Sandra Whitworth, president and artistic director of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage, which wrapped up its 2014-15 musical season in early June, was all smiles during an interview in late June.
“We had three sold out shows this season,” Whitworth said, “The Great Lakes Swimmers, Harry Manx and Madison Violet. We saw a 15 percent increase in audience attendance as compared to last year. And we have kept our funding and even received a new grant this year.”
In June, MP Guy Lauzon presented the SLAS board of directors with $25,000 in funding over two years from the Canada Arts Presentation Fund. The municipality of South Dundas continues to support the SLAS.
“We also received a new grant this year, which is from the SOCAN Foundation. SOCAN stands for the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada. It was our first time applying and it was nice to have some success.”
“In our fiscal year, we saw moderate growth, and in terms of the actual season, a dramatic upswing in concert attendance numbers. Our numbers are good and we are not compromising our artistic vision,” Whitworth said.
There were some unexpected challenges for the Stage to deal with this year.
In early spring, the board was told by the Operating Engineers that the Morrisburg Meeting Centre, which has been home to SLAS concerts since the volunteer organization first began more than seven years ago, would no longer be available.
“It was something of a crisis losing our venue,” Whitworth said.
But the Stage found a new and welcoming home at Upper Canada Playhouse. The SLAS people sat down with artistic director Donnie Bowes and the Playhouse board of directors, and worked out a schedule which will permit the Stage to continue to present top quality musicians to the community and to visitors to South Dundas. Concerts will now take place in the outstanding facilities the Playhouse offers.
“We are, I think, with our increasing audience numbers, striking a nice balance between grants and our revenue. And we still continue to keep our concert prices very affordable and competitive,” said Whitworth.
“We are looking at the new line up for our eight concert series, and the artists’ names will be announced later this summer. The first concert at the Playhouse will be October 10. We are also hoping to start more of our school workshops programs in the community. We continue to explore a lot of possibilities.”
The St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage board is made up of volunteers who devote many hours to bringing top flight artists to South Dundas. On June 25, at the AGM, it was confirmed that the current board will continue for next year. Sandra Whitworth remains president and artistic director, Tony McCadden is vice president and secretary, Derek Hunter is treasurer and Eric Pietersma is the member at large.