KVR Middle School’s Louis Riel Day keeps getting bigger and better.
This year’s gathering was a success once again, but for their fifth celebration next year, the school may attempt to break the spoon playing world record.
The entire Grade 6 student body, 186 students, spent Friday learning about the culture and history of the Métis people, and Louis Riel in particular.
As the largest and most anticipated part of the day, youth made their own musical spoons; an important piece of traditional Métis music alongside the fiddle.
According to a Metis elder at the gathering, it was one of the largest spoon-playing gatherings he’s ever seen, possibly even the biggest in Canada.
“I think over the last four years we’ve made about 800 spoons,” said Métis elder, Greg Sterling. “It’s important to reflect on our Métis culture, and traditions have been lost over the years for Canadian First Nations.”
Spoons, he said, are very sacred to Metis people.
The day was a chance for students to delve into the history of the Metis, one aspect being musical spoons. Students took their spoons, the basic handles already put together by volunteers, and each made them their own. Once their spoons were finished, Sterling taught the kids how to play them.
However, they didn’t just stick to playing traditional music.
“I wanted to demonstrate to them that spoon playing doesn’t have to die just because of the type of music we play,” said Sterling. “So in the school and the classes today, I taught them that you can play with your music, that you like to listen to. It all comes from the heart.
“That spoon is only meaningful to the person that plays it; if you don’t put any effort into playing, you’re not going to feel like that spoon is liking you very much. If you put a little love into that spoon, it will transform you. It will make feel good, make you feel energized.
“If you have sad times, I told them, go sit and play in the corner with some of the music you like, and it will lift you right up,” added Sterling.
As part of the celebrations, students also took part in Jeopardy with themed questions, a minute-to-win-it competition, and learned both the Métis language and Métis jig.
This year, Sterling was joined by Garth East, a fellow musician who performed on the flutes as well as helping the kids make their own spoons.
“It’s one of the simplest and most profound instruments I’ve ever played because you can do just about any rhythm on it, and it isn’t very expensive,” said East. “Young people this age are at a time in their life when learning by doing is absolutely crucial.”
The day ended like it has for the past four years of celebrations, with all of the students gathered together to play the spoons they made.
“It’s a privilege for us to do this, this has got to be the biggest spoon playing gathering that I’ve ever heard of in Canada… it would be like having 500 drums gathered here,” said Sterling.
The school is looking to make their fifth celebration next year extra special.
They are considering inviting back all of the Grade 6 students who have previously participated, in order to help break a world record.
“The city of Penticton is the capital of spoon playing right now,” said Sterling.
“We hope to prove that next year, through our fifth year, and maybe through the Guinness Book. What a lift to be able to have the school in that book; it would be a privilege and an honour.”
This year’s Louis Riel Day celebration came earlier than the official celebration in Manitoba, as that date is set aside for Family Day in B.C.
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