Festival Blog

Closing Thoughts from Peter McGillivray

“Be embraced, you millions! This kiss is for the whole world!” So sang the thunderous
chorus of members of the Elmer Iseler singers in the final chorus section of Beethoven’s Ninth
symphony presented as the closing event of this year’s Festival of the Sound. The performance,
easily the most stupendous and audacious musical event ever to be staged in the Festival’s 35 year
history must have been especially thrilling for those in the audience who first gathered in pianist
Anton Kuerti’s cottage in 1979 to dare to dream that such a thing was possible.
The Beethoven performance was also was an anniversary present for irrepressible artistic
director James Campbell celebrating not only his own birthday but his 30th year of steering the
festival from triumph to triumph. At a celebratory post-concert dinner at the Log Cabin Inn,
Campbell was quick to thank the countless volunteers and supporters as well as devoted audience
members who have been so instrumental (pardon the pun) in driving the organization to this
climactic success.
Sitting in the audience, the emotion in the room was palpable and the sense of shared joy,
inescapable. There were tears welling up in many an eye, including several of the soloists – all
were genuinely and memorably moved by experience this perhaps greatest of all musical works in
such an intimate and familiar setting. The performance itself was wondrous, especially
considering that the orchestra was essentially a pick-up band composed of many of Canada’s
greatest soloists & chamber musicians – not a group used to regularly playing such symphonic
work. They all came together in common cause, serving the composer dutifully under the baton
of experienced maestro Jamie Sommerville, principal horn of the famed Boston Symphony and
recently departed music director of the Hamilton Philharmonic. A special commendation must
also go to concertmaster Mark Fewer who not only beautifully lead Canada’s best string players

so ably they would easily have been mistaken for one of the continent’s best ensembles, but who
also spent so many hours preparing the scores with now markings to streamline the few rehearsals
they were able to muster.
The soloists performed wonderfully and commandingly as well. The luxury casting of
Leslie Fagan, Marion Newman, Michael Colvin & the legendary Russell Braun, whose opening
invocation made the hairs on many a neck stand on end with excitement, would have been the
envy of any international concert audience anywhere, anytime. More than that, their collective
performance along with the choir’s joyful exuberance were a powerful reminder that some
emotions are too powerful to be merely spoken, regardless of language, they must be sung.
Personal highlights of this year’s festival in addition to Beethoven’s 9th for me included soldout
recitals by two of Canada’s leading pianistic exports, Jan Lisiecki and Janina Fialkowska. Last
Friday’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings captained by violinist Yehonaton
Berick also stands out as an emotional performance that brought thunderous synchronized
applause from the crowd. The previous week’s performance of Schubert’s Death and the
Maiden quartet by the Brodsky String Quartet along with the Trout Quintet by Ensemble
Magellan sticks out for me as another moving experience.
Some performances may not have been on all people’s radar but hit the spot for me. The
screening of Buster Keaton’s hilarious film Sherlock, Jr. set to music by the Afiara String Quartet
and pianist Stephen Prutsman is one such performance. Another (albeit I’m biased) show was the
Toronto Masque Theatre production of Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas and other works. It is no secret
that many people, myself included, would love to see more opera performed in Parry Sound to
take full advantage of the intimate space of the Stockey Centre and, perhaps some day, its builtin
orchestra pit – these types of concert or semi-staged performances can be considered a baby
step in that direction. And finally, James Campbell must be heartily commended on his brave
programming of so much new and contemporary music this summer. The many concerts
including works by recent Juno-winner Allan Gordon Bell and Chinese-Canadian composer An-
Lun Huang were thrillingly original and a deft reminder to classical audiences that the repertoire
requires constant reinvention and reinvigoration. This is the art of our time and we must learn to
embrace it or the art music form will stagnate. It also happens to be a form of music in which
Canadians truly excel on the world stage and we can all be proud of that.

What is next for the Festival? The Music Scores educational outreach program partnering
with local schools returns in the fall. The annual Christmas seasonal concert is in the works for
December. then the launch of a new season of musical delights hits Parry Sound next spring.

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