Sunday, August 2, 2015

‘Harmony’ festival gearing up

The inaugural “Harmony of Nations” Music Festival is shaping up to be an exciting event and people are urge to purchase their tickets soon.
“We’re hoping people buy sooner rather than later to make sure they get a ticket,” said event co-ordinator Shannon Darby, who is being assisted by a 15-member committee.

The festival, set to run July 18-19 under the big tent at the Sorting Gap Marina, aims to unite artists and audience members from First Nation, Métis, Canadian, and American communities in a creative, musical environment.
It features a solid lineup of highly-regarded musical entertainment by award-winning singer-songwriters and
up-and-coming local stars—ranging from folk and bluegrass to country and rock.
Both days also are filled with vendor displays, community performances, and interactive artist workshops.
“There’s a few last-minute details we are taking care of but it’s all coming together,” noted Darby, adding she expects the festival will offer something for people of all ages.
The headliners are Chad Brownlee, a country music singer/songwriter from Kelowna, B.C., and Canadian icon Buffy Sainte-Marie.
Then there are a number of featured artists, such as Sierra Noble, Shy-Anne Hovorka, Nick Sherman, Jean-Paul De Roover, and The Woodpicks.
Locals scheduled to perform include Alex Marusyk, Larissa Desrosiers, Percy Bird, Ben Sletmoen, Sandra Lori Allan, Jeremy Jordan, Jerome Tuesday, Mike McCaig, and the Sloughgrass Family Band.
“There’s so much talent in our area that we didn’t have to look too far to get some really great local musicians, but also award-winning feature acts,” Darby enthused.
Most of the artist also were quite happy to provide daytime workshops, as well as their evening performance, she added.
“When it comes to funding through grants, you get a lot of attention if you are able to incorporate education,” Darby explained, referring to why organizers chose to include workshops in the two-day event.
“Plus, in our area, we have less opportunity to take part in such events and workshops unless who are willing to travel to a bigger centre or bigger music festival,” she reasoned.
“It just seemed like an easy and interesting thing to put on.”
Darby also said it’s another way for the audience to get a chance to interact with the artists and to get more out of their visit to the community.
“It’s an opportunity for someone who is interested in song-writing to talk to someone who is very successful in it,” she remarked.
“Or someone who plays fiddle or banjo, or is interested in bluegrass, to actually have a lesson with a bluegrass group.”
Darby noted De Roover’s workshop should be particularly interesting.
“He uses electronic looping to make his music and he’s going to do a presentation [on that],” she said.
“I think there are a lot of young people that are interested in creating their own music in that way.”
Sainte-Marie’s presentation, meanwhile, will focus on her documentary entitled “A Multi-media Life,” which traces her experiences and observations from her start in the music industry during the 1960s to present day.
“She is just an incredibly interesting person and has a huge amount of life accomplishment, so I’m definitely looking forward to that,” Darby said, adding most of the workshops will be appropriate for all ages.
“There are a couple, such as the song-writing workshop with Shy-Anne Hovorka, which is recommended for ages 13 and up,” she noted.
“But most of the others are open to anyone and should be a lot of fun.”
The workshops are included in the price of a festival ticket, with most of the presentations taking place at the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre.
“We came up with the idea before the mill was completely shut down but we knew that the town needed something—and even something just for the morale boost,” Darby explained about why they decided to initiate the “Harmony of Nations” Music Festival.
“At the same time, we wanted to find something that was going to be unique—unique in the northwest, unique in Canada,” she stressed.
“We got thinking about our location; about how Fort Frances is close to so many different cultures and it sort of just naturally came together.
“People jumped on board because they loved the “harmony” idea, they loved that it’s a way to foster good relationships through the enjoyment of music,” added Darby, noting the event also came together relatively fast.
“Organization started in December and January, which is pretty crazy when you put together a big event like this,” she admitted.
“So we were pretty lucky to get some of the acts we did.
“It’s been a fair amount of work in a short amount of time, but it’s definitely coming together and we are developing a buzz about the event, so hopefully lots of people will come out,” said Darby.
“Lots of people have heard about it, or of some of the artists who are going to be performing and knew they were coming,” she added.
“It seems people really like the idea.”
Darby said there’s been a lot of good response in terms of the local musicians, such as Marusyk, Desrosiers, and even Cornshed, which features three Fort Frances natives.
“People are thrilled to be able to see their friends or family perform, but also perform at such an opportunity because we do have these big headliners coming in,” she remarked.
“And we have multiple successful artists coming in. I think the local musicians will bring a lot of people in.”
Darby added there’s also plenty of enthusiasm for the headliners.
“We’ve got a lot of great response to Buffy Sainte-Marie, people coming down from Red Lake, Thunder Bay, Nipigon,” she noted.
“And then at the same time, there is sort of a difference audience to see Chad Brownlee,” she said. “A couple of younger people have said they like his music and are excited he’s coming.
“So those two are going to be big highlights,” Darby enthused.
Darby also is hoping to see a large crowd turn out.
“It’s sort of a way to use our culture as economic development,” she explained.
“We are a unique place being right on the border, on the lakes, so we are hoping to get a lot of people from around the northwest and hopefully up from the States, as well.”
Tickets cost $60 for an adult two-day pass or $35 for a one-day pass, with children’s tickets (age three-12) costing $24 and $12, respectively.
They can be purchased online at or locally at the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre, Cloverleaf Grocery in Emo, and The Coffee Landing in International Falls.
Workshops will be held in the morning and wrap up by 2 p.m., with the main site opening at 2 p.m.
Musical acts will take to the stage around 3 p.m., with the feature acts beginning around 5 p.m. and wrapping up around 11 p.m.
Alcohol will be served from 5-11 p.m. in a designated part of the tent.
For more information and the complete schedule, visit

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