Festival of the Sound

Festival of the Sound. Annual summer concert series in Parry Sound, Ont, on the eastern shore of Georgian Bay, founded in 1980 by Anton Kuerti, artistic director 1980-4. James Campbell was artistic director 1985-90, succeeded in 1991 by Denis Brott.

Festival of the Sound

Festival of the Sound. Annual summer concert series in Parry Sound, Ont, on the eastern shore of Georgian Bay, founded in 1980 by Anton Kuerti, artistic director 1980-4. James Campbell was artistic director 1985-90, succeeded in 1991 by Denis Brott. The festival grew from a series of 13 concerts with 13 soloists and ensembles in 1980 to about 50 ticketed events with 54 soloists and ensembles in 1991.

From its inception, the Festival of the Sound has been family-oriented, holding most of its two- to three-week season in the 450-seat auditorium (the so-called 'Festival Hall') of Parry Sound High School and has featured children's entertainers; jazz, big band, and pop musicians; musical boat cruises; live programme notes and nature walks (hosted by Lister Sinclair); and lectures, art exhibits, comedians, and babysitting in addition to its largely classical fare which has included concerts, recitals, masterclasses, and open rehearsals with many well-known soloists and ensembles.

Campbell introduced in 1986 a fall series of concerts, featuring Festival of the Sound participants, at Wigmore Hall in London. As a result the BBC Scotland (in co-operation with the CBC) made a TV documentary in 1988 about the summer festival, featuring Kuerti and the (British) Allegri String Quartet performing Schumann's Piano Quintet, and Campbell and the same ensemble performing Mozart's Clarinet Quintet, K 581. The Wigmore fall series resumed from 1988 as an annual event. Campbell also introduced in 1986, a winter series of the festival, and participants performed 1987-8 in other Ontario communities, including Milford Bay, Orillia, and Sudbury. In 1986 the festival celebrated the International Year of Canadian Music, and celebrated the anniversaries of Liszt, Weber, and the CBC. In 1987 festival performers participated in an exchange with Music at Sharon and celebrated the centennial of Parry Sound; and in 1988 French composer Olivier Messiaen's 80th birthday. In 1990 it introduced an Academy of Advanced Study (intensive chamber music education and composer's workshops); and in 1991 it recognized the Mozart bicentennial.

Participants gave the Canadian premieres of William Sterndale Bennett's Piano Sextet in 1984, George Shearing's Music to Hear in 1986, and the North American premiere of Ferenc Farkas's Homage à Brahms in 1983. The festival also presented premiers of Tomas Svoboda's Passacaglia and Fugue in 1984, Gary Kulesha'sSoundings for Boat, Bay, and Brass in 1985, and André Prévost'sClarinet Quintet in 1988. The festival commissioned Talivaldis Kenins'Quintet for Piano and Winds in 1983, Godfrey Ridout'sExile in 1984, Oskar Morawetz'sThe Weaver (premiered at Wigmore Hall in 1986), Milton Barnes'sAnerca for solo bassoon (based on Inuit throat games, 1989), and Raymond Luedeke'sGarbage Delight (settings of Dennis Lee's verses, 1989). Other new Canadian works performed at the festival have included Srul Irving Glick's, Northern Sketches (commissioned by the OAC, premiered in 1982), and Phil Nimmons'Duologue for accordion and clarinet in 1984. Festival participants premiered Michael Colgrass'Unreconcilable Variations, commissioned by the OAC and the Canada Council, at Wigmore Hall in 1986. Composers-in-residence at the festival have been Gary Kulesha (1990) and Malcolm Forsyth (1991). John Weinzweig assisted Kulesha in the Academy of Advanced Study composer's workshop in 1990.

Performers at the festival have included various non-Canadian artists, including the Allegri and Manhattan String Quartets, Victor Borge, Dave Brubeck, the Cambridge Buskers, the Christ Church (Oxford) Cathedral Choir, Peter Donahoe, the Eisenstadt Baryton Ensemble, Armando Ghitalla, Dizzy Gillespie, Yo-Yo Ma, the New Swingle Singers, George Shearing, John Shirley-Quirk, and Janos Starker. However, by far the majority of classical performers have been Canadian, including William Aide, Paul Brodie, Lawrence Cherney, Mark DuBois, the Elmer Iseler Singers, Lorand Fenyves, Judith Forst, Moshe Hammer, Ofra Harnoy, Norbert Kraft, Rosemarie Landry, Judy Loman, Joseph Macerollo, Nexus, the Orford String Quartet, Louis and Gino Quilico, Catherine Robbin, Robert Silverman, Thirteen Strings, and the TS among others. Canadian pop and jazz performers have included Peter Appleyard, Catherine McKinnon, Rob McConnell and Moe Koffman. Many of the festival performances have been broadcast by the CBC.

Further Reading

  • Green, Jeff. 'The sound of the Sound: a northern festival,' Ottawa Revue, 23-29 July 1981

    Littler, William. 'Festival focus,' Bravo, vol 6, Jul/Aug 1985

    Fraser, John. 'Festival of the Sound program a hit with London music critics,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 12 Oct 1986

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