The 1999 Rainy River District Music and Drama Festival went off without a hitch this year, culminating in a spectacular Highlights Concert featuring 36 performances, and two Rose Bowl winners.
“I’m so surprised,” related Stephanie Gartshore, who has competed in the festival for many years, honing her vocal skills to the point where being awarded the Rose Bowl for Vocal Performance seemed inevitable for some spectators. “I really am excited and honoured.”
“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” echoed Michelle Murray, who took the Rose Bowl for Piano Performance after competing seriously in the festival for the past four years. “The years of practicing paid off.”
Organizers were unanimously pleased with this year’s event, and offered praises to all involved.
“I’m pleased with everyone here this year, and everything has come together well for the Highlights Concert,” summarized president John Jankiewicz about this year’s proceedings.
Jankiewicz, who just completed his first year as president of the association, saw this year’s festival in a different light than he had before.
“It’s been a learning experience,” he said, “but rewarding nonetheless.”
He was also quick to point at that the festival was as popular as ever, with about 200 entrants this year.
“With entrants like Benedikt Weiss (Harper Simmons Trophy-Best Brass Solo Performance) from Germany, Brook Ettestad (LOBA Cup and Gillies Instrumental Award) from Int’l Falls, and Alison Webber (Rainy River District Award for Outstanding Achievement) from Atikokan, we’ve truly gone international,” he quipped.
Another thing that impressed the president was a good showing from Fort High as a whole. “I was really pleased with the choral and dramatic speaking from FFHS--we’d love to have more from them in the future,” he mentioned.
Katherine Williams, who helped Jankiewicz in a co-presidency role, also had good things to say about the festival.
“I’ve been amazed by the talent--it’s fascinating to see children so young do so well,” she noted.
Both Williams and Jankiewicz lauded the festival as a community institution that could nothing but good for the youths involved.
“When you see the kids do well, there’s a glow about them--without this kind of a showcase, they’d really be missing out,” remarked Williams.
As far as any criticism went, Jankiewicz pointed out that in the future he would like to see more competition for the FFHS senior band, who took this year’s Ralph Whetsone band trophy.
Jankiewicz will continue on as president, but Williams, an accomplished violinist, will likely bow out in her role as co-president to pursue organizing a community orchestra.
Other winners of some awards included: Lindsey Hallikas (Garton Music Award); Hillary Sedgewick (Festival Drama Camp Scholarship); Allison Williams (Festival Music Camp Award); Ghislain Godin (Kiwanis Club French Award); and Melinda Hawkins (Emily Louise Austin Award, President’s Choice Award, Festival Music Camp Scholarship).
A complete listings of festival winners will appear in following publications of the Times.