Reaching its climax with a public concert that featured an array of artistic disciplines, the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Performing Arts has concluded after three weeks of adjudicated performances and workshops.
The annual event, founded in 1973, is the longest-running festival on the Sunshine Coast. It returned this year to in-person involvement by scores of amateur performers following two years of cancellations and online-only interaction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Highlights Concert took place at the Gibsons Heritage Playhouse on May 7 before a near-capacity audience. The matinee show began with a vocal solo by Lilja Swift of Out of My Dreams from Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!.
Swift was the recipient of three honours, including the festival’s Intermediate Voice Award. She was also selected by adjudicator Sandra Meister as a Recommended Merited Participant for the Provincial Festival in Voice.
The B.C. Provincial Festival of the Performing Arts will take place June 5 to 9.
“[The festival] has an incredibly positive impact on singers of all ages in your community,” said Meister. “I believe our age range in the [vocal] performers spanned eight decades. Isn’t that a wonderful testament to the vital role of music and singing in our communities?”
Festival president Sarah Lowis, who served as master of ceremonies for the Highlights Concert, said that this year’s volunteer-run event represented an important step toward long-term sustainability.
“If we’re going to meet our mission, which is to promote amateur performances on the Sunshine Coast, we’ve got to be well-organized and spend our energy on building instead of surviving. This is where the community support is so important. It’s been so robust and is still very robust. It just shows that there’s a real passion for the performing arts and how much the community values it.”
The 2022 festival included performances in eight disciplines: piano, bowed strings, folk instrumental, dance, voice/choir, bands, woodwinds and brass, and speech arts. More than 150 awards were presented to competitors, many donated by local businesses, families or individuals.
For the first time, the festival included a category to highlight BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of colour) composers, with corresponding prizes. Fiddler Jinny Marshall was the inaugural winner of the BIPOC Composer Award for Folk; she was also recognized for Best Performance of an Indigenous Tune for her rendition of Soul Reel / Roots to Wings, a piece composed by Folk adjudicator Wesley Hardisty.
Olivia Beckingham and Sam Fink-Jensen won the BIPOC Composer Awards for Piano and Strings, respectively.
The Highlights Concert also featured cellist Miyo Shinagawa, recipient of a Collaboration Award in conjunction with Jake Jeong and Martin Krutsky for their sparkling string performance of Hadyn’s Piano Trio in G.
Pianist Xavier Kraukramp, recipient of the Performer’s Choice Award for Junior Piano, reprised his competition piece Blue (Da Ba Dee). Flutist Jaclyn Semaniuk, who took home four awards, revisited Bach’s Sonata in G Minor. Cellist Cael Read earned an award and a scholarship, performing Mendelssohn’s sprightly Concerto in D.
Taiyo Blackwell, competing in the Senior Piano category, earned five awards and delighted the Highlights Concert crowd with the intricate Jazz in 3. Fiddler Kayla Payne demonstrated the skills that netted her the Senior Folk Award, performing a medley of traditional tunes.
Three award-winning dancers performed solo numbers: Eibhlin Minatsis (selected as the Senior Provincial Ballet Competitor), Annah Kotai (the Junior Provincial Ballet Alternate), and Francesca Manson, who will appear at the Provincial Festival in the category of Senior Modern.
The concert featured two spoken-word performances. Sheila Weaver shared original haiku poems and an ensemble cast of Johanna Rzepa, Loretta Macklam and Radhika Samwald staged an interpretation of Miss Havisham, as written by Linda McTurk.
A full listing of festival award recipients will be available online at coastfestival.com and coastaldancefestival.com.
“It’s so impressive, the work that goes into it,” said Lowis. “It’s not just for those who are so passionate about the discipline that they will make a career of it, but it’s also about giving those that are exploring and just wanting to learn an instrument an opportunity to work towards a performance setting. And if the adjudicators are as fun as the ones that we had this year, it makes it quite entertaining and a lot of fun.”
Volunteers for next year’s festival are being sought; more information is available at coastfestival.com. Archived videos of nearly all 2022 recitals are available for viewing at the same address.
The Sunshine Coast Festival of the Performing Arts will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2024.