We measure time in decades and centuries, and we like to take special note of the round numbers. In the musical world, these are often celebrated as "anniversary years." It's an arbitrary system (why not multiples of four or eleven?), but it can be used to bring focus to a particular composer.


I'll say more about the composers celebrating anniversaries a bit further on. But first, I'd like to point out that anniversary years can also apply to musical institutions. This summer, there are two Ontario music presenters - the Elora Festival and the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound - that are both tooting their horns to celebrate 30 years. And why not?


Both grew from humble beginnings, and have come a long way. Elora was founded by conductor Noel Edison, who has run it for three decades. (He was just awarded the Order of Ontario for this feat.) Advantageously, the festival was located in a pretty village just a few hours drive from Toronto and other cities. There's no real concert hall in Elora - so the festival has made imaginative use of some unlikely venues: the Gambrel Barn, pictured on our cover, and an abandoned quarry.


The Festival of the Sound is a little farther from Toronto, but in the midst of cottage country - and some of Ontario's most spectacular scenery. Founded by pianist Anton Kuerti but run for many years by clarinetist James Campbell, this festival took a different approach to its concert facilities. After years of lobbying, the Charles W. Stockey Centre - containing a state-of-the-art concert hall - opened in 2003.


The two festivals also took different approaches to programming. Elora, with its professional choir (also on our cover) has emphasized vocal music; whereas Parry Sound's strong suit is chamber music. Both are leading off with festive events: Berlioz's Requiem in Elora and the Canadian Brass at the Festival of the Sound. (See The WholeNote's Summer Festival listings, beginning on page 34, for more information.)


Now about those composers. Handel has an anniversary in 2009 - he died 250 years ago - but he doesn't seem to be getting much special attention at the summer festivals. On the other hand, the year 1809 looms large this summer, as it was the year of Haydn's death and Mendelssohn's birth. You can find lots of piano trios and string quartets from both of them.


However, anniversary celebrations are most useful when they bring attention to lesser-known composers or works. So this summer's Purcell performances - he was born 350 years ago - are especially welcome. Montreal Baroque focussed on him in a big way in June. In July Toronto Masque Theatre is taking their production of The Fairy Queen to Elora, and organist Andrew Grant is playing an all-Purcell recital for Stratford Summer Music. As well, Toronto Summer Music has taken an interest in the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů, who died in Switzerland in 1959.


Next year, look for celebrations of Chopin and Schumann. They were both born in 1810.


Colin Eatock, Managing Editor

We at The WholeNote are big fans of summer festivals – and we’re proud to welcome you to our fifth annual Green Pages guide to summer festivals.

This is the time of year when musicians play in parks, churches and even the streets. Summer festivals – whether taking place in the countryside or in a big city – often provide experiences that can’t be had at any other time of the year. They allow performers to experiment with repertoire and ideas that might not be suitable in the “regular” season. And, for audience members, hearing music in new and different venues somehow makes it easier to listen with fresh ears. Perhaps this is why summer festival concerts are can be so memorable.

The following pages contain a rich and varied assortment of forty music festivals. You’ll find classical music festivals, large and small – some offering a wide range of programming, others specializing in orchestral music, chamber repertoire, early music, or opera. As well, there are festivals for jazz, blues, folk musics of all kinds. Some are right here in the Toronto area, others are located in Ontario and Quebec, and there are also a few festivals from the Maritimes. Some are new, some are old – and some are celebrating anniversaries.

Read more: June is Busting Out All Over


When is a ploy not a ploy?

A word of reassurance or condolence, depending on your musical proclivities. Calling April “opera month”, as Chris Hoile does this month doesn’t mean every other musical genre vanishes from the scene. But it’s an interesting intellectual exercise, applying a particular thematic lens to our monthly snapshot of the musical landscape. If April were an opera festival in Southern Ontario, look at all the stuff that would qualify for the brochure!

Another example of this: I remember going to a very early meeting of an informal group that was to evolve into the Coalition of New Music Presenters of Toronto. It was around the time the TSO was abandoning its stewardship of the annual November Massey Hall New Music Festival. “Well, just take what’s going on in new music in November and call it a festival” was my cheerful suggestion (not particularly well received at the time). A marketing ploy, someone called it. Ploys can be good, if they get you seeing things afresh. So, opera month it is. WholeNote says so.

Speaking of festivals …

Read more: A bit of this … a bit of that

It’s going to be a year of significant challenges for lots of us in the arts community. (Notice, please, that I used the word “us” when I said arts community. WholeNote magazine may not be arts or culture in the way the Arts Councils use the words. But if phrases like labour of love and precariousness of livelihood are part and parcel of your notion of community arts, then count us among your fellow arts workers.) Now, where was I? Oh yes, significant challenges.

First, it is going to be a challenge to remain confident. “It’s not raining right now, but they say there’s this huge storm about to break. So, better hunker down. Do less. Give less. Save for that rainy day.”

Read more: Keeps rainin’ all the time - February 2009
Back to top