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Brandon Sun - PRINT EDITION

A cappella group Rajaton hits right notes for students at Brandon Jazz Festival

Students with the Steinbach Regional Secondary School Spectrum ensemble perform during the opening day of the Brandon Jazz Festival at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium on Thursday afternoon. Over 160 schools and groups from across the province and as well as other provinces.

TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

Students with the Steinbach Regional Secondary School Spectrum ensemble perform during the opening day of the Brandon Jazz Festival at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium on Thursday afternoon. Over 160 schools and groups from across the province and as well as other provinces.

From Austria and Switzerland to Japan and Namibia, Rajaton has inspired audiences around the world.

Myranda Porter, Janessa May, Genevieve St. Laurent and Taylor McConnell with the École Regent Park jazz ensemble take a photo together between events during the opening day of the Brandon Jazz Festival at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium on Thursday afternoon. Over 160 schools and groups from across the province and as well as other provinces.

Enlarge Image

Myranda Porter, Janessa May, Genevieve St. Laurent and Taylor McConnell with the École Regent Park jazz ensemble take a photo together between events during the opening day of the Brandon Jazz Festival at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium on Thursday afternoon. Over 160 schools and groups from across the province and as well as other provinces. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)

Since the Finnish a cappella ensemble formed in 1997, they have performed in more than 25 countries and released 13 albums.

For the first time, the six-voice group is in Brandon, where they are hosting workshops and performing at the Brandon Jazz Festival.

"We meet wonderful people, and the reason we formed the group is that we have a dream that we could really let the music flow through us," soprano Essi Wuorela said. "Music is such an important thing to us."

The group performs 100 to 150 concerts every year. Before coming to Brandon, they were in Vancouver and Winnipeg.

"We found out that this is clearly a province with wonderful singers," she said.

They will return to Finland where they have multiple concerts planned, and will return to North America later this spring. They will perform in Washington, D.C., Toronto and New York City.

On Friday at the 32nd annual Brandon Jazz Festival, Rajaton put on a workshop for students in the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium.

"It’s wonderful because … we get to meet those people," Wuorela said. "People here in Canada have no problem supporting and being open … so that’s great because Finns are so reserved."

The WMCA workshop was packed with students, who asked questions of Rajaton and broke out in cheers following the group’s performances.

Grade 7 student Madeleine Wiebe, a big fan of Rajaton, said she "freaked out" when she realized she would be seeing the group at the festival.

"Two years ago my brother showed me a video of them singing ‘Butterfly’ and ever since I’ve wanted to meet them," she said.

Rajaton means "boundless," which describes the group’s diversity of repertoire, singing style and stage presentation.

"It’s really cool how they can make the instrument noises with their voice and how it all blends," said Grade 7 student Annalise Neufeld.

Festival director Brent Campbell is thrilled to have the world-famous ensemble in Brandon for the festival.

"We have the hottest vocal choir in the world in here," he said. "We’ve worked two years to bring them into the Brandon Jazz Festival."

Wiebe, along with some 130 classmates, travelled from Winnipeg’s Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute to take part in the festival.

"Our school really prides itself on its music program, it’s something we like to do well," said parent chaperone Heather Neufeld. "So this is a chance for them to see how far you can go with music."

About 4,500 people are in Brandon for the three-day festival, which wraps up today. Jazz bands and vocal ensembles from across Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are participating.

"It’s predominantly high school and junior high, but we do have some elementary groups that come in," Campbell said.

There are 175 school groups attending the festival, where they perform for adjudicators and clinicians and get feedback from professionals.

"They attend workshops and clinics … evening concerts and they listen to each other perform," Campbell said. "It’s all non-competitive … it’s just kids listening to each other and learning."

Judges for the festival come from all over North America, including Toronto, Calgary, Boston, Chicago and New York.

Campbell, who has been involved with the festival for the past 26 years, said he hopes students are inspired by the experience.

He hopes they become "enthused" about music and see all the possibilities as they grow.

Rajaton’s final concert is tonight at 8 p.m. at the WMCA.

» jaustin@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @jillianaustin

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 22, 2014

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From Austria and Switzerland to Japan and Namibia, Rajaton has inspired audiences around the world.

Since the Finnish a cappella ensemble formed in 1997, they have performed in more than 25 countries and released 13 albums.

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From Austria and Switzerland to Japan and Namibia, Rajaton has inspired audiences around the world.

Since the Finnish a cappella ensemble formed in 1997, they have performed in more than 25 countries and released 13 albums.

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