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    Categories: Entertainment

Encore! A showcase of the region’s best youth performers

Gabrielle Despres plays the Polonaise Brillante in D major during the St. Albert Rotary Music Festival Encore Program 2017 at the Arden Theatre in St. Albert on Wednesday Apr. 26.

The St. Albert Rotary Music Festival has built a reputation pulling off impressive youth concerts.

Encore, a concert and awards ceremony closing the 40th annual music festival last Wednesday at the Arden Theatre, was no exception.

Organizers not only awarded excellence in the way of 80 scholarships, bursaries and general awards tallying about $12,000. They also showcased 12 spirited and stylish performances.

Co-hosting the event was Dr. Alan Murdock, whose dry wit was an excellent counterpoint to Rotarian Doug Webster’s sharp repartee.

The three-hour event was broken into two parts. The first featured performances highlighting violin, piano, musical theatre, vocal performances, youth band, dance and choir. The second portion instead was devoted exclusively to handing out awards.

Violinist Gabrielle DeprÉs, 16, opened the concert under the Arden’s gem coloured lights, performing Henryk Wieniawski’s Polonaise Brillante in D Major. Her father, Jacques, provided robust accompaniment on the Arden’s elegant black Petrof piano.

Playing with supreme poise and sophistication, DeprÉs’ bow caressed the violin making it sing and cry, wringing every emotion from sadness to joy. It was a flawless performance, one that conveyed her passion for music and was near impossible for others to surpass.

At intermission, DeprÉs mentioned selecting the polonaise to compete at the prestigious Shean Strings Competition from May 18 to 20.

“It’s a fun piece, very virtuosic and technically difficult. It’s a good piece for a competition, said DeprÉs.

Her instincts were dead on. She won the Rotary Festival’s $1,000 Lyle Moore Scholarship, the largest single award presented to a competitor.

Another noteworthy performance was pianist Cassidy Nouanethong glowing rendition of Mozart’s Sonata K545, 1st movement. Her confident interpretation was lively, cheerful and brisk as her fingers nimbly skimmed the black and whites.

École Marie Poburan student Dante Fecteau, 11, completely charmed the audience with his techno modern version of the romantic Italian hit Non ti scordar di me (Don’t Forget Me).

As MacEwan University student Janae Olsen tap-danced to the upbeat rhythms of Aretha Franklin’s massive feminist hit Natural Woman, the Lappa brothers, Coleman and Gabriel, bounded across the state battling egos in the Broadway hit You’re Nothing Without Me.

While Lyle Moore Scholarship winner Gabrielle DeprÉs opened the concert, Memorial Composite High School Mixed Ensemble, the 2017 Rose Bowl winners bookended the concert’s closing portion.

The 14-piece a cappella choir from Stony Plain served up Sleep Now, a piece adapted from a James Joyce poem, and Steal Away, an emotional American Civil War spiritual.

At intermission, Memorial’s Grade 12 student Kaehli Tebb, spokesperson for the ensemble said, “It’s such an honour to be selected with these amazing people I’ve known for three years. We all support each other. We’re like a family. We are really proud of this and we’re going to put it (trophy) in our showcase and brag to the sports teams that the arts program is amazing. And we’ll probably take a lot of selfies with it.”

This is the second Rose Bowl win for Memorial Composite High. The Men’s Ensemble blew the competition away in 2014 taking home the $500 award.

Two other major awards were presented to worthy talent. Gabriel Lappa received the $450 Elsie and Bill Filipchuk Bursary for Musical Theatre and Amy Polczer scooped up the $500 Marsha Stanton Award.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was Murdock’s announcement that festival co-ordinator Maryan Threndyl had resigned from her position.

Threndyl, a St. Albert music teacher, was a festival mainstay and the frontline go-to person. She was presented with a huge bouquet of flowers and a mysterious gift bag.

“The time is right for me,” she said. “I’ve done it for 15 years and it’s a lot of work. It’s been great and the festival is in a good place. We have a lot of fine performers, and I hear from teachers and adjudicators time and time again that they like the festival. And I’d like to go out on a high note.”

Future plans include more time for students, more time for adjudications and more time to travel.

Threndyl closed by saying, “I hope the festival stays strong.”

Anna Borowiecki: Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.