Livingston Taylor once said that a “performance is a conversation between you and an audience.”
While those conversations are ones many performers have been starved for, luckily the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival (GVPAF) provides sweeping opportunities for performers of all ages to satiate the need for audience connection.
Now in its 96th year, the festival runs from April 3 to May 13, showcasing and connecting 4,800 performers and students of music, dance and dramatic arts to adjudicators, plus around 4,000 audience members via performances on stages throughout the city.
“It’s a learning experience, a performing opportunity, and it’s a chance to give out awards for all kinds of things – not just excellence, but also for people who’ve really shown they’ve put their heart in it,” said Bill Devey, president of the festival.
A festival put together by hundreds of volunteers, the GVPAF began in 1927 and quickly became a major event in Victoria’s cultural and social life. Mayor David Leeming opened the 1935 event by remarking that one-tenth of Victoria’s population was represented with more than 7,000 competitors.
The festival serves as a chance for performers and performing arts students to play in front of adjudicators, get personal feedback and learn from renowned experts in the arts.
For the performers, there can be a lot to strive for: the festival provides a road to the Provincial Festival and National Music Festival as adjudicators recommend top performers in eligible sections to participate. There was also almost $29,000 in awards last year, all from donations.
And, of course, it’s not just for performers. Audiences are invited to attend adjudicated sessions, but are most encouraged to attend the 11 Highlights Concerts that showcase exceptional talent, including the Roberto & Mary Wood Scholarship concert with a $5,000 grand prize.
Devey said the live festival is bringing back a range of benefits and positive emotions that performers were missing during the pandemic lockdowns.
“People weren’t getting the joy out of it. Having these live performances shares so much more with the parents, the families and friends, to see that progression of how people got better over time,” Devey said.
“You’re joining a broader community of people who love doing what you love to do, and making friends, building your own little world that pulls together the whole Greater Victoria community.”
Registrations are up 31 per cent from last year, said Devey. Performance categories include brass, classical guitar, choral, composition, ethnic dance, studio dance, fiddle, piano, school bands, speech and dramatic arts, strings and more.
He also adds that they couldn’t do it without volunteers, who make up everyone behind the festival – including the Board of Directors – except for one paid person in the office.
The festival will take place at venues across the city. Find the calendar at gvpaf.org/.
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