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Performing songs outside a new experience for some school bands

Some of the top high school bands performed during the Band and Choral Festival's inaugural Moosic in the Park event in the Crescent Park amphitheatre.

It was a new experience for some band groups to perform outside in a park, as several did during the 70th annual Moose Jaw Band and Choral Festival.

The long-planned Moosic in the Park debuted on May 15 at the Crescent Park amphitheatre. It featured four of the top high school bands in the festival. Although it rained early in the morning, by 11 a.m. the rain had disappeared and the sun kept peaking through the clouds. 

The first group to perform was the Grade 9 concert band from Olds École High School in Olds, Alta. The group was making its second appearance at the festival. 

Visiting Moose Jaw has been an awesome experience, said percussionist Darian Wood. This has been a more relaxed environment than home, even if The Friendly City is flatter than Alberta. The festival has been fun, but the first day was stressful since they performed in a new place. Some students also had to borrow instruments since they forgot them at home. 

“The wind was definitely blowing pages around and stuff, but yeah, I enjoyed (playing outside),” he said, adding he likes band since he can travel and meet new people.

Performing outside was interesting, echoed band teacher Chelsea Pederson. She loved the acoustics of the amphitheatre and appreciated how the weather co-operated. 

“It was a really neat experience. We’d do it again, for sure,” said Pederson. “I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but I liked it.” 

Coming to Moose Jaw is the group’s annual trip for Grade 9 band, she explained. The students get to be away from home, meet new people and acquire new experiences. The trip also teaches them teamwork. 

The adjudicator who judged their first performance provided helpful tips for improvement, Pederson remarked. The students used some of those tips in their performances outside. 

“I wanted to perform again, because (the first day) they were a bit nervous,” she added. “Today it was more of a relaxed setting. They weren’t as stressed today.”

This festival used to be known as the Kinsmen Festival, before a community group took over in the mid-1990s, explained volunteers Debbie and Dave Richards. The community group expanded the festival and turned it into a popular event. Bands and choirs have to register early since spaces fill up quickly. 

Mr. Richards has volunteered often since 1986 and was once the committee chairman. Mrs. Richards has been less involved, but was the first female chairperson. 

“It (the festival) has been a history of excellence and they maintained the excellence in the (use of) adjudicators,” said Mrs. Richards. Groups are no longer pitted competitively against one another; this keeps up with the spirit of the times.

Moose Jaw is also a comfortable place to bring students, she continued. There are many places to accommodate large school bands and choirs, while the community feels like home. 

The band director from Calgary has brought her students to the festival for 23 years, observed Mr. Richards. She is confident her students will be safe while visiting. 

“In the past, the Kinsmen held a parade with 100 marching bands,” he continued. “But that went by the wayside. This (the Moosic in the Park) is a reincarnation of that event.”

Mr. Richards jumped in to perform with the Grade 9 students on his trombone. Mrs. Richards pointed out students should buy their instruments — instead of renting — since they can play them again as adults. 

Many groups love the amphitheatre as a venue, said Mrs. Richards. Most have never played outside, while they probably also haven’t used clothes pins to keep their music from flying away. 

“It’s a great spot,” she added. “(They’ll) enjoy it.” 

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