Lethbridge Music Festival

Signs of spring include flowers blooming, trees budding, and robins returning. It also signals the time for the sound of music filling the air: this year, the 85th Lethbridge & District Kiwanis Music & Speech Arts Festival takes place March 16 to 28.

The first music festival in the province was held in Cardston in 1905, with musicians and singers from both Lethbridge and Cardston participating. One of the adjudicators was James George Harper, director of the Lethbridge Conservatory of Music. Edmonton held a music festival open to musicians from all over Alberta in the spring of 1908. Eight years later in 1916, it was held in Lethbridge.

The Alberta Festival was held over a three-day period, May 23-25, at the Wesley Church on 4th Avenue South. In 1918, Calgary joined the cities of Lethbridge and Edmonton and the Provincial Festival was born. The Festival was presented alternatively in each city every third year. By 1930, the three major Alberta cities held their own festivals, replacing the province-wide one.

The Kiwanis Club of Lethbridge took over the management of the Lethbridge Festival in 1952, and continued to improve it by adding and organizing components for a smoothly-run 14 day schedule. Participant numbers rose and more disciplines were added, including bands, orchestras, creative music, strings, guitar, woodwinds, brass, percussion, hand bells, pipe organ, piano, speech, voice and choir.
A syllabus (book of festival entries) is printed every year with information on the disciplines, adjudicators chosen, and venues – from one in 1930 to five or more today. The Grand Concert, or Concert of the Stars (today known as the Festival of the Stars), highlights the winners and displays their accomplishments: to achieve a higher standard for music and musical appreciation in Alberta and nationally.

Stars of another kind – artists behind Canadian stamps and currency – are highlighted in the exhibit “Voices from the Engraver” at the Galt until May 18. A guided exhibit tour takes place at 2:00 pm on Wednesday March 4. For details, visit www.galtmuseum.com.