The warm weather's here, and Canada is about to become a playground for every
kind of music lover. Can't keep up with it all? Check out this coast-to-coast
guide to the festivals you need to know about.
By COLIN EATOCK
Classical music has been an up-and-down affair over the years in Stratford,
Ont. -- the home of Canada's largest annual theatre blowout, the Stratford Festival.
From the festival's beginnings in the 1950s, music played a role, but the festival's
priority was always theatre, and music eventually languished.
Undaunted by this history, concert-producer John Miller and a band of local
citizens have decided to relaunch Stratford Summer Music this year. They've
put together a modest but diverse two-week series, in Victorian halls and churches
-- and even on the town's Avon River.
Canadian music and musicians will reign supreme, from a free outdoor concert
by the National Youth Orchestra (July 29) to string quartets by Canadian composer
R. Murray Schafer, played by Montreal's Molinari Quartet (Aug. 2-5). The Vancouver
Chamber Choir will pay a visit (July 26-29), a community group from Sackville,
N.B., will perform Schafer's biblical pageant Jonah (July 29-30), and
late-night jazz will be featured in restaurants. As well, there will be discussions
of music, from a high-minded lecture series named for the late composer Harry
Somers (July 27, Aug. 3) to a flaky-sounding Listening Walkabout -- "a serious
exploration of our urban environment," with Schafer himself (July 29).
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Each summer the scenic town of Banff, Alta., is taken over by a major arts
festival. But every third year (including this one), Banff holds special significance
for chamber-music devotees, thanks to the Banff International String Quartet
This year, 10 string quartets from the United States, Europe, Japan and Canada
will make the trek up to Banff for one of Canada's most prestigious music contests.
Organizers seem eager to cultivate an audience-friendly, festive atmosphere
at the competition. Visitors who wish to stay the whole week can choose between
the "Stradivari" and the "Guarneri" accommodation packages, including tickets
to all 14 competition events.
But be forewarned: This isn't chamber music for the faint of heart. Since the
competition was launched in 1983, many winners -- including Canada's own St.
Lawrence Quartet -- have gone on to international success. This year, the young
quartets will be competing for $45,000 in prize money and a big career boost,
so the pressure will be intense.
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The Festival de Lanaudière is the biggest (mostly) classical festival in Canada,
and it's not ashamed to flaunt its size. With a budget of $2.2-million, it's
the only classical fest in the land able to present a slew of big professional
ensembles. This year, Lanaudière is playing host to the Orchestre symphonique
de Montréal (OSM), Montreal's Orchestre Métropolitain, the orchestras of Quebec
City and Laval, and Toronto's Tafelmusik Orchestra.
It all began back in 1977, as the dream of Father Fernand Lindsay, with three
concerts by the OSM. Today, the festival sprawls over a dozen towns in the Lanaudière
region (about a 40-minute drive northwest of Montreal).
The big concerts take place at the 2,000-seat Amphithéàtre on the outskirts
of Joliette, but there are plenty of more intimate venues. Audiences can hear
Toronto's Anton Kuerti play five Beethoven sonatas in the elegant, twin-spired
church of Lavaltrie (June 26); or England's Lindsay String Quartet play six
Haydn quartets in the church at L'Assomption (July 16).
In addition to standard classical fare, this year's festival offers some obscure
repertoire: Zemlinsky's The Little Siren, played by the OSM (June 30),
and a Requiem by Von Suppe, performed by the Orchestre Métropolitain
with two choirs and soloists (July 13). The strangest event of all may well
be Finnish composer Yoav Talmi's Cantus Arcticus, subtitled "a concerto
for birds and orchestra" (July 14).
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|July 13 to 29
Nestled in the countryside just north of Guelph, Ont., is the charming town
of Elora. This old mill-town has no real concert hall, but it does have some
fine churches, as well as a large shed used for road salt in the winter and
music in the summer. Elora's festival hasn't generally featured marquee names
-- just good, solid, musicianship.
This year's roster is a bevy of fine artists: violinist Ruth Fazel, oboist
James Mason, trumpeter Larry Larson, organist Michael Bloss and the Anagnoson-Kinton
piano duo, to name just a few.
But the jewel in the crown is the festival's own choir, the Elora Festival
Singers. Under the baton of Noel Edison, the chamber choir will sing everything
from Vivaldi's Gloria (July 15) to The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the
Manticore, a modern "madrigal fable" by Gian Carlo Menotti (July 18). For
the grand opening, the singers will be joined by Toronto's Exultate Chamber
Choir, for Handel's Israel in Egypt (July 13).
The Elora Festival Singers will be accompanied by the Paragon Harp Duo (July
25), in a program that will include Hesperides, recently penned by Edmonton
composer Malcolm Forsyth. Also unique is a chamber concert choreographed by
David Earle that makes use of music by three 20th-century composers: Penderecki,
Martinu and Prokofiev (July 19).
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Chamber-music promoter Leila Getz chose an auspicious year to launch her summer
concerts -- 1986, coinciding with Vancouver's Expo.
Both locals and tourists snapped up the tickets.
Today, the festival still averages 85- to 90-per-cent attendance. Most concerts
take place at Crofton House School, a few kilometres from downtown, where an
informal atmosphere is cultivated and concertgoers can also enjoy a picnic on
Getz is proud of her mix-and-match programming, which offers more variety than
a typical chamber concert.
For example, the opening concert (July 26) begins with an unusual new work
for electric guitar and string quartet (performed by composer Steve Mackey and
the Borromeo String Quartet) followed by a Mozart quintet and a Dvorak piano
trio. Another program (Aug. 4) features quintets by Berg and Dohnanyi, as well
as an intriguing new piece by Omar Daniel for string quartet, harp and percussion.
This piece was commissioned by Vancouver percussionist Salvador Ferreras, who
will play in this concert.
New this year is a free family concert at Arts Umbrella on Granville Island
(Aug. 1), including an instrument "petting zoo," where children can try out
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The Best of the Rest
- Lamèque International Baroque Music Festival, Lamèque, N.B., July
27-July 29. Bernard Labadie, Suzie LeBlanc, Matthew White, Washington McClain,
Sylvain Bergeron and others. 1-800-320-2276 or 506-344-5846, festivalbaroque.acadie.net
- Le Festival International du Domaine Forget, Saint-Irénée, Que.,
June 23-Aug. 25. Les Violons du Roy, Trio Hoebig, James Sommerville, Douglas
McNabney, Denise Djokic, Richard Raymond and others. 1-888-336-7438, www.domaineforget.com
- Orford Festival, Orford, Que., June 6-Aug. 25. Sherbrooke Symphony
Orchestra, Arthur-Leblanc Quartet, Molinari Quartet, Trio Hochelaga, Menahem
Pressler, Anton Kuerti, André Laplante and others. 819-843-3981, www.arts-orford.org
- Montreal Chamber Music Festival, Montreal, June 2-16. Denis Brott,
Marc-André Hamelin, James Ehnes, Douglas MacNabney, the Borromeo Quartet and
others. 514-489-7444, www.festivalmontreal.org
- Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival, Ottawa, July 21-Aug.
4. Emerson String Quartet, Beaux Arts Trio, Philharmonia Quartett Berlin,
Louis Lortie, Philippe Entremont, Martin Beaver, The Gryphon Trio, Daniel
Taylor, St. Lawrence String Quartet and others. 613-234-8008, www.chamberfest.com
- Festival of the Sound, Parry Sound, Ont., July 20-Aug. 12. Elmer
Iseler Singers, Anton Kuerti, Martin Beaver, James Sommerville, Annalee Patipatanakoon,
Roman Borys, Jasper Wood and others. 705-746-2410, www.festivalofthesound.on.ca
- Enbridge Symphony Under the Sky, Edmonton, Aug. 30-Sept. 3. Edmonton
Symphony Orchestra and guest artists. 780-428-1108, www.symphonyunderthesky.com
- Vancouver Early Music Festival, Vancouver, July 22-Aug. 6. Ellen
Hargis, Robert Barto, Amir Koushkani, Timothy Haig, Elin Soderstrom, Olivier
Fortin and others. 604-732-1610, www.earlymusic.bc.ca
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By MARK MILLER
Simply put, there's nothing else like it in Canada. For suitable comparisons,
try Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Carnival in Rio. At least that's what FIJM,
which knows something about marketing and has a budget of more than $10-million,
wants you to think.
As has been noted many times before, the emphasis here is on the word "festival."
The word "jazz" comes second, at times a distant second -- as distant as Prince,
who is one of FIJM's headliners this year in a Place des Arts series that also
includes Diana Krall, Cesaria Evora, John McLaughlin, Wynton Marsalis with the
Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Ibrahim Ferrer, George Benson, Joao Gilberto
and Oscar Peterson.
That's just for starters. FIJM, now in its 22nd year, will have eight downtown
theatres and clubs in operation, offering a dozen different concert series nightly.
Among them: Jazz Europa, devoted to Italian jazz, and "Invitation," which will
split nine evenings between Michael Brecker and Roy Hargrove, each with his
If the "jazz" is indoors, the "festival" is outside on the streets surrounding
Place des Arts, where blues, zydeco, dixieland, world music and pop artists
will appear in more than 25 free concerts, noon to midnight, on a dozen stages.
All this, and there's still room for two independent parallel festivals. One,
the OFF Festival de Jazz, promises Montreal musicians at the Lion d'Or, Alizé
and Cheval Blanc. The other, the Festival Popolo, offers avant-garde jazz and
free improvisation at the Casa del Popolo.
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Here's the proverbial thinking fan's festival. Yes, that's U.S. country-pop
songbird Emmylou Harris at the Orpheum Theatre and Saskatoon blues-rockers Wide
Mouth Mason at the Commodore.
And, true enough, the festival has its share of marquee jazzers in its 16th
year -- Terence Blanchard, Roy Hargrove, John Pizzarelli, Joshua Redman, John
Scofield at the Vogue Theatre -- along with the world beat and "groove" artists
that are now jazzfest prerequisites.
The real emphasis here, however, is on the most creative of contemporary jazz,
with a strong presence from the European scene and a central role for several
of the city's own leading lights.
Typical of the programming that has brought Vancouver such a high profile in
the international jazz media, the festival has given a place of honour this
year to Barry Guy's New Orchestra, a multinational tentet that will break down
into smaller units for eight concerts over three days.
The festival has booked several other like-minded European and American improvisers,
including Tim Berne, Benoît Delbecq, Dave Douglas, Ellery Eskelin, Barre Phillips
and Louis Sclavis, each of whom will perform their own ensembles and in a variety
of mixed-and-matched combinations.
Elsewhere around Vancouver, there are three festivals within the festival,
including an easy-going first weekend of concerts on Water Street in Gastown
and an all-Canadian Canada Day on Granville Island.
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Once a contender for the Big Three -- after Montreal and Vancouver -- Downtown
Jazz has been slipping into the rest of the pack in recent years. Its well-publicized
funding problems in 2000 have hurt, but they don't account for a longer history
of organizational inertia and empty promotional bravado.
Two long-time affiliates, the Harbourfront Centre and the Corporation of Massey
Hall and Roy Thomson Hall, have cast their lot with the rival JVC Jazz Festival
That leaves Downtown Jazz to use a 1,000-seat tent on Nathan Phillips Square
for evening concerts by Dee Dee Bridgewater, Terence Blanchard with Cassandra
Wilson, the trio Medeski, Martin & Wood, Roy Hargrove, Joshua Redman, Chick
Corea, Bebel Gilberto and Nicholas Payton, as well as for free shows earlier
in the day by the Rob McConnell Tentet, Dave McMurdo Jazz Orchestra, Chris Potter,
Paris Washboard and others.
Off-site, John Scofield (at the Guvernment) and Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln
Center Jazz Orchestra (Hummingbird Centre) complete what is an impressive top
line of major-label bookings.
The remaining roster in 32 clubs (down from 47 in 2000) and on an outdoor,
University Avenue stage on the final weekend is flatly unimaginative, however,
and undermines the festival's strength over the past 15 years -- specifically,
its willingness to offer a balanced program of jazz in all of its permutations,
archaic to avant-garde.
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The following events, listed in chronological order with a sampling of headline
- Barrie Jazz and Blues Festival, Barrie, Ont., June 11-17. Kevin Breit
and Sisters Euclid, Carlos del Junco, Bill King's Saturday Night Fish Fry.
- Jazz Winnipeg 2001, June 15-23. Jane Bunnett, Olu Dara, Buddy Guy,
John Pizzarelli. wwwjazzwinnipeg.com
- JVC Jazz Festival, Toronto, June 15-24. Brad Mehldau, Jane Monheit,
Oscar Peterson, Pharoah Sanders. www.festivalproductions.net
- Jazz City International Jazz Festival, Edmonton, June 22-July 1.
Buddy Guy, Irakere, Steve Lacy, Joshua Redman. www.discoveredmonton.com/jazzcity
- Jazz Festival-Calgary, June 22-July 1. Roy Hargrove, Irakere, Steve
Lacy, Joshua Redman. www.discovercalgary.com/jazzfestival
- SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, Saskatoon, June 22-July 1. Susie
Arioli, Pierre Dorge, Buddy Guy, John Pizzarelli. www.saskjazz.com
- JazzFest International 2001, Victoria, June 22-July 1. Roy Hargrove,
Irakere, John Pizzarelli, Joshua Redman. www.vicjazz.bc.ca/jazzfest
- Downtown Oakville Jazz Festival, Oakville, Ont., July 6-7. Jane Bunnett,
Mark Eisenman, Joe Sealy. www.oakvillejazz.com
- Atlantic Jazz Festival, Halifax, July 6-14. Susie Arioli, Roy Hargrove,
Paradox Trio, John Pizzarelli. www.jazzeast.com
- Saint John Jazz and Blues Festival, Saint John, July 12-14. Artists
to be announced. www.nbtel.nb.ca/sjjazzblues
- Ottawa International Jazz Festival, July 13-22. Tony Bennett, Pete
Fountain, Sonny Rollins, Renée Rosnes. www.jazz.ottawa.com
- Beaches International Jazz Festival, Toronto, July 25-29. Susie Arioli,
Tab Benoit, Joey DeFrancesco, Michael Kaeshammer. www.beachesjazz.com
- Kaslo Jazz Etc. Festival, Kalso and Nelson, B.C., Aug. 3-5. Maria
Muldaur, Brad Turner, Carlos del Junco. email@example.com
- Markham Jazz Festival, Markham, Ont., Aug. 17-19. Michael Kaeshammer,
NOJO, Alex Pangman. www.jazzfest.markham.on.ca
- Festi Jazz International de Rimouski, Rimouski, Que., Aug. 28-Sept.
2. Artists to be announced. www.festijazzrimouski.com
- Guelph Jazz Festival, Guelph, Ont., Sept. 5-9. Marshall Allen and
the Sun Ra Arkestra, Marilyn Crispell, Bill Frisell and Kevin Breit, Andrew
- Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival, Fredericton, Sept. 12-16. Sue Foley,
Molly Johnson, Joel Miller Sextet, Kevin Turcotte. www.harvestjazzandblues.ca
- Pender Harbour Jazz Festival, Madeira Park, B.C., Sept. 14-16. Brass
Roots, Ron Johnston, Campbell Ryga, WOW! Orchestra. www.sunshine.net/phjazzfest
- Orillia Jazz Festival, Orillia, Ont., Oct. 18-21. Artists to be announced.
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POP AND FOLK
By BRAD WHEELER
The blues refuse no river. They've swayed to the bottomless beat of the Mississippi
for nigh a century, and now, for the last eight years, they've found a summer
home on the Rideau in the form of the Ottawa Bluesfest, a.k.a. the Cisco Systems
Bluesfest. Second only to the Chicago Blues Festival in size and scope, the
Ottawa gathering has grown from a three-day blues boutique to a double-weekend-and-then-some,
full-blown bonanza. In addition to the main stage, acoustic sets and a gospel
tent are on the schedule.
Talent is spread liberally over seven days, with very few dry patches and plenty
of hot spots. Ottawa native Sue Foley should receive her Canadian Queen of the
Blues coronation on the final evening of the first weekend's bill on Sun., July
8. Hotshot young guitar slinger Johnny Lang follows Foley that night.
Funk soul brothers James Brown, Ike Turner and Wilson Pickett breathe some
life into the sometimes staid blues proceedings on weekend No. 2.
Otis Taylor's passionate, percussive guitar work and thought-provoking lyrics
on July 15 should be a crowd pleaser.
And from the Mississippi hill country, legendary R. L. Burnside's drone-boogie
guitar work should spellbind on the 16th.
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They're feeling pretty Edmonton these days in Winnipeg. Traditionally the Edmonton
Folk Festival has boasted more in the way of big-name performers than its Winnipeg
counterpart, but the times, it seems, are a-changin'.
Every July for the past 27 years, international crowds have gathered in Winnipeg's
Birds Hill Park for mainstream folk music. But this year the stakes have been
raised and the horizons broadened: Blue Rodeo, the Cowboy Junkies, Sarah Harmer,
Michelle Shocked, the Crash Test Dummies -- all high-profilers that should boost
attendance figures (33,600 last year) that didn't really need boosting.
Nelly Furtado beat fellow songbird Sarah Harmer around the curve as Canada's
next big thing, but the Kingston, Ont.-based Harmer has certainly arrived.
Two recent soldout shows in Toronto, and a pair of Juno nominations for her
album You Are Here, attest to that. Harmer's former Weeping Tile mates
-- Luther Wright & the Wrongs -- also appear at the festival.
Their latest effort -- Rebuilding the Wall -- is a backwoods, bluegrass reworking
of Pink Floyd's The Wall. Also on the bill: It's only a matter of time before
unsung singer-songwriter Danny Michel (ex of the Starlings) flies high. And
Tom Wilson (Junkhouse/Blackie and the Rodeo Kings) is a songwriter nonpareil.
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The demise of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival has been greatly exaggerated.
Criticized in recent years for its size and an elastic interpretation of what
constitutes folk music, the prestigious 22-year-old event now faces flack for
a bill that features small names and big doubts. More than half of the 62 acts
scheduled have either played at the festival before or have recently played
in the area. The organizers blame rising artists' fees and a small budget.
But you'll still find a weekend's worth of talent that stands up to all but
a few music festivals in the country, even if it won't overwhelm anybody.
Country genius Fred Eaglesmith has been described as a "great Texas songwriter
that just happens to be from Canada." Richard Buckner is a great American songwriter
who just happens to live in Alberta. Both aren't nearly as popular as they should
be, and both will be in Edmonton this summer. Other performers include Jennifer
Warnes, East Coast acoustic popsters Great Big Sea, the Cowboy Junkies, country-soul
crooner Neko Case, Stacey Earle, and a man who knows a few things about festivals
-- Richie Havens.
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Wotapalava is "a celebration of the freedom to be what you want to be and about
having the power to live as you want without fear of discrimination." That,
from Pet Shop Boy and tour organizer Neil Tennant, is the mission behind the
Wotapalava Festival, the first openly gay music festival to tour North America.
The name Wotapalava is English slang that roughly translates as: "What a fuss
about nothing." A novel concept, then, this tour about nothing. Indeed, even
without the queer angle, the parcel of performers taking part in the 18-date
travelling festival (Toronto's July 27 show is the only Canadian stop) would
impress on musical prowess alone.
The Pet Shop Boys, hot Canadian troubadour Rufus Wainwright, Soft Cell and
indie rockers Magnetic Fields headline, while a second stage features non-stop
dance music by a rotating lineup of name DJs.
Some press reports have Irish Pope-o-phobe Sinead O'Connor as a participant,
but the festival Web site does not concur.
Wainwright, out of Montreal, brings his unique brand of cabaret-pop to the
party, and is sure to be the belle of the ball. His recent Toronto club shows
have been nothing short of brilliant -- let's see if his crowd-charming ways
are up to playing the big rooms.
One dollar from every Wotapalava ticket sale will be donated to gay and lesbian
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North America gets the full Moby treatment this summer. Equal parts electronica
rocker, cultural commentator and huckster, Moby reached back into the Alan Lomax
bag of early 20th-century African-American folk music for the inspiration behind
the Grammy-nominated and platinum-selling Play in 1999.
For the touring Area: One festival, the former Richard Melville Hall takes
his cue from the edgy Lollapalooza package tours of the nineties, which redefined
the notion of music festivals, preaching strength through diversity, giving
much-needed exposure to alternative music, and introducing the likes of Pearl
Jam and Nine Inch Nails to the mainstream.
Area: One makes three stops in Canada, with 16 North American dates in total.
The slate includes hip-hop's the Roots; rap metal's Incubus, and renowned British
DJs Paul Oakenfold and, for the Montreal and Toronto dates, Carl Cox. Grammy-nominated
rap duo Outcast, reeking of their album Stankonia,recently cancelled their presence
at a few European festival dates for "medical reasons," but their participation
on the Area: One tour is still scheduled. Moby headlines all the dates, while
local DJs fill out the dance cards.
West Coast stops, including Vancouver, get the recently reactivated postdisco
dance-music pioneers New Order, featuring past Pumpkin Billy Corgan on guitar.
He's filling in for keyboardist Gillian Gilbert for a bit, but he hasn't been
recruited as full-fledged member of the band that this fall will be releasing
its first album of new material in eight years. Nelly Furtado is part of the
package as well -- but the Canadian pop diva won't be making any of the Dominion
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The Best of the Rest
- Edgefest, Barrie, Ont., July 1. Tool, Tea Party, Big Wreck and others.
- Quebec City Summer Festival, July 5-15. Jean-Pierre Ferland, Claude
Dubois, Bruno Pelletier, Boubacar Traoré, John Hammond, Cowboy Junkies and
others. 888-992-5200 or www.infofestival.com
- Labatt Blues and BBQ Festival, Toronto, July 6-8. Shemekia Copeland,
Susan Tedeschi, Boubacar Traoré and others. 416-973-4600 or www.harbourfront.on.ca
- PEI Bluegrass & Oldtime Music Festival, Rollo Bay, PEI, July 6-8.
Lou Reid & Carolina, Chris Jones & the Night Drivers, the Dowden Sisters and
- Rhythms of the World, Toronto, July 20-22. Djelimoussa (Ballake)
Sissoko, Njava, Mohenjo Daro and others. 416-973-4600 or www.harbourfront.on.ca
- Ozzfest, Toronto, July 26. Black Sabbath, Marilyn Manson, Papa Roach
and others. www.ozzfest.com
- Big Valley Jamboree, Camrose, Alta., Aug. 2-5. Kim Mitchell, BR5-49,
Blue Rodeo, Billy Ray Cyrus and others. 888-404-1234 or www.bigvalleyjamboree.com
- Ottawa Folk Festival, Ottawa, Aug. 24-26. John Prine, Fred Eaglesmith,
Hawksley Workman, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Ashley McIsaac, Steven Fearing and
others. 613-230-8234 or www.ottawafolk.org
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