By Susan Lowndes
What a week! It was the music in the air that brought beautiful spring temperatures to the district as Kelvington hosted the annual Quill Plains Music Festival April 7th to 9th.
Many names were familiar as audience members looked through the festival program, trying to decide which of four venues to attend. A big effort was made to stagger some of the productions so that a person could watch musical theatre and piano duets or listen to guitar one afternoon and strings the next day.
Adjudicators – some seasoned, some just getting their feet wet – came from across the province. “This is my first time listening to music in rural Saskatchewan,” declared Simon Fryer, band and strings adjudicator. “It’s been really great hearing all the talent there is out here.” Fryer, head of strings at the Regina Conservatory for the Performing Arts in Regina, thoroughly enjoyed his time in Kelvington.
Louella Friesen of Waldheim owns an organic farm with her husband Don and adjudicates voice as time allows. She runs her own music studio in Rosthern, is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing Association and secretary of the Sask Valley Music Festival Association. Adjudicating to a packed house at Kelvington United Church, Friesen briefly workshopped the many choirs in attendance. “We have to be careful that we don’t sing words the way we say them in conversation,” she said. “Words like ‘to’ are often pronounced ‘ta’ and ‘our’ becomes ‘are.'” Musicians were encouraged to sing on the vowel – the proper vowel.
Audrey Watson, also a member of the Sask Valley Music Festival Association, spent two very full days adjudicating piano. President of the Saskatchewan Registered Music Teachers Association, Watson wasn’t disappointed with any of the performances. “I would like to award firsts to many of you,” she said to several different classes, “but I am not supposed to. You all performed so well and some of my comments are just picky because you played so well.”
Students from across the Quill Plains began making music at nine o’clock in the morning and didn’t finish until nine o’clock at night. Many are seasoned festival performers, bringing along books and iPads, stretching out on the couch and catching a nap between performances. They got up in front of large crowds at almost every session and it looked like they considered it “all in day’s work,” they were that rehearsed, seemingly that confident.
Of course, most didn’t really feel that way. Some coloured, chewed their nails, swung their feet, went to the bathroom, went to the bathroom, went to the bathroom. All displayed grace under pressure when it was their time to perform and that is what music festival is about: using a musical talent to grow in confidence, to keep things between the weeds when they head for the ditch, to take a missed note and harmonize it with everything else that was going through their heads, and then to listen.
Festival is also about listening – listening to fellow musicians perform, listening to the accompanist, listening to the adjudicator’s critique – and improving upon a gift.
“I want to thank everyone here. I want to thank the volunteers who host this festival, the parents and the teachers and the accompanists,” said Watson after she delivered her last adjudication. “We need all of you to keep culture alive in Saskatchewan.”
Listen…is that someone practising their violin, their scales, their execution? Be ready; Elton John spent a lot of his youth at music festivals.