It was a privilege to have the freedom to attend a number of the performance sections leading up to the gala event of the fifty-sixth annual Lakes District Festival of the Performing Arts. The main event last Saturday evening had a large turn-out and the feel of a formal event, but during the two weeks prior it was a much more relaxed affair.
Young performers played, sang, and waxed poetical in gatherings that, despite the presence of formal adjudicators, were informal and carried out in a context of support, encouragement and learning.
There wasn’t one performer without amazing talent – backed up by many hours of practise – to bring to the stage. These are serious, and seriously good, musicians, singers and performers. During the weekday sessions the audience sat quite close to the stage without the distance that comes with dimmed lights, an expectant hush, and sharing the room with 300 or so other people.
On Saturday evening, the audience expected to be impressed. The performers were a select group and they were ready for the big night. During the week, those same performers came out less to wow the audience and more as part of the structured learning experience that advancing through music grades represents.
The adjudicators would work with many of the students after their performances on elements of their musicality that could benefit from a few quick tips. They did this in front of the audience, so we would get a quick lesson in music appreciation as well.
I didn’t know any of the performers beyond having met some of them in other contexts, so I’m completely impartial when I say that anyone who has the opportunity to drop in on some of these weekday events next year should do so. You will be glad you did, the way you’re glad for sunshine after two weeks of grey weather.
The gala performance was, of course, amazing. But you expect that going in. You don’t expect to walk in on a weekday morning and have your whole month elevated to a higher level by talented and precocious youth who carry their skill as comfortably as slipping into a favourite sweater on a cool evening.
Two long-time Burns Lake residents were honoured Saturday evening as well. Bonnie Lambert and her 55 years of work with the festival, was celebrated. She reminisced that it didn’t seem all that long ago when she started volunteering at the age of five.
Kay Saul received the Citizen of the Year award for her service to Burns Lake and area. She had no idea that she was going to receive the award when the evening began, or even until the award was announced. Volunteers seem to do their work tirelessly and largely without recognition. I suppose that’s the only way they would have it – which explains why you have to sneak awards up on them without telling them – but it’s great to see the community able to take a moment and celebrate its leaders.