June 23, 2020
The SweetWater Music Festival, like so many other arts and culture organizations, is adjusting to the new realities of the COVID-19 era. The 17th Festival (scheduled for September 18-20) will be postponed until September 2021. In its place, SweetWater will stage a multifaceted, multi-platform music experience from late summer to late fall, SweetWater Surreal.
The alternative music offerings were developed throughout spring 2020 by SweetWater staff in consultation with the Board of Directors. It will include featured concerts as well as small-scale, live concerts to be held in outdoor locations throughout Owen Sound, Meaford and local environs. From September 17 and 20, a string quartet led by Artistic Director Edwin Huizinga will perform classical works at various locations to be announced. Events will comply to health guidelines and physical distancing as well as other measures will be taken to ensure the safety of all involved.
Online/virtual options will naturally be part of the music mix including concert livestreams along with other virtual music offerings. Plus, there will be other interactive opportunities with some of SweetWater’s musicians.
Depending on health guidelines, indoor concerts with limited audiences and physical distancing may also take place later this year. Outreach and music education activities for all ages will also be happening designed for the “new normal”.
“After what all of us have experienced since March, we need music more than ever,“ says Huizinga. “I strongly feel we need to provide alternative ways for everyone in our community to connect to music. Some of this is going to be new for both SweetWater and my fellow musicians but it’s something we have to do.”
Huizinga adds the name Surreal came up while he and SweetWater Manager Paul Eichhorn developed options for the coming year.
“What we’re experiencing is literally surreal. It’s the perfect way to describe 2020.”
SweetWater Board Chair Lynda Montgomery emphasized how important it was for SweetWater to continue to make the music happen in 2020.
“Much like Edwin, we share his passion to ensure there’s music happening this year. It’s true our offerings in 2020 will be much different than our usual September festival programme. That said, we believe we can still be true to our mission to ‘showcase the world’s best performers providing audiences with unique, intimate and cutting-edge musical experiences’. It’s going to be fun and a chance to enjoy amazing music.”
Montgomery stressed that SweetWater Surreal will provide a variety of music offerings to accommodate the needs and comfort levels of all ages.
SweetWater recently launched Front Row, which will be a key feature of SweetWater Surreal. This online feature provides up and close and personal opportunities to hear about a performer’s life and career as well as his/her music. The first segment focused on multi-talented violinist Jaron Freeman-Fox. Watch for the first Surreal Episode of Front Row on August 27 featuring violist Keith Hamm.
SweetWater Surreal plan is designed so it can be easily adjusted no matter how things evolve on the COVID-19 front over the coming weeks and months. The staff considered this contingency crucial for the organization to move ahead in 2020.
SweetWater is grateful for ongoing support of its many private donors, corporate partners, private foundations (especially the Leflar Foundation), and key public funders (Canadian Heritage, Ontario Arts Council, Municipality of Meaford).