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Stars of the Festival participants to perform classics and original compositions

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After a lot of work, Lethbridge and District Music and Speech Arts Festival general manager Megan Wittig is excited to see this year’s online Stars of the Festival show at 7 p .m., April 16.
Organizers announced the 19 performers last week. But copyright issues narrowed the pool of available performances.

Megan Wittig has put in a lot of work for this years’ online Stars of the Festival concert. Photo by Richard Amery
“We were only able to feature performers performing original compositions or composition from the public domain. So we couldn’t have any bands,” Wittig said.

This year‘s online festival provided extra challenges because the participants not only had to learn their selected pieces, but also had to submit a video of their performances to the adjudicators.
 There are two original compositions, two selections from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Midsummer Night’s Dream  and selections from Schumann, Mozart, Brahms, Beethoven, Bach and Chopin.
Aaron Richardson, Alexandra Morgan and Daniel Kim will be performing in the chamber music category.
David Oler and Masataro Tatsuno will be performing original compositions.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 06 April 2021 15:47 ) Read more...

South Country Fair cancelled due to Covid for second year in a row

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Though Covid 19 vaccines are beginning to roll out and there is a little optimism in the air, South Country Fair has decided to err on the side of caution and cancelled the popular Summer festival in Fort Macleod for the second year in a row.
Organizer Gillian Moranz is understandably frustrated about making the tough decision, but emphasized the safety of Fair fans and performers is paramount.Peter and the Wolves performing at South Country Fair 2019. Photo  by Richard Amery
 She answered several questions by e-mail.

“It is incredibly frustrating trying to navigate these times as an arts and culture presenter, specifically because we have had so little support and guidance from AHS through all the different phases of this pandemic. Shopping malls and so many non-essential sectors remain open with so much guidance, but large and small performance venues alike are closing at mass all across the country. We are risking losing over 60 per cent of our music infrastructure in Canada, and a great deal of these closures are taking place because arts and culture are not a priority in the same way that other industries are,” she wrote, emphasizing South Country Fair will endure.

“South Country Fair will survive this storm, but only because we have built the foundation we have, slowly and strategically over the last 35 years. The reality that vaccines are rolling out does not change the fact that mounting these big events will take a great amount of care and consideration to ensure we move forward safely and with integrity once vaccination is wide-spread. This is something blatantly not recognized by AHS. There will be structural changes to our festivals to meet post-Covid protocols (protocols which have yet to be defined) and so many 'big-picture' questions that need to be answered before we can move forward. Not to mention, these events are planned a year in advance. With the provincial support we have (or have not) received it is unrealistic to expect events like ours to be thrown together in a few months, especially as there are so still many unknowns (the potential of artist travel, as just one example). Our bottom line through all of this has been the health and safety of our community and the artists we bring to perform. If we cannot guarantee the event can be executed as safely as possible with little-to-no potential of Covid-19 transmission we will not risk the safety of our community. But, with things as they are now we are feeling more confident that 2022 will realistically bring a new but familiar South Country Fair, still present and as strong as ever,” she wrote.

She noted after postponing the fair last year, they were prepared to postpone it again.
“We certainly did not want to make unfounded predictions but we were prepared to postpone again as time went by.  We had held off on things like launching ticket sales for this reason, and any conversations about moving forward were very much with the caveat of possibility. A lot of what we have been planning is in a holding pattern, so lots of the work we have done will be salvaged and carried over to next year,” she said, adding most of the artists and acts who were scheduled for last year and cancelled, agreed to hold over their booking again.  

“Yes, most of our artists/groups have carried their booking over again. A few are unable to commit so far out in their booking schedule but the majority of the line up will be presented at SCF as soon as we can do so safely,” she wrote.
After postponing last year, The South Country Fair prepared The Dog Star Sessions, a series of online events featuring some of the artist scheduled to perform at the festival Dog Star sessions will continued beginning in April.

“Absolutely. The fact that we cannot mount a festival as usual again has made it even more important that we support the greater arts economy and keep our regional arts economy running as strong as possible. We will be releasing the lineup for a spring edition of The Dog Star Sessions early April, and have tentative plans to offer some online programming in the summer as well, although we are still in the process of working out exactly what this programming will look like,” she wrote, noting it is important to keep the spirit of the Fair alive despite not being able to meet in person.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 20 March 2021 09:03 ) Read more...

Signature ATB Rotary Dragon Boat Festival cancelled by Covid but will be back in 2022

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The ATB Rotary Dragon Boat Festival has been cancelled for the second year in a row, but organizers remain optimistic they will celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the signature community event next year, June 24-26, 2022.Dory Rossiter performing at the ATB Rotary Dragon Boat Festival in 2019. Photo by Richard Amery
“It’s very tough because we spend a lot of time planning this festival every year, but we can’t take any risks,” said ATB Rotary Dragon Boat Festival planning committee chair Diane Randell, noting she is excited about planning a signature event for the twentieth anniversary.

 “There is so much preparation that takes place and a lot of logistical issues that have to be taken care of,” she continued.

 The Festival was to take place June  25-27, 2021, but has been postponed to June 24-26, 2022.

“We have teams from B.C. the United States, Saskatchewan and Alberta coming, so there are a lot of travel restrictions,” she said, noting the even attracts between 6,000 and 10,000 people, including close to 2,000 athletes as the event usually draws 65 teams with 30 members each, plus managers and friends and family who come to see them. She estimated the event brings a million dollars into Lethbridge.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 14 March 2021 14:37 ) Read more...

Lethbridge and District Music and Speech Arts Festival going online this year due to Covid

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Covid or no Covid, the show must go on including  The Lethbridge and District Music and Speech Arts Festival which is back in spirit this year.
 While Covid 19 cancelled the long standing festival three days before it was supposed to start last year, organizers have been working hard since the fall to bring the entire month-long event online for this year,“ I just hope the community will remember that we’re still here,” said Lethbridge and District Speech arts  Festival General Manger Megan Wittig.

Megan Wittig and the Lethbridge and District Music and Speech Arts Festival board have put a lot of work into turning the festival into an online event. Photo  by Richard Amery
 As expected , there are a lot fewer competitors this year with  420  musicians and artists aged six to university age competing,
“We’re down by half this year. We had 900 last time,” Wittig observed.

The deadline has closed for submissions this year.

This year, competitors were asked to submit a video of  their performances to Wittig, who will send them to adjudicators Aaron Au, Strings (Edmonton); Alicia Bigras, Contemporary Voice (Medicine Hat);  Camille Rogers, Music Composition and Junior Voice (Toronto);  Elliot Madore, Senior Voice (Toronto); Jennifer Orr, Speech (Calgary);  Kim Mattice Wanat, Musical Theatre (Edmonton); Kirk Muspratt, Band, Chamber Music, and Instrumental (Chicago, Illinois);  Louise Costigan-Kerns, Junior Piano (San Carlo, California) and  Magdalena von Eccher, Senior Piano (Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island).
 “The adjudicators will send a video  back to each competitor and class and they will type out their feedback to them. They usually write out their feedback,” Wittig said.
“We’ve worked with most of the adjudicators before and a lot of them have local connections,” she said, adding most of the adjudicators scheduled for last year agreed to return for the virtual event.

“Some of them weren’t available. But going online means we have adjudicators from the United States , Toronto and the East Coast, who we would not have been able to afford fly in,” Wittig said.

 The event culminates with the Stars of the Festival “concert, Saturday, April 16 at 7 p.m.— which will be a compilation of the winning video submissions to air on YouTube and on Shaw TV.
There are competitors in several categories including strings (cello, violin, bass), chamber music senior and junior piano, musical theatre and composition. Submissions will be sent to the adjudicators by March 14, with adjudication to begin on March 15.

“We’re trying to keep it as close to the dates of the festival (if it had been a live event) as we could,” Wittig said.

“ LCI even entered a band submission. This year there are no choirs, guitar or organ. And we have four original compositions,” she said, noting there are a lot of entries into the strings category this year and plenty of Junior and Senior piano entries. Musical theatre entries are in the same category rather than being separated by age. There is also a new provincial category for contemporary rock and pop.
She noted the provincial competition is taking the same online format.
“So they won’t have to learn anything new for that,” she said.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 07 March 2021 16:38 ) Read more...

Steve Keenan excited his new CD is finally “In My Hands”

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Local blues musician Steve Keenan noted he is excited to have new music “In My Hands,” as he just released his long awaited second album.
 It has been over 10 years since he released his debut album with his band Fat Baby Jake.Steve Keenan, Gary Drayton and Paul Kype playing Honker’s Pub. Photo by Richard Amery
 He started recording “ In My Hands” almost exactly a year ago in local musician Paul Kype’s s home studio.
“It’s been over 12 years since my last EP with Fat Baby Jake, Keenan said, noting he revisited and created new arrangements for three older songs “Something New,” “Whiskey Drinking Blues” and “Lucky One,” for the CD.

 While it has been a a long time since Keenan released his own album, he has been far from idle, playing his own shows and performing with local musicians Paul Kype and recording on local artists’ CDs including Allan Roy Wilson, Greg Gomola and Papa King.

Band mate Gary Drayton added keyboards to the new arrangements as well as  the seven other new songs on the CD.

“ There are a couple of country songs on it and there are some really pretty ballads on it too,” Kennan continued.

“Lucky One’ is an older song that I wrote about being thankful and  ‘In My Hands is a newer song I wrote for my daughter about how life changes and about  how my daughters have been such a huge benefit to my life,” Keenan continued, noting he enjoyed working on the CD  in Paul Kype’s Bearfoot Studio.

Last Updated ( Friday, 26 February 2021 19:43 ) Read more...
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