At the close of its third week, the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Performing Arts has featured so many musicians, actors and dancers that their combined numbers would overflow any stage along Highway 101.
Vocalists, choirs and a pair of saxophonists performed last week — along with an octogenarian cornet virtuoso, Paul Pedlar —, rounding out adjudicated performances in eight distinct disciplines.
The four-week event is the longest-lived festival on the Sunshine Coast. It is one of 34 regional performance festivals in B.C. that function as a gateway to the provincial festival, which is scheduled to take place in Penticton later this month.
The publicly accessible performances took place at St. Hilda’s Anglican Church in Sechelt, with the exception of the Coastal Dance Festival, which featured more than a hundred dance acts on the stage of the Raven’s Cry Theatre.
Adjudicator Stephen Smith oversaw two days of piano performances on April 11 and 12. Smith is a touring soloist and recording artist based in Vancouver.
Two teenage pianists — Daniel Claudepierre and Taho Shinagawa — performed their own jazz compositions in addition to renditions of classical and popular repertoire. Local piano instructor Katherine Hume played three duets in succession alongside competitors Allegra Montgomery, Anne Roberts and Leif Montgomery. An impassioned version by Taiyo Blackwell of Oscar Peterson’s Land of the Misty Giants prompted reminiscences from Smith about his meeting with the decorated Canadian composer.
Bard on the Beach teaching artist and director Mike Stack offered insights on speech and dramatic arts performances on April 14. Among the dozen unique recitations, Raphael Naspinski was accompanied by a plush feline to recite the dramatic monologue First Cat on Venus. Adult participants Johanna Rzepa and Linda McTurk appeared in costume to deliver original spoken-word works. McTurk arrived in full pirate garb (complete with a treasure chest and ankle shackles) for her characterization of Caribbean mystic Tia Dalma.
Brazil-born guitarist and composer Celso Machado offered insights to performers playing zither, mandolin and guitar. The April 14 afternoon dedicated to plucked strings concluded with impromptu trio music improvised by Machado, Gord Beynon on mandolin and Joshua Paolozza on guitar.
Paolozza is also a fiddler and reappeared the following week among over 40 performers in the bowed strings category. Pianist and violinist Gene Sato likewise demonstrated his skill on multiple instruments. Adjudicator Alexander Cheung, who has university degrees in cello performance and kinesiology, offered insights into body mechanics that shape the musicianship of string players.
In the Folk Instrumental session of April 19, performer and educator Jennie Bice (who played later that night at Sechelt’s Batch 44) provided instruction to a host of players. Kayla Payne rendered songs on both the violin and Scottish small pipes, wryly lamenting the pipes’ tendency to wheeze asthmatically when inert.
Two days of dance numbers on April 22 and 23 involved more than 150 unique acts, showcasing representatives from the Gibsons Dance Centre, Coastal Academy of Dance, and Waldorf Ballet School.
Mezzo-soprano Fabiana Katz adjudicated a full day of vocal performance by soloists and choirs on April 26. “Just pretend to be an opera singer,” Katz advised teenage songstress Brielle Taylor. After delivering three showstoppers, Taylor inquired sheepishly, “Should I keep pretending to be an opera singer?”
Fraser Valley fiddler Jennie Bice presided over entries on April 27 by alto sax players Ythan Leitso and Leif Montgomery.
The festival will resume with wind band performances on May 11 at Elphinstone Secondary School, in conjunction with School District 46’s annual Band Blast.
An upcoming matinee highlights concert is to feature reprise appearances by almost two dozen select performers. The concert, which will include the announcement of festival awards and scholarships, takes place on May 13 at the Heritage Playhouse in Gibsons.