Okotoks singers show off their golden voices in Calgary

Music: Students strike gold at Kiwanis Music Festival

By: John Barlow

  |  Posted: Friday, Mar 28, 2014 03:23 pm

Jillian Barvir, Chantelle Vant Erve, Alexandra Fisher and Bryanna Cuthill strike a pose celebrating their gold medals from the Kiwanis Music Festival in Calgary. The four are students with Okotoks vocal coach Naomi Koch.
Jillian Barvir, Chantelle Vant Erve, Alexandra Fisher and Bryanna Cuthill strike a pose celebrating their gold medals from the Kiwanis Music Festival in Calgary. The four are students with Okotoks vocal coach Naomi Koch.
Tammy Rollie/OWW

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Okotoks’ voices were golden at the annual Kiwanis Musical Festival held in Calgary earlier this month.

Several students of Okotoks vocal coach Naomi Koch participated in the prestigious festival and five of them returned with gold medals including Bryanna Cuthill, Alexandra Fisher, Jillian Barvir, Chantelle Vant Erve and Maddy Thompson.

The students practice with Koch at least once a week, but heading into Kiwanis it was not unusual to see the teacher’s studio filled with her protégés three or four times per week.

Barvir, a Grade 12 student at Holy Trinity Academy (HTA) in Okotoks, earned a bronze medal in Opera and gold in Art Song Classical and she gave a lot of the credit to her long-time vocal coach.

“(My success) really enforces what Naomi was teaching my all year,” she said. “Once you get up on stage it all comes back to you — it is like muscle memory.”

Barvir said she was pleased to place in two of her categories at Kiwanis, but she stressed the music festival is not about winning medals; it is about savouring the experience and learning.

“It relates to real life,” she explained. “It helps you with public speaking, performing and how to deal with pressure and judgment. Kiwanis is not about placing it is about real life.”

Barvir certainly enjoyed the experience this year winning gold in Art Song Classical with her performance of the classical voice song “El Majo Discreto”.

“I love this song,” said Barvir, a soprano. “It is really challenging. I always pick songs I like because you want something that sounds good with your voice.”

She earned the bronze medal for her performance of the Mozart Opera “Una Donna A Quiddici Anni”

Cuthill also found some music which sounded good with her voice as she earned silver medals in speech, scene and musical theatre and gold in sacred contemporary.

Cuthill, a 12-year-old student at Good Shepherd School in Okotoks, played the violin before she turned to voice and speech lessons three years ago. She has come a long way in a relatively short amount of time, but that happens when someone discovers their passion.

“I really liked it and I got to meet new people who have the same interests as me,” she said. “The only thing I don’t like about it is the judges. Arts are hard to judge because it is based on someone’s opinion.”

The judge’s opinion hit the right note in the sacred contemporary category where they handed Cuthill the gold medal for her performance of “Be Unto Your Name”, a religious song she heard at St. James Church.

“I heard it five years ago and I really liked the song,” she said. “Naomi suggested I try it and really clicked.”

Cuthill’s performance was good enough to earn her an invitation to perform in the festival showcase featuring the top musical theatre performances and on Calgary’s Breakfast Television.

For Fisher singing lessons and performing are nothing new. The HTA student has been taking singing lessons for seven years and has been with Koch for the past five years.

It was her second time competing at the Kiwanis festival and each time she said she learns something new.

“This experience is a big learning curve,” she said. “I learn how to calm myself and anchor my voice.”

At Kiwanis Fisher placed second in Musical Theatre Ballad for her performance of “I’m Not that Girl” from the musical Wicked and won gold in Musical Theatre Up Tempo for the song “Pulled” from the Adams Family musical.

“I spent a lot of time picking these songs,” said Fisher. “I heard ‘Pulled’ and I loved it, it was energetic, it was really me. You need to relate to the song because you are acting, you are that character on stage and the voice follows along. You need to have that connection.”

It was a repeat performance for Vant Erve at the Kiwanis Festival as the Grade 11 HTA student earned a gold medal in Musical Theatre Ballad for the second consecutive year. This year she selected “The Glamorous Life” from the musical “A Little Night Music”.

She also competed in Musical Theatre Up Tempo winning silver for the song “Just You Wait” from the classic musical “My Fair Lady”.

Vant Erve said she was ecstatic with her performance at the Kiwanis Music Festival, which includes some of the top music and speech students in and around Calgary.

“I was very happy because for me I like the experience, I like to get out and perform,” she said. “Each adjudicator has a different opinion and the more feedback you get the better you become.”

Vant Erve said she is eager to return to Kiwanis next year and showcase some of the lessons she learned in hopes of winning a third gold medal.

“You immerse yourself in the character and you don’t have the nerves and anxiety,” she said. “I am so much more comfortable on stage. A little nerves are okay, but you can’t get freaked out or your voice cracks.”

The five students who won gold medals at the Kiwanis Music Festival will highlight a year-end recital of Naomi Koch’s students to be held at the Okotoks United Church on May 24. The event is open to the public and is an opportunity to listen to some of the top young speech and vocal talent in the foothills.


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