The 36th annual Harrison Festival of the Arts celebrates a long history of nurturing up and coming talent under the direction of the Society’s new management team, Executive and artistic director Andy Hillhouse and general manager Mel Dunster.
Running from July 12 to 20, with an opening night concert July 11, this year’s festival welcomes both new and returning Festival discoveries.
Opening Night Concert: In demonstration of the Festival’s commitment to promoting local Fraser Valley music, July 11 will feature young performers ‘Straight from the Valley’ including the extraordinary Langley Ukulele Ensemble, UFV Bhangra Club, and dynamic fiddle family, The Sabir Sisters, raised right down the road in Abbotsford.
Hall Stage Highlights: Evening concerts in the Harrison Memorial Hall see the return of performers who first appeared in Harrison as budding artists but are now established figures on the roots music scene. One such group is the contemporary calypso band Kobo Town on July 12, whose most recent album, Jumbie in the Jukebox, has been nominated for a 2014 Juno Award.
Also coming back July 13 is Eric Bibb. A huge hit at the 2009 Festival, Bibb is well known as one of the best acoustic blues performers anywhere.
Closing the festival July 20 is button accordion player Riccardo Tesi & Banditaliana. Tesi is a legend in Italian, and more broadly, European folk music. In the highly regional country of Italy, he was one of the first accordion players who performed styles of traditional music from around the country.
New to the Festival is a selection of younger acts who are taking the folk and world music scenes by storm. Virtuosic pipers Ross Ainslie and Jarlath Henderson, will surely get audiences on their feet July 16 as they represent the best of a Scottish folk scene that is strongly traditional yet thoroughly modern.
Mokoomba, from Zimbabwe, are an energetic, fresh sounding group singing in the minority Tonga language, led by vocalist, Mathias Muzaza , whose powerful voice is sure to send shivers down spines July 17.
Quique Escamilla, a Toronto-based, Mexican born singer-songwriter will play the Hall July 18 with his band. His songs speak about social issues with cumbia, ska, and reggae grooves, reminding us that when the revolution comes there will be dancing!
Juno winning alternative country band Nathan Music Co., from Winnipeg , will be hitting the stage July 19 for the first time after a hiatus to raise their respective families. Formerly known as just Nathan, this is a band with haunting songs and harmonies that evoke the expanse of the prairies through the sweet voice of singer Keri Latimer.
In continued collaboration with the University of the Fraser Valley, the Festival will also present a Literary Café on July 14 and an evening of Theatre on July 15.
Beach Stage Highlights: While the Memorial Hall is ticketed, the free access Beach Stage presents acts of no lesser stature and skill. Some of the more established performers on the Beach Stage this year will be singer-songwriter Mae Moore , who is also the feature d artist for the Festival Art Exhibit on display at the Ranger Station Art Gallery. Now a Canadian folk icon, David Francey will also be gracing the Beach Stage with his Juno winning songwriting talent and warm voice that speak to the experiences of working people.
Legendary Scottish fingerstyle guitarist Tony McManus is another established folk performer who has gained a reputation for his stunning interpretations of traditional pipe and fiddle tunes. He will be one of the closing acts playing the Beach Stage on Sunday July 20th.
A few exciting fresh acts coming to the Beach Stage include young fiddlers Wesley Hardisty and Jocelyn Pettit, who will also lead a fiddle demonstration as part of the Festival Workshop Series. Another group of young musicians, who are making their first venture out west, is Ventanas, who combine flamenco with Sephardic Jewish songs and Bulgarian rhythms, a mix that is enthralling and exciting.
Leonard Sumner, who will perform on the Beach Stage midweek, is an Anishinaabe MC/Singer-Songwriter from the Little Saskatchewan First Nation in Manitoba. His songs combine rap with country and folk in rhythms and rhymes that speak with sometimes stark and always compassionate honesty to his personal experience.
African acts, Kakana from Mozambique and Zimbamoto, will no doubt inspire Beach Stage dancers.
A returning Festival favourite is Pacific Curls, a group with a compelling and lovely mixture of Celtic and Maori sounds. Two vocal groups from the Beach Stage, Moira Smiley’s VOCO and Vancouver’s TriVo, will be conducting singing workshops on each weekend in which attendees can participate while Vancouver-based Balkan brass band Orkestar Slivovica will be leading a European dance workshop.
Children’s Day and Art Market: A day of fun for the whole family, this year starring Children’s Day performer will be the hilarious Norman Foote.
Also on site will be magicians, entertainers and a wide range of art and craft activities and stuff that is just plain fun.
The largest visual art component at the Festival is the Art Market with over 50 designers and artisans participating each weekend. The Art Market is juried, assuring quality products and high artistic standards. Vendors range from jewelers, potters and woodcrafters, metal and glass to instrument makers and painters.
Tickets to the 36th annual Harrison Festival of the Art can be purchased online at www.harrisonfestival.com, by phone at 604.796.3664 or in person at the Ranger Station Art Gallery in Harrison.