Last weekend was a time of reflecting on one’s legacy and looking forward to the future as a large crowd was on hand at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church to ring in a monumental achievement for the enduring Outlook & District Music Festival.
The popular and growing-by-the-year event marks 40 years in 2020, and therefore a special celebration show was held on Sunday afternoon, January 12.
Spearheaded by a planning committee comprised of Shelley Luedtke, Leslie Hicks, Cathy McPhail and Sandy Stephenson, the event saw performers of the Music Festival’s past and present come together to show off their talents and provide spectators with a smorgasbord of entertainment.
A handful from Equinox Theatre made up of Phil Guebert, Maureen Weiterman, Floyd Childerhose, Barb Friesen, and Kirk Friggstad performed a number from one of the troupe’s past plays, ‘All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten’.
Violinist Haven Rees, accompanied by her mother Julie de Moissac on the piano, brought the house down with her performance.
Chad Linsley, a celebrated pianist who couldn’t be there in person, showed off his chops in a submitted video.
Vocalist Marcia Orton wowed the crowd with a song entitled ‘I Attempt from Love’s Sickness’.
The chamber choir from LCBI High School brought some 1980’s flavor to the afternoon celebrations, performing an arrangement of the hit song ‘Africa’ by the band Toto.
The grandfather/daughter/granddaughter trio of Al Wiebe, Patty Thompson and Abigail Thompson were a hit with the audience as they performed ‘It Is Well Within My Soul’ on piano and violin.
Amanda Follick picked up her flute and mesmerized the crowd with some more impressive instrumentals.
Kristin Eliason submitted a video message where she spoke of the impact that the Outlook Music Festival had on her, and also displayed some lightning-quick piano skills.
There was supposed to be a vocal performance by Virginia Wight and Olivia Wight, but unfortunately, both of them had come down with illness that prevented them from performing by the day of the show.
Floyd Childerhose gave the audience something a little different with his second time on stage, sitting on a stool in costume and offering up an interesting, poetry-laden story entitled ‘The Ballad of Blasphemous Bill’.
Catie Seeley was another former student of the Music Festival, and she sent a video message relaying her congratulations on 40 years and included a clip of her playing piano with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
Trason Ridgewell, a young and up-and-coming performer, was clad in costume and performed the opening number to the hit production, ‘Oklahoma!’
Zoe Stalwick and Courtney Clark paired up to provide some light banter and musical infusion with ‘Secondary Characters’.
Dyan Robson took to the piano to churn out ‘Minstrels’ by Debussy.
Gavin Fleck, accompanied by Layne Jones, closed out the show with some impressive guitar and banjo work, performing ‘Red Prairie Dawn’ and ‘Saw Creek’.
Without a doubt, it was one of the most varied and genre-reaching live performances done in Outlook in quite some time, all under the auspices of an event highlighting the importance and the impact of the Outlook Music Festival.
At times, the celebration’s MC Delwyn Luedtke asked those who had given their time and effort to previous festivals to stand and receive a round of applause, including volunteers and those who help provide musical accompaniment, as well as the music teachers who have helped guide performers on their collective journeys.
Shelley Luedtke of the planning committee touched on what it meant to help put this special event together, sharing that it was fun to hear the excitement in the voices of the performers.
“I was absolutely thrilled with the whole afternoon!” said Shelley. “We had such a large audience and it was so great having that many people come out and experience truly wonderful performances. And what an amazing set of performances! I think the level of sustained applause for so many of them indicates how much the audiences enjoyed their music.”
The goal behind the celebration event was simple for Shelley and the committee – celebrate the past and what the festival has meant to participants.
“At the festival each year we see the current students who are growing and developing in their musical education and that is always inspiring, but we thought since it was the 40th anniversary it would be a good opportunity to take a look back and celebrate the incredible singers and musicians who paved the way and established such a remarkable legacy,” she said.
Those behind the scenes of the long-standing festival are indeed proud, notably of the legacy it has amassed in four decades.
“The Outlook Festival is proud of its 40-year history,” said Shelley. “As we saw at the concert, many students have gone on to make music their career. For many more, music holds a special place in their lives, and we hope their participation in the festival resulted in good learning opportunities and joy in performing. So many lessons can be learned from music and taking part in the festival and we certainly heard that from Sunday's performers; like the importance of hard work, perseverance, learning to take constructive criticism, and being part of a larger community of musicians that support and encourage one another. That's what the festival has always been and that's what we hope it will continue to be.”
Sandy Stephenson, who has been President of the Outlook Music Festival for more than a decade, was unfortunately absent from the celebration event, but a message on her behalf was read to the gathered audience by Shelley:
“I want to sincerely thank everyone for their support over these many years. All those who provide financial resources, those who volunteer, and those that come and attend each of the sessions and support the participants. To all the students who are here today, we want to say thank you for all the hard work you’ve put in to preparing for the festival. We as a committee will continue to do our best to provide the best possible experience for all of you when you come to the festival. To all the teachers and committee members over the years, I can’t even express my deepest thanks. Your dedication and commitment have brought us to the point where we are today and will launch us into a very bright future. I am with you in spirit and I hope this concert inspires and motivates even more students and community members to see what the festival is all about. Thank you everyone for 40 amazing years – let’s make it 40 more!”
Indeed, the performances seen in the church on Sunday spoke to the results that can be reached when musical talent is fostered and nurtured, and as MC Delwyn put it, there is perhaps no telling just how long the Outlook & District Music Festival will continue to stand out and set itself apart.
“After 40 years, clearly, this is just the beginning.”
The 2020 edition of the Outlook & District Music Festival takes place from March 30 to April 5.