Music festivals generally consist of two types: competition and non-competition festivals, which feature individuals and groups performing for grades, trophies, or simply to work together in clinics or workshops under professional guidance; and opera or concert festivals, which aim to showcase performances by emerging and established artists. It is the latter type that is treated here.
The idea of a festival celebrating a season, a composer or group of composers or type of music, or the musical resources of a city or region gained popularity in Canada during the latter half of the 19th century. What may have been the first such festival, however, occurred at Quebec City in June 1834, when 64 instrumentalists and 111 singers gave 'A Grand Performance of Sacred Music' under the direction of Stephen Codman. In 1859 the same city witnessed a Handel Festival which included a performance of Judas Maccabaeus and was directed by William Carter. In 1865 in Ottawa Herbert R. Fripp directed a Sacred Music Festival. In May 1877 a three-day Montreal Music Festival featured the first public performance by the Montreal Philharmonic Society. In 1883 Quebec City was the site of a festival organized by Arthur Lavigne, a Quebec musician who had participated in Boston musical jubilees in 1869 and 1872. The event's significance went beyond music: at it, for the first time, Quebec citizens witnessed the lighting of a large hall by electricity.
The St-Jean-Baptiste societies held large and festive musical celebrations in Montreal in 1874 (the 40th anniversary of the society) and in Quebec City in 1880 (when 'O Canada' had its first public performance).
A three-day, five-concert Wagner Festival by the visiting Theodore Thomas Orchestra in Montreal in June 1884 featured excerpts from Die Walküre, Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, and Tristan und Isolde. The festival, conducted by Thomas and starring Emma Juch, Christine Nilsson, and the noted Bayreuth singers Amalie Materna, Hermann Winkelmann, and Emil Scaria, was a succès d'estime (described in the Montreal Gazette as 'the most important event of its kind the country has known up to this time') but a financial disaster.
F.H. Torrington in 1886 organized the first Toronto Music Festival and was responsible as well for the three-day festival which opened Toronto's Massey Hall in June 1894. Hamilton, Ont, mounted a Queen's Jubilee Music Festival in 1887 to celebrate Victoria's 50-year reign. A May Festival of concerts by Toronto school choirs and performing groups was initiated in 1886 and became an annual tradition still observed in 1990. (Though a school festival, this also is a true concert festival, neither 'competition' nor 'non-competition' in type.)
Berlin (see Kitchener and Waterloo), Ont, was the site of a Sängerfest as early as 1862, and other Canadian towns and cities with German-Canadian populations also have held Sängerfeste over the years. During the 1950s these were revived as 'Big Sings'.
One of Canada's first and most ambitious festivals in the 20th century was the Cycle of Music Festivals of the Dominion of Canada. Offering mainly British choral and orchestral music, the festival was held from March to May 1903, in most major Canadian centres. It was directed by Sir Alexander Mackenzie and initiated and organized by C.A.E. Harriss. Harriss was responsible for a British Canadian Music Festival in London in 1906; for the Festival of English Cathedral Music, which took place in eastern Canada in 1908 and featured the English organist Sir Frederick Bridge; and for the Musical Festival of the Empire, which toured the world (including Canada) in 1911.
In 1908 Quebec City celebrated its 300th anniversary with a number of festivities, the musical parts of which were directed by Joseph Vézina. During the same year the Winnipeg Oratorio Society was founded; it organized, and participated in, Western Canada Musical Festival 1908-24.
In October 1912 the opening of the Mutual Street Arena provided the occasion for the week-long Toronto Musical Festival, featuring Nahan Franko and his orchestra, along with the sopranos Johanna Gadski and Alice Nielsen and the baritone Giuseppe Campanari (all of the Metropolitan Opera), the coloratura soprano Marcella Sembrich, the tenor Orville Harrold, and the violinists Albert Spalding and Arturo Tibaldi.
Montreal's annual Music Weeks began ca 1923. The Halifax Philharmonic Society (under Harry Dean) sponsored spring festivals 1925-31. In 1927 the first of a series of CPR Festivals was held at Quebec; others took place during the next three years in Banff, Calgary, Regina, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, and Winnipeg, and most were devoted to highlighting the ethnic diversity and local cultures of their regions or provinces.
In 1931 a Bach Festival in Saskatoon featured the organist Lynnwood Farnam. In 1934 Music Week was an important part of the celebrations marking Toronto's centenary, in which the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir took part. The 1930s also saw the initiation of the Montreal Festivals which recurred annually 1936-65. In Ontario the Waterloo Band Festival (1932-40 and 1946-58) was host to the 1937 Festival of the Empire, which marked the coronation of George VI. In 1938 a Dominion Folk Festival was held at Toronto's CNE grounds. During the early 1940s the CSM (MSO) 'Spring Galas' offered Beethoven's nine symphonies, a concert version of Boris Godunov, Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust, and other such imposing works. London, Ont, held Bach Festivals in 1948 and 1949. The Canadian Jewish Music Month was inaugurated in Montreal in 1948. In April 1950 Sir Ernest MacMillan, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and guest artists presented a Bach Festival to mark the bicentenary of the composer's death.
In the second half of the 20th century Canada experienced an enormous growth in the number and variety of its festivals. The appended chronological list (by date of inception) cites many of these but does not claim to be comprehensive. Festivals without a terminal date continued to operate in 1990; those listed with a single year were one-time-only events.
Latvian Song Festival. Toronto. Held every four or five years, the festival consists of displays of various forms of Latvian culture including concerts of traditional and contemporary Latvian music. Programs have included premieres of orchestral works commissioned from Canadian composers - in 1986 Talivaldis Kenins' Symphony No. 8 for organ and orchestra and Janis Kalnins' Concerto for piano and chamber orchestra, and in 1991 Kenins' Concerto for piano with string orchestra and percussion.
Vancouver International Festival. 1955-68
Nova Scotia Festival of the Arts. Tatamagouche, later Halifax. 1956-1979
Miramichi Folk Song Festival. Newcastle, NB
International Freedom Festival. Windsor, Ont and Detroit, Mich. A celebration of Canada's Dominion Day (Canada Day, 1 July) and the US Independence Day (4 July). The festival's 'Arts Alive' series, presenting Canadian performers, began in 1986.
International Week of Today's Music/La Semaine internationale de musique actuelle. Montreal. 1961
CBC Summer Festivals. In many Canadian cities. Begun 1962 in Winnipeg.
Dawson City Gold Rush Festival. 1962. The festival featured Eskimo drum dancing and a musical based on Ben Jonson's Volpone by Ring Lardner Jr and Ian McLellan Hunter.
Shaw Festival. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont
Festival Acadien. Caraquet, NB. Promotes Acadian history and culture, artists and musicians. In 1969 the festival established the competitive Gala de la chanson de Caraquet.
Mosaic, Regina. Annual multicultural festival featuring music and dance performances by ethnic groups in various pavilions throughout the city.
Canada's National Ukrainian Festival. Dauphin, Man. Traditional music dance and folk arts.
Manitoba Holiday Festival of the Arts. Neepawa, Man. Founded by Gissur Eliasson, University of Manitoba and, until 1978 under the auspices of the university's Dept of Community Studies. Participation and instruction on visual and performing arts for all age groups, including dance, music, fine arts, drama, and creative writing.
University of New Brunswick Chamber Music and Jazz Festival. Fredericton. 1966-83
Centennial celebrations. Various locations, 1967
World Festival, Expo 67. Montreal, 1967
Festival d'été de Québec (Festival d'été international de Québec 1968-86).
Metro International Caravan. Toronto. Pavilions representing specific cities of the world present their,music, arts, and culture.
Regina Folk Festival. Annual three-day outdoor festival featuring local and national performers.
Festival Express. 1970. A rock festival comprising a train ride with stops for concerts in Toronto, Winnipeg, and Calgary.
Festival Canada (Ottawa), later Festival Ottawa
Peterborough Arts and Water Festival. 1971-6. Programs of jazz, pop, folk, and ethnic music
Algoma Fall Festival, Sault Ste Marie, Ont
Blue Skies Music Festival. Clarendon Ont. Family oriented music festival offering workshops and concerts.
Nuit sur l'etang. Sudbury, Ont. Annual one-day festival of Franco-Ontarian music at Laurentian University with both amateur and professional musicians.
Winnipeg Folk Festival. Canadian and international folksingers and groups
Canadian Festival of Youth Orchestras. Banff CA. Biennial non-competitive festival, organized by the Canadian Association of Youth Orchestras, provides inspiration and instruction in a residential setting for community youth orchestras from across Canada. Canadian and international conductors and a faculty of leading Canadian teachers lead sectional rehearsals, group lessons,and full orchestral rehearsals. Each orchestra presents its own concert during the festival.
Festival des Cantons. Sherbrooke and vicinity. Annual summer festival of folk and traditional music
Sheridan Music Festival, Sheridan College, Oakville, Ont. It has featured opera, musical theatre, concerts, a folk festival, and a commercial composers' symposium.
Chant'Août. Quebec City, 1975. Festival of Quebec chansonniers
International Guitar Festival. Toronto. Five triennial festivals (the first was 'Guitar '75) founded by Eli Kassner and sponsored by the Guitar Society of Toronto. Canadian and international performers and teachers gave concerts, master classes, and workshops in guitar playing and building, and there were competitions for performers and composers. The festival's Quest for New Music, begun in 1978, attracted compositions from around the world. In 1984 a lute competition was included. Premieres included R. Murray Schafer's Le Cri de Merlin (1987) and Leo Brouwer's Toronto Concerto (1987).
North Bay Arts Festival
Spectrum: Festival of the Arts, Sudbury, Ont
World Music Week. Various cities, 1975. Held in conjunction with the 16th General Assembly of the International Music Council
Arts and Culture Festival. Kingston, Ont, 1976. Held in conjunction with the 1976 Summer Olympics
Festival Franco-Ontarien. Ottawa. Six-day showcase of francophone culture with Canadian and international performers in classical and popular music, drama and visual arts.
Northstars Festivals. Toronto. 1976-82. Sponsored and broadcast by CBC radio and organized by Anton Kuerti. There were Bach, Mozart, Schubert, and Beethoven festivals. Robert Aitken, Vladimir Ashkenazy, James Campbell, Anna Chornodolska, Andrew Davis, Lorand Fenyves, Mieczyslaw Horszowski, the Elmer Iseler Singers, Greta Kraus, Lois Marshall, and the Cleveland, Guarneri, Orford, and Vermeer quartets were among the participants.
Vancouver Early Music Festival. Series of concerts of early music and workshops sponsored by the Vancouver Society for Early Music.
Heritage Festival. Vancouver. A continuation of the 1976 Festival Habitat, co-sponsored by the CBC. The festival featured the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the music of Beethoven (1977), of Brahms (1978), and a festival of BC choirs (1978), and performances by the Vancouver New Music Society, Janina Fialkowska, Arthur Ozolins, and Robert Silverman. In 1978 the Heritage Festival Society produced two mini-festivals which later became festivals in their own right (see Vancouver Children's Festival and Vancouver Folk Music Festival). Beginning in 1981 the society concentrated its efforts on programming for the young and in 1987 became the Canadian Institute of the Arts for Young Audiences/Institut canadien des Arts pour les jeunes publics.
Mòd Ontario. Toronto. Two-day Canadian Scottish Gaelic Festival featuring instrumental and vocal competitions and workshops and performances of celtic music.
Powell Street Festival. Vancouver. Two-day celebration of the arts and culture of Japanese-Canadians.
Festival international de Lanaudière. Begun as Festival d'été de Lanaudière.
Festival of the Arts, Edmonton. 1978. In conjunction with the 11th Commonwealth Games
Harrison Festival of the Arts. Harrison Hot Springs, BC. Nine-day multicultural event with national and international performers.
Vancouver Children's Festival/Festival de Théâtre pour enfants de Vancouver Produced by Canadian Institute for Arts for Young Audiences.
Homelands. Ottawa. Three-day ethnic festival sponsored by the Ottawa Multicultural Folk Arts Council/Conseil multiculturel des arts populaires d'Ottawa
International Gathering of the Clans, Cape Breton, NS. 1979. Festivals of fiddling, piping, dancing, Highland games
Saskatchewan Sings. Regina and Saskatoon. Founded by the Saskatchewan Choral Federation, the festival alternates between the two cities; it was held annually 1979-88 and then biennially. It consists of one week of workshops, seminars, and choral singing under leading Canadian conductors including daily rehearsals for the large festival chorus and for smaller auditioned chamber and youth choirs.
Alberta. Celebration of the province's 75th anniversary in 1980. Province-wide tours by performing groups; Jazz City - a festival in Edmonton; the Edmonton Folk Music Festival; the Calgary Philharmonic in residence at the Banff SFA
Elora (Ont) Festival
Festival '80. Province-wide celebration of Saskatchewan's 75th anniversary in 1980. Tours and performances by artists and groups
Festival international de jazz de Montréal (FIJM)
Festival of the Sound, Parry Sound, Ont
Music at Sharon (Ont)
Music at Shawnigan (BC). Month-long festival, founded by Robert Aitken, offers international professional musicians the chance to study and perform chamber music with their peers and mentors and present a series of chamber music concerts
Molson Canadian Soul and Blues Festival. Toronto. Canadian and US performers and a concurrent film program featuring accomplished blues performers.
Stratford Summer Music. 1981-4. Conceived by Elyakim Taussig to compliment the Shakespearean Festival's drama productions, it presented a wide variety of concerts over the summer months under directors Taussig (1981-2) and Boris Brott (1983-4). Canadian and international musicians included the NACO, Tafelmusik, the Tokyo String Quartet, the Orford String Quartet, Sarah Vaughan, Leonard Rose, Elly Ameling, Mary Lou Fallis, Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Canadian Brass.
Big Valley Jamboree. Craven, Sask. A four-day festival of country music, featuring international musicians, and originally launched to raise funds for the Bosco Home treatment centres for emotionally disturbed adolescents.
Northern Music Festival. North Bay, Ont. Summer festival established by Canadore College and the North Bay Symphony Society. It ran for 2-6 weeks mid-summer and presented 6-16 concerts each season until 1990. Under music director Nurhan Arman a festival orchestra served participants in Canadore College's Artsperience Conductors' Symposium. After a hiatus in 1991, in which the festival severed its relations with the North Bay SO, the festival expected to reinstate its activities in 1992 as the North Bay Music Festival.
Peterborough Festival of the Arts. Has included premieres of Canadian works, often with the composer present. Chamber music series 1984-7; 1987-9 the festival featured the music of its artistic director R. Murray Schafer, giving the premiere of his Patria 3: The Greatest Show in a workshop version.in 1987 and in a full production in 1988, and Jonah in 1989. The 1990 festival featured the Orford String Quartet and added a folk festival.
Quinte Summer Music. Picton, Ont. Three-week festival with emphasis on many styles of vocal music by Canadian professional performers, including participation by the Quinte Festival Choir, and an artists-in-residence program that provides choral and vocal workshops.
Retrouvailles du Patrimoine. (Festival national du folklore québecois 1984-90). Various locations in Quebec. Folk music and dance of Quebec in addition to vocal, accordion, and traditional fiddling competitions.
Toronto International Festival. June 1984. Month-long celebration of both the bicentennial of Ontario and the sesquicentennial of Toronto. There were 3000 performers from 12 countries in dance, music, opera, and theatre, including the Metropolitan Opera with 7 operas, the COC, National Ballet of Canada, NACO, MSO, and TS. Concerts included one by a 500-voice massed choir, a Canadian Music Centre presentation of premieres by Canadian composers to celebrate its 25th anniversary, and 'Musical Toronto' which featured music from Toronto's past.
World Music Days (ISCM)
Bach 300. Toronto. March 1985. Produced by CentreStage Music, this 17-day celebration of Bach's music, held throughout the city, featured Canadian and international performers. It included jazz and contemporary music inspired by Bach and commissioned by the festival from Canadian composers, including Norma Beecroft, Bengt Hambraeus, John Burke, Oscar Peterson, and Harry Somers.
Célébration. Halifax-Dartmouth, NS. Multicultural waterfront festival.
du Maurier Ltd International Jazz Festival Vancouver
Festival by the Sea/Festival Sur Mer. Saint John, NB. Begun as the cultural arm of the Jeux Canada Games. Bilingual celebration with Canadian performers.
Festival de musique de Lachine. Lachine, Que. Begun by JMC (YMC) as the Festival superphonique de Lachine as a showcase for young Canadian performers. Free concerts of classical music, jazz, popular music and music for children. By 1991 the event was sponsored by the city of Lachine and devoted to classical music only: orchestral concerts and recitals.
Fort Festival. Langley, BC. Community, heritage and children's activities, folk and classical music. In 1988 it initiated the Fort Festival Summer Strings program.
Hornby Island Festival. Founded by director Tom Durrie, continuing and expanding on an earlier concert series (1980-4) given by the Purcell String Quartet. The 11-day festival presents Canadian musicians performing classical music concerts, recitals and opera, with a strong emphasis on Canadian contemporary music. In 1990 the festival began a concert series reviewing the music of the 20th century. The 1991 festival featured the last performance of the Purcell String Quartet.
Musique Royale. Nova Scotia. Annual summer festival of early music presented in historic buildings across the province.
Saugeen Festival of Music (Saugeen Bach Festival 1985-90). Durham, Ont and surrounding towns. Features classical music with Canadian and international artists and the Saugeen Bach Choir.
Stein Valley Voices for the Wilderness Festival. Mount Currie, BC. Country and pop music with national and native performers..Designed to draw attention to the issues of wilderness preservation and the concerns of native groups.
TriBach Festival. Edmonton. March 1985. Under artistic director Lois Marshall, the 17-day festival of Bach's masterworks for orchestra, choir, and organ featured Canadian and international performers including the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, Pro Coro Canada, the Stockholm Chamber Choir, soprano Nancy Argenta, countertenor Paul Esswood, harpsichordist Paul Badura-Skoda, cellist Shauna Rolston, and pianist Rosalyn Tureck.
Festival Rythme du monde. Montreal. Multicultural festival of world music also includes a competition for performers - 'Canadian World Music Showcase'.
Montreal New Music Festival/Festival de nouvelle musique de Montréal. Festival of original rock, pop, and jazz first held in March but changed to November in 1989.
Satori Festival. Winnipeg. 1986. Week-long festival of Canadian music sponsored by the Manitoba Composers' Association.
Vancouver Chamber Music Festival. Sponsored by the Vancouver Recital Society to present young performers in chamber ensembles.
Peterborough Summer Festival of Lights. Ontario. Begun 1987. Mixed classical, jazz, and pop music.
Boris Brott Summer Music Festival. Hamilton and region. The festival offered in 1991 a summer-long series of orchestral, chamber, jazz, and pops concerts, many in informal settings and combining actors and musicians, and an exhibit from Austria of Mozart artifacts. A special feature of the 1991 festival was the formation of the Classical Orchestra Academy(See Summer Schools and Camps).
ChâNteauguay - festival international de la polyphonie vocale. Châteauguay, Que. Begun 1988. Canadian and international choral groups.
Festival international rock de Montréal (FIRM). Begun as a platform for francophone rock performers from Canada and abroad.
Hector Festival, Pictou, NS. Begun to celebrate the area's Scottish heritage. Traditional and contemporary music on fiddle, bagpipe, and harp by Scottish and Canadian musicians.
Olympic Arts Festival. 1988
WOMAD (World of Music Art and Dance), Toronto (see Harbourfront)
Calgary Festival of Canadian Music. Scheduled to coincide with Canada Music Week and to highlight the music of Canadian composers; co-produced by several Calgary organizations including the University of Calgary and the Canadian Music Centre, Prairie Region.
Carrefour mondial de l'accordéon. Montmagny, Que. International accordionists present concerts and seminars on the history and techniques of playing and making accordions.
Francofolies de Montréal. Nine-day winter festival of music and dance by francophones from Quebec, Europe, and Africa, modelled after the summer Francofolies at Larrochelle, France.
Music from the Pacific Horizon. Vancouver. Three-day festival of traditional and contemporary music from Pacific Rim countries, with performers from Canada, the USA, and Asia.
1989 International Choral Festival. Toronto.
Summer Festival of Music on the Red. Winnipeg. Series of choral, vocal and instrumental concerts in historic St. Andrew's Anglican Church.
Women in View. Vancouver. Seven days of forums, workshops, and performances focus on women in theatre, music, dance and the visual arts sponsored by VIEW - the Performing Arts Society.
New Music America/Montreal Musiques Actuelles Begun in the USA in 1979 and held in Canada in 1990. Under artistic director Jean Piché, the 11-day festival of contemporary music featured US, European, and Canadian performers, including ARRAYMUSIC, and Le Nouvel ensemble moderne, and works by John Oswald, José Evangelista, Paul Dolden, and Hildegard Westerkamp, among others.
Pacific International Festival of Male Choirs. Vancouver. 1990. Four days of seminars, workshops and concerts featuring over 1000 male singers from 22 renowned choirs. Canada was represented by the Bison Men's Chorus, Fort William Male Choir, and Les Chanteurs St Coeur de Marie. The closing concert featured the premiere of Stephen Chatman's commissioned work The Greatest Love performed by the entire ensemble and the CBC Vancouver Orchestra.
Festival Alexandria (Ont). Chamber music series founded by contralto Ruth Barrie and pianist Lauretta Altman.
Glory of Mozart Festival. 1991. A 6-week festival directed by Nicholas Goldschmidt to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Mozart's death. Concerts at a variety of locations in Toronto included presentations by the COC, TS, and Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, as well as chamber music and dance performances, and the finals of two of the festival's concurrent international competitions: the Mozart Vocal Competition (held in Toronto) and the Mozart Chamber Music Competition (held in St John's, Nfld). The festival's Mozart Piano Competition was held entirely in Joliette, Que in association with the Festival International de Lanaudière.
Music '91. British Columbia. 1991. A touring festival of country music, pop, rock, and folk performed by US artists including Joan Baez; Crosby, Stills and Nash; and Johnny Cash, and Canadians such as Prairie Oyster, Rita MacNeil, BTO, and Gary Fjellgaard. Feature performers appeared on specific dates and locations but the show with its street performers, amateur talent showcases, and fireworks to music travelled around the province from June to September.
Many summer schools and camps have presented festivals of concerts and recitals by guests and resident instructors. The Académie de musique et de danse du Domaine Forget, Courtenay Youth Music Centre, Banff SFA (Banff, Alta), CAMMAC (Lac Macdonald, Que), the JMC Orford Art Centre (Mount Orford, Que), and the Victoria International Festival (presented by a committee of the Johannessen International School of the Arts, formerly Shawnigan Summer School of the Arts, at various locations in Victoria) are among them.
Organizations offering co-ordination, support, and financial assistance to local festivals in Canada have included Festival Ontario, founded by the government of Ontario in 1973 to make the cultural resources of the province available to its communities, and the Société des Festivals populaires du Québec, established in 1978. Annual events under the auspices of members of the society have included the Festival de folklore inter-ethnique de St-Octave-de-l'Avenir, the Festival de la Grange à Claude (St-Frédéric, Beauce-Nord), the Festival international de folklore de Rawdon and the Festival western de St-Tite.
Other folk and ethnic festivals have included Bavaria Days (Biggar, Sask), Highland gatherings and games (various locations), All-Newfoundland Folk Festival (St John's), Icelandic Festival (Gimli, Man), the International Folk Festival (Red Deer, Alta), Klondike Days (Edmonton), and Folklorama (Winnipeg).