Sunshine Coast Performing Arts Festival Highlights Concert Highlights

Reaching its climax with a public concert showcasing a range of artistic disciplines, the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Performing Arts concluded after three weeks of judged performances and workshops.

The annual event, founded in 1973, is the oldest festival on the Sunshine Coast. It returned this year to in-person involvement with dozens of amateur artists after two years of cancellations and online-only interactions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Highlights concert took place at the Gibsons Heritage Playhouse on May 7 in front of a near capacity audience. The morning show began with a vocal solo from Lilja Swift of Out of My Dreams by Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!.

Swift has received three accolades, including the festival’s Intermediate Voice Award. She was also selected by Judge Sandra Meister as a Recommended Merited Entrant for the Provincial Voice Festival.

The BC Provincial Festival of the Performing Arts will take place June 5-9.

“[The festival] has an incredibly positive impact on singers of all ages in your community,” Meister said. “I think our age range in the [vocal] the performers lasted eight decades. Isn’t this a wonderful testimony to the vital role of music and song in our communities?

Festival president Sarah Lowis, who served as emcee for the Highlights concert, said this year’s volunteer-run event was an important step towards long-term sustainability.

“If we are to fulfill our mission, which is to promote amateur entertainment on the Sunshine Coast, we must be well organized and devote our energy to building instead of surviving. This is where community support is so important. It has been so sturdy and is still very sturdy. It just shows that there is a real passion for the performing arts and how much the community appreciates them.

The 2022 festival included performances in eight disciplines: piano, bowed strings, folk instrument, dance, voice/chorus, orchestras, woodwinds and brass, and spoken word arts. More than 150 prizes were awarded to competitors, many of which were donated by local businesses, families or individuals.

For the first time, the festival included a category to highlight BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) composers, with corresponding prizes. Fiddler Jinny Marshall was the first winner of the BIPOC Composer Award for Folk; she was also recognized for Best Performance of a Native Tune for her rendition of Soul Reel/Roots to Wings, a piece composed by folk judge Wesley Hardisty.

Olivia Beckingham and Sam Fink-Jensen won the BIPOC Composer Awards for piano and strings respectively.

The Highlights concert also featured cellist Miyo Shinagawa, recipient of a collaboration award in collaboration with Jake Jeong and Martin Krutsky for their sparkling interpretation of the strings of the Hadyn Piano Trio in G.

Pianist Xavier Kraukramp, recipient of the Performer’s Choice Award for Junior Piano, performed his competition piece Blue (Da Ba Dee). Flutist Jaclyn Semaniuk, who won four prizes, revisited Bach’s Sonata in G Minor. Cellist Cael Read won a prize and a scholarship for performing Mendelssohn’s lively Concerto in D Major.

Taiyo Blackwell, competing in the Senior Piano category, won five awards and delighted the Highlights Concert audience with the complex Jazz in 3. Violinist Kayla Payne demonstrated the skills that won her the Senior Folk Award, performing a mix of traditional melodies.

Three award-winning dancers performed solo numbers: Eibhlin Minatsis (selected Provincial Ballet Senior Competitor), Annah Kotai (Provincial Ballet Junior Alternate) and Francesca Manson, who will perform at the Provincial Festival in the Senior Modern category.

The concert included two oral performances. Sheila Weaver shared original haiku poems and an ensemble cast of Johanna Rzepa, Loretta Macklam and Radhika Samwald staged a rendition of Miss Havisham, written by Linda McTurk.

A full list of festival winners will be available online at coastfestival.com and coastaldancefestival.com.

“It’s so impressive, the work that goes into it,” Lowis said. “It’s not just for those who are so passionate about the discipline that they will make a career out of it, but it’s also about giving those who are exploring and just wanting to learn an instrument the opportunity to work towards a framework performance. And if the judges are as fun as we’ve had this year, that makes it quite entertaining and a lot of fun.

Volunteers for next year’s festival are sought; more information is available at coastfestival.com. Archived videos of nearly all 2022 recitals can be viewed at the same address.

The Sunshine Coast Festival of the Performing Arts will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2024.