Guelph Spring Festival

Guelph Spring Festival.

Guelph Spring Festival

Guelph Spring Festival. Founded in 1968 under the sponsorship of the Edward Johnson Music Foundation, the festival occupies four weeks during April and May with concerts, opera, displays by local, national, and international talent, and an education program of master classes, seminars and competitions. The artistic directors of the festival have been Nicholas Goldschmidt (1968-87), Billie Bridgman (1988-9), Louis Applebaum (interim artistic advisor, 1989), and William Lord (briefly, 1989), succeeded by Simon Streatfeild at the end of 1989.

A chamber opera became an annual feature beginning in 1969: featured works have been Britten's The Prodigal Son, 1969; Johann Schenk's The Village Barber, 1970; Britten's The Burning Fiery Furnace, 1971, and Noye's Fludde, 1972; Menotti's The Consul, 1973; Britten's The Rape of Lucretia, 1974; Handel's Acis and Galatea, 1975; Britten's The Beggar's Opera, 1976; Derek Healey's Seabird Island, 1977; Charles Wilson's Psycho Red, 1978; Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, Gian Carlo Menotti's Chip and His Dog, and Richard Rodney Bennett's All the King's Men, 1979; a dramatization with giant puppets of Berlioz' L'Enfance du Christ, 1980; three Canadian premieres:Dominic Argento's Post Card From Morocco, 1981, Smetana's The Two Widows, 1982, and Britten's Curlew River, 1983 ; Gluck's Orpheus and Euridice, 1984; Britten's The Prodigal Son, 1985; two Canadian premieres: Peter Maxwell Davies' The Lighthouse, 1986, and Mozart's La Finta Giardiniera, 1987. In 1988 the festival presented the first professional performance of an opera commissioned by the Banff CA, Sydney Hodkinson's St Carmen of the Main, with a libretto by Lee Devin based on the play by Michel Tremblay. The1989 offering, Crazy to Kill by John Beckwith and librettist James Reaney, was commissioned and premiered. After a one-season lapse opera performance resumed in 1991 with Britten's Noye's Fludde.

Another emphasis has been on the commissioning of new works by Canadians (Wilson's En guise d'Orphée, 1968; Lorne Betts' Festival Psalm, 1969; Talivaldis Kenins' Chants of Glory and Mercy, Wilson's String Quartet No. 2, and Gerhard Wuensch's Music Without Pretensions, 1970; André Prévost's Psalm 148, 1971; Godfrey Ridout's Cantiones mysticae No. 3 and George Fiala's Sinfonietta Concertata, 1972; Charles Wilson's Image out of Season, Derek Healey's Six Canadian Folk Songs and Clermont Pépin's Chroma, 1973; Harry Somers' Music for Solo Violin, 1974; Norma Beecroft's 11 and 7 for 5, Gary Hayes' Convolution and James Montgomery's Reconnaissance for Amplified String Quartet, 1975; Oskar Morawetz's Concerto for Harp and Orchestra, 1976). In 1977, in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the festival and the sesquicentennial of Guelph, the festival commissioned Wilson's Song for St Cecilia's Day, Healey's Seabird Island, and David Archibald's musical The Return of the Tiger. It also mounted the Second National Vocal Competition that year, with Rose Bampton, Lord Harewood, and Léopold Simoneau as judges. (Subsequent competitions were held at the festival in 1982 and 1987) In 1978 the festival commissioned Psycho Red and Pat Patterson's musical The Cabbagetown Kids. In 1980 it celebrated the Healey Willan centenary with the premiere of Harry Somers' Limericks (dedicated to Willan and performed by Lois Marshall, the Elmer Iseler Singers, and the Stratford Ensemble), the National Organ Competition finals (at which the winner was awarded the PRO Canada Healey Willan prize), and several performances of Willan's music, including the Violin Sonata No 1 played by Lorand Fenyves and Patricia Parr. Other commissioned works have included Morawetz' Little Lamb, Who Made Thee? and Ruth Watson Henderson's The Ballad of St George, 1982; Ann Southam's Ces plaisirs, 1985; Raymond Luedeke's Silence! 1986; Lothar Klein's Interplay, Alexina Louie's Earth Cycles, and Eric Robertson's Another Spring, 1988; Crazy to Kill, Gerald Bales' Rhapsody for Organ and Orchestra, and Malcolm Forsyth's Valley of a Thousand Hills, 1989; Louis Applebaum's Notions, 1990; Pierre Gallant's Canonic Variations on a Theme of Mozart and Peter Tiefenbach's Opening Day (text by Paul Quarrington), 1991.

Though major foreign artists such as Marilyn Horne and Jan Peerce have given individual recitals at the festival, Canadian performers (Bouchard and Morisset, James Campbell, Canadian Brass, the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus, Anna Chornodolska, the Festival Singers, Maureen Forrester, Ingemar Korjus, André Laplante, the Orford String Quartet, Oscar Peterson, Catherine Robbin, Scott St John, Steven Staryk, Robert Silverman, Jon Vickers, and others) and Canadian orchestras (the Hamilton Philharmonic, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra, the MSO, the NACO, the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, the TS) have played a sustained role in the evolution of this major small festival, which grew from 6 presentations and a budget of $24,000 in 1968 to 29 with a budget of $475,000 in 1991. The festival is funded by the Edward Johnson Music Foundation with additional support from its members, patrons, corporate sponsors, the City of Guelph, the University of Guelph, the CBC, the OAC, and the Canada Council. As in such European festivals as those at Gstaad (Switzerland) and Bath, the attractions are tailored to the city's accommodations: churches, the War Memorial Hall, the university campus. The charm of these accommodations, abetted by the hospitality of Guelph, has been a factor in the festival's success. The festival's archival material was deposited with the McLaughlin Library at the University of Guelph in 1987.


Further Reading

  • Benson, Eugene. 'The Guelph Spring Festival: a retrospective view,' Guelph Spring Festival souvenir program (1972)

    Edinborough, Arnold. 'Why the all-Canadian Guelph Music Festival is becoming our best,' Financial Post, 3 Jun 1972

    Clapp, Gail. 'Five orchestras to play at the Guelph Spring Festival,' OCan, vol 4, Mar 1977

    Rowcliffe, Katherine. 'Guelph Spring Festival: small festival earns big reputation,' Fugue, Apr 1977

    Edinborough, Arnold. 'Break with tradition causes setback for Guelph festival,' Financial Post, 27 Jun 1988

    Littler, William. 'A dream house for Guelph Festival,' Toronto Star, 21 Apr 1990

    Brickenden, Jack. 'Guelph springs forward,' Music, May 1991