Tenth ETSB music festival coming in April
By Lawrence Belanger
Local Journalism Initiative
Returning after a multi-year hiatus, The Eastern Townships School Board’s annual music festival will return to the stage at Massey Vanier High School in April.
The Record spoke with Tracey Rivette, the festival’s organizer and the music teacher at Sherbrooke Elementary School over the phone to preview the show, talk about the excitement surrounding the return of the Festival, and its importance to students’ education.
“It’s our 10th Music Festival, and it would have been the 10th a few years ago. Of course, circumstances prevented that from happening, but that’s okay,” explained Rivette.
This year, “the title is ETSB United in World Music,” detailed Rivette. “There’s a theme usually every year,” and each festival has had a variety of themes including causes like environmentalism, as well as genres like Canadian music and Musical Theatre.
For the show, “each school decided on what songs they wanted to do for the show, based on the theme,” explained the organizer.
During the show, each of the school groups will perform their sets, and the performances will conclude with “the most beautiful part of the whole show,” according to Rivette, where “all [the] students unite onstage,” accompanied by the Massey-Vanier High School band, to sing two common songs for a “grand finale.”
“It’s quite impressive,” remarked Rivette. This year, the songs chosen to fit the theme are ‘La Bamba,’ a Mexican folk song popularized by Ritchie Valens, and ‘Three Little Birds,’ a reggae track by Bob Marley & the Wailers.
The arrangements are close to the originals, aside from changing the key of La Bamba to better suit children and a choral arrangement of Three Little Birds suited to the number of performers, according to Rivette.
Around 250 students from 10 schools across the Townships are participating in the festival, said Rivette. In Richmond, both the High School and St. Francis Elementary are part of the show, and in the “western sector,” Rivette says that schools from Waterloo and Farnham are participating.
The festival aims to stimulate interest in music education, not just about different kinds of music and their histories, but also how to play musical instruments and learn a tune.
“I think seeing other peers or other youngsters make music motivates kids to want to do the same,” reasoned Rivette. “It’s fun for the younger kids to see the older kids performing,” she added, noting that the high school band will accompany the otherwise mostly choral groups from the other schools.
The rehearsals leading up to the festival, and the show itself, also serve as a learning experience for how to work together as a team, something Rivette says students don’t often have an opportunity for outside of athletics and sports.
“It gives them the opportunity to work in an ensemble, especially to have to set yourself back a bit and listen to what’s going on collectively,” she explained.
For many students, it’s their first time interacting with this kind of music, Rivette said. “The kids really enjoy learning about different styles of music,” including music around the world.
Schools are multicultural places, she added. “We have lots of students from different places,” representing many different cultures, “so it’s nice to learn about those styles of music as well. You can’t separate culture and music.”
Preparations for the festival are proceeding well, according to Rivette. “I think it’s gone pretty smoothly. Everybody is doing their part, and we have a little committee that helps organize the festival. We’re about four or five teachers and we’ve met several times via Google Meet to organize the festival.”
Rivette thanked the School Board for its financial support. “I should say, to make this happen, there are costs for transportation and there are costs for paying for supply teachers, for teachers who are being released for the festival,” which the school board covers. She also thanked Bill Jarand, the high school music teacher at Massey-Vanier, who plays a big part each year in setting up the stage and equipment to be ready to receive all the schools.
Additionally, Rivette specifically recognized the contributions of the smaller schools in the ETSB. “What impresses me the most is the smaller schools who…make music a priority in their curriculum.”
The show will be held on April 24th, at the Massey-Vanier High School auditorium at Noon. Attendance is free of charge.