Music fest showcases local talent

If you've heard the faint strains of singing and instruments this week, you aren't imagining things. If you want to hear that music more clearly, come inside to hear the best in young and aspiring amateur musicians.

If strings are your pleasure, Our Saviour's Lutheran Church is the place on Sunday and Monday, and if piano is your druthers the site is the Evangelical Free Church up to the end of today.

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The singing components are finished the competitive phase and the highest achievers will be called to perform at the final showcases that complete the event each year.

The Prince George and District Music Festival has been showcasing local musicians, offering them competition to motivate creativity, since 1951.

"The festival has seen many changes without losing its original mandate of supporting youth in their pursuit of musical excellence," said organizing committee president Rose Loewen.

"This community organization is northern B.C.'s premier music competition for young performers and amateurs. The festival is an important vehicle for performers to showcase their talents while gaining experience and obtaining valuable feedback from adjudicators."

Those adjudicators this year are a trio of highly experienced music professionals, one of whom is having a homecoming of this experience.

The choral and orchestral classes were presided over by Sheila Christie, an operatically trained dramatic soprano who performs regularly with Vancouver Opera and the Vancouver Symphony, while maintaining a passion for teaching.

The piano categories were led by Vancouver's Barbara M. Siemens, an award-winning 30-year veteran of the genre. She has also written for The Piano Workbook Series, including five Sight Reading Drill Books, four Rhythm Drill Books, as well as graded assignment books, and she has recently released a children's picture book called Carnival of the Animals.

Finally, in the position of strings adjudicator is a well known and favourite name in the local music scene. Joel Stobbe may be based now in the Lower Mainland but he is an outspoken ambassador of Prince George and competed himself in this festival over his early years.

Since then, he has received his Artistic Diploma of Music Performance from the Augsburg Conservatory of Music in Germany, regularly performing as soloist with chamber groups in Germany, France and Italy. Upon his return to Canada, Joel was a founding member of the Borealis String Quartet (2000-2005). He toured with the quartet, giving performances throughout Canada and the United States, with frequent broadcasts on radio and television.

Stobbe was the principal cellist of the Vancouver Island Symphony from 2006-2014 and artistic director of its Noteworthy Kids program from 2012-2014. During this time he continued to be active as both a soloist and chamber musician in regular recitals and concerts. Stobbe is currently a cello teacher at the Langley Community Music School where he holds a substantial class of private cello students and serves as coordinator for the school's advanced programs.

Stobbe and equally accomplished brother Karl were special guests of the Prince George Symphony Orchestra in April 2018.

These three adjudicators will offer constructive judgment to the musicians competing in their respective categories. The cream of this year's performers will earn trophies and other honours including a select few to represent the city at the provincials in May.

A set of the best will be invited to perform live at the close of the festival without the pressure of competition.

"You will want to attend our two great closing concerts at Vanier Hall on March 2," said Loewen. "These concerts will feature memorable performances selected during the festival by our adjudicators. The Showcase Recital at 5:30 p.m. will feature our junior performers. Admission is free. The gala concert at 8 p.m. will include outstanding performances from all levels and disciplines."

Gala tickets are $20 adult, $10 seniors and students. They are available now at Books & Company or at the door.

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