In the Spotlight: Your summer classical music festival primer

Jul 10, 2014

Musicians at the Mountain View Festival in Calgary in rehearsal during the 2011 season. Credit: Jennifer Weihmann

In a recent article, I wrote about the formation of the brand new Centric Festival in Lethbridge, Alberta, which got me thinking: There are a myriad of lists of summer music happenings in Canada widely available to readers which, by and large, do not include classical music listings. I fully realize that sitting down to an evening of Mozart is a completely different experience than an evening of The Arcade Fire. However, classical festivals are, from my own personal experience as a performer and audience member, more casual and relaxed affairs than typical classical music concerts. They are an opportunity to enjoy some of the great masterworks in shorts and t-shirt rather than suit and tie. If you’re a first time attendee or casual listener, this selection of festivals from across Canada could be the perfect place to get your fill of classical music for the summer.

Tuckamore Festival – St. John’s, NFLD – August 4–17

Website: tuckamorefestival.ca/
Twitter: twitter.com/TuckamoreNL
Facebook: facebook.com/tuckamore?fref=ts

Founded in 2001, the Tuckamore Festival offers a chance to see some of Canada’s greatest established musicians alongside rising talents. Tuckamore is unique in that it gives young musicians a chance to perform with and receive masterclasses from professional guest artists. This year’s festival features the likes of Jon Kimura Parker, one of the greatest pianists Canada has ever produced and a well-known musician around the world. Joining Parker will be the exciting young Cecilia String Quartet, versatile soprano Patricia O’Callaghan, with many others. The added bonus of the Tuckamore Festival is the chance to enjoy all of this great music amongst the fun and atmosphere of downtown St. John’s, which could be the makings of a great summer holiday.

Festival de Lanaudière – Lanundière, QC – July 8–August 10, 2014

Website: lanaudiere.org/en/
Twitter: twitter.com/festilanaudiere
Facebook: facebook.com/festivaldelanaudiere?ref=ts

An absolutely huge event, Festival de Lanaudière (FDL) boasts over one month of programming in one of the best holiday spots Canada has to offer. Located just northeast of Montréal and founded in the city of Joliette, FDL is entering its thirty-seventh season and features artists from Canada and around the world in a variety of venues. The centerpiece of the festival is the massive Fernand-Lindsay amphitheatre, which has space for 8,000 people and is named after the festival’s founder. Highlights include Canadian conductor superstar Yannick Nézet-Séguin with the Orchestre Métropolitain as well other Canadian greats such pianist Stewart Goodyear, and the young cellist Stéphane Tétreault.

Ottawa Chamber Fest – Ottawa, ON – July 24–August 7

Website: chamberfest.com/
Twitter: twitter.com/Chamberfest
Facebook: facebook.com/ottawachamberfest

Now entering its twentieth season, the Ottawa Chamber Fest has become one of the most renowned festivals of its type in the world. Every year features an impressive roster of artists along with a huge number of concerts to attend over its two week schedule. Add to that the appeal of summertime in Ottawa and you have a great experience in the making. Highlights of the 2014 festival include an appearance by CBC Radio 2 personality Tom Allen performing his musical narrative about the music and culture of the 1920s and 30s. Also featured will be the very interesting percussionist/composer Jesse Stewart, and the Dover Quartet (2013 prize winners of the Banff International String Quartet Competition). This only begins to scratch the surface of what will be in store for attendees of the festival, made even better by the chance to enjoy all of these concerts in venues all around the city.

Ritornello Chamber Music Festival – Saskatoon, SK – May 23–25

Website: ritornello.ca/
Twitter: twitter.com/ritornellofest
Facebook: facebook.com/RitornelloFest

Although its time has already passed for this year, Ritornello should definitely fit into any early summer plans for years to come. The Ritornello Chamber Music Festival holds the distinction of being the only chamber music festival in Saskatchewan and they’re lucky to have it. Founded in 2008 by pianist Jacqueline Woods and violinist Carissa Klopoushak, the festival has grown in size and popularity every year and has a forward-thinking vision that other festivals should envy. The programming is diverse as are the venue choices. This past year’s festival included performances at Village Guitar and Amp Co., which doubles as a guitar store and performance space. The quality of music matches the inspiration of location. Concerts featured composers ranging from genre staples like Beethoven to more obscure masters such as Leos Janácek all the way to modern day composers like Nico Muhly. If you ever need an excuse to visit Saskatchewan, this would be it.

Mountain View Festival of Song and Chamber Music – Calgary, AB – August 10–17

Website: mvfest.wordpress.com/
Facebook: facebook.com/MountainViewConnection

This venerable festival based in Calgary has been hosting its summer festival for over twenty years and shows no signs of slowing down. Founded by pianists Kathleen van Mourik and Charles Foreman, Mountain View alternates between years of performances and masterclasses. This rigorous festival squeezes six performances into a week and in the masterclass years features world-renowned collaborative pianist Rudolph Janssen, widely considered one of the greatest living pianists. Performances occur at venues such as the historic Lougheed House as well as the beautiful Christ Church Cathedral. Every year performers are brought in from around North America and Europe to play a wide range of programming all focused around unique themes.

Quadra Island Festival of Chamber Music – Quadra Island, BC – July 23-27

Website: quadrafestival.com/

If you’d like a little adventure to go along with your classical music consumption, the Quadra Island Festival of Chamber Music might be the place to go. In order to get there, you’ll have to travel to an island from another island. Located a 20 minute ferry ride from Campbell River, BC, this festival gives you a chance to enjoy some unique classical music in an equally unique setting. This year’s concerts have a strong focus on early music as they welcome lute player Konstantin Bozhinov and Baroque flautist Solie Stratkauskas. There will also be the opportunity to see a local star with piano prodigy Carter Johnson. He will be featured in an entire concert where he will perform works ranging from Beethoven (a cello sonata to be played with Calgary Philharmonic Principal Cellist Phil Hansen) to Canadian composer Heather Schmidt.

Wherever the summer may lead you, enjoy the music!

-Nathaniel Schmidt

Contact me for any comments or suggestions at natey.greaty@gmail.com
Twitter: @N88TE

About the Author

Brandon Wallis

Brandon is the Director of Marketing, Communications and Visitor Experience and for the National Music Centre and Editor-in-Chief of Amplify.

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