Music will fill the halls of Theriault this week

Music students from École secondaire catholique Thériault will be joined by francophone musicians from all over the province this weekend.

The provincial festival Quand ça nous chante is returning after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. The Timmins high school is hosting the event from Feb. 23-26.

The festival, which is organized by Association des professionnels de la chanson et de la musique (APCM), brings with it several francophone acts, as well as music students from 11 francophone schools throughout Ontario. To help promote the event, a trio of Theriault students performed O Canada for council at its meeting last week.

Several of the students taking part are excited to learn from the featured artists.

Kaitlyn Bangs, a Grade 9 student who has been playing piano for nine years, is looking forward to getting more information on what the music industry involves.

“I think they’ll have a lot of tips for me,” said Bangs about the musicians at the festival. “They are professionals and they’ve been doing this for a long time.”

She is already teaching younger children to play piano and she has aspirations to become a music teacher.

For many of the students, this will be their first time attending the event.

The celebration will open with a welcoming song from Mary-Jaye Ethier, an Indigenous student from New Liskeard. She got involved with the festival after playing the Indigenous drum as her talent during a pageant in the area.

She said the local performance is a way to give thanks and share her culture.

“Sometimes it can be difficult because they don’t know anything about your culture so we’re trying to introduce them to it,” she said.

Drumming is a family affair for Ethier.

“My grandmother and my aunts, they all love to drum and I enjoy being a part of that circle of women," she said.

Liam Tremblay, a Grade 12 student who plays guitar, has learned a lot about how to balance his life and commitments during his years in Theriault's band program.

“There’s an aspect of work hard, play hard, and it definitely builds a work ethic,” he said.

With plans to study electrical engineering, he plans to apply those lessons going forward.

"If you’re doing anything musically, it will help you focus and de-stress, but it does take a lot of time," said Tremblay.

This week's festival will include workshops for the students on a variety of topics like lyric composition, musical theatre and an introduction to the business side of music.

This is the third time that Theriault has hosted the festival — the previous times were in 2016 and 2017.

While the festival is smaller than it has been in the past, organizer Valérie Vachon said that there will be roughly 200 people visiting the city for it.

“In 2016 we had 440 students from all over Ontario, but since COVID-19 shut down everything, it's been baby steps this year,” said Vachon. “To come here from Toronto or Ottawa or Thunder Bay, it’s a lot to ask, so it’s a smaller version, but it’s going to be more intimate.”

Things will kick off for the students on Thursday evening, with a dinner and a concert before a jam session for the students and artists to get to know each other.

“We have three rooms that will be open for jams, so they go where they want, they take their instrument and they jam together,” said Vachon. “It’s amazing, they come up with the beat and music and they just blend it all together.”

Friday night’s concert is open to the public and features Céleste Lévis, a Timmins singer-songwriter, and Stef Paquette, an author and composer from Sudbury, along with the Timmins Symphony Orchestra, directed by Josh Wood at the school’s auditorium.

Tickets are $20 at the door for the general public. The doors open at 6:45 p.m.

The festival’s main focus is on students and expanding their love of music.

The music program at École secondaire catholique Thériault has been going for 20 years.

Juliane Breton is one of those students who's returned to give back. She works on the tech side of the school’s band program and said the students are always excited about the different kinds of music they get to play.

“They get to pick the songs they want to do all in French and they research as much as they can, and if they hear a French song that they like, they ask if we can do it,” she said. “The answer is mostly yes.”

The festival gives the children involved a chance to meet more musically inclined people, both other students and professionals, but the joy they get from the experience make the work that goes into it worth it, says Vachon.

“When I see the smiles on the kids' faces after all this work, it makes everything worth the sleepless nights,” she said. “They’re going to be exchanging their passion for music, and it’s so exciting.”

Amanda Rabski-McColl, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,