They may have been the smallest school represented at the province’s biggest music festival, but the musicians of Mount Baker Secondary School still stood out from the pack. And what a pack it was.
The musical troupe of 71 players and five teachers got back to Cranbrook early Monday morning from the Cantando Festival in Whistler, a four-day event featuring 45 concert bands, 30 concert choirs, 25 jazz bands, and the best professional music adjudicators on the continent — more than 4,000 musicians all told.
Cantando Festivals, held in Edmonton, Sun Peaks, B.C. and Whistler (the biggest one) are non-competitive festivals designed for North American school wind ensembles, concert bands, jazz bands, and choirs utilizing some basic tenets necessary to promote quality music education.
Evan Bueckert, Music Instructor at Mt. Baker, said the musicians dove into this milieu ready to perform at the highest levels.
“Every group had to put on a half-hour warm-up — a huge show in front of a full house,” Bueckert told the Townsman. “All the ensembles are required to sit and listen to each other. We all had to be an audience when we weren’t playing, and that was fun because we all had a full house to play to.
Every group — after they performed a full half-hour set — got taken to a separate facility where one of the panel of five judges would meet us, and we’d get an hour- to an hour-and-a-half-long clinic and workshop with this amazing person, who would take us apart and show all us the cool things we did and all the things we could do better.
They gave us our mark at the end of the festival which was [Sunday] morning.
Bueckert stressed that the festival is not competitive — the bands aren’t ranked against each other.
“But they do give you a standard, where they think you fit in at a national level. If you get 95 per cent or above you get a gold standard. We got three golds, and our other band just missed it and got silver.”
Organizers told Bueckert afterwards that only one other school at the entire festival got a higher mark than Mount Baker.
As well, Baker’s vocal jazz group got the popular vote as the most exciting vocal jazz performance of the entire festival.
“The fun part is is that we were also the smallest school there, from the smallest community,” Bueckert said. “A lot of people thought we were the Seattle group at first.”
“Some of the older guys on the panel thought we were way too loud for them,’” Bueckert joked.
The music season isn’t over yet. This week is Wild Drama’s production of “Mary Poppins,” opening Thursday, May 5, at the Key City Theatre. Bueckert said the music program plans to do some concerts for the Parkland and Laurie Middle Schools, a concert for the Baker studentry featuring the repertoire performed at Cantando, the Grad Showcase concert set for June 1, and a big show for Relay for Life set for June 4.