Mark it on your calendar: The annual Catholic Schools Music Festival

Catholic Schools Music Festival

In September this year, the Catholic Schools Music Festival celebrated a huge milestone when it hosted its 30th event. The annual four-day festival is a time when South Australian Catholic schools come together and showcase their talented students. With a 400-student primary-school choir and a selection of secondary-school support acts hitting the stage each evening, it’s an event not to be missed.

CCI is a proud sponsor of the annual festival, and we sat down with Samantha Taylor, Catholic Schools Music Festival Coordinator, to discuss the purpose behind the event, as well as some of the unpredictable challenges her team at Catholic Education South Australia (CESA) have overcome in recent years.

Bringing together Catholic schools from all across the state

The heart of the festival is undoubtedly the incredible 400-student choir, but Samantha says it’s the diversity of the performances that keeps attendees coming back year after year.

“The festival choir is actually made up of students from 65 schools,” she says. “Each night it’s a different group of students performing, which is why we are able to involve so many schools.”

There’s also massive variety in the support acts. Secondary-school students audition for the chance to take to the stage and perform their own unique acts.

“They might be a piano or violin soloist, a drum line, a big band or even a jazz choir,” Samantha says. “This year there was a Titanic medley at the end of the night – that closing number was quite spectacular. Overall, the performances are of a very high calibre, which is what makes it such a lovely show.”

Preparing for next year’s event

While the festival itself only runs for four days, organising the venue, sound, lighting, licensing, schools, students and more is a round-the-year task for Samantha and her team.

“It’s a 12-month production,” she says. “We are working on next year’s festival almost immediately after the current year’s – if not before – which can get a little bit confusing sometimes, especially when choosing the program for the next year. This is because we need to apply for copyright and sometimes it can take three months to come through.

“We need to have all of that ready to go by Week 1, Term 1 in February so we can start training teachers and they can get their choirs together.”

Every year is a new thrill – and comes with a new challenge

While it always comes together in the end, Samantha’s four years at the helm haven’t been without their obstacles. After a solid 2015, the South Australian blackouts and then major venue renovations the following year meant the team had to come up with solutions – and fast – in order to put on the best possible show.

“The first year was definitely a deer-in-the-headlights time, but I loved it,” Samantha says. “Then the second year was the blackout. We actually had to cancel two of our shows, which was a massive blow due to the fact that 1,000 or so of our performers couldn’t go on stage. So in Term 4, we ended up organising a concert for those performers who had missed out.

“Then in 2017, there were renovations at the Adelaide Festival Centre, which meant we couldn’t do the show at the venue where it had been held for 20 years. We went to the Entertainment Centre instead, and we ended up doing two fantastic nights instead of the usual four – so we organised the shows to include double the number of students on stage.”

Get involved in the 2019 festival

Rain, hail or blackout, it’s clear that Samantha and her team at CESA are driven to overcome any obstacles in order to see the students live out their on-stage dreams.

“It’s all about the young people,” she says. “It’s an experience for them to go and perform at the Festival Theatre. Not every family would otherwise have that opportunity, so to put on a show where they are able to see their child on stage in a professional setting – that is something we get a kick out of.”

Samantha and her team are already well into the swing of organising next year’s event. If your school is interested in participating, visit the festival website for more details. Otherwise, make a note in your calendar to attend the Festival Theatre at the Adelaide Festival Centre from 23–26 September 2019.

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