Sweetwater Music Festival 2012 report
The SweetWater Music Festival programmed and hosted another successful season, its ninth since its foundation in 2004, with Mark Fewer at the helm as Artistic Director.
Mark Fewer is an internationally renowned artist and teacher whose recent and upcoming concerts include world premieres, early music, jazz and many genres in between. Since 2010 he has been featured on eight new recordings, culminating in a 2012 Juno award for Changing Seasons, and a Prix Opus award for Migrations. As a chamber musician he is a regular member of the Duke Piano Trio, and the Smithsonian Chamber Players. Mr. Fewer was concertmaster of the Vancouver Symphony from 2004-2008. He is currently Chair of the String Area at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University.
This season saw many highlights including a return visit from our local luthiers (instrument makers) as well as main stage performances by three 2012 Juno Award winners: Phil Dwyer, David Braid, and Mark Fewer. In addition, a new departure – the Sunday Jazz Brunch – was a sold out house and audience feedback was universally positive.
Audience numbers were on the whole satisfactory: 80% capacity on Friday night at the Leith Church, 50% capacity on Saturday evening (Georgian Shores United Church) and 100% on Sunday (jazz brunch at the Inn on the Bay). Our audience members came from communities throughout Grey and Bruce including: Lion’s Head, Kincardine, Thornbury, Meaford, Markdale, Paisley, Chatsworth, Wiarton, Durham, Southampton, Holstein, Ayton, Walkerton and Owen Sound. We are pleased that many came from many communities further afield including: Williamstown, Waterloo, Ottawa, Toronto, Guelph, Orillia, Brampton and Mississauga. A key target for our tenth season will be to increase capacity for Saturday evening to 80% and we intend to do so by introducing an early bird festival rate and by lowering ticket prices overall.
In the 2012 season for the first year we introduced a $10 student rate ($40 and $45 for adults) and we particularly enjoyed seeing one grandfather who brought all four of his grandchildren to the Saturday night Main Stage concert. Also noteworthy is the nursery school teacher who brought one of her four year old students to the Saturday pre-concert because she said, “He just loves Bach!” (Kenneth Slowik, Goldberg Variations). Moving forward, in the 2013 season finding ways to attract children and youth to festival events will continue to be of critical importance, and we will continue to highlight the free and pay-what-you-can events that are now part of the festival.
Over thirty volunteers, in addition to our volunteer board, assisted in the lead up to festival weekend and throughout the weekend in a variety of ways: providing meals and billeting accommodation to artists; front of house management; stage management; poster and brochure distribution; a pre-festival mail-out; staffing community tables at Summerfolk and the farmers’ market; promotion via social media; hosting and staffing post-concert receptions. During the Friday main stage event at the Leith Church we were ably supported by the Historic Leith Church team of volunteers.
We conducted an audience survey at each festival concert and had an over 30% return rate. Here is a sample of some of the audience comments:
Concert One – Leith Church:
• “Vivaldi was fun but Bach was glorious!”
• “Very eclectic!! Loved the Butterfield/Fewer chemistry!”
• “Everything, but Philippe Sly was amazing.”
• “Philippe Sly singing! Also discussion of von Biber & the Buxtehude.”
Concert Two – Saturday Classical Jazz Crossover Concert:
• “An amazing concert, loved the original compositions!”
• “String quartet combination with Jazz quartet.”
• “The fun everyone was having, the informality and the intimacy plus the acoustic sound without amplification.”
• “It was all good – especially enjoyed the jazz classical crossover.”
• “Phil Dwyer linking of Bach and jazz.”
Sunday Jazz Brunch:
• “Everything – pace of the event, food, & music choices were wonderful!”
• “Good food & company – fantastic musicians.”
• “Food good, musicians amazing!”
• “Relaxed, informal event. Good way to finish the festival.”
• “Great music, great food. Top marks.”
• “Relaxed atmosphere, great jazz, variety of jazz, good energy, very good food.”
SweetWater continues to bring world-class music to our community only with your generous support. Therefore, in conclusion, we very sincerely and enthusiastically thank the Leflar Foundation for its financial support to our international standard classical music festival. It has been our pleasure, with your help, to bring the best in Canada right here to our ‘SweetWater’ shores.