We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.

GUIDE | Ontario Summer Music Festivals 2024

By Radiyah Chowdhury on May 22, 2024

L-R (clockwise): Singer Julie Nesrallah (Photo courtesy of the Collingwood Festival); Echo Chamber (Photo courtesy of Stratford Summer Music); The Westben Festival (Photo courtesy of Westben)
L-R (clockwise): Singer Julie Nesrallah (Photo courtesy of the Collingwood Festival); Echo Chamber (Photo courtesy of Stratford Summer Music); The Westben Festival (Photo courtesy of Westben)

With summer right around the corner, prepare yourselves for an unforgettable season of lively music festivals across Ontario. With internationally acclaimed talent, local legends, and a series of diverse programming, there’s much to enjoy in the next few months.

The Monado State Choir (Photo courtesy of Music Niagara)
The Monado State Choir (Photo courtesy of Music Niagara)

Music Niagara

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
June 16 – August 26

Since 1998, the Music Niagara Festival has established itself as a world-class cultural event. Surrounded by the luscious natural scenery of Niagara-on-the-Lake, this festival aims to highlight performances from a wide musical spectrum— from contemporary, jazz, country, folk, and more. It also features the Young Virtuosos series, a spotlight on the nation’s foremost emerging musicians.

What’s Hot: On July 28th, you can experience an homage to the great late Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, British composer and conductor once referred to as the “African Mahler” when he toured the U.S. three times in the early 1900s. It’ll feature the expertise of pianist Victoria Korchinskaya-Kogan, violist Atis Bankas, cellist Jonathan Tortolano, and two young Ukrainian artists Roman Nykorovych and Liubomir Kliufinsky.

What’s Cool: The first six concerts of this year’s festival will feature brand new acts, five of them being comprised of young choral groups from Oakville, San Francisco, Indonesia, China, and Monaco in the Voices of Tomorrow and Young Virtuosos series. In an interview with Niagara-On-The-Lake Local, founder and artistic director Aris Bankas said, “In some ways, it’s a continuation of our choral festival that took place in 2019, just before the pandemic. This time we have national and international youth choirs. It will be an interesting experience, and it’s a bit of a new beginning that we hope to build on for future seasons.”

Why You Need to Be There: Along with exciting new artists, there will also be new venues added to the festival roster. With an emphasis on young talent and the rejuvenation of their audience, this festival will offer the classics alongside something fresh.

Tania Miller conducts the Brott Orchestra (Photo courtesy of the Brott Festival)
Tania Miller conducts the Brott Orchestra (Photo courtesy of the Brott Festival)

Brott Music Festival

Hamilton, Ontario
June 20 – August 15

Canada’s largest orchestral music festival is back for another round of innovative, refreshing programming. Largely praised for its emphasis on nontraditional performances, Brott is home to the National Academy Orchestra of Canada and BrottOpera, a training program for emerging opera singers in the country. This year marks the 37th season, and it will be led by celebrated conductor Tania Miller for the first time. “My goal for the whole festival is to revitalize the way our audiences connect with music, creating experiences that are unexpected, emotionally moving, and relevant to our culture and community,” she states.

What’s Hot: On August 15th, embark on an emotional journey with Mahler’s legendary Symphony No. 5. Serving as this year’s finale showcase, the National Academy Orchestra of Canada will team up with alumni and guest artists from across North America in a performance dedicated to late founder Boris Brott.

What’s Cool: The season opener on June 20th is an immersive Beethoven experience complete with an afterparty. But wait, there’s more! Rather than the traditional separation of audience and stage, this performance will have musicians sitting alongside attendees. The repertoire includes Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major, K. 313, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, Op. 55 Eroica.

Why You Need to Be There: Brott’s commitment to the celebration of music alongside other art forms makes for a unique, inspiring experience. It’s an excellent gateway to the world of classical music, as its mission remains to enthrall people of every age, gender, and ethnicity.

The Westben Festival (Photo courtesy of Westben)
The Westben Festival (Photo courtesy of Westben)


Trent Hills, ON
June 30 – August 4

Celebrating 25 years of music in nature, Westben kicks off its annual summer festival with an anniversary concert on June 30th. Featuring over 20 different acts, the schedule promises a diverse lineup of musical experiences from forest bathing to campfire serenades.

What’s Hot: The Cape Breton-based family group the Barra MacNeils is one of the most anticipated acts this festival season — the demand for their show was so overwhelming that Wesben added a second performance. Hailing from Nova Scotia, the musical family weaves their Celtic heritage through energetic performances of strong vocals, instrumentals, and dancing.

What’s Cool: Closing off the festival are Canadian jazz icons Jackie Richardson and Joe Sealy, with a musical storytelling session from Sealy’s Juno-award-winning Africville Suite. The performance will take listeners on a journey through Africville, Canada’s oldest Black community. Established in 1847 on the north end of Halifax, Africville survived for more than a century until its final building was demolished in 1970. The stories and musical accompaniment are sure to be illuminating.

Why You Need to Be There: With three separate venues and a mindful approach to honouring the outdoor musical experience, Westben promises something for everyone. Eat good food, hear uplifting stories, and become one with nature.

Singer Julie Nesrallah (Photo courtesy of the Collingwood Festival)
Singer Julie Nesrallah (Photo courtesy of the Collingwood Festival)

Collingwood Music Festival

Collingwood, Ontario
July 5 – 12

From intimate chamber music to epic orchestras, the Collingwood Music Festival aims to make classical music and beyond accessible to the large summer tourist population in the Southern Georgian Bay area. There’s an array of free events for youth, special promotions for those who might face financial barriers when it comes to celebrating the arts, and a commitment to featuring diverse artists from a host of musical traditions.

What’s Hot: Join Montreal’s trailblazing duo Stick&Bow on July 7 for an afternoon of electric sounds. Canadian marimba player Krystina Marcoux and Argentinian cellist Juan Sebastian Delgado are known for combining their classically trained musical backgrounds with an array of musical stylings from rock to baroque. Expect to be surprised and delighted as they transform familiar works with their humor and storytelling.

What’s Cool: Considered one of the most important playwrights and influential Indigenous writers in Canada, Tomson Highway brings his cabaret show to Collingwood on July 11. Singer Patricia Cano and saxophonist Marcus Ali will accompany Highway as he performs “Songs in the Key of Cree,” a compilation of 12 songs he’s written over the past 30 years.

Why You Need to Be There: There’s a host of exciting free programming and a stellar lineup of performers. Paired with the gorgeous setting of Georgian Bay, the Collingwood Music Festival is well worth a week of your summer.

The Barn classical music venue (Photo courtesy of The Elora Festival)
The Barn (Photo courtesy of The Elora Festival)

The Elora Festival

Elora, Ontario
July 5 – 20

In its 45th season as Canada’s international choral festival, this year’s program in “Ontario’s Most Beautiful Village” promises over 20 events presented over three weekends in July. From candle-lit serenades to a morning hike scored by ensemble-in-residence The Elora Singers, there is much to hear and do.

What’s Hot: For over fifty years, The King’s Singers have been the pinnacle of a cappella singing across the world. On June 7th, audiences will get a chance to experience their indomitable technique and soaring vocals. Be prepared to have an emotional awakening at this special concert.

What’s Cool: Juno-award-winning pianist, vocalist, and songwriter Laila Biali will grace the stage on July 6th with a performance that’s been lauded by the Washington Post as masterfully mixed, concise, and catchy. Come for the reimagining of pop and jazz classics, stay for Biali’s storytelling and originals.

Why You Need to Be There: If you are a fan of transcendent experiences, you’ll want to check this out. There’s a nice selection of family-friendly programming including a free “Music in the Village” series and a musical crossover with the Festival of the Sound (Parry Sound), which is also celebrating its 45th anniversary.

Photo courtesy of Toronto Summer Music
Photo courtesy of Toronto Summer Music

Toronto Summer Music

Toronto, Ontario
July 11 – August 3

Both a festival and an academy, the Toronto Summer Music Festival highlights internationally renowned artists alongside emerging talent. This year’s theme is “Voices Within,” inviting artists to express the world as they see it through their musical stylings.

What’s Hot: Opening night will transport listeners to an enchanted forest with a new production of Purcell’s Fairy Queen. Choreographed by French multi-hyphenate Mourad Merzouki and conducted by William Christie and Paul Agnew, the show will feature eight soloists from all over the world to bring this dreamy score to life.

What’s Cool: Iranian musician Kiya Tabassian brings his musical ensemble Constantinople for a concert celebrating the intimate connection between humanity and nature in Monday’s Breathings. This performance is particularly special as the group invited Mi’kmaq and Inuit artists Darlene Gijuminag and Celina Kalluk respectively to help bring their vision to life.

Why You Need to Be There: Located in the heart of the city, the Toronto Summer Music Festival is easily accessible and carefully planned to provide an array of diverse artists. In one place, you can witness world-renowned musicians in collaboration with emerging stars.

Echo Chamber (Photo courtesy of Stratford Summer Music)
Echo Chamber (Photo courtesy of Stratford Summer Music)

Stratford Summer Music

Stratford, Ontario
July 18 – August 11

Beyond raising Justin Bieber, Stratford has cemented itself as a region rich in art thanks in part to the Stratford Summer Music Festival. Over 100 local, national, and international artists are set to perform in indoor and outdoor venues throughout downtown Stratford. “Behind the programming [this year] is the concept of legends, meaning things that would be legends both in terms of performers or ideas,” said artistic director Mark Fewer.

What’s Hot: Classical icon Angela Hewitt returns to the festival for the first time in six years. Lauded internationally for her interpretations of Bach, the repertoire on July 21 includes Partita No. 6 in E minor, as well as some Beethoven, Scarlatti, and Brahms.

What’s Cool: The Echo Chamber presents “A World Transformed” on August 8. Combining live chamber music and dance, this evening’s performance will tell the story of Matthew Shepard, a young gay student at the University of Wyoming who was tortured and left to die on October 6, 1998. News of his death would eventually lead to President Barack Obama signing into law the “Matthew Shepard Act” for hate crime prevention.

Why You Need to Be There: From the prestigious Viva Mexico Mariachi ensemble to the globe-trotting a capella duo Suba Sankaran and Dylan Bell to renditions of the classical icons we know and love, this year’s programming really is quite legendary in its diverse appeal.

The Toronto Mass Choir (Photo courtesy of TMC)
The Toronto Mass Choir (Photo courtesy of TMC)

Festival of the Sound

Parry Sound, Ontario
July 19 – August 3

A true pioneer, the Festival of the Sound was Ontario’s first annual international summer classical music festival. With an education mandate at its centre, the festival isn’t just for consumption. It also offers master classes, open rehearsals, and lectures delivered by musicians and composers. Now it’s celebrating 45 years — 40 of which have been under the tenure of artistic director James Campbell.
“The friendly buzz in the lobby before and after concerts, the beautiful sunsets at intermission, and the satisfaction of experiencing the spontaneous music-making of artists who love what they do will always be central to our character. This is Our Sound,” said Campbell.

What’s Hot: Join the Elmer Iseler Singers, Elora Festival, and Festival of the Sound for a once-in-a-generation performance of Carl Orff’s iconic Carmina Burana on July 21st. The same performance will be held at the Elora Festival — also celebrating its 45th year — the day before. Lydia Adams, conductor of the Iseler Singers, will join Mark Vuorinen, conductor of the Elora Singers, for an unforgettable evening.

What’s Cool: If you’ve never seen the Juno-winning Toronto Mass Choir, you can rectify that soon on August 1 at their Emancipation Day concert. They are a crowd favourite, and for good reason. You don’t need to be a particularly religious person to let the music move you to your feet. On y va.

Why You Need to Be There: The festival only gets better each year. It’s been awarded a Top 100 award from Festival and Events Ontario for the past four years, and it’s been recognized with a Lieutenant Governor’s Award for the Arts not once — but twice.

Ottawa’s Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre, one of the main venues for Ottawa Chamberfest
Ottawa’s Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre, one of the main venues for Ottawa Chamberfest

Ottawa Chamberfest

Ottawa, Ontario
July 25 – August 8

Another anniversary year for a summer festival — Chamberfest turns 30 and is going all out in celebration. “I’ve invited this year’s artists to champion something they’re excited about, whether that be a younger emerging artist, an underperformed composer, or something else they think is the “real deal” — and you’ll see this current running throughout the festival,” says artistic director Carissa Klopoushak.

What’s Hot: The closing ceremony on August 8th will feature a world premiere, fan favourites, and an introduction to the next generation of chamber music. Ottawa-based composer Kevin Lau will perform his piano quintet Song of the Quaking Aspens commissioned specially for this evening. Violist and composer Ryan Davis will make his debut to the Chamberfest audience with a performance of Brahms’ two-viola Quintet in G Major alongside the Ironwood Quartet.

What’s Cool: Fresh from her Carnegie Hall debut, Cris Derksen returns to the Chamberfest stage with singer Rebecca Benson for a genre-defying performance. Derksen, who was nominated for a Juno in 2016 for her album Orchestral Powwow Project, expertly weaves her Indigenous ancestry and classical training to produce an unparalleled sound. Catch her on August 2 at 9:30 p.m.

Why You Need to Be There: Chamberfest only turns 30 once. With the nation’s capital as the backdrop to this monumental event, you don’t want to miss the party.

The Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio singers (Photo courtesy of BIGLAKE Festival)
The Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio singers (Photo courtesy of BIGLAKE Festival)

BIGLAKE Festival

Prince Edward County, Ontario
August 23 – 31

Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said that “change is the only constant of life.” This year’s BIGLAKE Festival internalizes the sentiment in choosing evolution as its theme. Co-founder and artistic director Johannes Debus said they aim to “examine how profoundly interdependent various musical elements have always been, and the impact that changing even one single element has on another.” The festival will kick off with the evolution of the piano, featuring keyboardist Illya Polateav transporting audiences through the history of the instrument.

What’s Hot: If you’ve ever listened to Beethoven and thought, “I wish this would never end,” you’re in luck. On August 26th, a marathon performance of all 10 Beethoven sonatas for violin and piano will be played from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The three concerts will feature a star-studded lineup of pianists and violinists.

What’s Cool: The final concert of the festival invites all attendees to dress their best for a special evening of operatic magic courtesy of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio. Poised as one of the finest training groups for Canada’s young opera singers, this performance will showcase seven singers and two pianists from the COC.

Why You Need to Be There: BIGLAKE is a thoughtfully curated festival honouring various musical traditions and cultural influences. Each concert has been matched to the perfect county venue, ensuring the entire experience feels immersive. From candlelight performances to the popular musical and edible promenade, this week-long affair will be a treat for all senses.

Are you looking to promote an event? Have a news tip? Need to know the best events happening this weekend? Send us a note.


Get the daily arts news straight to your inbox.

Sign up for the Ludwig Van Toronto e-Blast! — local classical music and opera news straight to your inbox HERE.

Radiyah Chowdhury
Share this article
comments powered by Disqus


company logo

Part of

Terms of Service & Privacy Policy
© 2024 | Executive Producer Moses Znaimer