Groups and individuals from throughout the Lower Mainland and beyond take part in the Kiwanis Fraser Valley Music Festival. (Festival photo)

VIDEO: Langley-based music festival brings together Lower Mainland performers

Performers have ranged from as young as four to into their seventies.

The 19th annual Kiwanis Music Festival kicks off seven weeks of performances that range from singing and speech arts to jazz and chamber music.

The festival started that first year with 547 entries (about 1,000 participants).

“This year, including our other festival, the Vancouver Speech Arts & Drama Festival, we have 1,828 entries… and probably close to 7,000 participants altogether,” said Lorne Fiedler, the festival executive director.

The festival offers classes for students of piano, strings, woodwinds, brass, voice, guitar and harp. sessions and workshops for chamber ensembles, choirs, orchestras, jazz bands, concert bands and vocal jazz ensembles.

Fiedler noted “95 per cent or more [of the participants] are 18 years or under. We’ve had kids as young as four and adults in their 70s participate. Most are from the Lower Mainland, but we’ve had bands and choirs from as far away as Winnipeg and Whitehorse. We usually host several groups from Alberta and Washington State.”

The festival, which runs April 9 to May 23, keeps growing and changing. Fiedler has been with the festival since 2000.

“The biggest change is the festivals’ continued growth and the increase in participation from Metro Vancouver,” he said.

The festival expanded with the addition of the Vancouver Speech Arts & Drama Festival, and in 2015, added the Chinese instrument category.

While the purpose of the festival is to help performers learn and improve, a side benefit is that the public can see an array of talent.

“We would love to have more of the public attend,” Fiedler said. “The festival runs from April 9 to May 26. Our program will be posted on our website this week, so people can attend the sessions that interest them.”

Find out the schedule, and the history of the festival at kfv.ca and vansdf.com (for the speech arts festival).

“Admission is free for everyone,” he explained. “Sessions run an average of one hour. The format is a little different that a regular concert. Once everyone in a session has performed, an adjudicator addresses each student and gives them guidance and tips on how to improve their performances. In the case of choirs, orchestrates and bands, two adjudicators give each group a 30-minute clinic immediately after they perform.”

The performances take place at the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Langley campus, the Langley Community Music School, and the Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. The speech arts festival happens in Vancouver.

An event this big takes a great deal of support, starting with a volunteer board.

“We have 40 to 50 volunteers each year that help at the festival and in the planning process. We also hire several students to help with front of house, stage management and audio/video engineering,” Fiedler said. “The growth this year means we will need to hire two more regular staff for 2019 and beyond.”

Support comes from the volunteers, who are parents, teachers, students and retirees as well as Kiwanis members. Financial help comes from the local Kiwanis clubs, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, the Province, the cities of Langley and Surrey as well as all of the major music stores and many, many individuals who donate each year.

“We are lucky to have really strong community support,” he added.

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