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Chet Greason photo

Chet Greason photo

Artistic director John Miller addresses the gathered crowd at the Stratford Public Library's Thursdays @ Noon session regarding this year's Stratford Summer Music line-up.

Stratford Summer Music 2014 line-up can’t be beat

Chet Greason, cgreason@stratfordgazette.com

Stratford Summer Music will be dancing to the beat of a different drum this year; several different drums, in fact.

That’s because a major theme this year is percussion.

Artistic director John Miller explained, during a presentation at the Stratford Public Library’s Thursdays @ Noon series, that percussion instruments “are the oldest instruments outside of the human voice.”

He said percussion fell out of fashion in some parts of the world for a long time, but saw a resurgence over the past 150 years.

In recognition of this, the annual summer music festival, which runs from July 14 to August 24, will transform Tom Patterson Island to “Tom Percussion Island” for one week (July 14-20). New instruments, all percussion, will be installed on the island for one week, free to be beaten, rattled, smashed, and shook by visitors. One large drum is being made from the trunk of a large, hollowed-out tree. Patrons will be given drumsticks once across the bridge, (and earplugs, if they desire them.) There will also be a maze of gongs and a dinosaur made out of musical instruments.

Miller said the installation is to “show young people the fun of percussion.”

In all there will be over 100 different performances to see at Stratford Summer Music.

“It’s going to be a great season,” said Miller.

Here is a sample of some of the acts available. For more information, check out the event’s webpage at www.stratfordsummermusic.ca.

• TorQ, an Ontario-based percussion quartet, have been chosen as this year’s artists-in-residence. They’ll be performing unannounced “pop-up” sessions throughout the season, largely in areas populated by young people. They’ll also be holding a number of ticketed events, one of which will feature noted German percussionist/composer Nebojsa Zivkovic, who will double as a guest lecturer at the TorQ Percussion seminar (July 25).

• Popular indie rock band STARS will perform at Knox Presbyterian Church on August 18. Miller says he expects 700 people to attend.

• A tribute to Stompin’ Tom Conners will be held in the Wagon Wheel Room of Stratford’s Royal Canadian Legion on Aug. 4; a venue, Miller said, that Conners would likely feel most comfortable in. The show will feature Conners’ own back-up band, Whiskey Jack, his son Tom Conners Jr. and actor/comedian Sean Cullen as emcee.

• 14-year-old Montreal pianist Daniel Clarke Bouchard (playing a recital on Aug 6 at St. Andrew’s Church), was recently featured on the Ellen Degeneres Show. He’ll be one of three performing in a grand piano series, along with Russian laureate of the 2012 Honens International Piano Competition Pavel Kolesnikov (Aug 13), and Toronto’s Wesley Shen (Aug 20), who will play a modified piano outfitted with metal components to give it a discordant sound more in-tune with life in the 21st Century.

• Canadian pianist and Stratford Summer Music favourite Jan Lisiecki will perform Brahms’ Violin Sonata #1 and Chausson’s Concerto for Violin and Piano with String Quartet Op 21 with American violinist Hilary Hahn, who Miller calls “the Yo-Yo Ma of the Violin; one of the hottest musicians in music today.” He adds the performance will be “the premiere classical event, not just for us, but for all of Canada.”

• The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra will play favourites from the great Canadian songbook on July 30 at the Legion.

• In recognition of the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare, the Folger Shakespearean Consort of Washington, D.C. will lead two daytime sessions (July 23 and 24), called Encounters, which will feature discussions and examples of music from London’s original Globe Theatre during the time of the Bard of Avon. In the evenings, the troupe will present two full concerts of music associated with Shakespeare and other 16th and 17th century composers.

• The Bicycle Opera Project will return to Stratford, performing two shows a day for three days at Revel Caffe (July 25-27). The troupe is renowned for traveling from town to town on their bicycles, performing in towns along the way.

• Yukon rock band Speed Control will again host their School of Rawk sessions, teaching young people the ins-and-outs of performing in a real rock band. Miller reminds parents that their kids need not possess instruments (they will be provided). Furthermore, he asked those in attendance that, should they know of a young person who would benefit from the workshop but whose family was unable to pay the registration fee to please contact the Stratford Summer Music board, as board members do not wish to see any child lose out due to money-issues.

• Other acts this season include Radio City Music Hall principal organist George Wesner (Aug 14, 15, 16 at Knox), Jane Burnett and the all-female Cuban jazz quintet Maqueque (Aug 2 at The Church Restaurant), the Oliver Jones Jazz Trio (July 19 at the Church Restaurant), and a full performance of Bizet’s Carmen, staged between courses of a Spanish-themed dinner (Aug 8 at the Church Restaurant).

A third of all concerts will be free and the opening night kick-off on July 14 will feature fireworks in Lower Queens Park. New this year will be reserved seating for any St. Andrews Church performances, “so you don’t have to worry about being first in line to get good seats,” says Miller.

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