Grey County Kiwanis festival goes virtual for 2021

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Organizers of the Grey County Kiwanis Festival of Music are ensuring the music of local children and youth plays on in 2021.

After last year’s festival was cancelled as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the event is back in virtual form in its 89th year.

“There was a strong desire to see that we could do something,” festival chair Mark Hendry said on Saturday.

“We are ready to start this week and we have about 300 entries. I believe we are normally 500 so that is quite an impressive number.”

Hendry said it is important for the students to be able to gain the experience of festival competition and advance in their music.

“Practising by its very nature is kind of by yourself anyway, so you might as well progress and go up a level if possible or get the experience of playing in front of others,” Hendry said. “Some of them are at such a high level it is kind of almost criminal to pause it.

“You are somewhat akin to an elite athlete. You are at a certain level and don’t want to lose your abilities.”

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And there is also the fun aspect of the festival.

“For many of the little kids it is another thing different that they can do just as a distraction perhaps,” Hendry said.

A lot of work has gone into organizing the festival this year. The Ontario Music Festivals Association did its own online festival last June, so Hendry said they have built the local event using that model. The Royal Conservatory youth have also been taking regular lessons and exams virtually.

“There has been a lot of drive on the board and from the teachers too to do something in this manner,” Hendry said. “We cancelled some adjudicators last year. We rehired them and they said they could pivot to online. There is a lot of good support behind it.”

The cost of entering the festival has been reduced with the help of the Dorothy Wakeford Memorial Donation. Wakeford served as the festival secretary and manager for more than 25 years, directed young choristers and was a well-known singer in the community.

The festival officially runs from April 5 to 16, but entries have already flooded in. The young musicians were asked to record their piece of music and upload it to YouTube. From there they entered a link to their video in the festival’s registration system in a variety of categories, including piano, strings, brass and woodwinds, vocal, music theatre and drama in numerous age and skill levels.

“It is somewhat reduced, but all in all it is pretty good,” said Hendry. “Some festivals are no-show, no-go this year so we are very pleased to have something running.”

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The entries will now be released to the professional adjudicators. They will adjudicate each entry and provide comments and marks for each student. Class certificates and adjudication reports will be e-mailed out. They will also make recommendations for awards, scholarships and provincial recommendation, which are then reviewed by the awards committee with the winners to then be notified. The awards will be mailed to the winners and their names posted on the festival’s website at www.kiwanismusicfestival.net.

During a normal festival year, the Festival of Stars Award Concert is held at the Alliance Church at which time the awards are presented. But this year, due to the inability to gather, a video will be produced using the entries of the winners.

“We already have the videos so we will string them together with Richard Thomas’s help and make some announcements about some of the awards that are being presented,” said Hendry. “It will also be an opportunity for donating as well.”

Hendry said the video may be something they carry on with in future years once the festival is able to be held in person once again.

“It has a lot of potential to carry on as with many things nowadays,” said Hendry. “We may have this aspect carrying on in the future anyways so we might as well get our feet wet.”

The Festival of Stars Award Concert video will be available on April 27 on the festival website. Donations to the festival are always welcome through the website, with proceeds going towards the festival’s main goal of nurturing and supporting the musical abilities and grow the talents of the youth involved.

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