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Valley Winds stamp 30 years of music, friends, memories

“One of the big things is, the friendships that I've made over these last 29 years.”

BOW VALLEY – When Mary Lynne McCutcheon bought a used saxophone after she saw an ad in the newspaper, she unknowingly bought into 29 years of friendship and music.

The Valley Winds Music Association (VWMA) was started in 1994 by Bob Aishford for people like McCutcheon who wanted to dust off their instruments and high school music skills.

“Initially, the idea was to give parents a night out, away from the kids, especially people that maybe had an instrument in their closet where they played music in high school,” said Aishford.

Now 30 years later, with around 120 musicians across two bands and two choirs, Valley Winds will mark the occasion with a concert at the Banff Centre.

“One of the big things is the friendships that I’ve made over these last 29 years,” said McCutcheon, who’s in the Jazz Band and on the board.

“We all have this common bond that we love playing and sharing music, and that common bond has brought us all together.”

The concert will take place on Sunday, April 28 at 2 p.m. in the Jenny Belzberg Theatre, which can seat more than 600 people. Tickets can be purchased at the door or at Rusticana in Canmore, from VWMA members or on Eventbrite. A shuttle will be leaving at 1 p.m. from Canmore’s Civic Centre with limited tickets available.

The Jazz Band, Concert Band, Choir CHORDillera and the Men of the Mountains will be present at the concert, with all four groups performing together in the grand finale, something that hasn’t been done since 2014 in tribute to the hardship of the 2013 flood.

“It’s hard not to remember the feeling that we played back in 2014,” said Aishford. “I can remember playing that piece and people just crying. That still resonates in my heart, hearing that sound and seeing the emotion from the audience, and the people in the bands.”

The finale, composed by Mark DeJong, is called the “Bow Valley Rhapsody”, and depicts in song the lifestyle of living in the mountains.

“This is based on that same idea that in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the association that we would commission a piece once again and follow the legacy performance in 2014,” said Rob Currie, president of VWMA.

“Everybody has done their practising in isolation and now we’re coming together and it’s sounding wholesome, it’s sounding rich and it’s sounding exciting.”

The music groups’ oldest member Marion Whitworth, 90, said that being apart of the choir is a large part of her life and that she looks forward to the nights of practice.

“I always went in search of the music,” said Whitworth. “It’s something that is a part of my day and part of my life.”

The association encourages people of all skills and ages to join, whether you’re 90 years old or like their youngest member who is 15 years old.

“We would welcome interested musicians of all abilities with open arms,” said Currie.

Those who want to dust off the old instrument or kick the rust off their singing voice can approach a VWMA member or visit their website,, for more information on how to be involved.

“Our membership changes. There’s been lots of core people, lots of people been there a long time, but we’re getting new members all the time. And so that’s the important part for me, is the friends that you make, and then the fun that we have. Every week it’s lots of laughter and lots of fun and with a common goal in mind,” said McCutcheon.

“I just hope it goes for another 30 years.”

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