says Brisebois. "I wish there was a concert every week."

This is the second year the esteemed Toronto quartet, which travels internationally, has performed a series of four concerts for children with autism and their families. The series, which ends Sunday, is called Xenia, "an ancient Greek concept of welcoming and generosity shown to travellers from afar. This concept of welcoming is one of the central mandates of our series, to welcome audiences of all kinds to listen to brilliant classical music," says violinist Sarah Nematallah.

Almost half of the Cecilia Quartet's concerts are outreach to music-starved communities including children with autism