The concert series sees Cole Knutson with mentors Arlene Shiplett and Jaya Hoy take the stage.
NORTH BATTLEFORD – Home is where the heart is.
The above is an age-old quote, yet on Saturday afternoon, July 16, that echoed within the walls of Third Avenue United Church in North Battleford. Dozens of people gathered inside despite heat warnings outside to watch the second act of the Battlefords Proms, a collaboration series presented by local star Cole Knutson.
The previous week, the North Battleford product performed alongside Chinley Hinacay and Matthew Robinson as part of their ‘Going for Baroque’ saxophone initiative.
For part two, Knutson was joined by two people he says are like family, Jaya Hoy and Arlene Shiplett.
Family is often linked by lineage and familiar roots, and in the case of the three above, it is right here in North Battleford and the Saskatchewan region.
The first is a well-known piano teacher in the Battlefords area, returning home to move in and pick up her mother after performing around the world in countries including Austria, France, Germany and London as a solo and chamber music performer.
“I knew I would be bored to tears if I did nothing, so I opened a piano studio.”
This is where Jaya was able to meet Knutson for the first time.
“I knew he was a very natural musician. He has a brilliant mind. He remembers everything.
It’s something that Knutson and Hoy, also called “Chickie” locally, share in common. Hoy listened to opera every Saturday afternoon on CBC growing up. For her, classical music opened her mind.
“Classical music is, I think, one of the most extraordinary things mankind has invented to express very profound truths.”
Both teacher and student laughingly recall that the lessons go beyond mastering the piano, encompassing all facets of everyday life. Whether it was literature, food, theater or curiosity about how the world works, the church sanctuary was a springboard to a grander scene.
“She (Jaya) made me realize when I was young that if I wanted to go anywhere else in the world, there was no reason why I couldn’t if I was good enough and working. “
Pretty good was an understatement.
Arlene Shiplett, born and raised in North Battleford, was a provincial coach for the Saskatchewan Music Educator’s Honor Band when she first met Knutson.
Shiplett, who among the dozen jobs she listed as part of her current resume, comes from a long line of great musicians in the North Battlefords area.
According to Shiplett, the “veteran lots,” which ran on the east side of town, in the 1950s and 1970s had about 60 children who made their living in music.
For 30 years now, Shiplett has been the second horn of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, while currently serving as professor of horn at the University of Saskatchewan.
Yet, oddly enough, the reasoning behind its success in the horn category was accidental. Shiplett recalls how, in grade 7, during the required orchestra, she sat in the horn section, and the instructor, knowing that her ability to play the piano would match well with learning the horn, transformed a voluntary situation into a lifelong career.
Fast forward. The opportunity to teach, and to have a complete toolkit and solutions through his ability to play virtually every instrument in the band effortlessly, is a key characteristic of his success.
As for Knutson, there was already a working familiarity, having known his aunt and grandparents growing up. According to Knutson, it was she who first suggested many years ago that he play the saxophone, which he still does today.
While Shiplett served as a mentor at the provincial level, it was Knutson who in turn provided Shiplett with a teaching moment.
At the start of the pandemic, Knutson, who was studying in London at the time, returned home. It was during this time that Knutson, Hoy and Shiplett found themselves under one roof.
Knutson encouraged Shiplett to relearn conducting as a musician, reminding her to play musically again.
Here, through the realities of the pandemic and the long working hours put in place, a stronger bond was forged.
“The chance to have someone at his international level of play to say bring a stack of music was just amazing to me because not everyone during COVID had the chance to play with other people” , says Shiplett.
After several seasons of the series “Barefoot in the Log Cabin” which aired at Jackfish Lake, the three were finally able to perform together in front of a larger audience, where their bonds are woven through the notes interpreted in harmony. all afternoon.
Knutson shared many of his lessons with Hoy at that same church. Most of his days from the age of 13 were seven to eight hour after-school workouts that ended early mornings alone. All this while being a child going through his teenage years.
Shiplett sang choir in the church as a young girl.
However, this weekend afternoon, despite all the national and international success they have achieved, it is just three North Battleford residents who have given back to the community that has supported them all these years.
“We’re small-town kids, and we still relate to the people here as if we were small-town North Battleford kids. Hoy said.
Every member of the audience was known in some way by the three performers, a tribute to the musical talent and support of the city.
So many of those same artists who grew up on the veteran grounds have returned to town, ready to help nurture the next generation to the next level. “There are pockets of astonishment. It’s about making sure it continues,” Shiplett points out.
Last Saturday was just a small example of how the North Battleford music community is interconnected and, in some ways, family-friendly. It was evident in their performance, with all three smiling and laughing throughout.
“I [Cole] I can’t help but smile, because I’m really happy with what I’m doing.
Neither can the public who continue to attend the Battlefords Proms. Next, a piano duet with Knutson and Hoy at 3 p.m. at Third Avenue United Church on July 23.
Arlene Shiplett says this is the one you don’t want to miss.
“If you get a chance to hear Jaya and Cole play, just grab it because you know you’ll have an amazing musical experience and really hear two people who play with such artistry. You really hear that, especially live .