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CIAO Marks Ten Years
08:06AM / Sunday, September 24, 2023
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The 2023-2024 academic year marks the tenth anniversary of Community Intergenerational Action Orchestra (CIAO) founded by conductor and composer James Bergin.
Bergin created the string orchestra to provide his violin and viola students, along with cello and bass players, an opportunity to rehearse and perform works in a wide variety of musical styles and to bring that music to the local community at free concerts.
This year CIAO! will once again perform together with professional musicians and singers at a sing-along of Handel's Messiah at St. John's in November. Concerts are planned for December and May, with programs and beneficiaries to be announced. Both CIAO! and FutureCIAO! are accepting new players; for further information, email James Bergin at
The group is open to players of all ages, and any funds raised through voluntary donations at concerts benefit local and
international non-profit organizations.
The orchestra includes elementary, middle, high school and college students as well as adults, and rehearses on Mondays during the school year at St. John's Episcopal Church in Williamstown. As time went on and the level of playing improved, a second group, FutureCIAO!, was created to give novice players experience until they were ready to join CIAO! Both groups perform together in concert.
The very first CIAO! performance, in June of 2014, raised funds for earthquake relief in Haiti. Subsequent concerts have benefitted the Berkshire Immigrant Center; the Berkshire Food Pantry; the Friendship Center Food Pantry; families impacted by the closing of the North Adams Regional Hospital; the Holy Trinity Music School in Haiti; Grace Villa, a home for orphaned and endangered girls in Uganda; earthquake relief in Nepal; 18 Degrees/Kids 4 Harmony; ROPE (Rites of Passage & Empowerment, Pittsfield); Afghan evacuee resettlement; aid to Ukraine; and the Heart and Soil Collective of Lanesborough.
For many years, CIAO! rehearsed once each month at Sweetbrook nursing home; it has also played at the Williamstown Farmers' Market and the Christmas craft fair at Williamstown Elementary School. In recent years, CIAO! has presented joint concerts with students from Kids4Harmony, the stringed instrument program offered by 18 Degrees in Pittsfield and North Adams to serve children who otherwise would not have the opportunity to study and perform music.
During the pandemic, CIAO! was not able to meet in person, but got together remotely via a special software program to record a composition written by one of the students. CIAO! has performed compositions by several of its student players, as well as works composed especially for the group by Bergin and others.
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