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St. Albert Rotary Music Festival plans a phased in return

Online registration opens Dec. 1
2511 Rotary Fest
Daphne Charrois was the St. Albert Rotary Music Festival's 2019 Lyle Moore Scholarship recipient.

“Save the arts” is Daphne Charrois’ rallying cry as the 2021 St. Albert Rotary Music Festival gears up for another year. 

The former Morinville resident was the 2019 Rotary Music Festival recipient of the $1,000 Lyle Moore Scholarship. Now residing in New York City and enrolled at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA), Charrois is focused on a two-year integrated musical theatre program that develops triple-threat Broadway performers. 

Tuition is tagged at $41,000 per year, a hefty chunk of change for any student. However, Charrois saved her multiple scholarships, and with loans and a special $9,000 grant from AMDA, she is following her passion. 

“I competed at the Rotary Music Festival since I was a little girl and it shaped me as a performer. It allowed me to receive feedback from professionals. And seeing videos of myself over the years allowed me to see how much I’d changed and grown. It’s a low-high pressure situation. I’m a big fan of the festival because it feels more family oriented. It has more of a community vibe than most festivals,” said Charrois in a telephone conversation from her Big Apple apartment. 

It is for young artists such as Charrois that Rotary Music Festival organizers plan to provide a 2021 performance outlet with safety precautions taking top priority. 

As the world witnessed, the 2020 spring and summer season was decimated by the pandemic, forcing all live arts and entertainment to cancel as the Rotary Music Festival did or shift into online modes. 

Following restrictions imposed by Alberta Health Services, Rotary organizers veered toward a 2021 model that blends live performance with online videos.

“The debate was not are we going to do it, but how are we going to do it? When things change as quickly as they do now, it was how could we play within the rules? A virtual concept allows us to stay within guidelines. You can still experience the whole event. Even if we get a more structured lockdown, we should be immune," said Ian Soder, board of directors president for the festival.

In the new format, performers book an appointment at a specified venue. While performing, a professional technical sound team will record musicians and vocalists. 

Videos will be uploaded online and links sent to adjudicators. They will make notes and email them to individual performers. Zoom meetings are also scheduled for adjudicators and performers. 

Though there is doubt when restrictions will be lifted or further imposed, technology is making change easier to embrace. One thing that is firmly entrenched is the festival date – April 6 to 16, 2021. 

Since social distancing is in place, changes to categories were put in place. One of the organizers’ biggest considerations was the temporary suspension of band and choral classes. 

“They are very large groups and there would have been simply too many moisture droplets in the air,” Soder said. 

On the bright side, old-time fiddle is included in the 2021 music festival. It was first added to the 2020 festival year, but due to that event's abrupt cancellation, the upcoming year will be the inaugural old-time fiddling class. 

Classes in piano, strings, ukulele, guitar, woodwind and contemporary vocal are also open. 

“From the information package we sent out at the end of October, feedback from teachers who have engaged in the past is very high. Some may even view not having an audience as better," Soder said.

The 2020 festival received 603 registrations. When considering some choral group applications had up to 30 individuals in one registration, that translates close to 1,000 performers. 

“The event is going to happen, just in a new way. People right now seem to be scrambling to do something – a sport, dance or yoga class. We’re locked down and the appeal to music is very real and the opportunity to educate is special for all of us. It will be an event that will fill a void we all have.” 

Online registration opens Dec. 1 to Feb. 28, 2021. Recording dates will run April 6 to April 12. Live Zoom meetings with adjudicators take place April 12 to April 16. 

For additional information, visit st-albertmusicfestival.ca/ or call 780-257-6200.