Several eager shoppers heading to St. Albert Farmers’ Market last Saturday were yanked out of their reverie as Star Wars thundering chords floated down St. Anne Street.
St. Albert Community Band, seated at the market’s south end, was jazzing up the idyllic day with a steady stream of music. Although not an official act booked for StArts Fest, the city’s version of Alberta Culture Days, the band nevertheless was a terrific opening act featuring the best we have to offer in arts and culture.
Edmonton visitor Faye Stewart was surprised and delighted when her grandson asked to take trombone lessons after listening to the band.
“Something like this gives everybody a chance to see it. It opens opportunities for children, and you get to see how music affects your life. Unfortunately, lots of children don’t get to hear good music.”
Similar comments to Stewart’s reverberated throughout the day as visitors applauded event organizers for shining a beacon on numerous fine arts – film, theatre, music, dance, literature, the visual arts and the fibre arts.
The free festival unfolded September 28 to 30 at various downtown venues, including St. Albert Place, St. Albert Public Library, Hemingway Centre, Art Gallery of St. Albert and Ric’s Grill.
“Coming out of this weekend, I feel really positive. Once again, St. Albert shows us we have a great artistic community full of variety. And it always astounds me how deep it is,” stated event chair Peter Moloney.
Holding centre court on Friday and Saturday night with a special theatrical presentation was Bboyizm, a sophisticated urban hip–hop dance troupe that was booked as part of the Arden Theatre’s professional series.
Full of sweat and swagger, they electrified audiences with splits, headstands and flips. But if crowd screams and shouts were any indication of popularity, the earth really started shaking when the street dancers spun on shoulders with legs in the air, a propeller-like blur.
In addition to staging two weekend shows, Bboyizm also hosted a workshop for street-dance experienced teens on Saturday.
“To give you an indication of how audiences were engaged, we had three dancers sign up for the workshop after the Friday night performance. And one person was so over-the-top with his comments,” said a clearly delighted Moloney.
Over at Ric’s Grill, the competitive Story Slam was an hour of teasing surprises as six slammers stood on a soapbox to deliver the spoken word.
Perhaps the most surprised representative was first-place winner Kelly Aisenstat. The St. Albert actor not only read but hammed it up in A Sense of Perspective, a story on stress.
After the slam, Aisenstat revealed he decided to read at the competition on Thursday and quickly penned his stress piece during his Friday lunch hour. In a dash of poetic justice, he found the read stressful and chuckled saying, “Clearly, I couldn’t take my own advice.”
Silver went to Troy Sheridan and Tracey Aisenstat held on to third place.
Capturing a significant crowd, Paul Kane playwright/director Hayley Moorehouse’s play Grocery Store at the Arden delivered an inspiring message on broadening horizons. The 35-minute comedy drama, while a tad over-the-top at times, showcased an energetic Paul Kane cast.
“Using a local playwright with a local cast and giving them the opportunity to mount a production, was something different and it worked very well,” Moloney commented.
For the first time, organizers introduced a spiritual mandala where participants dressed in colourful attire formed and created its sound. About 13 participants met by St. Albert Place’s riverbank statues. They chanted a Cree invocation and added songs in French and English while drawing six patterns of harmony on the sidewalk.
“The mandala brings something that is invisible in you and makes it visible to the outside,” explained mandala leader Stephanie Gruss.
In St. Albert Place lobby, the quilters’ guild was giving out 200 kits of quilt squares to volunteer quilters. Once the completed squares are returned, the guild will stitch them together forming two quilts that would be donated to palliative care or the Youville Home.
A steady stream of quilters stopped by to volunteer their services, among them Debbie Martin, a retired Sturgeon County teacher.
“I’ve newly gotten into quilting and I’m newly retired. It (the kit) looked so bright and cheerful. When you reach our age, it’s time to think about what you can give back.”
Down a few paces from the quilters’ table, a young artist showcase was echoing throughout the curvilinear brick hallways with the tender strains of Lara Hyrak’s violin, John Engler’s soothing digital piano and the Jessy Mossop-Stephen Lecky duo belting out their rockin’ country to name a few.
During a break from the artist showcase, Trudy Mason of the paper arts guild presented Mayor Nolan Crouse with the Celebration Book, a three-year project made by locals in honour of the 150th anniversary.
The sheaves of paper were created from plant matter collected out of the Sturgeon River. Once the sheaves were made, local citizens added their signatures and photos, and paper artist Deirdre Allen constructed the open back covers.
In presenting the book to Crouse, Mason summed up the creation by saying, “This is a book created by the people of St. Albert for the people of St. Albert.”
Over at the Hemingway Centre, a stunning array of visual art including delicate Japanese embroidery art introduced specifically for the festival brought in a continuous meandering flow of art aficionados.
In the evening, a St. Albert Public Library special featured CBC’s Nora Young and technology guru Mack Male. The event attracted about 50 curious readers eager to discuss the positives and negatives of the 21st century technological invasion.
“People were definitely as engaged as they were at Corrine Jeffery’s book launch the next day,” added Moloney.
Not counting Bboyizm’s two-night theatrical urban street dance show at the Arden, he estimates about 1,000 visitors, attended the festival, a slight increase from 2011.
“The festival continues to grow. We continue to try new things and hope the community felt it was successful and we hope they will become involved in the future.”