In 2008, after 53 years of bringing some of the world’s best chamber music to Edmonton and area audiences, The Edmonton Chamber Music Society launched a new initiative – the Summer Solstice Music Festival.
When the Summer Solstice Music Festival was envisioned, there was no summer chamber music festival in the Edmonton region and the opportunity to bring a festival focus to the genre was unexplored. In that first year Dr. Patricia Tao took on the role of artistic director; a role she has continued in since.
The vision behind the Festival was novel in presentation. The Festival would place emphasis on bringing together musicians who did not routinely perform together. It was hoped that by bringing together less formal groupings of musicians, that the resulting collaborations would have the effect of pushing the boundaries of regular chamber music fare and blurring the lines between traditional classical music and other genres of music that could be fit into the intimate format of a chamber music performance.
Over the years this vision has grown to include novel venues and musical programs.
Some boundary-pushing chamber music performance highlights you may remember from past Summer Solstice Music Festivals include; in 2014 when famed soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian and flamenco guitarist Grisha Goryachev led a journey of discovery into the musical soul of Spain; the 2015 performance by erhu master George Gao; and in 2012 when Stephen Prutsman played a live musical accompaniment to a Buster Keaton silent film.
Paco de Lucia's "Almoraima" - Grisha Goryachev
Soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian | Erhu artist George Gao | Pianist Stephen Prutsman
The Summer Solstice Music Festival now always includes a more intimate concert held in an alternative venue such as the Yellowhead Brewery, where patrons can sit together at tables to eat, drink, and enjoy the music.
It also always includes a free noon hour concert in the Art Gallery of Alberta. In 2019 that concert was held on the main floor, which was open to the public and just visible through the Gallery windows to passersby. In this setting patrons were able to combine two complementary art forms in one visit – chamber music and fine art.
The Yellowhead Brewery
The music also pushed at the boundaries of regular chamber music fare. In 2018 the St. Lawrence String Quartet handed out egg shakers and asked the audience to accompany them on percussion, and they ended the evening with a sing-along version of Yesterday. In 2019 clarinetist James Campbell and friends mixed traditional chamber music with a touch of Brazilian jazz.
St. Lawrence String Quartet | Clarinetist James Campbell
The commitment to expanding perception and boundaries of the chamber music genre has not waned during the COVID-19 break. When Edmonton’s only summer chamber music festival returns next year it will proudly carry on the tradition of framing this historic musical genre in new ways and mixing the classics of the past with the classics of the modern era.
What would you like to see and hear when the music returns in 2021?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.