Classic tunes, spoken word, musical theatre – and even a dance performance or two – will fill the Lacombe Memorial Centre for the next few weeks.
The Lacombe and District Music Festival is returning to the city for a 38th time, bringing nearly 1,000 performers to the community April 29 to May 16.
While the festival – the longest running music festival in the community – is very known in the arts community, beyond that is a different story, and one they’re trying to change.
“We are probably Lacombe and district’s best kept secret,” said Lacombe and District Music Festival Association (LDMFA) Director Dr. Craig Colegrave. “We’re kind of like the other sport – not everyone has the physical prowess to go out and compete on the field, but many of them have the talent to perform in the performing arts.
“We represent the Olympics of performing arts.”
Music festivals themselves originated in Europe, and eventually migrated from England to Canada in 1908. In fact, the first music festival in the country was held in Edmonton and they’ve grown steadily in popularity ever since.
The Lacombe and District Music Festival is no exception, seeing an overall enrolment increase of 38 per cent across their 14 different disciplines for the first time in 22 years.
Part of the cause is an effort to give the festival an online presence and “face” on social media, including starting Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as redesigning their website. They’ve also been able to move the large majority of performances, which have previously been scattered across a number of local schools and churches, to the Lacombe Memorial Centre (LMC).
“We’ve never been under one roof. This year that changes,” said Colegrave. “With the generous support of Lacombe County and the City of Lacombe, we are now almost all in the LMC under one roof and we’re trying to put more of a public face on the music festival so that people can know what it is we do, why it’s important and why they should get their kids into performing arts.”
In October 2018, Colegrave approached Lacombe city council asking for an increase to the LDMFA’s Facility Rental Financial Assistance Grant not only to facilitate moving the majority of performances in a primary venue, but to aid in accommodating more than 800 requests for performance and education opportunities which were being turned away before. Council chose to increase the grant to a total of $10,000.
The music festival has also expanded their offerings as well, from 2,500 classes within the 14 disciplines to 39,985 and included a non-competitive stream, allowing and encouraging more performing arts students than ever before to further their education in their craft.
“These young performers slave away hour after hour in their lessons and at home and never get to perform anywhere or get to find out how good they are outside of their own teachers,” said Colegrave. “The performing arts festival allows them a chance to perform in front of their peers and get real time feedback on what they’ve accomplished, what’s good about what they’re doing and possibly look at ways they can improve.
“It’s a real world experience for them which they just don’t get anywhere else.”
Performances began on Monday, with junior piano performances and “Strings Unfretted,” which includes string instruments without a fretted keyboard, with the exception of the fiddle.
Tuesday will see junior piano and unfretted string instrument performances continue, as well as a separate fiddle discipline take the stage and Wednesday will see the start of speech arts and orchestral performances take place. Instrumental and band performances will go on Thursday, May 2.
Senior Piano, choral, dance and musical theatre and guitar performances will run May 7-9, while vocal performances will wrap up the festival on May 15 and 16.
A Celebration of the Performing Arts, which will feature 20 of the most popular performances throughout the festival, will also be held on May 21 from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m.
To see the full schedule of performances, or for more information on the Lacombe Music Festival, visit lacombestagelife.com.