GRAVENHURST - Rock ballads, country ditties and songs about Nova Scotia wowed the judges and brought the audience to its feet at this year’s Star Quest.
Stars shine at Gravenhurst Opera House.
STAGE STOMPIN GUITAR SOLO. Bracebridge-born Cody Thompson rocks out during his contest winning performance of the original song, The Curse of the Black River, at Saturday night’s Star Quest Finale in Gravenhurst. (Photos by Roland Cilliers)
The yearly Gravenhurst singer, songwriter competition held its finale at the opera house on Saturday. Judges, who called this year’s crop of contestants the best they’ve seen in the event’s history, crowned winners in the three age categories.
Brian James, radio DJ and one of four judges for the event, said he was thoroughly impressed with the talent on display.
“This has been getting bigger and better every year,” said James. “This really wasn’t a competition tonight — this was a concert. Someone could have paid admission for this without us even being on-stage.”
Contestants had one song to prove they deserved the $5,000 in cash prizes, free recording time and a consulting appointment with an internationally renowned booking agent. Contestants were divided into three age categories: nine to 14, 15 to 25 and 26 and over.
In the end, the three winners were all from Bracebridge: Cody Thompson, Daevyd Pepper and Aleasha Christiana.
“It wasn’t necessarily that one person couldn’t be cutting a CD right now, many of them could be doing it and pumping it out and people would buy it,” said James on what made the winners the clear choice for the prize.
“I think song choice, X-factor and just what you bring in that moment was what set them apart. When you live that moment, you capture it and you win. Someone else, maybe they were just off a step in something in the ingredients. It was a photo finish.”
There were four people competing for the 26 and over category, but, in the end, Cody Thompson and his original rock song The Curse of the Black River stole the show and was the only performance to receive a standing ovation. His no-holds-barred style, which saw him rocking all across the stage, and comedic stories seemed to charm both the judges and the audience.
“I figured if I gave it everything I possibly had, it wouldn’t really matter if I stunk or my keys were off, or my singing wasn’t really on as long as I gave it all I had,” said Thompson. “I didn’t know if that would be good enough, or win, or anything like that, but I knew it would be good enough for me.”
At the 15 to 25-year-old level, longtime star quest competitor Daevyd Pepper won the day. He sang a very personal original song called Screaming into Pillows.
Pepper said he’s not sure what direction he plans to take in his music career, but he has a few options to explore.
“I think what a lot of people tell me is my personality is a bit different. I feel more at home on a stage than off of it. I’m more myself on-stage and people are like, ‘whoa’ and they pay attention to that,” said Pepper.
At the youngest category, 9-14, Aleasha Christiana, 14, won with her rendition of Beyonce’s Ave Maria. She was beyond words about winning the competition and said her victory showed the results of years of vocal training.
“I have a lot of confidence on-stage,” said Christiana. “I’m really nervous backstage, but once I get out there it’s like my second home. I just love being up there.”
Judges felt she showed remarkable poise and stage presence for a performer of her age.