The annual Shaunavon and District Music Festival opened in style on Sunday with a special concert to commemorate the event’s 80th anniversary.
The afternoon celebration turned out to be a fantastic show as a number of former festival participants – several of whom have gone on to musical careers – entertained a large audience at the Centre Street United Church.
The tone was set early – and perfectly – with the singing of O Canada by the father and daughter team of Sheila Anderson and Jack Hughes, two long-time festival supporters and participants.
Their appearance was followed by Ty Hunter, who performed a piano solo (“I Sing the Mighty Power of God with Almighty”) and recited a hilarious poem written by his mother, Norma Hunter, entitled ‘The Messy Room.” In fact, Norma, who wrote a number of poems for the music festival over the years, recently published a book of those poems. The book also carries the title “The Messy Room.”
Next up was another humorous contribution, a musical theatre number called “My New Philosophy” by Jesse (Gronhovd) Johnson. She was accompanied on piano by Wendy Patzer.
Dianne Kronberg, a music festival participant from 1970 to 1980, performed two piano solos of her own compositions entitled “Think of These Things” and “My Grace.”
Adam Cosgrove of Climax, who went on to earn a music degree at the University of Regina, got the crowd clapping with the John Denver favourite “Country Road” and later performed the folk classic “Water is Wide.”
Rebecca Wiens of Bracken performed a speech arts entry called “My Advocate.” Rebecca also spoke eloquently about the influence parents have on their children’s participation in the festival and what ultimately turns into a life-long love for music. It was a theme that was repeated many times by performers throughout the afternoon.
Mark Anderson – who admitted his only singing solo at the music festival occurred when he was in Grade 1 (several decades ago), sang two songs – “Linden Lea” and “Homeward Bound.” He was accompanied on piano by Lynn Wilson.
Shayla Kluzak, a more recent festival graduate, had the crowd laughing with her musical theatre presentation of “Little Known Facts.”
Another father and daughter team – Michelle Erickson and Raymond Miller – sang a duet, “Edelweiss,” accompanied by Jesse Johnson on piano.
Former Shaunavon resident David Johnson – a longtime violinist with the Regina Symphony Orchestra – performed “Liebesleid” and “Schon Rosmarin.” He was accompanied by Frontier music teacher Janice Friggstad on piano.
The show had a bit of a surprise ending as organizers welcomed Rick Hughes to the stage. Rick, a professional actor and singer now living in Toronto – performed “On the Street Where You Live.”
Like several performers in Sunday’s concert, he reminisced about his wonderful musical experiences growing up in Shaunavon and also recounted the terrifying moments he endured before taking the stage as a young festival participant.
“I remember feeling the nerves and being so overwrought with what was about to happen,” he stated.
Ultimately, however, he came to realize that his anxiety was unnecessary.
“There was nothing to worry about because it was such a supportive place.”
The concert turned out to be a tribute to the many amazing performers who have graced the festival stage over the years as well as the festival itself and the positive influence it has had on young people.
All of the concert performers provided details about what they remembered about the festival over the years – many of them humorous anecdotes – and how it helped shape their own lives.
“Music is part of us and it will never leave,” offered Hughes.
Wendy Thienes served as emcee for the occasion and provided the crowd with historical tidbits about the music festival and some background information about the performers.
Other guest speakers included Carol Donhauser of the Saskatchewan Music Festival Association, who made a special 80th anniversary presentation to the Shaunavon & District Music Festival.
Shaunavon mayor Sharon Dickie also congratulated the local festival on its contribution to the Southwest over the years.
“The music festival has been very important to our culture and community,” offered Dickie.