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Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The Scotia Festival of Music continues to push musical boundaries in 2024

With 16 concerts and 60 public events scheduled for this year's Scotia Festival of Music, Simon Docking says there is something for everyone at this year's festival of chamber music.

With 16 concerts and 60 public events scheduled for this year’s Scotia Festival of Music, the festival’s managing and artistic director, Simon Docking, says there is something for everyone as the festival prepares to launch its 2024 edition on May 27.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a classical music person, our diverse lineup has something for everyone. – Simon Docking

“It’s absolutely impossible for me to pick something that I’m most excited about, as there are just so many things packed into these two weeks,” he says.

But while the sheer volume of music offered at this year’s festival, including concerts, masterclasses, open rehearsals, and more, makes it difficult for Docking to pick a few highlights, he is particularly enthusiastic about two special free events.

One honours the legacy of Chris Wilcox, the festival’s founder and artistic director, for nearly forty years. The multimedia concert will feature music programmed partly by Wilcox himself before his passing, including Beethoven’s last string quartet, Four Rags for Two Jons by American composer John Novacek, and a movement from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Sonata No. 2, a piece played at the very first Scotia Festival in 1980.

This year's Scotia Festival of Music is dedicated to its founder and former artistic director Chris Wilcox, who led the organization for nearly forty years.
This year’s Scotia Festival of Music is dedicated to its founder and former artistic director, Chris Wilcox, who led the organization for nearly forty years.

“Chris was also very active in bridge, folk art and antique collecting, so we will have some people speaking from those communities,” says Docking. “And towards the end of his life he also got into drawing, so we’re going to be projecting some of his own art during the concert as well.”

The second free event is Music Across the Water, a one-of-a-kind experience on June 3. On this day, musicians will be positioned around the Northwest Arm, playing music written by Halifax composer India Gailey.

“Picture 10 or 12 musicians at the park in front of the Dingle Tower, and then some more musicians on the Halifax side,” says Docking. “Our audience will be mostly in the park, but we’re encouraging people to get into their boats and experience the music from the water as well.”

For those unfamiliar with chamber music, Docking explains it is all about smaller ensembles, typically ranging from one musician per part to a maximum of 12 or 14 players. Instruments can vary greatly, with the festival featuring everything from a marimba duo to a piece for four violins by Polish composer Grazyna Bacewicz.

The festival also embraces contemporary music and isn’t afraid to push boundaries. One example is Drumming by American minimalist Steve Reich, a piece for nine percussion players, two vocalists, and a piccolo, which Montreal’s Architek Percussion will perform. “It’s a real classic of modern music, and I think it’s the first time it’s been done in Halifax,” says Docking.

Montreal's Architek Percussion will perform Steve Reich's Drumming on June 7 at the Scotia Festival of Music. Photo by Alex Tran.
Montreal’s Architek Percussion will perform Steve Reich’s Drumming on June 7 at the Scotia Festival of Music—photo by Alex Tran.

Refusing to draw a hard line between classical music and other genres, Docking says the mix offered remains one of the festival founder Chris Wilcox’s biggest legacies. “We have lots of traditional music from the likes of Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms but we also do a lot of new music,” he says. “I counted at least six pieces by living Canadian composers this year.”

The festival also features a young artist program in which 42 music students receive mentorship from world-class professionals. The program culminates in an orchestral concert in which the students perform alongside their mentors. “We’re going to have 70 people on stage playing Stravinsky’s Firebird, Ravel’s La Valse, Mozart’s clarinet concerto, and more. It is going to be an amazing concert conducted by Alain Trudel from Quebec, who has a long history with the festival.”

Calling the 2024 Scotia Festival of Music a “smorgasbord,” Docking is excited about what the festival offers this year. “We have so much going on, and I’m excited about every night,” he says. “Even if you don’t consider yourself a classical music person, our diverse lineup has something for everyone”

The 2024 Scotia Festival of Music takes place from May 27 to June 9. Visit scotiafestival.com for tickets and information.

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