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Edmonton Kiwanis Music Festival

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 Edmonton Kiwanis Club 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.


We have come a long way since 1908 mostly due to the Edmonton Downtown Kiwanis Club 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 have over 1,700 entries, and over 15,000 participants. The event runs a minimum of 15 days in several venues. We have classes in voice, musical theatre, speech, piano, strings, woodwinds, brass, harp, Aboriginal arts, choirs, school music, and bands. May we be healthy and continue serving musicians and speech students for years to come! For more information, please visit the Edmonton Kiwanis Music Festival website at www.edmontonkiwanis.com/musicfest

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