A group of young women, dressed in white skirts and black tops, waving Canadian flags

What makes this region sing?

Originally published on qathet Living

The International Choral Kathaumixw is a project of the Powell River Academy of Music, founded on the model of artistic excellence promoting cultural diversity, acclaiming members of Tla’amin Nation while welcoming and embracing cultures from around the world. 

The festival takes place July 4 to 8 this year and is filled with concerts, common song singing, choral & vocal solo performances, conductor’s seminars and social events. It is a place to learn from each other and from world-renowned choral personalities. 

Kathaumixw is a Coast Salish word gifted to the festival by the Elders of Tla’amin Nation – whose Traditional Territory we share. Since the first festival (1984), the International Choral Kathaumixw has taken place biennially, except for a break during COVID.

Dal Matterson

Dal came to Powell River in 1956 and was Chairman of the International Choral Kathaumixw from inception in 1982 through the 1984 to 2000 festival years. Jim Donnelly followed as Chair from 2002 to 2014 and Tom Koleszar from 2016 to 2020.

How did you start working with Kathaumixw? 

Dal • Don James had successfully taken local Academy choirs to festivals in Europe. In 1982 on a hike together, he suggested that we organize an international choral festival in Powell River. Almost in the same sentence, he asked if I would be chairman. I said yes.

What attracted you to this organization? 

Dal • Our youngest son Mark was singing in the Academy Apprentice choir and I enjoyed singing in the Powell River Chorus. It seemed a natural fit.

What part of the work is the most satisfying? 

Dal • By far, the town’s support. The managing abilities, people and construction skills that presented themselves were amazing. It seemed that we only had to hint at a need and people came forward. One of the pleasant surprises was how many languages were available in town. There wasn’t one language that we were not able to supply to assist foreign language choirs The other wonder was the richness of personal and cultural connections. 

What part of the work do you find the most challenging?

Dal • Communications at the time were by phone, Mill Telex, and mail. There was no email and one had to accommodate time differences and language. Information mailouts were sent out over the years to choirs, it seems, throughout the world.

Obtaining Canadian visas was often an issue. Many odd hours were needed to confirm to foreign Canadian Visa Offices that the festival actually existed and describing how the choirs would be cared for, transported and housed.

What do you wish other people knew about the work ­Kathaumixw does? 

Dal • The skill, confidence and acumen of the Powell River Academy staff.

Had you been involved in nonprofit work before? What got you started?

Dal • I was a Scout leader, a member of the local health council until its demise, then a member of the Powell River Hospital Foundation. I was vice president and later, president of the Foundation for several years. I also wanted to support the community.

How has Kathaumixw changed your life? 

Dal • It helped me expand personal connections. I went on two invited visits to Kiev and one to Tashkent in Uzbekistan. I received a Lescarbot Award from the federal government for contribution to the arts community.

Do you bring any unique skills to this organization?

Dal • I had participated in many Electrical Engineering Conferences in North America and was Co-chair for one in Vancouver, so I had a notion of what it should take to get a project like Kathaumixw off the ground.

What would you say to other people who might be thinking about volunteering for Kathaumixw

Dal • It’s a wonderful way to meet people from around the world and help to make the town come alive with music.

Steven Cramaro

Steven has been Chair of the International Choral Kathaumixw Organizing Committee since 2021, after moving back from Victoria. He has volunteered on and off in various roles throughout his undergraduate studies. You may also know Steven from his work as Brooks’ junior band teacher, and conducting the Powell River Community Band. 

How and when did you start working with Kathaumixw? 

Steven • I first volunteered in 2016, assisting Cathy Reckenberg who was volunteer stage manager for James Hall. In 2018 I took on the role as stage manager for the Evergreen Theatre. In 2021 I was honoured to accept the position of chair of the volunteer Kathaumixw organizing committee.

What attracted you to this organization? 

Steven • Growing up in this community, I have always wanted to give back to those who supported and offered me musical opportunities, and now that I am in the position to do the same, the role of Kathaumixw chair was the perfect fit.

What part of the work is the most satisfying? 

Steven • I have participated and volunteered over the years with Kathaumixw, Vocal Jazz Summit, Townsite Jazz Festival, and numerous festivals in Victoria. The most satisfying part is seeing all the work of the volunteers and the enjoyment of the participants.

What part of the work do you find the most challenging? 

Steven • I don’t know yet. Having postponed our festival due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have yet to see a complete festival as chair of the organizing committee.

What do you wish other people knew about the work Kathaumixw does? 

Steven • I feel a lot of people already know about the work Kathaumixw does as it has been a part of our community for a long time. In addition to the performance festival, we have an educational part of the festival as well. All of the choral conductors meet everyday to discuss music, conducting and rehearsal techniques.

Had you been involved in nonprofit work before? What got you started? 

Steven • I have been involved with many not-for-profit groups as a participant, never in an organizational role.

How has Kathaumixw changed your life? 

Steven • Having billeted choristers in the past, it was a great experience meeting new people from different parts of the world and showcasing the qathet region to our out-of-town guests. Over the years there have been really great choirs come through and the level of musicality and musicianship has been astonishing. Off the top of my head the New Zealand Secondary School Choir and the Austrian Graz Choir have really made an impression on me.

Do you bring any unique skills to this organization? 

Steven • Organizational skills and knowledge of how a festival works through the eyes of a music director/educator. As a teacher you attend festivals with a group of students, and recognize different approaches or how to do things differently.

Have there been benefits from volunteering with this organization that you didn’t expect? 

Steven • Definitely new friendships. Working alongside current festival organizers who I knew as a child, now working more closely with them as peers.

What would you say to other people who might be thinking about volunteering for Kathaumixw.

Steven • Do It! Contact the office, it is a fantastic organization, International Choral Kathaumixw is a fantastic community event. Ticket sales begin April 11.  

Top image credit: KATHAUMIXW’S BACK: Above, for the first time in five years–since 2018–Kathaumixw is back this July 4 to 8. For newbies to this region, there’s real- ly no way to describe the spectacular scale or the wonder of qathet’s premier musical eventPhoto courtesy qathet Living

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