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International Choral Kathaumixw recognizes Choirs of the World

Previous winners of top award at qathet region choral festival now displayed on totem pole at Powell River Academy of Music
NEW INSTALLATION: Walter Martella, music director of Powell River Academy of Music, and artistic director of International Choral Kathaumixw, is with the totem pole that now displays the winners of the choir of the world at Kathaumixw award. The plaques show the history of the festival’s top choirs from 1984 through to current day.

While the 2022 version of International Choral Kathaumixw has been cancelled, steps have been taken to recognize the great choirs that have performed here, and to celebrate the festival with local choral groups in concert in June.

According to Carrie Lanigan, administrator at Powell River Academy of Music, the choir of the world awards at Kathaumixw have now been inscribed upon the choral festival’s totem pole that stands outside of the music academy on Kemano Street.

Lanigan said some time ago, the board of directors had a meeting and one felt strongly that all of the choirs of the world should be recognized.

“We thought about it and things come into place when they are meant to be,” said Lanigan. “With the totem pole project, which became the choir of the world for 2014 and 2016, the winners of those totem poles received the actual poles delivered to their communities; that was Slovenia and Hong Kong. They were funded from local businesses and through sponsorships. That was a project on its own beside the festival.

“It was a little expensive to do that, so for the final pole, which was carved for the 2018 festival, it was decided that it would reside at the academy of music going forward. From that the idea came to put it outside the entrance.”

All the totems were carved out of western red cedar by Tla’amin Nation carver Craig Galligos.

Lanigan said the academy is very proud of the totem that stands outside of its facility. For future festivals, the pole will be taken to the great hall at Powell River Recreation Complex during the run of Kathaumixw.

“It’s all part of our relationship with Tla’amin Nation, and of course the festival name was gifted to the academy by Tla’amin,” said Lanigan. “It means a gathering together of different peoples.”

Planning problems

Kathaumixw has been the victim of COVID-19. In 2020, organizers were just a couple of weeks away from ticket sales when the pandemic hit, according to Lanigan.

“We had to put the brakes on everything. We decided to switch our model, and instead of having it every second even year, we’d have it every second odd year, so we planned actively for 2021, but it wasn’t a go, either,” she said. “We started to plan for 2022 and a lot of the choirs that had planned to be here in 2020 wanted to come. So, 2022 came along and we were very hopeful.

“Then, in January, the choirs started phoning, saying they were looking into their travel plans and were looking into the quarantine. The government was saying they had to quarantine for two weeks when they came to Canada. It was becoming impossible for them to plan their trips. Because omicron was big at that moment, we just could not put it together with the international flavour. We have to do it right if we are going to do it.”

Lanigan said the committee and the board decided to hold off for one more year, so plans are being made for 2023. Kathaumixw has been put in the calendar for July 4 to 8.

Lanigan said in 2020, an online remembrance of Kathaumixw was conducted, which had good viewership.

This year, a decision was made to do a celebration of Kathaumixw with local choirs.

“That’s our big deal,” said Lanigan. “We had originally planned it for Dwight Hall because it’s bigger but it’s a nicer location for the choirs in James Hall at the academy.”

Performances will take place on June 4, with one at 1:30 pm and a second at 7:30 pm. Tickets are on sale now at the academy box office, or online at

“There will be a real nod to Kathaumixw with some of the common songs that are sung during the festival,” said Lanigan. “We have the academy choirs, right from the apprentice choir, to the boys and girls, and chamber, the Chor Musica men’s choir, as well as the Powell River Chorus for that event.”

Lanigan said Kathaumixw has been such a long time coming that the choristers are looking forward to it, to sing those songs and to be together.

“We’re going to hang some international flags and it will certainly feel like a celebration of Kathaumixw,” said Lanigan. “Our last festival was in 2018. That’s a long time ago. We’re raring to go. It will be nice to welcome everybody again.”