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L.A. Beat

Pipe organs to be a highlight of Kiwanis Music and Speech Arts Festival

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A pipe organ is an entire orchestra built into a single machine. All you have to do is step on the right pedals, pull the right levers in the right order and play the right notes on a couple different keyboards.
“It’s like having a 10 course meal. You have to have all of your forks and knives lined up,” described Allan Young, St. Augustine Anglican church’s organ player and teacher.

Allan Young plays  some pipe organ, a new highlight of this year’s festival. Photo by Richard AmeryHe helped convince Kiwanis Music and Speech Arts festival organizers to add organ classes to the  83rd annual Kiwanis Music and Speech Arts Festival, which runs  March 11-23 at six venues in the city. Over the next two weeks, approximately 1,100 participants aged six and up will be performing in 80 sessions at  the Yates Memorial Centre, Sterndale Bennett Theatre, Southminster United Church, Lethbridge Public Library gallery, St. Patrick’s Fine Arts Elementary school, Écolé Agnes Davidson and St. Augustine’s Anglican Church Hall.

This year, both the Lethbridge Gold and Silver community bands will be performing. The largest band has 95 members, the largest choir features 75 members. This year participants will be coming from as far away as Taber and Magrath. They even have a band coming all the way from Hugh Sutherland School in Carstairs to compete in this year’s festival. A dedicated core of 15 adjudicators will be listening to all participants and offering constructive criticism , feedback and advice on their performances.
  The festival features the standard selection of vocals, choirs, piano, speech arts, French speech, a variety of instruments, bands and pipe organs.

 Admission is two dollars a session, or programs, which act as a pass for all shows, cost $10 from Long and McQuade. General Manager Beth Cook is especially looking forward to the pipe organ classes.
“ You can’t go to a concert for two dollars. And that’s what you’ll be hearing,” Cook said.

She is looking forward to the entire festival, particularly some of the piano classes, which will be featuring  one piano six hands, two pianos eight hands and  even eight hands on electric keyboards. But she is especially looking forward to the pipe organ classes.
“ I’m excited about the pipe organ classes. We have a wide variety of participants, so it is nice to see them all,” she continued. There are 19 entrants in the pipe organ classes.
“We based it ( the pipe organ classes) on the syllabus on Calgary’s Kiwanis festival,” Young said. He has been playing pipe organ since learning it as a teen growing up in Ireland. He’ll be adjudicating festivals in Saskatchewan in the next coming months, but for now is excited about the Lethbridge festival featuring their  first pipe organ classes in recent memory.

“Beth (Cook , general manager) could remember there ever being pipe organ classes and neither can I as far as I can remember and I’ve been here for 27 years,” said Young who is a piano player first and a pipe organ player second.
 They are very different instruments as players really need to know what they want to do and what they want to hear.
with the cornucopia of combinations of different sounds from strings to numerous woodwinds and even a few brass sounds,  created by using various combinations of  levers and pedals.
  The classes will take place in St. Augustine’s Hall, where they will be playing on the church’s 3,000 pipe organ. They were unable to use  Southminster United Church’s 4,500 pipe organ due to  several issues, including access to  their organ.

“It is easier for people to practice on this one (The St. Augustine Organ.),” he said adding organ players must know the keys and pedals by second nature.
“It’s like driving a car. You need to know where the gas pedal is. You can’t just go and pilot a 737. You have to practice,” he said.

“ I’m just excited to hear the kids play,” enthused Calgary based organ player Chellan Hoffman, who will be adjudicating the organ section this year.
“I’m excited to hear the kids play and to see what sounds they can get out of the  organ. I’m just excited to meet them and tell them what a great instrument they’ve chosen to play. Because having that skill will open a lot of doors for them,” Hoffman enthused.
“ You can really get some interesting sounds. And it’s a very historical instrument,” she continued.

“ I like that every pipe organ is unique,” she said. Pipes are made of metal and wood and are of varying lengths,  allowing endless combinations and therefore endless different sounds.
“ I think it’s great Lethbridge will be doing pipe organ sessions,” she enthused.

Hoffman learned to play pipe organ in Yorkton, Saskatchewan,  transitioning from piano and expanded her skills when she moved to Calgary, where she earned a Masters Degree in music composition from the University of Calgary. Lethbridge and District  Kiwanis Music  and Speech arts Festival  General Manager Beth Cook is getting ready for March 11. Photo by Richard Amery
 She adjudicated the organ section of  Lacombe’s Kiwanis Festival, where the university there has a pipe organ.

 While pipe organs are usually found in churches, some colleges and universities also have them.
 “I was just excited that they asked me to do it,” she said.

She will be looking for a couple things form the organ participants.
“I’ll take into account how long they have been playing, because it is very difficult. But also if they have a feel for the music, the sounds they use. Another aspect is  the musicality, their touch and how the sounds they use suit the song,” she said.

 Morning sessions at all venues  begin at 9 a.m.. They take a break for lunch before resuming afternoon sessions at 1 p.m.. And after another break, evening sessions begin at 6:30 p.m. Band session times vary slightly, taking into account transportation times.

The festival is a year round effort powered by countless dedicated volunteers and staff as in addition to sorting out schedules, they also arrange awards, scholarships and  regional and provincial qualifiers.
 There are two best of shows including  the Musical Theatre Showcase, March 16 at  and the Stars of the Festival wind up gala, March 23, both at the Yates Theatre.

“ It really does go year round. the directors have to get awards organized and scholarships. And choose people to adjudicate,” Cook said, praising the Kiwanis club for all of the work they do to make the event successful.

 A version of this story appears in the March 6, 2013 edition of the Lethbridge Sun Times
— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 06 March 2013 10:42 )  
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