Palliser Music Festival a learning experience

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A musician from Calgary Christian Secondary School is reflected in his instrument as the Grade 8 Band performs "Three Faces of Kilimanjaro" in the Palliser Musical Festival Wednesday in Vulcan.

VULCAN – They came from the smallest of villages to the largest metropolis in the province. And while their numbers and degree of polish varied, they all shared one thing in common ¬– a passion for music.

The Palliser Music Festival May 4 brought together some 380 students from nine schools across the division to show what they’ve learned over the past year. For some students it was also an opportunity to hear musicians from well-established programs.

“I like meeting all the new people and getting to hear what they are working on in band class versus what we’re doing; and all the new instruments that I get to hear because we just have a basic band. We don’t have the cellos or violins or those kinds of things,” said Natalie Sordahl, a clarinet player with the Champion School band.

The event saw each school band and choir perform a few numbers in front of their counterparts across the division.  Playing before such a large crowd was a new experience for the Grade 7 clarinet player, given her school’s student population of less than a hundred.

“I had all these people watching me and I got kind of nervous,” said Sordahl.  “(But) I just kind of looked at it like ‘it’s not as bad as when you’re in front of people that you know. . . ’ ”

The host County Central High School band opened with “Sweet Caroline” and got everyone in the mood with the likes of “YMCA.” Each and every performance was greeted with hearty applause and Champion’s rendition of the “Star Wars” theme was a crowd favourite.

“We just thought we would do Star Wars because it was ‘May the 4th,’ instead of ‘May the Force (be with you,) ” said Sordahl.

The performances transported listeners to exotic locales like Africa (Three Faces of Kilimanjaro, by Calgary Christian Secondary School), mimicked a steam engine pulling out of the station (Night Train, by Kate Andrews High School) and even turned back the hands of time (House of the Rising Sun, by Master’s College of Calgary.)

“Show and tell” was followed by a short period of mass rehearsal and a final performance combining the talents of every musician and singer for a couple of numbers. Not only did that finale prove a powerful experience, Rick VanderWoude said it was a learning opportunity.

The music instructor from Calgary Christian Secondary School said performing together in such large numbers has definite benefits.

“It gives them a real chance to hear what the music sounds like with all the parts covered and very high level of performing for some of the groups,” said Vanderwoude, a member of the organizing committee. “It really brings up the standard for everybody, and they get a chance to see what it’s like and to raise that standard itself.”

The festival was borne out of professional development for music teachers from across Palliser Regional Schools, he said, and provided the opportunity for them to share what their programs are doing and learn from others.

To view a video of the final performance with all 380 students involved, CLICK HERE.