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PRIMER | A Guide To Getting The Most Out Of Stratford Summer Music

By Ludwig Van on July 12, 2019

Presented by Stratford Summer Music

The Stratford Summer Music Festival brings a world of music for everyone to the picturesque streets of Ontario’s favourite small city. With nearly 100 free and ticketed performances and events in all kinds of different venues, indoors and outdoors, presented with a range of community partners, there will truly be something to suit everyone’s tastes.

The focus for this year’s festival is on multi-genre musicians, and musical versatility, while of course maintaining the high quality of talent and entertainment on offer. That translates into a wealth of musical styles and offerings, with special series including ‘Friday Night Live at Revival’ (formally the Cabaret Series), Illustrated Musical Lectures by Robert Harris, Music for an Avon Morning, BargeMusic and Musical Brunches at The Prune. New series include Music and Health, Stratford Originals, and Musical Families, which spotlights the Dann Family — Steven, Nico, Robin, and Lucas — multiple generations, all active in music, in a variety of concerts, including classical and jazz programs.

Over 250 world-class local, provincial, national, and international artists will be taking the stage during the festival’s run from July 15 to August 25, 2019. Here’s our quick guide to what you can expect.

1: So you want to check out…

World-Renowned Artists

The Stratford Originals series brings together artists with an international reputation to play together for the first time ever. On July 21, versatile multi-genre pianist, Stephen Prutsman, cellist Stéphane Tétreault, an emerging international star, and celebrated violinist — and festival Artistic Director — Mark Fewer offer a concert of chamber music. On August 22, acclaimed pianist John Novacek teams up with special guest, Order of Canada recipient, and Festival of the Sound Artistic Director James Campbell on clarinet in concert.

Opera fans can look forward to a concert featuring soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian with Canadian pianist Robert Kortgaard and Mark Fewer on violin in a varied program on August 9. Acclaimed Canadian tenor Ben Heppner and the wonderful Toronto Mass Choir will be performing O HAPPY DAY on July 27, a celebration of gospel music both traditional and contemporary. The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra performs with special guest, American pianist Simone Dinnerstein, in a concert that includes the Philip Glass Piano Concerto No. 3 and other works on July 17. Glenn Gould even makes an appearance — televised, that is — during the Art of Time Ensemble’s August 21 performance of chamber music.

In the Stratford Original Concerts series, you can experience the *Cannabis Cantata, A Musical ‘Pot’ Pourria — a new work commissioned by Stratford Summer Music and Ottawa Chamberfest, featuring soprano Mireille Asselin, tenor Matthew Dalen and baritone Adam Harris as they explore the new landscape of legal weed in Canada through music by J.S. Bach with a libretto by Peter Tiefenbach on August 1*Note this performance only is 19+

Concert pianist Janina Fialkowska has made a name for herself worldwide with a unique sound over the last four decades. She’ll be performing a varied program in a recital on August 3.

2. So you want to check out:

Local Artists

Celebrate local musicians in a variety of concerts. Barbara Smith is the Executive Director of the National Youth Orchestra, who will be playing in an Orchestral Event on July 28. Percussionist Graham Hargrove plays “The music of bones” at a musical brunch at the Prune restaurant on July 27. Canadian singer, artist, and new Stratford resident Rachelle Shubert performs a vocal concert on August 15 as part of the Music and Health series.

Stratford’s own, INNERchamber perform a concert of traditional Newfoundland music with swing jazz with Duane Andrews & Friends on July 26, and then team up with pianist John Novacek and The Campbells for Rhapsody in Blue and Brazilian Jazz on August 23. Emily Hamper and Phillip Addis, Artistic Directors of the Vocal Academy and Roger Honeywell, acting coach, will all participate in The Vocal Academy, offering intensive professional training in opera, oratorio, art song, and performance skills to graduate and early professional level singers. Other faculty members include Russell Braun, voice; Howard Dyck, oratorio, Erin Wall, voice; and Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor (Music Director of Orchestre de Chambre I Musici de Montréal).

3. So you want to check out: 

Jazz and Pop Artists

Juno Award-winning jazz pianist, vocalist, songwriter and CBC Radio Host Laila Biali tops the list of jazz and popular music at this year’s festival. She performs selections from her self-titled album and more on July 31. The Friday Night Live at Revival House series has a full menu of jazz on offer. Nat Cole: A King’s Centennial, presented by Céline Peterson — daughter of Oscar — features a quartet of jazz pros to celebrate the American singer’s legacy.

The Rémi Bolduc Jazz Ensemble, with special guest pianist François Bourassa, present their Tribute to Dave Brubeck. Other jazz concerts in the series feature The Phil Dwyer Trio, and the Jodi Proznick Trio with vocalist Heather Bambrick. The Friday night series also spotlights classical crossover stars The Joe Trio, and Bohemians of Brooklyn with Tom Allan, a show that mixes up cabaret, music, social history, and juicy gossip from Brooklyn in the early 1940s with a versatile cast of musicians and performers.

Pop music fans will love The Brothers Creeggan, A Great Gathering, spotlighting two of the original members of the Barenaked Ladies with musical guests in one of a kind — and one time only — performance.  Part of the Stratford Original series, you will only be able to experience this unique event at the festival this summer.

4. So you want to check out: 

Family-Friendly Concerts

The festival has families with children covered with a series of concerts and events. The official children’s program includes pay what you can events for all ages and abilities. The concerts are designed to help kids appreciate music, and build intergenerational bonds by engaging local seniors too. On July 22, pianist Stephen Prutsman performs in an Azure concert designed in a relaxed format that caters to children and young people on the autism spectrum, or with similar issues. On August 7,  parents and kids under 5 can enjoy a drop-in music and puppetry adventure. Kids can play and make their own puppet (materials provided) with musical entertainment. On August 14, families can experience Tom Allen and The Rosebud Quartet with a musical petting zoo — where kids will be invited to try out some of the musical instruments at the end of the concert.

The BargeMusic series brings music to The Stratford Belle, the riverboat which has been moored along the Avon since 2002. It’s a family-friendly environment where you can bring your own lawn chairs, pets, and a picnic to enjoy music by the water. The series runs Fridays at noon, Saturdays and Sundays at noon and 3 pm, throughout the festival.

5. So you want to check out:

Shareable Moments

Bring a lawn chair or blanket to enjoy the festival’s Shareable Moments programming, featuring free high-quality musical performances in Stratford’s Market Square. The Market Square Series will feature a diverse line-up, including the National Youth Orchestra in pop up concerts, jazz with The Shuffle Demons, a screening of Phantom of the Opera with the Mississauga Chamber Choir, and more, Tuesday, July 16, and then Saturdays from July 27. The rain venue will be The Avondale theatre.

6. So you want to learn something:

The Stratford Lectures

CBC Radio host and producer, and Globe and Mail music critic, Robert Harris brings his musical lectures back to the festival for the fifth year. Harris’ lecture series is inspired by his 20-part conversations with Michael Enright on CBC Radio One’s popular The Sunday Edition show. You’ll be informed and entertained by his lectures, interspersed by musical examples. The talks will feature Artistic Director Mark Fewer in a one-on-one interview, The Power of Gospel, Musical Families, and Forced Collaborations. His book The Stratford Lectures will be available for sale at each of the four lectures. Details here.


Stratford at a Glance

Pretty Stratford is a city of 31,465 on the Avon River in southwest Ontario, Canada. It’s located at the intersections of Highways 7 and 8, off Highway 401 West. The city is nestled in the midst of prime farmland, its streets lined with charming 19th-century architecture. It is a city of theatre, gardens and parks, with swans on the River Avon.

Stratford counts many stellar musicians among its citizens, including Loreena McKennitt — who now makes Stratford her home — pop star Justin Bieber, singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith, baritone James Westman, and tenor Roger Honeywell.

While small in size, Stratford has been internationally recognized as a centre for digital technology by the Intelligent Community Forum, a global network and non-profit policy research organization. It is also a renowned theatre centre, home to the Stratford Festival that draws visitors from around the country and worldwide. The Stratford Chef School has an international reputation, and not only turns out some of the culinary world’s stars, but fuels the local culinary scene, with an emphasis on farm to table cuisine. Season Sponsor Hub Pub and Patio embody the region’s farm to fork dining philosophy, including not just the pub, but The HUB Market, a spacious local butchery, bakery and fine foods market that opens at the end of July in Stratford Market Square

Trip Planning

  • Where to stay

There are a variety of accommodations available in Stratford. Here are four of our picks:

The Mercer Hall: ‘Heritage meets hip in Downtown Stratford’ – that’s the tagline for this funky, artistic haunt, with a pub and renowned kitchen on the premises.

The Old Rectory: Get a taste of authentic historic Stratford at the Old Rectory B&B. Built in 1902, it offers beautifully appointed rooms in a very convenient location steps to the festival venues, with plenty of free parking.

The Parlour Inn & Suites: Housed in a building that has been accommodating guests since 1872, the Parlour Inn offers luxury with a genuine historic ambiance, including the acclaimed Parlour Steakhouse on-site.

The Arden Park Hotel: Enjoy contemporary elegance with a nod to historic style at this Best Western property, with a full range of amenities, including an indoor pool and fitness centre, free WiFi, pet-friendly rooms, and full dining on-site.

  • Tickets

Online,  Email, Phone (519.271.2101, ext. 5 or 1.866.288.4313), or In-person Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm at 19 Waterloo Street, South (parking at Water Street entrance) Stratford, Ontario Canada.


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Ludwig Van

Ludwig Van is an independent digital news media website supported by its audience and sponsors. Our primary focus is on arts coverage, including news reporting and criticism.
Ludwig Van

Ludwig Van

Ludwig Van is an independent digital news media website supported by its audience and sponsors. Our primary focus is on arts coverage, including news reporting and criticism.
Ludwig Van
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Ludwig Van Toronto

THE SCOOP | Stratford Summer Music Is Open For Business In Surprise Season Announcement With Live Events

By Michael Vincent on July 3, 2020

While Canada’s music festival season is busy moving online, The Stratford Summer Music Festival has announced they will be presenting 30 live events on Stratford Ontario’s picturesque Avon River this July and August.
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