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Voices Of The North Continues To Grow

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SPRING 1998      v28 n01 p03  
The highlight of the Prince Albert Winter Festival has, for many years, been Voices of the North. The event is unique in the nation in that it is not a contest but a showcase of Aboriginal talent in the province. "We don't pay big money," says Bernice Sayese, show producer. "[But] it's a chance for publicity."

And performers are eager for the chance. Sayese says that they had 76 performers show up from all over the province to audition for the 12 regular spots in the show. She says that a panel of judges focuses on vocal ability, self-confidence and presentation style. She also says that they try to change performers each year. "We don't shut the door, though, on people." Sayese says that, in general, performers who are successful tend to step aside and give others a chance.

This year's Voices of the North featured "Stars of Tomorrow". In addition to the 12 performers who auditioned, three young people between the ages of 8 and 12 were given the opportunity to perform.

The event also honoured two life-long contributors to Saskatchewan Aboriginal music, Donald Corrigal and Bernice Thall. The two were featured in the show

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Peggy Vermette and Denise Lancely Right: Brent Peekeekoot
Left: Peggy Vermette
and Denise Lancely
Bottom: Grand Finale
Brent Peekeekoot
Grand Finale


Voices Of The North Continues To Grow

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SPRING 1998      v28 n01 p04  
(continued)

Shae-Lynn McNabb
Bernice Thall
Deressa Shingoose
Top: Shae-Lynn McNabb
Middle: Bernice Thall
Bottom: Deressa Shingoose

and received plaques marking their commitment.

Audience response over the years has been indicative of the growing popularity of the show. Sayese recalls that in the first year, 1993, the audience numbered about 200. This year over 2,000 people came out. "We've had good responses from the public," she says. "Being part of the audience makes them proud when [the performers] do well."

The success is quite remarkable, she says, when one considers how little time they have to prepare for the show. "It's very intense."

Performers arrive in time for their first walk-through with the professional support. This year, the popular band, Free Bird provided back-up for the vocalists. A full dress rehearsal is held on Wednesday to determine and iron out any wrinkles. Following the full dress rehearsal, the performers go on stage for real for the first of three shows on Thursday. "There's not a lot of time to polish up," says Sayese. "It just all falls together."

With the success of the annual event, the organizers are now looking at producing a summer show on a regular basis. This version of Voices of the North would be available for bookings at community events throughout the province. "We're looking to offer more," says Sayese. As part of the pursuit of this goal, Sayese says that they incorporated as a non-profit organization in the fall of 1997. Musqua Entertainment will now allow them to seek out fundraising and government grants.

A new feature this year is a compact disc recording of the 1998 Voices of the North. Musqua Entertainment is offering the recording for sale beginning in May. For more information call (306) 763-6280.

Proceeds from the sale of the recording will be channeled back into the organization to benefit the performers. In the end, says Sayese, it all comes down to promoting the performers. "That's what we've got to concentrate on."