Performers tuned in to Forest Festival 0
Russell deCarle, left, of Prairie Oyster will be joining Steve Briggs and his band the Bebop Cowboys for some Western Swing at this year’s Forest Festival, held at the Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve from Aug. 15 to 19. /Photo submitted
Some are looking forward to the fresh air.
Others seek the thrill of hearing their instrument or voice reverberate off the water.
But what they all have in common is the excitement of playing in the Highlands.
The line-up of talent for this year’s Forest Festival all have unique and different styles.
Set to take place from Aug. 15 to the 19, the annual festival will once again invade the Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve with an eclectic collection of musical genres.
Performers include John McDermott, The Jim Cuddy Trio, Amanda Martinez, Hilario Duran and Jane Bunnett, The Bebop Cowboys with Russell DeCarle and the Suzie Vinnick Trio.
Taking place at either the Bone Lake Amphitheatre or the Historic Logging Museum, each show does undoubtedly delight audiences as much as it will those on stage.
While the Highlands is no stranger to opera performances, the festival will provide an outdoor venue for the Highlands Opera Studio, which will open the event with an excerpts concert.
Celebrated musician John McDermott will be bringing his melodic, tenor voice to Haliburton County on Aug. 17.
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, McDermott has become one of Canada’s most recognizable imports, singing the national anthem at the opening of Toronto Maple Leafs games and recording a famous version of Danny Boy.
This November, McDermott, 57, will be celebrating his 20th year as a professional musician.
While somewhat reluctant to take the plunge into the music industry, the decision has been a wise one for the singer, who has gone on to earn international accolades, sell platinum records and tour throughout the world.
“It’s been a really, really interesting journey. I’ve seen most of the world, been places a lot of people have never been,” he said.
One place McDermott hasn’t visited is Haliburton, although he almost bought a house in the county about 10 years ago before settling down just north of Parry Sound.
The singer is looking forward to spending time in the Highlands this August.
“We’ve heard a lot of good things about it,” he said.
McDermott, along with his band accompaniment, will be performing songs from two recently released albums, The Old House and My Gentle Harp at the festival.
“I never did like the idea of being pigeon-holed as a traditional Celtic singer … most of our stuff is traditional and contemporary folk.”
And of course the performance will include McDermott’s rendition of Danny Boy.
“I can’t do a gig without it, that seems to be the law.”
McDermott is familiar with other performers at the festival, including fiddler Anne Lindsay who splits her talent with the tenor and the Jim Cuddy Trio.
But the singer isn’t sure he will follow the example Lindsay has set.
“Anne played Haliburton and after her show she just put down her fiddle and dove into the lake,” said McDermott.
With a concert venue next to a lake, opportunities are bound to present themselves, something Amanda Martinez is looking forward to.
The Latin jazz singer and musician will be bringing her world music to the lakeside stage for the first time at this year’s festival.
A singer her whole life, Martinez became a professional musician 11 years ago.
“Growing up I loved music but never thought of it as a career,” she said.
Following a degree in biology and a master’s in international business, Martinez worked in the banking world before pursuing her dream.
The child of a Mexican mother and South African father, the singer doesn’t have to look far to find musical influences of a worldly nature.
“Both my parents have a huge record collection that I would listen to growing up … and my family is musical, I was just immersed in it,” she said
Singing mostly in Spanish, Martinez writes a lot of her own music.
Martinez along with her band will be bringing an international sound to the Haliburton Forest, where her music will be filled with Brazilian beats, Spanish Flamenco and Cuban rhythms.
“I’m really looking forward to bringing the Latin spice and sounds up there and looking forward to having an audience that we can take away, without having to leave Haliburton.”
Steve Briggs of The Bebop Cowboys is also looking forward to bringing a new sound to the festival in the way of western swing.
Russell de Carle of Prairie Oyster, who took to the festival’s stage last year, will accompany the group.
With seven musicians set to hit the stage, Briggs describes the group’s sound as “dance music with fiddles, accordions and steel guitars.”
“I call western swing one of the lost tribes of jazz … it originated out of Texas and Oklahoma,” said Briggs.
Upbeat and funky, the genre was a precursor to rock and roll, said Briggs, who believes the style also has elements of blues, bluegrass and country to it.
The band will be performing songs off their recent album, Canadian Dance Hall, which features Canadian talent such as Sarah Harmer, Wendell Ferguson and Chris Whiteley.
“We have fun every time we’re playing…we really, really enjoy ourselves,” said Briggs, who performed at last year’s festival.
Another frequent performer in the Highlands is Suzie Vinnick, who will be performing with Rick Fines and Roly Platt to close out the festival.
“Rick and Roly are pretty bluesy and I like to mix it up, but I think we will be a bluesy set. It’s always a treat getting to work with those two; it will be nice and intimate,” said Vinnick.
Playing guitar since she was nine years old, Vinnick has spent a lifetime as a musician and singer/songwriter.
With music appearances at past Winter Folk Camps and courses she has taught at Fleming College, Vinnick loves many things about the Highlands.
“When I taught at Winter Folk Camp it was amazing to spend a few days up there … we got out for a snowshoe on our last day there and I just remember my body and my lungs saying don’t leave. It was amazing to be in all that fresh air,” she said.
For more information on the Forest Festival, including concert details and how to get tickets, visit www.theforestfestival.com or contact festival director Sean Pennylegion at 705-754-2198 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.