Midsummer attracts marquee names

Shad and iskwē will perform in the headliner slots at the annual music festival

Shad will perform in the headline slot Friday night at the 2019 Midsummer Music Festival. (Facebook photo)

Midsummer Music Festival is going big this year.

The Bulkley Valley Folk Music Society has released its lineup for the 2019 festival and its headliners are Shad and iskwē, two internationally-acclaimed artists.

Brennan Anderson, artistic director of the festival, said there were two main factors that allowed BVFMS to attract the marquee acts.

“Michael Henfrey helped me to hook up with various businesses, some businesses gave us $100, some gave us $3,000 and we just kept fundraising until we have enough for Shad,” he said

“We also got a lot of grants this year. Christie Mayall helped with grant writing, of which we were very successful. We’ve been working really hard at it and basically doubled our budget.”

Some of the grant money, through the province’s Community Resilience through Arts and Culture program and the BC Arts council, is paying for a cross-cultural collaboration between the Wet’suwet’en drum and dance group Ewk Hiyah Hozdli and four touring musicians from around Canada, Juno award-winning drummer Ben Brown of the Pugs and Crows, iskwē, Nick Schofield (of L CON), and Ora Cogan.

“A residency will take place before the festival, where travelling musicians will visit unceded Gitdumden Territory and learn traditional songs song by Ewk Hiyah Hozdli,” Anderson said in an email.

“Practices will take place all week, and Ewk Hiyah Hozdli will be represented by two singers Molly Wickham and Cody Merriman. Ora Cogan and iskwē will learn melodies to traditional songs and sing with them. Ben Brown will fill in the percussion on drums, and Nick Schofield will take samples from Gitdumden territory and create an ambient soundscape. All players will play together on Friday night on the Main Stage at 10 p.m.”

Two other residencies are also scheduled.

Ben Brown will also be involved in a collaboration with drummer Brad Weber from the band Caribou and Miriam Colvin and four other local dancers.

Finally, the Montreal band Maz, who play progressive traditional Quebecois music, will collaborate with the Youth Valley Fiddlers for two days before the festival and perform two sets during the festival.

The residencies are a bit of a departure for Midsummer.

“We were a workshop-heavy festival in the past,” Anderson said. “We don’t have much this year other than direct involvement between the touring artists and the locals. “We’re trying to change the model.

“The mandate of the BVFMS is to bring in local musicians to workshop and to understand and to play and learn from professionals, so we wanted to do that in a meaningful way, so not just giving locals stage time, but also hooking them up with other bands that are travelling, that are doing it for a living.”

Also on the festival lineup are Maz, Petunia and the Vipers, Ora Cogan, Mahogany Frog, Ewk Hiyah Hozdli, Pick a Piper, Nick Schofield, Bobs and Lolo, L CON and more than 40 local acts.

Anderson is hoping to leverage this year’s successes into growing the festival even more.

“I think once we get all this local sponsorship we’re going to bring more people into town because we have bigger acts and so the idea is that it will snowball,” he said, referencing a recent study done by Liliana Dragowska about the economic impact of music.

Dragowska noted it is really difficult to quantify the total economic impact of music locally, but estimated the four main festivals alone contribute $1.1 million annually.

“Midsummer Music Festival has made a lot of money for this town, bringing a lot people in,” Anderson said. “But also we rely on local sponsors to help us out too, so it’s like this little local family, everybody hugging everybody and helping each other; it’s great.”

The festival will take place July 5-7. Advance tickets are currently on sale.

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