Leslie Sjoberg, left, perennial president of the Cowichan Music Festival, congratulates singer Shaylee Martin on being chosen to attend provincials. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Lexi Bainas column: Congratulations Leslie and Co. for another great celebration

Where would the music festival be without its tireless volunteers?

What’s in a name?

The official title of the event is the Cowichan Music Festival but for many people it could be spelled “Leslie Sjoberg”.

This dainty but dauntless dynamo, and perennial music festival president, has been a stalwart supporter of young talent for decades, and a tireless volunteer and strong voice for the performing arts in the Cowichan Valley for well over half a century.

On stage at the annual gala concerts that wind up the annual festival, Sjoberg can still be found, ready to hand out bursaries, awards, and the coveted invitations to take part in provincials. Her ready smile and willingness to help out is a byword in the Valley.

Whenever you think “festival”, you can’t help but see her face. She and long-time friend, Jean Davis, have been everywhere.

Along with the other dedicated members of the music festival committee down the years, they have offered outstanding opportunities to Cowichan Valley performers in a wide variety of genres. This year’s festival committee also includes Karolyn Sherman, Carol Newington, Barb Stone, and Joan Wilson.

Congratulations to Leslie and Co. for another great celebration.

***

While I’m on the subject of the encouraging young talent, the post-holiday season has been studded with amazing performances by the Valley’s young performers.

Cowichan has seen a tremendous growth in interest in recent years in musical theatre and the results are now singing and dancing on stages everywhere you look.

The Cowichan Musical Society’s presentation of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying was led by a strong group of young performers. Many of those same young people also found time to prepare entries in several music festival categories, and, when they had a spare minute, learn additional roles and dance routines so they could rock the house at Frances Kelsey’s recent show, All Shook Up.

Meanwhile, Brentwood College’s performing arts students have also spent the year working hard on bringing their show, West Side Story, to the stage of their beautiful theatre. But, while preparing for his lead role in that show, Timothy Cameron has also found time to learn a difficult role in the Mercury Players’ presentation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, which opened this week at the Mercury Theatre.

Cowichan Secondary School made a welcome return to the world of blockbuster musicals this year, with its presentation of The Addams Family, Adagé Studio will be presenting Aladdin Jr. and Chalkboard Theatre Back to the 80s and What About the 70s, both this spring at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre, and Queen Margaret’s has Once on This Island coming up in May.

And that doesn’t even get to all the theatrical dance numbers we’ll see when the dance schools come to the fore and present their massive year-ending extravaganzas, and following that, the fun, outdoor Duncan Has Talent showcase at Charles Hoey Park every summer.

Get on out there and enjoy it all. Don’t let the parade pass you by.

***

A special art exhibition, entitled “Estuary: Cradle of Life” is now underway at the Arbutus Gallery in the Community Centre on James Street.

Presented by the Cowichan Valley Public Art Gallery in cooperation with the Cowichan Estuary Restoration and Conservation Association, this even is open Monday to Friday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, noon to 3 p.m. until March 23.

Check out www.cowichanvalleyartscouncil.ca for more information.

***

Making a welcome return to the Cowichan Valley is Juno-award winning Canadian blues legend Big Dave McLean.

An inspiration to such Canadian legends as Colin James and Wide Mouth Mason, this Yukon-born, Winnipeg-based performer has built up a solid group of fans here in the Valley during his stops here.

McLean’s Live in the Chapel at Providence Farm on Sunday, March 10. Doors open at 7 p.m. with the show starting at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $25 each. Get them at https://barelynorth.tickit.ca/events/5774-big-dave-mclean-live-in-the-chapel?locale=en

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