79th Apple Blossom Festival features mass choir event
BY WENDY ELLIOTT
Kings County Advertiser/Register
Kentville resident Tony Stephenson, special artistic advisor to the Apple Blossom Festival, is excited to bring seven choirs together for this year’s Apple Blossom Festival.
An all-ages ensemble will perform May 22 at 7:30 p.m. in Wolfville Baptist Church. Stephenson will conduct the Valley Voices, the Dukes of Kent, the Port Williams, Somerset and Wolfville school choirs; along with the choir from Pereau Baptist Church - between 160 and 180 voices.
The choirs will be singing in unison a hallmark festival song. Annapolis Valley singer Rachel MacLean performed “A Time to Celebrate,” which she wrote with Jamie Robinson to commemorate the 75th Apple Blossom Festival in 2007. She will return to sing a solo during the final verse. The choirs will also present their own repertoires.
Stephenson teaches music history and theory in Kentville. A graduate of London University (Royal Academy of Music), Liverpool University, the University of Western Ontario and Kodaly, training in Calgary; he began teaching music in Newfoundland in 1970. Moving to Nova Scotia in 2004, he joined the Annapolis Valley Music Festival and the Valley chapter of the N.S. Registered Music Teachers Association. He is director of music for Pereau Baptist Church.
Connecting to England
Stephenson is making connections between the Annapolis Valley and an agricultural area in Lancashire, England. He believes our festival parallels the Goosnargh and Whittingham Whitsuntide Festival June 4.
Whitsuntide festivals date back hundreds of years. Each spring, people enjoy traditional may pole dancing, brass bands, dancers, entertainers and a full Scottish pipe band.
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“I think our festivals will have something to learn from each other.”
Next year, Stephenson hopes the Valley will send delegates to Lancashire; the following spring, some of their representatives could cross the Atlantic.
Over the years, Apple Blossom queens have acted as ambassadors at functions like the Imperial Fruit Show at Cardiff, Wales, attended by Queen Annapolisa III Margaret Messenger in 1935. In 1937, Babs Harris of Wolfville was a guest at the Shenandoah Valley Apple Blossom Festival, and appeared in New York and Washington D.C. Janet Kinsman, Queen Annapolisa XXVII, represented the Valley on a New England tour, as did 1962 Queen Annapolisa XXX Carol Kerr.
Mass music has its place in ABF tradition
According to Harold Woodman’s history of the Apple Blossom Festival, choral music was an important part of festival events at Grand Pre, University Hall, Wolfville and Memorial Park in Kentville.
In 1934, some 700 singers from Waterville, Woodville and Kentville put on a program of folk songs. There was also a sacred concert, and 500 children performed may pole dances.
Wolfville principal B.C. Silver trained school choirs, bringing them to Wolfville - up to 1,000 voices at a time.