Ecole St. Mary preparing for Christmas Concert despite challenging year

Ecole St. Mary Photo The Ecole St. Mary Band performed at the school's Remembrance Day Service in November.

The Ecole St. Mary band is getting into the Christmas spirit with their Christmas Concert on Wednesday at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

St. Mary band teacher Julie Abbs said they’ve been preparing for the concert since school began, and are excited to share their music.

“We have been practicing since September, essentially,” she said.

“It’s been going really well. We’ve got each of the bands each playing four songs that we’ve been working on.”

She said the band prepares all fall for this concert. Then after the Christmas break they move to Music Festival and then finally Spring concert.

The Senior Band has been working on an arrangement of A Christmas Carol that features a narrator.

The Junior band will be performing some Christmas Carols and the Choir will be performing some winter-themed pieces.

“It’s kind of almost like a theatrical piece, so that’ll be fun,” Abbs said of the senior band arrangement. “The Christmas Carol is something I’ve never done before with the band, so I think should be good.

“It’s sometimes really hard to look and listen to Christmas music in August when you have to plan for this, but it’s worth it because then you don’t have to scramble so much,” she added.

The Senior Band is made up of 40 performers with 20 in the Junior Band and 40 in Choir. Some performers cross over between both band and choir.

Sam Malenfant is in choir and plays trumpet in the Senior Band. This is his last year performing in a St. Mary Christmas concert.

“(It’s) my last Christmas concert of high school and then I’m out of here,” Malenfant said.

“It will definitely be sentimental. We started doing the actual band halfway through Grade 10, (or) maybe in the new year of Grade 10.

“We had shorter days we had we’re confined to a classroom all day and then the next year we kind of got to branch out a bit more with extra curricular stuff and with other classes.”

The Concert is on Dec. 20 at Sacred Heart Cathedral beginning at 7 p.m. doors open at 6:30 p.m. with admission being a silver collection that will support the band program.

The band has had challenges and successes after a flood damaged their band room this summer.

“We we’ve been working in a space that’s a little bit foreign to us with less Instruments than we’re used to,” Abbs said.

“We’re all hoping I think, to be back in there after Christmas, (but) who knows.”

Malenfant said that the band has still been successful, despite the challenges of not having their normal room.

Abbs said insurance has covered a number of band items damaged during the flood, but support is always needed.

“Any donations anyone wants to make are always go a long way l,” she said.

She explained that senior band gets to go out of province and work with universities and clinicians or do music festivals. Meanwhile the junior band trip stays closer to home and goes to Saskatoon or Regina.

She said the junior band trip gives them a taste of what you will experience in the longer Senior Band trips.

“There’s lots of students who like (band trips),” she said. “Sometimes the cost for that can be a detriment, so any funds we get goes towards helping with that.”

Abbs explained that Malenfant’s class was her first music class. She taught them in Grade 7, and have taught some band members every year since.

With many of those students graduating in the spring, she said this year’s Christmas performance will be emotional.

“This is my last Christmas concert with these guys and our last year together so we are trying to make it good,” she said. “It’s always good. Working with students is awesome. They’re so smart and they’re such hard workers. They make my job pretty easy.”

Malefant reciprocated her sentiments.

“We’re just really grateful to have a teacher that does so much,” Malenfant said. “She works very well with what she has thrown at her.”

The Ecole St. Mary Christmas Concert is on Dec. 20 at Sacred Heart Cathedral. The show starts at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. Admission is by silver collection, which will go to support the band.