This year's Festival of the Performing Arts grand finale concert last Saturday opened with the latest generation, the young Music Makers' pennywhistlers, piping two tunes and closed with the adult Pender Harbour Choir.
When the choir appeared on stage, under the direction of Joe Hatherill, he gave some indication of the power of this long-running Coast festival by introducing two of the choir members, Joyce Fowler and Doreen Lee, as having taken part in the first music festival 32 years ago. They performed on stage with the current choristers, proud to be singing Walk on Home.
In a festival that features all trophy winners, it's difficult to select one or two musicians as the highlights of the show. Yet the three pieces by 16-year-old Neal Andrews were surely the most memorable.
In the first half, as a pianist, he performed a Chopin Polonaise, a physically taxing piece. The speed and talent was that of a professional. The second half included a selection on the trumpet, and then Neal brought out the violin. Of the three instruments, Neal relaxed the most and displayed an especial warmth on the violin while performing a Wieniaski Polonaise in D Major. The music was by turns sprightly and sentimental and the young musician seemed to feel it to the core. Another big competition winner was 11-year-old Kiel Strang on violin, who gave the audience a Seitz Concerto in D Major and took to the stage several times to receive his various awards, including a first place prize and trophies earned in the strings category.
Among other delightful appearances was that of Stephen Beckmyer, who played piano with a mature charm while accompanying Holly Beckmyer and Anna Williams on violin. Sarah Davey on flute gave a lovely rendition of Two Arias in Rondeau by Naudot while wee Talia Strang in kilt and dancing slippers fiddled a Scottish folk medley for her junior award.The audience seemed to enjoy the quiet beauty of adult Nan Seward's rendition of Homing by Del Riego.
Heading off to provincial competition in May with the aid of a Sunshine Coast Arts Council provincial candidate's award will be Neal in the piano category, Virginia Hay-Roe on flute and the Choralations Children's Choir for vocals. Dora Brooks, for so long the junior vocal champion at past festivals, has donated her own trophy and cash award to other promising juniors. Brooks was on hand to present the award to Lauren Macleod. A special award, the Bert Chatham Community Orchestra Award, came as a complete surprise to Gordon Catherwood, who has spent the past five years in service to the all-volunteer orchestra. A second highlights concert solely for piano, sponsored by the Coast Recital Society, will take place on Saturday, April 2, at 2 p.m. at the Raven's Cry Theatre in Sechelt. The timing of this year's concert, during spring break, did not draw as large a complement of performers or audience as in previous years. But the hundreds of participants over the three-week festival earned precious performance experience that will bring them back to compete next year.