Alive with Culture

My band teacher from high school retired a couple of days ago.  Mr. Wenner posted the news on Facebook and stories and memories began pouring in from his former students stretching back to the early 1980s.  So, music ensembles had already been on my mind as Theresa Wells and I met with Arndis Bildfell from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to talk about the celebration of culture coming up this weekend.

We found out that the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO) would be coming north a few months ago at a Council meeting, thanks to the generosity of a number of different companies including City Lumber, Enbridge, Syncrude and Worley Parsons.  They would be joined by an amazing traveling exhibit from the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) at an event planned for June 3rd at the Suncor Community Leisure Centre on MacDonald Island.

It has been a long, long time since the ESO played in our community; several decades of water has flowed under that particular musical bridge.  This is a BIG deal.  We've enjoyed the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra on a couple of occasions in more recent times, including a performance of the music of Harry Potter, complete with a special visit by Hagrid and a few of the other characters at Keyano Theatre.  That event was packed and an amazing experience.

This performance of the ESO is a pops concerts devoted to the music of Ray Charles featuring that legend's protégé Ellis Hall (who I get to interview later this week).  Starting at 7 pm on the Nexen Field House, this performance is going to be peppered with some of the greatest songs of all-time: Georgia on My Mind, Hit the Road Jack, Let the Good Times Roll, and Unchain My Heart, to name but a few. It's going to be amazing!

Tickets for this once-in-a-generation event are a ridiculously low price of $20, with children under 12 getting in absolutely free.  All ticket proceeds are going to be donated to the Fort McMurray Family Crisis Society. There will also be a cool local touch to the concert as dancers from Generation Dance Studio will be making a guest appearance.

As part of this cultural celebration, AGA is in town with their About Face art exhibition, featuring 17 two-dimensional framed works that "examine questions of identity from the perspective of First Nations artists."  Drawn from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts collection, About Face shines the spotlight on First Nations artists Terrance Houle, Alex Janvier, Duane Linklater, George Littlechild, Frederick McDonald, April Mercredi, Henry Nanooch, and Pat Nokomis.

AGA staff will also be on hand to host art workshops and guide the creation of a collaborative community art piece.  Take-away projects will explore portraiture, place and identity.  The exhibition opening and community celebration is absolutely free for everyone and running from 1 pm to 4 pm in the MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery.

My only regret is that I won't be here on Sunday.  I'm traveling with Councillors Flett, Stroud and Vinni to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities national conference in Saskatoon.  My solace is that my family will be able to enjoy this wonderful day of art and culture.  I'll be thinking of them in my room at the Bessborough Hotel looking out at the North Saskatchewan River.

Get tickets for you and your family right here.


  1. Another exciting event this weekend is the Edmonton Opera will be holding a vocal master class with local students at the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts (at Holy Trinity High School) from 2:30-3:30 pm on Saturday (June 2nd). As part of Edmonton Opera's Outreach program, this event is FREE to ALL! Come and see all of the work that goes into being a professional singer!

    Then at 7:00 pm Saturday night (still June 2nd), there will be a showing of the Met Opera: Live in HD "La Traviata", with a live opening performance by the Edmonton Opera members.

    Tickets for this are $19.95 (or less) and available by phone at 780-792-0012 ext. 2 or at the Box Office prior to the show.

    Exciting times for RMWB!


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