Elora Festival set to launch 36th season

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Noel Edison and his staff are comfortable with hard work and meeting challenges. After thirty-five years of hosting world-class music in Centre Wellington’s cozy venues, the Elora Festival has withstood the test of time and is about to open the box office for their July concert series.

One such challenge that the artistic director and conductor of the Juno and Grammy-nominated Elora Festival Singers is preparing to take on this summer is Bach’s B Minor Mass. One of the most favoured works in the catalogue of Bach’s compositions, this profound and awe-inspiring work is a task that “most choirs, orchestras and conductors are not up to” according to Classics Today writer, David Vernier. Under the baton of Noel Edison, the Elora Festival Singers and the Elora Festival Orchestra are well equipped for the charge – with additional choral forces provided by Britain’s VOCES8 and Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal.

Making a three-week music festival happen like a well-oiled machine takes time, resourcefulness and, of course, a modicum of audaciousness. During a series of roundtable discussions followed by fine dining at Elora’s Cork Restaurant, former CBC host Rick Phillips will facilitate a talk during the Elora Festival on the theme of  “making music festivals work.” Panelists for this illuminating dialog will be the artistic directors from Music Niagara, Festival of the Sound, and the Elora Festival.

The logistics of securing an artist from across the seas to perform in a quaint village like Elora may remain a trade secret, but patrons will be treated to numerous international luminaries nonetheless. One such celebrated group is Zimbabwe’s Black Umfolosi; a traditional Imbube (a cappella) performance group well versed in the lithe dance moves from Zulu tradition and the Gumboot dances of South Africa’s miners. Black Umfolosi has danced and sung their way around the globe for 30 years with their rousing show of energetic jazz, funk and Afro-pop and make their Canadian appearance in Elora on July 11th.

Another highpoint of the mostly choral and classical music festival is its Starlight Series. Taking place in the charming atmosphere of the Heritage Barn at the Wellington County Museum & Archives, this series of three concerts will showcase the best of jazz, blues and roots music under the night sky. Featuring the award-winning Mike Janzen Trio and the vintage blues meets art-rock of Glenn Buhr’s Button Factory Band, the star of the series, however, will no doubt be Waterloo’s Frog and Henry; a two-man-one-man-band playing the music of the 1920’s on multiple instruments. Obscure Sound referred to frontman Ryan Baer as “the next prolific folk artist to go down in musical history among company such as Bob Dylan,” and all who have experienced this act live would likely agree.

The charm of the Starlight Series is the “something for everyone” maxim; a truism The Elora Festival has always lived up to with its community-focused celebration of the unifying power of music. Adding to the communal appeal, a series of family-friendly performances is scheduled to enchant audiences of all ages this July in Elora. The series launches with the opera Orphea and the Golden Harp – a tale of a youngster who journeys to the Greek underworld with her magic harp to rescue her Grandfather. The big attraction, however, will be Doug Leahy and his talented progeny with their high-energy, infectious Celtic-based song and dance. After the success of the Leahy performance during the Elora Festival’s 2013 season, these young Leahy’s will surely fiddle their way into the hearts of young and old alike.

With twenty-two performances slated between July 10th and 26th, it is difficult to portray the sheer magnitude of the Elora Festival. Mark your calendars and visit www.elorafestival.ca on April 10th for a full concert listing and tickets.