Last weekend, Stettler and area were able to take in some Christmas choral music in keeping with the festive season as Stettler musician Rhonda Sylvester’s students filled the Performing Arts Centre with melody on Saturday, Dec. 10 with an afternoon and an evening show.
“It’s always difficult to know what to choose because the choirs change every year and you never know what music and difficulty levels will suit the choiristers the best,” said Sylvester.
Speaking about her process, Sylvester starts looking for music as early as July, but after 23 years of doing this, it has become easier over the years.
“I feel I can now make a pretty good educated guess at how the music will sound with each choir and how it will go with what I dream up for costuming, choreography, lighting etc.,” Sylvester added. “I try to choose challenging music that will make them think and grow as both musicians and performers.”
The selections this year were all classical choral selections, some with a bit of a “fun twist.”
“I like finding different arrangements of classic pieces that the audience might know, and giving them a bit of a different edge,” Sylvester explained. “A few of my favourites this year were Holiday Road, Sugar Cookies, The Brightest Star, When I Hear the Sounds of Christmas and Chocolate In My Stocking, among the many.”
A special highlight for Sylvester personally was being able to sing the Rita MacNeil classic, “Now the Bells Ring,” with the two older choirs.
As Sylvester directed her students, in the corner was pianist Sherry Rempel with her unflinching support with the piano.
“Sherry Rempel and I have worked together for several years now, and it is no exaggeration when I say that we can speak and share entire thoughts and sentences just by exchanging a single glance,” Sylvester said. “Always dependable and extremely supportive, Sherry adds a special joy and happiness to our choral world that is uniquely her.”
Sylvester said that Rempel bakes, which makes her even more endearing to the students.
“And she bakes. She bakes a lot,” Sylvester added. “The students especially love that!”
Reflecting on her journey in the community, Sylvester said, she had many fond memories of teaching in the community and she knows they will continue to grow throughout the years.
“Of course taking part in competitions and doing so well is always great, but I must admit, I love the actual teaching itself,” Sylvester stated. “I love having to come up with new and creative ways to teach and direct a song, to find the artistic inspiration and then interpret it.”
Some of Sylvester’s “favourite” and “most inspiring moments” have been watching a student begin to understand a concept or begin to conquer a certain musical technique.
“I love the way their eyes light up and their confidence soars,” Sylvester explained. “There is nothing better than that.”
Sylvester admits that without her army of supporters, it would be difficult to pull of a show of that scale.
“It takes approximately 15 to 20 parents per show, to work backstage and upstairs in the dressing rooms helping the students get ready and to be on stage, in the right costume at the right time,” Sylvester said. “I’d like to thank all the parents and students for their dedication and continued support. It’s a very busy job and although the students are really good at knowing what they need and when they need it, we couldn’t do it without the parents.”