Spirit of the North takes over Smithers

A big concert Saturday night headlines a weekend full of music.

The Boys of the Bush are foresters and engineers by day and an A Capella singing group by night. Contributed photo

The Boys of the Bush are foresters and engineers by day and an A Capella singing group by night. Contributed photo

The Spirit of the North Classical Music Festival is back at Smithers again this year, and once again it brings a wide range of musical events for local participants and concert goers.

According to Rosamund Pojar, festival promotions coordinator, the schedule looks “fantastic” at this point.

The festival runs from Wednesday to Saturday, Aug. 15 to 18 and has much more than one headline event. Besides the usual concerts, there are a variety of workshops similar previous years.

Friday afternoon for example will have a number of events on Main Street including concerts at Bovill Square, a variety of dance workshops and a screening of a special documentary on the Northern Lights animal rehabilitation centre.

“Then they put on the big concert on Saturday night. It’s quite spectacular to think that the young people who live in this community and all over the province have the opportunity to perform some interesting music and be with professionals,” said Pojar.

“It’s so inspiring to go to the concerts. It’s really overwhelming when you hear the music playing. Some of these kids are barely in school and they are playing these big symphonic pieces. They aren’t getting all the notes but its really an amazing experience.

According to Pojar, there’s “a whole slew” of things happening. There are concerts in a variety of places in a wide range of musical styles.

“It’s unusual for a community the size of Smithers to be able to attract the number of high quality, well known performers into its music events. Because they know Roxi Dykstra, who plays in Europe, she gets to know all of these excellent musicians and she invites them to come participate,” she said.

Pojar explains that while there is a broad range of musical styles, most is classical.

“The original intention was to get young local kids and musicians who belong to the Classical String Society here in Smithers, to get them to participate in some kind of concerts,” she said.

So they bring in these people who are expert, some of whom are coming from far afield.

“They bring them in and they help the younger people develop their skills. In the past, it’s been a whole week but this year they’ve cut that back, but there will be opportunities for the local musicians to practise with these expert musicians,” she said.

There are public workshops that people can sign up for but there are also practice sessions for the local musicians to work with the professionals.

The talented artists in the festival include the Gordon Urban Quartet. This group of music teachers comes together as a talented and experienced jazz ensemble which includes Gordon Urban on bass, Mike Doogan-Smith on the piano, Colin Maskell on tenor sax and flute, and Richard Jenne on drums.

Another local group is The Boys of the Bush who are Smithers’ most noted A Capella quartet. Allen Banner, Bill Borrett, Will MacKenzie and Alex Woods have been performing as a group for more than 15 years at music festivals and occasional coffee houses. By day they are biologists and foresters, and by night they are transformed by their love of singing.

According to Pojar, Roxi Dykstra and her brother were brought up in this community and went on to become professional classical musicians

“We are really lucky to have them come back here with this idea,” she said.

While Pojar does not play an instrument, she says that she sings.

“Both of my grandfathers played classic music professionally so I grew up around it,” she said.

She feels that the youngsters in the Smithers area are very privileged to have this opportunity.

There are festival passes available including special passes for students and for those over 90. These can be purchased at Speedee at 1156 Main St., Mountain Eagle Books at 3775 Third Ave., and at Interior News 3764 Broadway Ave.


Smithers Interior News