Performing arts enthusiasts turned out to Martin Exeter Hall on Nov. 17 to show support for getting this venue reopened soon. Representatives were from the 100 Mile Performing Arts Society, 100 Mile Festival of the Arts, Eclectica Choir, 100 Mile & District Arts Council, Front Porch Blue Grass Band, and the Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School’s Music and (not shown) Drama departments. Gord Smith photo.

Performing artists hope hall reopens rapidly

Arts festivals, choirs and bands, music and drama students miss local venue

The 100 Mile & District Arts Council is significantly missing the Martin Exeter Hall (MEH) performing arts theatre venue and really hoping it is reopened soon.

Art Council spokesperson Barbara Hooper says others in the community must be bemoaning the loss, as aside from art performances, the hall is frequently used for a variety of fundraising events and memorial services requiring a larger capacity hall.

An umbrella group for arts groups across the South Cariboo – most of them the main user groups of MEH – the Arts Council is very concerned it is made is available as soon as possible, says Hooper.

“Martin Exeter Hall is an absolutely essential facility for our community. For youth in our community who are interested in performing arts … it helps create their character. Music, speech arts, dance, drama – all that happens at Martin Exeter Hall.”

As an Eclectica Community Choir member, Hooper says it had to change venues for its recent workshop held with 10 other choirs from Kamloops, Ashcroft, Quesnel, Williams Lake and other communities.

“Our first choice was MEH, but we had to change to the Creekside Seniors Centre,” she explains, adding the choir also must also relocate its Christmas Concert, its annual benefit for local food banks normally held at MEH – minus the hall’s new grand piano.

“Our new venue will be Hillside Community Church [formerly Bethel Chapel] on the Exeter Truck Route, Dec. 9 at 2 p.m.”

The Eclectica Spring Concert has raised as much as $3,000 per concert at MEH for local charities, she notes.

“We hope MEH will be available for our Spring Concert [in May]. The larger the venue, the more money we can raise [there for] the 100 Mile & District Hospital Auxiliary and Fischer Place/Millsite Lodge Auxiliary.

“Much, much research now shows us that engaging in musical activity supports lifelong mental health,” she adds.

As one of the primary user groups, Festival of the Arts members fundraised to cover more than half the costs of the new grand piano at MEH, and also pays for its tuning each year ($175), and the Eclectica Choir pays for additional tuning for their concerts, Hooper explains.

Festival of the Arts member Marilyn Buyar says the hall’s closure left the group unable to hold their fall student recital there.

“For a town of our size to have this kind of a hall is a real gift,” she says. “Among the committee members, we have made an effort to be sure that any festival activity that we have is connected to the hall, because we realize if we don’t use it – we could lose it.”

It isn’t the cheapest venue in town, but it is the best for concerts, and the Festival of the Arts wants its students to have the experience of being “up on stage in a real concert venue,” Buyar explains.

Hooper adds the Festival committee has made a further commitment to support MEH in 2018 for its recitals and for the festival itself, happening Apr. 22 to May 5.

Noting the 100 Mile Performing Arts Society holds all of its plays at MEH, Hooper says it had to cancel their Missoula Children’s Theatre event because of the closure, as there is no other suitable venue in 100 Mile House.

The Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School (PSO) Drama Department has held their plays on stage at the hall, and the teachers rely on its availability to give the students the most realistic experience with theatre, she adds.

Many other groups from outside of the South Cariboo are held in MEH, such as Cowboy Concerts in February, while others such as Chamber Music Concerts and the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra had spoken of plans at the hall for the upcoming year.

Hooper says whether participating on stage, or seated in the pew seats enjoying a concert or play, these performances bring something back to the health of everyone involved.

“After the wildfires and evacuations, the community needs the joy and enjoyment that comes from what we engage in at [MEH].

“I think I can speak for the arts community in saying how much we all appreciate the District of 100 Mile House Council and 100 Mile Development Corporation working to get Martin Exeter Hall up and running again for our community.”

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