Chatham Kiwanis Music Festival returns in-person

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After two years of pandemic alterations and virtual performances, organizers of the 77th annual Chatham Kiwanis Music Festival are excited for the return of their in-person competition.

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The festival, which showcases young local talent, recently launched with the raising of the Kiwanis flag at the Chatham-Kent Civic Centre.

Slated for April 11 to April 17, the event is now back to its traditional format, festival co-chair Julie Collins told The Daily News.

“We’re absolutely thrilled,” she said. “We hated to go virtual last year. We planned to go in-person, but as the year progressed, as things progressed, it did not seem like that was a good choice.”

Collins noted that compared to in-person, a virtual event is the “difference between watching TV and watching live theatre.”

She also called it important for everyone to be able to gather, especially for the kids.

More than 280 youth are expected to participate. Featured will be a variety of musical performances, workshops and competitions, culminating in an awards ceremony recognizing top performers.

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Collins, who chairs the festival with Sue Lowther, called the talent in Chatham-Kent “always impressive,” adding that many students have gone on to pursue musical studies and careers.

While admission won’t be charged for the competitions, donations will be accepted. The festival’s grand concert on May 16 at the Kiwanis Theatre will remain a ticketed event.

Chatham Coun. Alysson Storey called music an “integral part” of the community, with the festival highlighting the diversity and calibre of local musicians.

This year’s event will be bittersweet, however, given the passing of George Service, a former festival co-chair, last year.

He had served as chair for five years, and was known for his leadership and mentoring abilities.

“His contributions can’t even be counted,” Collins said. “He’s very highly regarded by adjudicators, students, Kiwanians … I can’t think of anybody who didn’t love and admire George Service.”

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