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Unity Music Festival returns to live performances

One of Saskatchewan's longest running music festivals is back to in-person performances in their 96th year.

UNITY — A crescendo of celebratory songs of praise could be heard when it was announced the Unity Music Festival would be back for their 96th annual event, in person.

After a pandemic prescribed two-year, in-person hiatus, the UMF committee is preparing for live performances. Preparations for the festival include showcasing a multitude of music students from Unity and surrounding towns.

The 2022 festival will feature only one adjudicator, Gillian Rice.

UMF will run from April 5-6 with the final performance set for April 10 at the Unity Composite High School senior gym.

Because many participants had already prepared their numbers for the 2020 festival, and the sudden shutdown put on everything in the province eliminated their performance opportunity, an online/virtual festival was held. The online performances were well received with an expanded online audience anxious to experience anything outside of their in-home isolation. Performers did a great job of transitioning from stage and venue to the online platform.

Last year Unity Music Festival Association was also a virtual event as restrictions were not yet allowing in person performances.

The 2022 UMF will include vocal, musical theatre and speech arts taking place at Unity United Church. School performances will remain virtual. Instrument performances of piano, guitar, banjo and saxophone will also be part of this year’s festival and will be held at Unity Baptist Church.

See the advertisement in the March 25 issue of the Press-Herald for all the details.

Gillian Rice (Leson) was born and raised in small town Saskatchewan. She began piano and voice lessons at a young age with private music teachers. She has had various influences during her musical studies such as Dawn Hrykiw, Jean Laube, Carla Plosz, Diana Woolrich, Janice Elliot Denike, Thelma Gillis and Michelle Rivers.

She has entered many music competitions at local music festivals in the Parkland and Yorkton regions and has won numerous awards. In 2000 she was awarded first place for the Chopin class at the Provincial Music Festival and was also awarded a silver medal from the Royal Conservatory of Music for having the highest mark in Saskatchewan on a Grade 8 voice exam.

In the spring of 2011, Rice earned a Bachelor of Music in piano performance from the University of Saskatchewan. While at university, under the instruction of Professor Kathleen Solose, Rice performed with chamber ensembles, choirs, duos and as a soloist.

In 2007, she presented a paper at a conference commemorating Saskatchewan composer Murray Adaskin. Continuing her education in 2014, she attended the Vancouver International Song Institute. While in Vancouver she worked many musicians such as Rena Sharon, Laura Loewen, Terence Dawson, Cameron Stowe, Darryl Edwards and Michael McMahon .

Today, Rice is the owner/operator of Eighty-Eight Keys Music Studio where she teaches private piano and voice lessons. Her newest passion since the birth of her two children has become early childhood music. Most recently she has begun composing a series of lullabies which she sings to her boys at night.

Rice continues to spread her love of music where it all began for her, in her hometown of Canora.