There were some golden performances by Cochrane High School (CHS) musicians during the recent Alberta International Band Festival in Calgary.
Cochrane High's Gr. 10-12 Symphonic Band was recognized with the coveted Adjudicator's Choice Award from a field of over 100 bands in addition to a gold superior award.
"It was absolutely an honour and a surprise and a lovely moment from myself and my students," says CHS music instructor April Waterbury, who conducts the symphonic band.
On the final day of the band festival, Feb. 26, they performed three pieces in a 30-minute time slot. "Ruckus" and "Irish Tune from County Derry" were performed before they unleashed "The King Across The Water" that basically has three mini-movements.
"It starts out with all of our flutes and clarinets performing on djembe, hand drums, congas and bongos. So essential they put down their instruments and they open up this sort of war that's happening between the Scottish and the English with these drums. Then the brass come in with this sort of fanfare and it's followed by a lyrical section and finishes with a dance for the Scots at the end because they win the war."
Their work was adjudicated by four judges, who all gave them a superior performance rating. You must receive a superior performance rating by all adjudicators to receive a gold award and only 16 were presented during the band festival.
Two of CHS's jazz bands also receive a superior rating for their performances later in the festival. In total, the school's music program had five ensembles in the festival they have been attending since 2013.
"We have won many gold awards over those years. So I've very proud of our program for that," says Waterbury.
Despite the timing of the festival, the CHS bands look forward to attending every year. It falls just after the Family Day/teacher convention break and both the Christmas break and exam week.
It's a little bit more of a challenge for us to go but it's such a fantastic festival that we know that it's worthwhile and it's worth pushing through that difficult timeline where the kids don't see me a lot. They have to take a lot of the accountability and do home practice on their own to make this work so a big kudos to them for dedicating their time to it."
Four Cochrane High musicians were selected to perform as part of the honour band in the showcase concert that closed the festival. Molly McCoubrey (French horn), Sydney Stene (clarinet), Hannah Isinghood (flute) and Liam Jackson (trombone) were selected to join over 100 other musicians. Four practices were held to present university level music with a guest conductor.
Nearly 160 students are part of Cochrane High's music program and the symphonic band itself includes 94 musicians.
"It's a nice large awesome band," she says. "It makes it a lot more powerful yet intimate in some ways as well because to get that many people to play quietly is a challenge but a beautiful thing as well. It's fun, they're a great group of kids."
May is an especially busy month for the school's music program with performances every week. That includes involvement with the one-act plays festival, Jazz Dessert Concert and a Spring Music Concert. From May 1 to 5, 60 students will also be travelling to the Atlantic Festival of Music in Halifax. While they've toured many places, including Japan, Vancouver, California and New York, this will be their first appearance at the Atlantic festival.