Friday, July 1, 2016

Looking at music festivals to light up your summer in Niagara and beyond

On this Canada Day, now the kids are out of school and many are planning summer outings both near and far, I thought it would be a good time to start reviewing some of the excellent music festivals in and around the Niagara area.

This is not a complete list, mind you, as I will be highlighting more later in the month.  But for now, these are ones to watch and definitely take in no matter what your musical interests might happen to be.

Just over the border in Lewiston, New York, the Artpark summer music series is now underway, and the main amphitheatre will be buzzing with excitement throughout the next couple of months.  The always popular Tuesdays in the Park series is already underway, with The Band Perry coming up July 5th, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals July 12th and Tears for Fears July 19th.  Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo team up with Melissa Etheridge to wrap up the month on July 26th.

In August, Tuesdays in the Park presents Yes on the 2nd, Rain - A Tribute to The Beatles on the 9th, Styx on the 16th and Boz Scaggs with Don McLean on the 23rd.  Of particular interest on this side of the border is the Canadian Hall of Fame show starring The Burton Cummings Band, April Wine and Buffy Sainte-Marie on the 30th.

Also coming up on July 24th will be the annual summer appearance at Artpark of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Joann Falletta, featuring pianist Igor Lipinski.  This will be an all-Beethoven program starting at 3 in the afternoon.

For more on the Artpark summer events, go to

Also in Lewiston, the Lewiston Council on the Arts presents their annual Summer of '69 concert in The Gazebo at 4th and Centre Streets in the heart of town, featuring artists like Gary Baker, the Loved Ones, the County Orphanage, Lewiston All-Stars and the Invaders.  Best of all, the concert is free!

The Blue Mondays series gets underway on July 11th with Maria Aurigema performing, Billy McEwen & Soul Invaders on the 18th, Steve Burnside & the Original Marquis on the 25th, and the Jeremy Keyes Band wraps up the series on August 1st.

There is lots more planned for the Town of Lewiston this summer, so check out the details by going to

On this side of the border and just beyond the lovely city of Guelph is the ever-popular Elora Festival, now in its 37th year in Elora, Ontario.  This remains the penultimate summer music festival in Ontario, I think, with Artistic Director Noel Edison programming 24 performances at 6 intimate venues all in one world-class festival.

The Elora Festival runs from July 8th to the 24th this year, with performances ranging from a 40th Anniversary concert by the dual-piano team of Anagnoson & Kinton on July 9th to Montreal cellist Thomas Chartre playing music by Arvo Part, Faure and Mendelssohn on July 21st.

The Opening Night Gala at the Gambrel Barn features Mozart's Requiem Mass in D Minor along with River of Life by acclaimed Canadian composer Tim Corlis.  The concert begins at 7:30 pm on July 8th.

New this year is a Starlight Jazz Series under the tent at Grand River Raceway on Saturday evenings at 9:30, and I plan to attend the first of these on July 9th with Elizabeth Shepherd and Kevin Breit performing.  On the 16th it is Tim Louis & The Ambassadors performing in the tent.

Other performances worth noting at the Elora Festival are Niagara-born baritone Russell Braun on July 9th at 4 pm; The Barra MacNeils at 7:30 in the evening, and a rare appearance by the group Chanticleer on July 15th at 7:30 pm.

My wife and I always enjoy our summer trips to Elora, both for the concerts of course and also to just escape and enjoy one of the prettiest towns anywhere.

For more on the Elora Festival, go to

Closer to home, our own Music Niagara festival kicks off officially July 16th at 7:30 pm with the Syrene Quartet, the Music Niagara Performance Academy Orchestra and the Camerata Ensemble with special guest Barbara Croall.

Other performances at Music Niagara this summer include The Penderecki String Quartet on July 18th, a concert entitled Sunset with Julie Nesrallah on July 23rd, and something called Brahms and Beer on July 25th at 5:30 in the afternoon.  The concert is an all-Brahms affair on the lawn of St. Mark's Church with a picnic and craft beers featured as well.

The popular jazz concerts late Saturday evenings continue at the Epicurean Bistro in Niagara-on-the-Lake with The Mike Field Quintet on July 30th, The John Sherwood Trio performing August 6th and The Paul Pacanowski Mellifluence Trio on the 13th.

Other performances of note this year include The Toronto All-Star Big Band on August 1st and the Thorold Reed Band in Simcoe Park on July 31st at 2 pm.

For more on Music Niagara and the entire lineup, go to

Finally, the Niagara Jazz Festival returns for three days at the end of July, from the 29th to the 31st at various locations around Niagara.  The festival offers both free and ticketed events, including a free event at Market Square in downtown St. Catharines from 7 to 9 pm on July 29th, featuring winners of Jazz for the Ages Youth Contest.

The flagship launch event that evening takes place at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre at 8 pm with Manteca and Dave Restivo headlining along with Cinnamon Jones and Alex Pangman.

Highlights on Saturday July 30th include Liberty Silver presenting a vocal master class from 3 to 4 in the afternoon at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library and then joining Cinnamon Jones in concert at Southbrook Vineyards.  There is also the Jazz in the Park event with three stages set up at Simcoe Park in Niagara-on-the-Lake, running from 11 am to 7 pm, and it is absolutely free.  Artists for that concert include Alex Pangman, John Sherwood, Barbara Mantini, Joel Parisien and many others.

For more on the Niagara Jazz Festival go to

Of course, you can also check out the Calendar page on my website, for complete concert listings as well.  I am currently updating the entire summer schedule over the next couple of weeks.

Later this month, more on the many summer music festivals you can attend both far and near, and hear some great music.

Have a great Canada Day weekend!

July 1st, 2016.

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