So much music. So little space. That’s always my dilemma when summer festival season rolls around. This year is no exception…
For many Londoners, summer is synonymous with TD Sunfest (July 9–12), a free celebration of world music and culture that drew more than 250,000 people to Victoria Park last year. What began on an unseasonably chilly night in 1995 has become one of Canada’s preeminent music festivals, attracting fans from as far away as Detroit and Chicago, says long-time festival communications coordinator, Brian Hannigan. “A whole generation has now grown up with Sunfest,” he notes. “People who get a taste of the Sunfest vibe often become fans for life, even if that loyalty requires a cross-country trek to attend.”
This year’s performance showcase features more than 35 world and jazz artists from as far away as Morocco, Spain, Argentina and Senegal, as well as a diverse line up of food vendors and artisans. Hannigan’s top-three musical picks include the Ukrainian folk-punk quartet DakhaBrakha, the internationally-renowned Afro-Cuban All Stars, and Paulo Flores from Angola. “He is one of the main exponents of Angolan music, and we already have busloads of Angolan expatriates from Toronto who have made a Sunfest date.” www.sunfest.on.ca
Home County Music & Art Festival is another popular summer tradition. Now in its 42nd year, the festival takes place July 17–19 in Victoria Park.
Canadian songstress Sarah Slean headlines Friday evening (with MC astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield), while The Leahys In Song headline on Saturday. The MainStage schedule also includes performances by Martha Wainwright, Grapes of Wrath, Skydiggers and Garnet Rogers.
Home County artistic director Darin Addison describes Home County as “a Canadian folk/roots festival.” The genre now covers a diverse range of sounds, he says. “This year’s lineup reflects musical diversity from right across Canada with performers from Victoria and Vancouver to Halifax and Charlottetown. Local music is also well represented.”
Home County is equally well-known for its juried craft show, featuring a wide selection of work by Canadian artisans. Admission to the festival is by a suggested donation of $5. www.homecounty.ca
Classical music lovers are not forgotten this summer, with Stratford Summer Music drumming up six-weeks of free and paid musical fun, July 20–August 30.
The festival’s 15th anniversary season brings more than 100 concerts and events to venues in and around Stratford. A brief list of highlights includes a joint concert by the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, Youth Orchestra of the Americas and L’Orchestre Francophonie, the return of renowned Canadian tenor Ben Heppner as the special guest of the Grammy award-winning ensemble, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and a dawn performance of music by Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer on Tom Patterson Island. Also planned are five weeks of free outdoor performances on the floating MusicBarge and a sing-along screening of The Sound of Music. www.stratfordsummermusic.ca
The Bach Music Festival of Canada brings Bach, and beyond, to Exeter and South Huron in mid-July. The celebration of music opens with Spanish pianist Leopoldo Erice performing Bach’s Goldberg Variations (July 13) and continues the following evening when the Barn Dance Historical Society present a foot-stompin’ evening with special guests Canadian country music icon Larry Mercey and 17-year-old singing and yodelling sensation Naomi Bristow.
Reverb Brass put their contemporary spin on Bach (July 15), while the Bach Festival Chamber Choir performs a more traditional program of Canadian choral favourites (July 16). Participants in the festival’s first Youth Arts Program showcase their talents before this year’s festival wraps up with a gala performance of Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion. www.bachfestival.ca
The Summer Sunset Sounds series returns to Grand Bend’s Main Beach (Sundays, July 5–September 7). This year’s line-up brings everything from opera to the blues to the popular Lake Huron vacation spot, including a return performance in August by up-and-coming Windsor trio The Walkervilles.
“We wanted to encourage people to stretch their weekend, and to bring the locals back to our beach front,” says series organizer Glen Baillie. The free concerts run every Sunday evening, from 7 p.m. until dark.
Last year, the series attracted a good mix of residents and holiday-makers, Baillie says. It was such a success that the local Rotary Club has already drawn up plans to build a permanent stage on the beach for 2016. www.grandbendtourism.com/events-2/summersunsetsounds
And for those of you who love summer musical theatre but can’t leave town, C2 Entertainment’s Colin Stewart and Chris McHarge are bringing the magic here, producing three shows at the London Convention Centre. The Summerstock Theatre performances include Memories of Rock and Roll: The Alan Freed Story (July 15–18), Memories of Johnny and June (July 29–August 1) and Vegas Knights (August 12–15).
“We’ve been selling our shows across North America and Europe for 13 years,” says the London-based Stewart. “Now it’s time to bring our summer theatre to the people here in London.” www.SummerStock-London.ca
Nicole Laidler has been writing about London’s cultural scene for more than a decade. See what else she’s been up to at www.spilledink.ca