It was labelled as a carnival and it didn’t disappoint.
Canadian College for the Performing Arts students in costume – and in character – greeted visitors at the door of the school’s performance hall, a.k.a. the St. Mary’s Church auditorium. Behind a temporary wall, a group of grinning kids and adults were guided through a dance routine by enthusiastic instructor Darold Roles.
Downstairs, a group of visitors and students were led in a choral practice by faculty member Marvin Regier. Across the hall, a father and daughter were given a quick singing lesson and taught how to get the most out of their voices.
All in a day’s work – or play – for staff and students at the college on Elgin Road.
“I think everyone around the school is a little more relaxed and a little more grounded,” Roles, the school’s artistic and education director, said of the atmosphere around the college this fall.
It’s the start of the second year for Roles and college director Ron Schuster.
“Last year with the change in directors, everybody was a little tentative. We knew we had big shoes to fill (after co-founders Jacques Lemay and Janis Dunning left in 2010),” Roles said.
The school, which opened its doors Saturday for its annual Carnival of Classes, has another ambitious year planned, both from a performance standpoint and an educational one.
A full complement of 40 first-year students, plus 23 second-year students are singing, dancing and acting their way through classes. The school offers a third-year program, called Company C. The largely student-led program focuses on mounting three productions during the school year, but not enough people signed up this fall. Nonetheless, there are plenty of chances for new students to strut their stuff and hone their performing arts talents.
First up among the public events is A Day of Bridge, a fundraiser for the college’s scholarship program. It happens at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 21 at the college (1701 Elgin Rd.). For $30, patrons can enjoy an early lunch while students entertain.
Another fundraiser, the Lucille Ball – the late comedienne was born 100 years ago this year – happens Nov. 4 at the Crystal Ballroom at the Fairmont Empress Hotel.
“We’ll have 24 Lucies running around doing wacky things and there’ll be a Ricky Ricardo-style big band playing Latin music to dance to,” Roles said.
The evening event will see students perform various routines related to the zany antics of Lucy. Tickets are $100, or $130 for a special star package.
The most solemn community performances students take part in is their annual Remembrance Day events. On Nov. 6 and 13 in churches around the region, students will sing and perform choral speaking shows, all of which pay tribute to Canadians who died fighting for their country and democracy.
“There’s rarely a dry eye in the house (for those performances),” Roles said.
Other public events can be found at www.ccpacanada.com.
Operating out of an Oak Bay church annex has offered the school’s operators and students alike to become entrenched in the community.
“We get a lot of support for our company in Oak Bay,” Roles said.
“We have a lot of our audience support from Oak Bay (as well as) some amazing volunteers. We’re happy and proud to be a part of the community and rely on that link.”
He was heartened by the recent comment from a nearby neighbour: “They said, ‘We missed all your students all summer, singing and dancing down the street.’”