Fountainview Academy Orchestra returns for a night of gospel classics

Acclaimed student orchestra and choir play two free concerts Saturday

For the 85 students attending Fountainview Academy, a boarding school south of Lillooet, music isn't just a part of life, it's essential to the learning process.

The non-profit Christian academy puts a significant emphasis on music, with every single student taking part in the school's world-class orchestra, choir, or both.

The school is also unique because of its vocational training program, with students responsible for producing around 1-million pounds of carrots every year, along with melons, squash, cucumbers, apples, plums and cherries.

But with 12 professional albums, several DVD's, and numerous appearances on national and international television networks, it's not Fountainview's fruits and vegetables that have earned the school its reputation, but their highly sought after concert performances.

"We were down at the Abbotsford Pentecostal Assembly last Christmas season, and the kids were all pouring out the doors to see they had created a traffic jam. You couldn't get within four blocks of that place and we turned 200 cars away," said the school's music director Craig Cleveland. "It's thrilling to be a part of something that audiences love to come and hear."

Playing a wide range of gospel favourites, the students typically arrange or orchestrate their own music. It's a process that Cleveland has seen benefit the high-schoolers on the stage and in the classroom.

"Academically, (music) fires up both sides of the brain. It's great for learning, the sciences have proven that," he said. "The other thing is when it comes to the kids, it's a great opportunity for expression."

In fact, it was a group of students' penchant for musical expression that led them to a rather profitable venture on the streets of Prague this summer, where the orchestra and choir were filming a concert DVD, A Mighty Fortress, that traced the history of the Reformation through Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Portugal and Czech Republic.

"My oldest son is our concert master this year, and he, his brother and a couple buddies, saw all these people around (Prague) singing or doing stunts on the street making money. They went around the corner at the old town square, threw open a violin case and three hours later they'd each made a lot of money," Cleveland said. "It was hilarious that these boys from Canada could throw their violin case and walk away with $500 three hours later."

Cleveland said attendees at the Whistler and Pemberton concerts can expect to hear a number of old-time hymns, like Heaven Came Down, Glory Filled My Soul and many more. The show will wind down with what Cleveland promised would be "a huge rendition" of A Mighty Fortress too.

The Fountainview Academy Orchestra and Singers perform a free show at Millennium Place Saturday (Oct. 5) at 7 p.m. At 2:30 p.m., they'll be playing for free at the Pemberton Community Centre. Email kphillips@fountainview.ca for tickets.

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