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Local schools to be represented at choral festival

We’ve all heard the doomsday predictions for arts education in schools – how courses in vocal and instrumental music are routinely slashed, or deemed a lower priority than “the Three R’s.” For the 27th year, the Kodály Choral Festival aims to buck the trend with its arts education celebration, bringing music students from across southwest Ontario for a choral extravaganza.

“I’ve seen it grow from a few schools to 10, 12 schools to 30, 40 schools, and from one evening now to two evenings,” said volunteer Mark McMath, principal of Cedarbrae Public School in Waterloo.

“It is just an awesome experience to see over 500 children singing on stage at once. They’re singing so much repertoire, all memorized, with the orchestra who are all educators in the Waterloo Region. It is a real celebration of children.”

The sold-out event at Centre in the Square will feature 922 students from 43 schools across two days. Among them, students from Linwood PS will take the stage on May 6, and students from Breslau, Floradale, John Mahood, Park Manor, and Riverside will perform on May 7.

The evening will include everything from classics to a newly commissioned work, “Me to We,” inspired by the ongoing We Day educational movement. The festival’s mandate to include singing in at least three languages brings students out of their musical comfort zones, noted McMath.

“We purposefully try to get at least four or five genres covered in the program. The students will be singing this year 13 or 14 pieces, and everything from some light jazz to classical art songs to folk songs and some Latin.”

The lessons learned here extend outside the band room, he added.

“It’s achieving a common goal; the ability to work together as a group; the ability to stay focused for an extended period of time; the ability to learn different languages, we generally try to have at least three languages involved,” he said.

“It helps parents understand the importance of music education, and arts education in general, and how it values the whole child.”

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