Manitoulin schools celebrate music trust funding at concert

SINGING OUT! Manitoulin Secondary School students Abbie Harper, left, and Mackenzie Cortes took solos during the MSS choir’s performance of ‘A Million Dreams,’ taken from the soundtrack of ‘The Greatest Showman.’ Their performance was part of a concert at the high school in honour of the Joan Mantle Music Trust. photo by Warren Schlote

M’CHIGEENG – The Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) cafetorium was alive with the sound of music in early May as its walls were filled with bands and choirs from MSS, Charles C. McLean Public School, Central Manitoulin Public School (CMPS), neighbouring Lakeview School and Assiginack Public School (APS) who came together for a dynamic performance for the ages.

This concert was in celebration of the Joan Mantle Music Trust, a fund within the Rainbow District School Board that provides funding for schools to bolster their musical instrument collections. The trust has raised more than $250,000 to date.

In September, for its ninth edition, the trust named MSS, CMPS and C.C. McLean as the recipients of $3,000 each. The schools themselves matched part of the contributions, meaning each school received a $4,000 music funding boost this year.

“We all benefit as well, because we get to hear the end product—we get to experience the beautiful music that the students are creating tonight,” said Chris Theijsmeijer, head of the MSS music program.

Mr. Scott helps to round out the small but mighty Assiginack Public School band’s sound by playing flute while conducting the group. This band only plays together in the evenings after school hours.

The MSS concert band, directed by Mr. Theijsmeijer, was the first group to play in the concert. Their main repertoire was a medley of tunes from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and another featuring music from the Barber of Seville.

It was evident that the drummer was excited to be there as the tempo was kept to a lively pace. In ‘Barber of Seville,’ they exhibited their wide dynamic range and explored triumphant fortes and tender pianissimos. Mr. Theijsmeijer noted that the abundance of empty chairs on the stage was intentional, and that their purpose would be revealed for the grand finale.

Next up was the CMPS Grade 6/7 band, directed by Ann-Marie Scott. They played early-stage traditional band tunes ‘Rolling Along,’ ‘Go Tell Aunt Rhodie’ and ‘Lightly Row.’

CMPS students followed up that performance with a showing by the school’s Grade 7/8 band. They began with their own rendition of ‘Lightly Row,’ then continued on with ‘Au Clair de la Lune’ and ‘London Bridge.’

C.C. McLean students took the next performance slot under the direction of Ray Scott. They began with ‘Listen to our Sections,’ and then ‘Hot Cross Buns.’ They seemed to be performing well despite their experience level—so well, in fact, that Mr. Scott announced that they had exceeded his expectations and were about to perform an extra song, ‘March Steps,’ that was not on the program.

Mr. Scott leads the C.C. McLean band in a bow following their performance. With a setlist consisting of five songs, this band took the prize of having the most extensive repertoire performed during the course of the evening. photos by Warren Schlote

Mr. Scott stayed on stage to direct the Assiginack Public School band. This band only meets in the evenings a couple of nights per week and consists of a mix of beginner and advanced players. Their five-song setlist also included ‘Doodle All the Day,’ ‘Menuet,’ ‘Hard Rock Blues’ and ‘Banana Boat Song.’

The MSS Grade 9 band took the stage next under the direction of Mr. Theijsmeijer. These students had only been playing since February and were well-represented in the clarinet section.

This band performed one tune, ‘Night Hawk,’ and the well-played drums greatly enhanced its ending.

The Grade 10/11 Concert Band, introduced by Mr. Theijsmeijer as “fierce,” performed the iconic rock n’ roll song ‘Rock Around the Clock.’ It was a toe-tapping performance that seemed to be a crowd favourite.

Up next was the MSS Vocal Group, conducted by Mr. Theijsmeijer and accompanied by his brother Arik Theijsmeijer. They performed ‘A Million Dreams’ from The Greatest Showman and ‘I Am Still Your Dreamer,’ a tribute to their parents and mentors for offering them their ongoing support through the years. Singers Mackenzie Cortez and Abbie Harper took solos on the first song.

A round of thank yous followed the vocal group while Mr. Theijsmeijer busily added a score of chairs to the stage and the public school bands disappeared from the room. Soon, they all appeared on the side of the stage and began to find their places.

It was a big operation, with so many people to fit into so many tight spots on the stage, but eventually the students all had their places. A sousaphone even made an appearance in the rear of the stage.

This group, dubbed the ‘Mass Band,’ performed a tune called ‘Savage Dance.’ It was quite the undertaking but it all came together in time for the show, complete with a section of unison foot stomping by every member of the band. Mr. Scott conducted the group.

According to Mr. Theijsmeijer, this was the biggest group that MSS had ever featured on stage.

“We’ve been planning to do a big performance for about three months, but we only had one rehearsal—Monday afternoon of this week,” said Mr. Theijsmeijer.

After the conclusion of the event, as the audience began to disperse, the music simply could not be stopped. Students April Torkopoulos and Ethan Theijsmeijer walked onto the stage for a brief acoustic and vocal duet to a small audience of some family and friends.

“It was just such a beautiful night,” said Manitoulin trustee Margaret Stringer, who acknowledged the hard work of staff and students to put the evening’s entertainment together.

“I’m so pleased that on Manitoulin our kids have the opportunity to be in bands. It speaks volumes about our staff; we’re very fortunate to have people here putting in all the hours for these projects,” said Trustee Stringer. 

Mr. Theijsmeijer added that the experiences the students were gleaning would last a lifetime.

“The experience of being on stage is something you can’t replace. You’re dealing with nerves, energy, performing, and you get good experiences with teamwork and working toward a common goal,” he said.