Festival taking centre stage this month

“The object of a festival is not to gain a prize or defeat a rival but to face one another on the road to excellence.”
That’s the verse found in the official program of the annual Rainy River District Music and Drama Festival, which kicks off Monday, April 13 at the Knox United Church Sanctuary here.
And festival president Beth Caldwell stressed those words summed up what it was all about.
“In the end, we’re promoting that they come and learn,” she said yesterday, noting if people were coming to better themselves, it didn’t matter if they got top marks from the adjudicators.
What mattered, she added, was that they learned from what the adjudicators had to say about their performance.
The adjudicators, who are all coming in from Manitoba, include Charles Horton (piano), William Gordon (band and instrumental), Doreen Pruden (drama), and Catherine Robbins (vocal and choral).
This year will see an increased demand on the vocal adjudicator, with that event now spanning all week instead of three days. Caldwell attributed the rising number of vocal entries to the higher number of qualified music teachers in the district.
“Drama, though, has dropped,” she noted, adding she felt that was a reflection of the amount of time teachers had to do such activities in school. “They just don’t have the time for it.”
And with budget cuts, Caldwell noted schools didn’t have the money to transport students from the district to perform. Which is a shame, she suggested
“[The festival] gives children the opportunity to display their talents, number one, and to be adjudicated by professionals,” she noted. “[And] it is probably the only event in the district where young talent does come out of the woodwork.”
She also said it gave children confidence to get involved in things such as school musicals, band, and plays. “I think it helps with being able to stand up in front of people and speak,” she added.
And Caldwell stressed the festival wasn’t just for children, noting a small number of adults are lined up in both the music and drama portions.
“Although the adults that are coming forward are coming out of the committee,” she said. “We’re hoping that will bring other people out.”
But Caldwell, who won the prestigious Rose Bowl for drama when she was 15, admitted she isn’t performing this year.
Though she’s been thinking about it, she said she’s still trying to work up enough nerve to recite the same poem she performed in a previous festival.
“Not yet,” she laughed.
The piano, band, and instrumental portion wraps up April 17, with the drama, vocal, and choral classes running April 20-24. The popular festival highlights concert is slated Sunday, April 26 at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church.
The district festival was first organized in 1933. A non-profit organization, the committee relies on community service clubs, private donations, and entry fees to cover its $8,000 annual operating budget.