A Fitting Festival Finale for the Fewer Era of SweetWater
Sept. 24, 2018
Mark Fewer promised an extra-special SweetWater Music Festival in 2019 as he was overseeing his final Festival as Artistic Director. It would be an understatement to say, he didn't disappoint the many patrons who enjoyed unforgettable musical moments over the three-day Festival from September 20-22.
“After 16 years, SweetWater feels firmly established in the community. I’ve been honored to have guests from around the world come to the shores of Georgian Bay all these years and contribute their artistic excellence to uplift all who attended," said Fewer following the conclusion of SweetWater 2019. "It was an emotional goodbye for me, but I know that Edwin (Huizinga) will take the torch and keep the fire burning for years to come.”
The Festival opened with Friday night's sold out Opening Night Gala, Everything Old is New Again featuring the music of Handel. Along with past SweetWater performers including flutist Rachel Brown, harpsichordist Kenneth Slowik, violinist Adrian Butterfield, and cellist David Herthington, it marked the SweetWater debut of world-famous countertenor Daniel Taylor and soprano Ellen McAteer. Taylor's performance of Domero was a particular showstopper for anyone in attendance at the Historic Leith Church.
Saturday began at Owen Sound's Harmony Centre for four free, music-focused activities and events great for all ages. Mozart for Munchkins saw little ones (and big ones) jumping, clapping and doing all kinds of other things to music provided by violinist Edwin Huizinga and guitarist Graham Campbell. The kids then enjoyed playing instruments during the Musical Petting Zoo. The sound of music was alive in the concert hall.
This year's Classical Jam saw the largest turnout ever for the community play along led by SweetWater's incoming Artistic Director Edwin Huizinga. The players enjoyed performing movements from Greig's Holberg Suite. Joining them were several SweetWater performers.
Another SweetWater tradition returned, the String Instrument Showcase. It featured 11 of Canada's top luthiers and intrument makers (a record exhibitor turnout). It was not only great way for the public to see the instruments up close but also meet the makers. Many SweetWater performers also checked out what the luthiers had to offer.
It was fitting that the Showcase was followed by a special Luthier Performance & Talk. This year's event featured performances and informative talks about violins, music and much more. It began with a free preview of the work by Haydn being performed at the Sunday Matinee Finale. Afterwards moderator Robert Harris (of CBC Radio and Globe & Mail fame) sat down for a chat about SweetWater and music with Mark Fewer and Edwin Huizinga. Harris also talked with the exhibting luthiers. A highlight was the presentation of a violin made by five of the luthiers to Mark Fewer to mark his final Festival. Fewer was visibly-moved by this surprise from the luthiers.
Saturday Early Evening Beginnings & Endings was in many ways the perfect SweetWater concert: classical, jazz, and contemporary. It started with a performance of work by Bach featuring Rachel Brown and Kenneth Slowik. That was followed by a performance of Ayre, a new work by Canadian Michael Osterle featuring Mark Fewer and percussionist Aiyun Huang. The second half was dedicated to a reworked version of David Braid's Juno-winning Liuyang River Rhapsody performed by an all-star line up. The evening later moved down the street for some Late Night Jazz, After Hours Once Again. Everyone enjoyed an entertaining late evening sold out concert with violinist Drew Jurecka, Graham Campbell, and bassist Joseph Phillips.
SweetWater 2019 concluded with Reasons to Celebrate at the Roxy. The Sunday Matinee Finale had the largest audience ever for a SweetWater concert. The concert marked Mark Fewer's final appearance on stage as Festival Artistic Director. Fewer was joined by Huizinga, Keith Hamm and Julie Hereish for a performance of Haydn's String Quartet Opus 77. Then Fewer and Huizinga surprised everyone with a special performance of a "Trip-Hop, Death Metal, Hillbilly" work by Matthew Hindson, Little Chrissietian's Magic Fantasy that few will ever forget. Fewer then took a seat for the final act, a performance of Vivaldi's Gloria directed by Kenneth Slowik and featuring most of the SweetWater 2019 performers along with Daniel Taylor and University of Toronto Schola Cantorum. This was another SweetWater performance that will be remembered for years.
The concert ended with a tribute to Fewer. The SweetWater Board and Festival Manager came on stage to present the outgoing Artistic Director with two special gifts to mark his contribution to SweetWater over 16 years. It was a moving moment for all present, especially for Fewer.
"The 16th SweetWater Festival was exceptional in so many ways - the last festival with founding artistic director Mark Fewer, the introduction of Edwin Huizinga, our new artistic director, and bigger than ever audiences," says Board Chair Colleen Purdon. "It was a joyous celebration of all that Mark Fewer’s vision and commitment to musical excellent and community connection - a celebration of outstanding artistry from classical, contemporary and jazz traditions."
Incoming Artistic Director Edwin Huizinga, who was prominent throughout the weekend, was also quite moved by the weekend of music.
"2019 was an absolutely extraordinary festival that I will never forget. Mark and the community have created something beautiful, A festival I believe in with my whole heart, and one I am so looking forward to continue for years to come.”
During the Festival weekend, Board Chair Colleen Purdon also provided an update about the formal establishment of the Mark Fewer Legacy Fund. The Fund, managed by the Ontario Arts Foundation, will support the Artistic Direction and Development of SweetWater as exemplified by Mark's leadership, artistic excellence and vision.
SweetWater 2019 once again reached out into the community by having a featured SweetWater performer visit local schools. Percussionist Mark Adam spoke to music students at East Ridge Community School in Owen Sound and later held a session at Saugeen District Secondary School in Port Elgin. Adam also had a chance to do a workshop with some of the aspiring percussionists.
A special thanks to all the many partners, donors, and volunteers for making the Festival possible.
The 17th Festival will take place September 18 to 20, 2020. Watch for details about performers and more later this year and into early 2020.