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Lambton County Music Festival continues its 88-year run

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Troy Shantz

David Nichols was a high school music teacher in the 1970s when he proved the old adage — the show must go on.

Nichols’ senior band was tasked with performing “American Festive Overture” at the Lambton County Music Festival, a composition that requires 50 musicians “just to make a go of it,” he recalled.

He had just 12 students.

“So we had our 12 kids up and each one of them had a percussion instrument in front of them and behind them, to cover all the parts,” he explained.

So, when a saxophonist or horn player came to a pause in the music they picked up drumsticks and banged away. And though the young performers placed second in a two-band division, they were definitely crowd favourites.

“I’ve never heard (the audience) clap so loud, for all the instruments they were playing and all the fun they were having,” recalled Nichols, who is now president of the Lambton County Music Festival.

“It was one of the greatest fun things.”

One of the city’s oldest cultural traditions, the annual music festival has held spectators – and musicians – on the edge of their seats for the past 87 years.

On April 24 entrants are of all ages will begin filling church halls and schools with the sound of music as they vie for cash prizes and more than 80 trophies.

They will also receive critiques from adjudicators, with the top three in each category announced immediately.

“When it comes down to it, you win or lose by how well you play,” Nichols said.

“And if someone says, ‘Well I’d rather you’d have done it this way or that way,’ well that’s fine, you learned another opinion, but you’re always proud of what you presented.”

Categories cover a range of musical tastes from bands to barbershop and piano to choirs.

The best go on to perform at the Stars of the Festival Concert on May 16 at Great Lakes Secondary School, starting at 7 p.m.

Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for students.

Festival programs sell for $3 and can be picked up at Van Goozen Music or at the door. Venues include Dunlop United Church, St. Giles Presbyterian Church, Central United Church, Sarnia Library Theatre, St. Patrick’s High School and Great Lakes Secondary School.

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