The number of students at Sacred Heart Catholic High School jumped by several hundred on Thursday, Feb. 12, a fact that could be like music to the ears of school administrators. And, in fact, it was literally music to their ears as the additional students were there to participate in the school’s fifth annual board-wide music festival.
And so you had music in the school’s theatre, in its chapel, in its learning commons, in numerous classrooms and even in the hallways where music students from over a dozen schools gathered in small groups to talk, relax and enjoy a day where music was front and centre.
A principal location for the day was the school’s theatre where music students from various school bands gathered but also where they all got to perform on stage. Bands performing included the home school Sacred Heart High School senior concert band as well as concert bands from All Saints Catholic High School, Kemptville’s St. Michael Catholic School, St. Mark Catholic High School, St. Matthew Catholic High School, St. Peter Catholic High School, St. Patrick Intermediate School, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School (both intermediate and senior concert bands), Immaculata Catholic High School, Holy Trinity Catholic High School and Lester B. Pearson Catholic High School. Now, that’s a lot of music, with each band performing two pieces on stage.
Another principal location for the music festival was the school’s chapel which became a performance space for several bands which presented two numbers and then received a 15 minute adjudication. The senior concert bands from Holy Trinity Catholic High School and St. Patrick Catholic High School as well as senior jazz bands from St. Michael Catholic School, St. Peter Catholic High School, St. Pius X Catholic High School and Sacred Heart Catholic High School performed in this space.
One of the adjudicators was former Sacred Heart Catholic High School music teacher Brian Boggs who pointed out to the students in his adjudications that his comments, while praiseworthy in some respects, would include “buts” as in “here’s what you did well … but …” here’s what can be done to be better.
The learning commons (former library) at Sacred Heart was another busy area for this music festival. It was there that Carleton University music professor James Wright held a clinic on song writing. There was also a clinic on “Music and Your Tablet” in which Gennaro Busa demonstrated how a tablet device could assist a musician, not only by recording music but also by using apps for a variety of uses such as fingering charts and even slowing down music for better practising.
The learning commons was also the “stage” for a mini-concert by the five-member Manotick Brass Ensemble which was making its third straight appearance at this annual music festival at Sacred Heart.
The ensemble played a variety of music from a Canadian march “Hyde Park” to the iconic “Danny Boy” to a Nova Scotian sea shanty “Farewell to Nova Scotia” to “Be A Clown” to “Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines” to “Maple Leaf Forever” to “He’s Got The Whole World in His Hands” to a concluding Latin dance number. The Manotick Brass Ensemble, which was formed in 2003, plays about 50 concerts a year and also offers a 45 minute “What’s the Buzz!!” introduction to brass instruments and brass music for schools. The group has made three musical trips abroad to Cuba, the Isle of Jersey and Ireland.
Current members of the Manotick Brass Ensemble are Kazimier Samujlo on trumpet, Davide Da Silva on trumpet, Harold Floysvik on tuba, Keigan MacDonell on French horn and Martin Luce on trombone.
Later in the day, two members of Sax Appeal, an area saxophone ensemble group, gave a clinic in the learning commons dealing with playing the saxophone.
Sandy Gordon told the assembled music students that a key to playing the saxophone is simply putting air through the instrument. He advised sax players to just pretend they are blowing air right across a room as this helps in playing in a forceful manner. How to hold the instrument so that the reed and mouthpiece are as horizontal as possible, how much mouthpiece a player should cover, and resting fingers on the keys of the instrument rather than off the instrument when not playing were among his tips given in the clinic.
Dave Renault, who joined Sandy Gordon for the clinic, told the students that playing music is like golf. Having good equipment is good for both; having good technique is also good for both; but, just like playing golf, a musician has to put in the time with the instrument if he or she wants to be good. He pointed out that there are mouth and facial muscles which have to be developed for playing the saxophone which can only be done by continual practice.
Playing the saxophone or any musical instrument is like being an athlete, he said – it’s physical.
Sandy Gordon added that music should be fun to play and should not be a chore for the musician.
The music festival featured a myriad of 30-minute long clinics held in various classrooms, presented by not only members of the Manotick Brass Ensemble and the Sax Appeal ensemble but also by others such as music teachers like Neil Bateman of Holy Trinity Catholic High School and student musicians from Queens University like Shannon Armstrong and Jacob Lewis.
Indeed, Jacob Lewis gave a clinic on percussion not in a classroom but during the lunch break on the main stage in the theatre where percussion instruments like the timpani or kettle drums, the marinba, the vibraphone and the snare drum were all set up for the various band performances.
Jacob emphasized to the students at his percussion clinic that everything in percussion is about trying to use as little energy as possible when playing. So, a drummer should use fingers to hold and move drum sticks as this makes it easier than using only the wrists. All of a musician’s fingers should remain on the drumsticks at all times, he said. He also told the students that it is the height of a stroke that should determine the loudness of a sound. This means that it is always the same amount of effort involved in the drum stroke whether soft or loud. This can vary from a one inch high stroke which makes a quiet sound to a 12 inch high stroke which makes a loud sound.
Jacob also gave tips about playing the timpani and the marinba which is a percussion instrument with a set of wooden bars which are struck with mallets to produce musical tones.
Queens University music student Shannon Armstrong gave a clinic on playing the trombone and then later was in another classroom leading a clinic for baritone tuba and tuba players.
But these classroom clinics covered virtually all the individual band instruments – flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, French horn, trombone, tuba and guitar.
Presenters included Melanie Methe, Alanna Kazdan, William Mann, Nick Gervais, Stephen Sedo, Zoianna Ashley, Lloyd McArton, Graham Kennedy, Thomas Flake, Moriah Gibli, Shannon Armstrong, Nat Michaelis and Kevin Simonar.