This year marks the 114th Annual Edmonton Music & Speech Arts Festival (formerly known as the Edmonton Kiwanis Music Festival) – North America’s first competitive music festival. Over 970 single and group entrants (aged 5 to over 70) entered in over 550 classes will perform and compete from April 19 to May 1, 2022, at MacEwan University’s Alberta College Campus (10050 MacDonald Drive). Sessions generally start at 9:00 AM, 1:00 PM, and 6:00 PM.
Choirs, bands, orchestras, singers, pianists, guitarists, harpists, speech/acting students, musical theatre performers, string players, composition students, woodwind players, and brass players will be showcasing, in a variety of classes, what they have learned this year. Some will be recommended to represent Edmonton at the Provincial Music Festival, and some will win Scholarships, but all will share their passion in their chosen discipline.
Due to COVID-19, choirs, bands, and orchestras are participating virtually through audio and video recordings which will not be available to the general public. We look forward to having these disciplines back live in 2023.
All events during the Festival are FREE to the public. Programmes and a Festival-at-a-Glance will be available online at www.emsaf.ca.
A little history:
In 1908, Lieutenant Governor George H.V. Bulyea announced a music competition should be held in Edmonton. He, Vernon Barford, and Howard Stutchbury struck a committee and the first music festival in Canada was born. It took place May 5, 1908 in All Saints’ School Room — later to be All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral. It drew talent from Cardston to Edmonton and was cited by journalists as “the greatest musical event that western Canada has ever known”. It had 100 entries, 11 classes, and three trophies. The final concert was held in the Thistle Curling Rink and, among its performers, was a 200- voice choir conducted by Vernon Barford.
Edmonton’s festival was the only one of its kind in Canada to operate during the war. In the early 1940s, folk dance and speech were added. It was during that time that Sir Ernest MacMillan, Canadian composer and member of the faculty of the Toronto Conservatory of Music, announced that monies should be spent on music festivals to combat crime and keep boys out of reformatories.
The Edmonton Music Festival hit its stride in the 1950s. It was then that many Edmonton musicians, still living and playing in the city, competed. As well, the likes of Robert Goulet sang in our Festival. He received a mark of 84!
In 1963, the Kiwanis Club of Edmonton took over the Festival. By now, it ran five days. All classes were held at the Jubilee Auditorium, and, each year, a concert called “Festival of the Stars” was open to the public. The Kiwanis Club of Edmonton ended its 56-year relationship with the Festival in 2019.
We have come a long way since 1908 mostly due to the Kiwanis Club of Edmonton and Executive Directors Cora Molstad, Paul J. Bourret, and Heather Bedford-Clooney — all of whom are in the City of Edmonton’s Arts & Culture Hall of Fame. We now normally have over 1,700 entries, and over 20,000 participants. The event runs an average of 21 days in several venues. We have classes in voice, musical theatre, speech arts, piano, strings, guitar, woodwinds, brass, harp, choirs, school music, and bands. May we be healthy and continue serving musicians and speech students for years to come!