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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 6, No. 9

Summer Festivals

by Joseph So / June 1, 2001

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Every year, Toronto and southern Ontario music lovers suffer withdrawal symptoms in the summer months. There has been a dearth of summer music festivals and the situation does not seem to be getting any better. It is shameful that the Toronto Symphony does not have a summer home. The Canadian Opera Company is equally silent until the three days of .ltamira Harbourfront Concerts at the end of August. The Symphony used to perform at the Ontario Place in July and August, but that is a thing of the past. The Toronto-based National Ballet of Canada is nowhere to be seen.


(owever, all is not lost. The venerable Shaw Festival (800-511-7429 or <www.shawfest.com>) and stratford Festival (800-567-1600 or <www.stratford-festival.on.ca >) regularly have musical events. This year, Shaw is putting on a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Stratford will stage the old standby, The Sound of Music. This year, the Stratford Summer Music Festival (800-567-1600 or www.stratfordsummermusic.ca) has been revived from July 25 to August 5. The festival opens with a recital by Marie-Nicole Lemieux (July 25); the Vancouver Chamber Choir performs (July 26-29) and Molinari String Quartet gives four performance (August 2-5) including the world premiere of Schafer’s 8th String Quartet.


For the musical purists, there is always the Guelph Spring Festival (519-821-3210 or <www.guelphspringfestival.org >), the Elora Festival (519-846-0331 or <www.elora.org >), and the Huntsville Festival of the Arts (800-663-2787 or <www.huntsville.festival.on.ca >).


Now in its 34th year, Guelph Spring Festival has a relatively short run from May 25 to June 3, with a slate of classical, chamber, jazz, and world music offerings.


Elora Festival (July 13-29) opens with a Gala performance of Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt featuring 150 musicians from the Elora Festival Singers, the Exultate Chamber Choir and the Festival Orchestra conducted by Noel Edison. This opening night concert is to take place in the acoustically unique Gambrel Barn, a wooden structure with a soaring 50-foot high ceiling. There will be two newly commissioned works this summer: Malcolm Forsyth’s Hesperides will be given its world premiere by the Paragon Harp Duo and the Elora Festival Singers, while David Earle will choreograph a work by Krzysztof Penderecki for clarinet and string trio. A Gala Benefit concert will take place on July 20 that features choruses and arias from Brahms, Mozart, Mendelssohn and Haydn. Soprano Suzi LeBlanc and baritone Daniel Lichti are the featured soloists, with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Elora Festival Singers and Elora Festival Orchestra under Noel Edison. The Festival closes with the traditional “Hymn Tasting” at St. John’s church, with narrator John Fraser on July 29.


Huntsville Festival of the Arts (July 5-21) provides summer diversions for the cottagers at Muskoka with a jam-packed calendar of events, including recitals, orchestral and choral concerts, readings, and lectures. Particularly noteworthy this year are the Huntsville Festival Orchestra playing Baroque favourites from Bach, Handel, Telemann, and Vivaldi (July 11), a program of Mozart and Haydn concerts (July 12), Beethoven’s 9th with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir; Chopin Piano Concerto no. 1 played by Joel Hastings (July 14), and Rachmaninoff’s Vespers with the Star-Scape Singers (July 15).

These Festival venues are situated in picturesque rural or semi-urban Ontario with numerous points of interest within driving distance from Toronto. It would be a good idea to call beforehand for program details and directions.

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