Ten years after being hatched as one of the anchor celebrations to commemorate the John Cabot Anniversary Celebrations marking 500 years of European discovery in North America, the stage is set once again for one of this province’s most prominent music celebrations.
And, as they were a decade ago, a group of musicians with strong ties to Memorial are front and centre as momentum grows for the international event.
Festival 500: Sharing the Voices takes place at several venues throughout the city, including several at Memorial from July 1-8.
The directors of the festival all of whom are intimately connected to the university continue their passionate work for this now world-renowned, non-competitive biennial choral event. Dr. Doug Dunsmore, School of Music, Dr. Andrea Rose, Faculty of Education, as well as Ki Adams, School of Music and Faculty of Education, are current faculty members at Memorial, while Susan Knight, who is on leave from the festival this year, is a graduate, past instructor and alumna of the year. She was also awarded an honorary degree from Memorial in 2004.
Meanwhile, the festival’s executive director Peter Gardner received an honorary degree in 2001.
Together with the help of the festival’s current committee members, several of whom teach at Memorial, as well as the 300 community volunteers organizers rely on for help many of them are also graduates of the university a jam-packed program is set for this year, attracting people from all over the world.
Upwards of 1,600 delegates from 31 choirs from around the globe will be in the capital city. They’re hailing from places such as Australia, Finland, Ireland, Mexico, and around North America. And, local choirs, directed by Memorial graduates, are also set to perform. This year’s Festival 500 celebrates the influence of Celtic music.
The city and Memorial will be abuzz with activity. In fact, several other major events, some of which are sponsored by the university or are taking place on the St. John’s campus, are taking place in conjunction with Festival 500. (See below)
It all adds to a busy few weeks.
Dr. Rose said St. John’s is the place to be this summer for music lovers. Moreover, she said none of this year’s events would happen without the support of the university.
“Festival 500 and the other events taking place this year involve a substantial number of professors and students in the Faculty of Education and School of Music,”
Dr. Rose noted. “It is huge commitment to undertake the planning, hosting and organizing of these events but each of us is very committed to showcasing the excellent work being done at Memorial. Our programs in music and music education are highly regarded worldwide so many researchers, teachers and performers do want to come here to check out the university, the people and the place.”
Festival 500 has attracted a number of high-profile guest performers, choirs, conductors and clinicians for this year’s celebrations including Anúna, the world’s only traditional Celtic choir, Mary Lou Fallis, a famed soprano, teacher and judge on the recent television series Bathroom Divas: So you want to be an opera star?, and Dr. Margaret Bennett, a prominent singer, researcher and one of the world authorities on Scottish folklore who obtained both her BA and MA from Memorial.
Dr. Alice Collins, dean of the Faculty of Education and one of the supporters of Festival 500 and a music symposium taking place during the festival (see sidebar), said this year’s schedule of activities is really a breeding ground for musicians and music educators.
“Festival 500 and the music education symposium provide opportunities for sharing music and knowledge of teaching music,” she said. “It is an educational, social and cultural experience connecting musicians and music educators to each other and to a broader community to whom they reach out. In many ways, it is a model for good pedagogy where music educators share practice and theory in a supportive and creative setting.”
With thousands of delegates converging on the capital city and the St. John’s campus, music aficionados will have plenty of time to indulge themselves and hear choirs from around the world. They’ll also have a prime opportunity to appreciate Memorial’s commitment to music and music education.
To learn more about Festival 500 and the other events taking place on the St. John’s campus, visit www.festival500.com.
Festival 500: Sharing the Voices runs from July 1-8 at various locations around St. John’s. Concerts and performances are set for the School of Music, the Reid Theatre in the Arts and Administration Building, as well as the Arts and Culture Centre, and various churches and community locations. This year marks the sixth biennial international festival. Here’s a glimpse of some of the other major events associated with Festival 500:
• The Pan-Canadian Music Education Think Tank II - June 25-27
• The Phenomenon of Singing International Symposium VI - June 28-July 1
• Fifth International Symposium on the Sociology of Music Education - July 2-5
• MUN/Festival 500 Choral Institute - June 28-July 8