Icons of the Canadian music industry, under-the-radar acts from close to home, and a colourful burst of artistic expression await during this year’s Huntsville Festival of the Arts.
The theme for this, the Festival’s 31st year, is “Arts With Taste” and the line-up of concerts and events certainly has something for everyone. Whether your taste favours folk-rooted country, laugh-out-loud comedy, virtuosic musicianship or a raucous drag show, there’s plenty to savour this season.
Performers include Canadian-Cuban Grammy winner Alex Cuba, jazz-pop songstress Holly Cole, comedian and host of CBC’s The Debaters Steve Patterson, drag star Lemon, and many more.
Iconic musicians and singers the Jim Cuddy Band, the Barra MacNeils, Lighthouse, and Lowest of the Low are on tap. So, too, are Indigenous star Aysanabee, local talent Gina Horswood, and legendary blues and reggae artist Jay Douglas. Pianist Kyung-A Lee joins maestro Neil Barlow and the Orillia Silver Band for a performance which will include Bach, Chopin, Gershwin, and Rachmaninoff.
Beyond the music
The festival also celebrates art forms other than music, with visual art shows, waterfront movies, and the multi-disciplinary extravaganza Nuit Blanche North, which takes over the entire downtown the night of July 22.
“We’re presenting a lot of diversity in our line-up and there is sure to be a show – or two or three – that everyone will enjoy,” says Dan Watson, executive director of the Festival.
There are some truly intriguing shows in the lineup. In Choir, Choir, Choir, audience members will learn to sing Abba’s “Mama Mia,” then perform it in four-part harmony. Reggadiction’s Ganja Harvest is a tribute to the classic Neil Young album. Charles Ross performs the entire Star Wars Trilogy as a one-man show.
“Of course, we love to book the big names, and we have plenty of those,” says Dan. “But as part of our dedication to Muskoka, we also showcase young and upcoming performers and provide our audiences with outside-of-the-box experiences they will really enjoy.”
The festival takes full advantage of Huntsville’s many venues. The amazing acoustics of the Algonquin Theatre will be front and centre, of course, but there are also shows in some innovative spaces, including the barn at Hillside Farm and the plein-air space at the Etwell concert venue.
“It’s a really jampacked summer,” says Dan, “and we’re excited to bring it to our audiences.”
Membership has its perks and being a Friend of the Festival is no different – you’ll get extra good vibes from supporting a community organization dedicated to the arts, says Dan.
“Festival Friends get access to great deals and exclusive opportunities, including discounts and advanced access to tickets.”
TEXT CHRIS OCCHIUZZI