Categories: Entertainment

St. Albert shines at Big Valley Jamboree

POP STAR – Yasmeen Najmeddine performs at K-Days 2013.

One thing Big Valley Jamboree is committed to doing is bringing some of the hottest country artists to the masses – storytellers of the people such as Tim McGraw and Terri Clark.

But as the BVG main stage cranks into high gear August 1 to 4, flanking the big names are the up and comers on the ATB Financial Homegrown Talent Stage.

In previous years, this stage was set up as a showcase for young talent. However, the concept was changed to a competition, and in this year’s holy grail, the grand winner receives a slot on the main stage just before Tim McGraw.

“This is a prime spot and a lot of performers would give their eye-teeth for it,” says producer Irma MacPherson.

MacPherson has produced the BVJ young talent stage for 13 years.

“This year we did a proposal for Panhandle Productions and they went for it and I’m so pleased for the kids to sing one song on stage,” MacPherson said.

From the preliminaries that attracted about 800 submissions, 48 artists under 18 were selected as semi-finalists. At BVJ, the semi-finalists perform one song.

Every hour two finalists will be chosen to compete in the finals on Sunday, from 3 to 4 p.m. The grand prizewinner performs later in the evening.

For some entrants, the subtle shift to a competition format might add pressure-cooker stress to entertaining at Alberta’s biggest country concert.

For Paul Kane High student Yasmeen Najmeddine, now in her third BVJ season, it is just business as usual.

“It’s just in the way you look at it. I see it as a competition or seeing how far I can go and have fun. That’s how I look at it,” says the pop singer. “It’s an experience rather than a competition.”

A huge admirer of Taylor Swift, Najmeddine hopes to carry on stage a healthy dose of the country pop princess’ luck singing the icon’s song Safe and Sound.

Despite the image of cool projected by the young hopefuls, MacPherson reinforces the idea that the opportunity to perform is a big deal.

“You never know who is watching, not only scouts but managers and show producers that can help book the singers for shows.”

Several performers that have found a degree of fame are Brett Kissell, Samantha King, Tenille and fiddler Daniel Gervais.

“People saw them and felt they had enough talent to put them on stages across Alberta.”

Four additional singers from St. Albert have also been tapped to perform. They are Julia Nicholson, Carlee Kreck, Deanna Missins and Hailey Benedict. From Sturgeon County eight-year-old twins Tristyn and Keirstyn Chartrand also showcase their smiles in a duet.

Each of the singers has individual strengths notes MacPherson. Najmeddine is spotlighted for her stage presence and clarity of tone. Nicholson boasts an alternative voice with a complementary rock edge. Kreck is all country. Missins veers towards the bluesy palette, and Benedict is a little firecracker that envelops the stage.

“I’m really excited about all the possibilities for our artists and having a spot on stage in front of Tim McGraw. I’m excited for them. It’s a new concept and a new prize.”

The artist schedule is:

• Yasmeen Najmeddine, Aug. 1 at 3 p.m.

• Julia Nicholson, Aug. 2 at 12 p.m.

• Carlee Kreck, Aug. 2 at 12 p.m.

• Deanna Missins, Aug. 3 at 12 p.m.

• Hailey Benedict, Aug. 3 at 12 p.m.

• Tristyn and Keirstyn Chartrand, Aug. 3 at 12 p.m.

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.