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Lethbridge and District Music and Speech Arts Festival going online this year due to Covid

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Covid or no Covid, the show must go on including  The Lethbridge and District Music and Speech Arts Festival which is back in spirit this year.
 While Covid 19 cancelled the long standing festival three days before it was supposed to start last year, organizers have been working hard since the fall to bring the entire month-long event online for this year,“ I just hope the community will remember that we’re still here,” said Lethbridge and District Speech arts  Festival General Manger Megan Wittig.

Megan Wittig and the Lethbridge and District Music and Speech Arts Festival board have put a lot of work into turning the festival into an online event. Photo  by Richard Amery
 As expected , there are a lot fewer competitors this year with  420  musicians and artists aged six to university age competing,
“We’re down by half this year. We had 900 last time,” Wittig observed.

The deadline has closed for submissions this year.

This year, competitors were asked to submit a video of  their performances to Wittig, who will send them to adjudicators Aaron Au, Strings (Edmonton); Alicia Bigras, Contemporary Voice (Medicine Hat);  Camille Rogers, Music Composition and Junior Voice (Toronto);  Elliot Madore, Senior Voice (Toronto); Jennifer Orr, Speech (Calgary);  Kim Mattice Wanat, Musical Theatre (Edmonton); Kirk Muspratt, Band, Chamber Music, and Instrumental (Chicago, Illinois);  Louise Costigan-Kerns, Junior Piano (San Carlo, California) and  Magdalena von Eccher, Senior Piano (Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island).
 “The adjudicators will send a video  back to each competitor and class and they will type out their feedback to them. They usually write out their feedback,” Wittig said.
“We’ve worked with most of the adjudicators before and a lot of them have local connections,” she said, adding most of the adjudicators scheduled for last year agreed to return for the virtual event.

“Some of them weren’t available. But going online means we have adjudicators from the United States , Toronto and the East Coast, who we would not have been able to afford fly in,” Wittig said.

 The event culminates with the Stars of the Festival “concert, Saturday, April 16 at 7 p.m.— which will be a compilation of the winning video submissions to air on YouTube and on Shaw TV.
There are competitors in several categories including strings (cello, violin, bass), chamber music senior and junior piano, musical theatre and composition. Submissions will be sent to the adjudicators by March 14, with adjudication to begin on March 15.

“We’re trying to keep it as close to the dates of the festival (if it had been a live event) as we could,” Wittig said.

“ LCI even entered a band submission. This year there are no choirs, guitar or organ. And we have four original compositions,” she said, noting there are a lot of entries into the strings category this year and plenty of Junior and Senior piano entries. Musical theatre entries are in the same category rather than being separated by age. There is also a new provincial category for contemporary rock and pop.
She noted the provincial competition is taking the same online format.
“So they won’t have to learn anything new for that,” she said.


New West Theatre continues online Alberta play reading series with story about dementia

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New West Theatre continues their mini online play reading series on March 4 with a reading of Calgary based , Lethbridge raised playwright  Col Cseke’s “Jim Forgetting.”Ashley Thomson will be part of New West Theatre‘s online play reading of Jim Forgetting, March 4. Photo by Richard Amery
Ashley Thomson and Calgary actor Mike Tan play Jim and Donna, a middle aged couple coping with Jim’s early onset dementia.
“Casting for this play is key,” said New West Theatre artistic director Kelly Reay, praising the actors.

“ It was challenging to cast a middle aged couple. But they really do the roles justice,” he said adding he has worked with both actors before.
“Jim Forgetting” is part of New West Theatre’s mandate to support Albertan and Canadian playwrights
 Reay has known Cseke for 15 years, so he is excited to  revisit  Csekes’s work.

“I saw this play a few years ago in Calgary and it stuck with me,” Reay said.


Steve Keenan excited his new CD is finally “In My Hands”

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Local blues musician Steve Keenan noted he is excited to have new music “In My Hands,” as he just released his long awaited second album.
 It has been over 10 years since he released his debut album with his band Fat Baby Jake.Steve Keenan, Gary Drayton and Paul Kype playing Honker’s Pub. Photo by Richard Amery
 He started recording “ In My Hands” almost exactly a year ago in local musician Paul Kype’s s home studio.
“It’s been over 12 years since my last EP with Fat Baby Jake, Keenan said, noting he revisited and created new arrangements for three older songs “Something New,” “Whiskey Drinking Blues” and “Lucky One,” for the CD.

 While it has been a a long time since Keenan released his own album, he has been far from idle, playing his own shows and performing with local musicians Paul Kype and recording on local artists’ CDs including Allan Roy Wilson, Greg Gomola and Papa King.

Band mate Gary Drayton added keyboards to the new arrangements as well as  the seven other new songs on the CD.

“ There are a couple of country songs on it and there are some really pretty ballads on it too,” Kennan continued.

“Lucky One’ is an older song that I wrote about being thankful and  ‘In My Hands is a newer song I wrote for my daughter about how life changes and about  how my daughters have been such a huge benefit to my life,” Keenan continued, noting he enjoyed working on the CD  in Paul Kype’s Bearfoot Studio.


LMT Broadway open mics are back online

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Even though musical theatre aficionados can’t sing live in person,  they can at least sing together online.

 Lethbridge MusicJillian Bracken is looking forward to putting on her musical theatre hat for LMT's virtual Broadway open mic, Feb. 27. Photo by Richard Ameryal Theatre was just hitting their stride with regular Broadway open mic nights at the Owl Acoustic Lounge when Covid hit and live entertainment got shut down.

 However, Jillian Bracken is excited to  to bring back Broadway open mics, in spirit anyway, with a special virtual Broadway open mic, Feb. 27 beginning at 8 p.m

“ We did one in the fall of 2018 then three in 2019 and then Covid hit,” Bracken recalled.

“We started them at Casa, then moved to the Owl, which had a different vibe. It became more about the community getting together and having fun performing,” she continued.

“That’s what makes it special,” she said adding the Zoom event will have a different vibe again.

“We kept hoping we’d be able to perform live again, but it kept getting delayed and delayed again,” she said adding artists have been forced to adapt by doing these sorts of events online.

“It will work and  we’ll be ready for whenever we are allowed to perform again,” she said, six people have already signed up through the Facebook event, with many more signing up to be part of the audience.


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L.A. Beat is Lethbridge, Alberta's only online arts and entertainment magazine.

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