Adjudicator Alde Calongcagong, from Windsor, speaks to Lin Qi Core, 10, of Sarnia following her performance Wednesday April 26, 2017 at the Sarnia Library Theatre, during the Lambton County Music Festival. The festival, now in its 88th year, continues next week at venues around Sarnia. Paul Morden/Sarnia Observer/Postmedia Network
The Lambton County Music Festival is growing again.
Now in its 88th year, the annual music competition is up 20 entries from 2016, for a total of 427.
“Which is always a good sign,” said festival president David Nichols.
“Especially nowadays when kids are so preoccupied with just using their thumbs texting, they don’t want to use all of their hand to play the piano as much, anymore.”
Beginning Monday, musicians, singers, choirs and bands are being scored by adjudicators at sessions set to continue into next week at venues around the city.
“Everything is running well, as usual,” Nichols said.
Festival programs, including the full schedule, are available for $3 at Van Goozen Music in Sarnia, as well as the venues which include Dunlop United Church, St. Gile’s Church, the Sarnia Library Theatre, Central United Church, St. Patrick’s Catholic High School and Great Lakes Secondary School.
Sessions ran this week Monday to Wednesday, and will continue next week, Monday to Thursday. They’re open to the public and admission is free, but donations to help with the cost of the festival are welcome.
“Way back 30 years ago, we had two full weeks of this we could barely squeeze in,” said Nichols, a retired high school music teacher.
But, cutbacks that eliminated music education specialists in elementary schools several years ago “really cut our numbers down,” he said.
“I think we went from about 200 choirs one year, to three.”
Those numbers have since begun to improve with the help of parent groups supporting elementary school band programs and after-school choirs, Nichols said.
“Things are slowly coming back.”
Lambton’s festival is run by an active volunteer board, with strong financial support from the community, Nichols said.
It bills itself as the longest running independent Canadian music festival.
“Oldest doesn’t always mean the best but I’m a little prejudiced, so I think we are,” Nichols said.
The aim is to foster excellence in the performance of music by soloists, ensembles and larger groups, with musicians and singers gaining from the evaluations by the adjudicators, as well as what they learn from each other.
“Kids leave feeling better than they did when they arrived,” Nichols said.
This year’s grand finale “Stars of the Festival” concert is set for May 16, 7 p.m., in the former SCITS auditorium at Great Lakes Secondary School on Wellington Street.
Admission is $3 adults and $1 for students, just enough to cover the cost of printing a program and reserving the theatre, Nichols said.
“We try to get a mix of ages and instrumentation,” he said.
“It’s just a really wonderful variety concert.”