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‘Concert of Excellence’ lives up to billing


The first “barn concert” of 2009 at Cornell Farms on Friday night was billed as a “Concert of Excellence” and it was all that—and more.

The evening literally got off to a bang during Pat Clysdale-Cornell’s introduction, however, as an extremely loud crack was heard throughout the building.

In an instant, a large section of the barn floor slumped as people in several rows suddenly were thrown together.

Despite the obvious shock caused by the incident, people remained calm, helped others climb to a safer location, and rearranged the chairs so that everyone once again could have a seat for the concert.

No one seemed injured and although everyone was aware it could have been much worse, most of the audience appeared eager for the show to resume.

First on stage was the Borderland Community Orchestra’s brass ensemble featuring Chris Foreman (French horn), John Dutton (trombone), Neil Plumridge (trumpet), and Mark Loney (trumpet).

This talented group of musicians played two pieces: “Gloria” from the Hayden’s “Lord Nelson Mass” and an arrangement of three American spirituals.

Next up were Shannon Darby, entering her third year of music at the University of Brandon and recently accepted into the school’s performance program, and Rachel Schmutz, who performed the first movement from Max Bruch’s famous violin concerto.

Their efforts on the violin and piano were warmly welcomed by an appreciative audience.

Brittany Hayes, a vocal force known across Northwestern Ontario, then presented her rendition of “Redneck Woman” by Gretchen Wilson.

Hayes recently auditioned and was accepted into the St. Clair College of the Arts.

Katharine Williams, conductor for the Borderland Community Orchestra who acted as emcee for the evening, pointed out many of the young talented musicians who were taking part in the concert were destined for great careers in the field of music.

“Get their autographs now,” she urged. “These students are going places!”

Next on the program was “Arcato,” a local string ensemble consisting of Williams on viola, Dean Lindstrum from International Falls on cello, and three talented young musicians.

Darby once more took to the stage, accompanied this time by Scott Barker and Mitsuki Matsuda, an extremely talented exchange student from Japan.

Barker will be entering the University of Brandon in the fall with a major in violin and a minor in voice. He recently returned from Brandon, where he appeared as an extra in the new upcoming Don Cherry movie.

Apparently acting also may be part of his future in the arts.

Arcato presented three selections: “Serenata,” “Chromatic Tango,” and “Fandango,” all of which were appreciated by the audience.

Garnet Cornell, son of Pat and Kim, was encouraged to add his talents to the evening’s festivities. Cornell who will be studying Earth Sciences at the University of Guelph has an excellent voice and will be joining the school’s choir in the fall.

Accompanied on guitar by Mike McCaig, Cornell sang a haunting version of Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind.”

Hayes then returned to the stage, this time with Kenneth Keller, another of the district’s great young vocalists. He, too, will be attending St. Clair College in the fall, specializing in musical theatre.

Together, this talented duo did a great job singing “Vienna” by Billy Joel.

Alex Marusyk (guitar) and Joelle Barron (mandolin) then entertained the crowd with two of

Marusyk’s own compositions and a Charles Barkley cover tune called “Crazy.”

Marusyk also is in the process of organizing the first-ever Fort Frances Folk Festival, and is looking for volunteers.

Before leaving the stage, Marusyk called up the other two members of the band. Ryan Wood (drums) and bass guitarist Benjamin Sletmoen joined Marusyk and Barron, and this unique ensemble was warmly received by everyone on hand.

The final performer of the evening was Lauren Gurski, another well-known vocalist from high school musicals and local competitions. She is planning on taking a year off to work and continue honing her vocal skills.

She hopes to enter a vocal music program in her pursuit to become a stage actress.

Accompanied by Neil Plumridge on keyboard, Gurski did a wonderful job singing “Right as Rain.”

She then was joined on stage by Garnet Cornell. Their duet “Hallelujah,” accompanied by Marnie Dutton, was an excellent finish to a fantastic evening.

The first “barn concert” of the season proved beyond a doubt that there are many skilled young musicians in Rainy River District and that they need more opportunities, like the “Concert of Excellence,” to showcase their talents.

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