Scotia Festival of Music

Scotia Festival of Music. Non-competitive music festival held in Halifax on a year-round basis, with a spring/summer program and a winter concert series.

Scotia Festival of Music

Scotia Festival of Music. Non-competitive music festival held in Halifax on a year-round basis, with a spring/summer program and a winter concert series. The festival evolved out of a group of musicians from the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra and Dalhousie University, organized in 1971 by Christopher Wilcox, who wished to expand their opportunities for high quality music making. In 1972 Robert Marcellus (former principal clarinetist with the Cleveland Orchestra and a founding director of the festival), was invited to give master classes and coach chamber music, and the Scotia Players were formed - officially named the Scotia Chamber Players in 1976.

In 1980 the group presented a week long seminar - the Scotia School of Music Performance - at the Dalhousie University Arts Centre. Marcellus was music director (and remained so until 1983, after which he became honorary music director) and Lynn Harrell (cello), John Browning (piano), and Victor Yampolsky (violin and conducting) participated. Others invited were William Tritt and Phillip Meyers (principal horn of the New York Philharmonic). Sponsorship for the festival came from the Nova Scotia Department of Culture, Recreation and Fitness, the Maritime Telegraph and Telephone Company, and the Canada Council.

In 1981 the festival, held for a 2-week period, became known as the Scotia Festival of Music. Guest artists included Walter Trampler (viola), Charles Treger (violin), Phyllis Mailing (soprano), and Laurence Angell (double bass) in 1981; Anton Kuerti, Stanley McCartney (clarinet), and William Valleau (cello) in 1982; and Jeanne Baxtresser (flute), and Erica Goodman in 1983. In 1984 Wilcox (who had been managing and artistic director) became music director; guest artists included the Orford String Quartet, Louis Charbonneau (timpani), John Rapson (clarinet), Tritt, Yampolsky, Bradford Tracey (harpsichord), Jaime Laredo (violin), and Nathaniel Rosen (cello). Performances at the James Dunn Theatre of the Arts Centre included Messiaen's Quatuor pour la fin du temps, Bartók's Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, and Mendelssohn's Octet. Participants in 1985 included Maureen Forrester, Fred Sherry (cello), and the Colorado String Quartet. In addition to concerts the festival held over 20 master classes, 5 young artist concerts, lectures, demonstrations, and open rehearsals.

In 1986 the festival offered its first winter series, in which it shared soloists with Symphony Nova Scotia. The summer (woodwind) festival featured such instructors as Julius Baker (flute), Marcellus (clarinet), and principals from Canadian and US orchestras. A performance of Glenn Gould's Bassoon Sonata spurred interest for further exposure of that seldom played work. String staff included Ida Kafavian (violin) and Joel Quarrington, and concerts were recorded by CBC Halifax for broadcast on 'Arts National.' Among the works performed was Shanadithit, by Michael Parker.

Bernard Diamant and Rosemarie Landry participated in the 1987 festival, with Trampler and Anne Epperson (piano) in the 1988. festival. In 1989 R. Murray Schafer's String Quartet No. 1 was performed by the Scotia Festival quartet (Andrew Dawes and Malcolm Lowe violins, Steven Dann viola, and Gary Hoffman cello). That year the winter series featured the Sewdish Orphei Drangar (Sons of Orpheus) male voice choir as part of a Canadian tour for which it had commissioned Schafer's Magic Songs. At the 1990 festival Adaskin's Sonatine Baroque was performed by Dawes, and Lois Marshall appeared in Walton's Façade.

The festival's guest music director in 1991 was Pierre Boulez, who brought his Ensemble InterContemporain, on their first Canadian visit together. Canadian works for this tour were commissioned from Denis Dion and Keith Hamel. That year, for the first time at the festival, a composer's competition was held, open to Canadian residents, and winners Hope Lee and Juhan Puhm (Barrie, Ont), had their respective compositions Nabripamo, and Mosaic premiered by Boulez. Orchestral works were performed by an expanded Scotia Festival Orchestra; members of Symphony Nova Scotia, Le Nouvel ensemble moderne, and Nexus also participated.

The number of summer concerts (excepting student performances), has varied from six to eight, and the winter series from four to six. The festival has continued its young artist's program, and Sponsor-a-Music-Student (SAMS) provides subsidies for music students of all ages to audit and attend concerts. The NSMEA has awarded a bursary for the festival to a Nova Scotia resident.


Further Reading

  • Senchuk, Barbara. 'Scotia Music Festival - a raffle and a gamble,' Music, vol 5, Sep-Oct 1982

    Wilcox, Christopher. 'The Scotia Festival of Music and Pierre Boulez,' TourArts, Jan 1990

    MacDonald, Bruce. 'Banner year for Scotia Festival of Music,' OCan, vol 18, Feb/Mar 1991

    'Scotia Festival names competition winners,'. Probe, vol 2, May 1991