Stories & Visions

Edmonton Folk Music Festival puts down deep roots

Shared by Ken Davis Edmonton Folk Music Festival puts down deep roots Photo

I wasn't at the very first Edmonton Folk Music Festival held in the summer of 1980. No, my first experience came a few years later. On that occasion, I remember spending a couple of days under a crude plastic shelter while the heavens opened relentlessly and the temperature was cold enough to make your teeth chatter. It didn't seem to matter, however, because the vibe was magical and the music was fabulous.

I attended various renditions of EFMF in the years that followed, eventually joining the legions of folks who serve as Festival volunteers. I spent 8 years on the Festival's media crew, running all over the site linking artists to media people who wanted to interview them. Just writing this, memories flood back of all the wonderful people I met and sometimes even befriended - so many fellow volunteers, artists such as Miriam and Amadou, Steve Earle, Jim Cuddy, wonderful Festival organizers such as artistic director Terry Wickham, volunteer co-ordinator Vicki Fannon and the legendary production manager Don Snider.

One time I was in too much of a hurry while on assignment and ran around a corner behind main stage, only to almost bowl over Alison Krauss with her fiddle. If looks could kill... And I was there the night that lightning hit one of the sound towers near mainstage as k.d. lang was finishing her performance. And there was the year that I went to the volunteers after-party at the Edmonton Inn and, dead-tired at 4 in the morning, sat in a small room packed with people, listening to Alejandro Escovedo and his musical pals playing an amazing set of beautiful acoustic music.

EFMF was the one place and the one time where I could guarantee that I would see almost everyone I knew in Alberta at least once. Over the years, the Festival has evolved, no longer just an entertainment event but a giant community of connected people. I love that there are tens of thousands of us who share the same magical memories and who came to love the same extraordinary light and sound of the Festival on Gallagher Hill.

Edmonton Folk Music Festival puts down deep roots Photo

Potlucks at FAVA

Shared by Jenna 9722 102 St NW, Edmonton, AB T5K 0X4, Canada Potlucks at FAVA Photo

The Ortona feels like home! The building is a little ramshackle, a little maze-like, but there are interesting objects and stories to discover in every corner. I've procured many fun and completely unnecessary items from their free store, including history books, original artworks, camera cases and French esoteric magazines. Events at FAVA tend to be potluck-style, not just in the food, but also the art-making... I've played collaborative sets as part of Weird Canada's Drone Day here, and screened my (sadly unsuccessful) Super8 as part of the FAVA Super8 Challenge along with many other aspiring Super8 filmmakers. I love to see so many kids (and dogs) out at art events. The people are unpretentious, they're interested in what you're up to, and are usually up to some interesting and bizarre projects themselves.

Tags Film Music
Potlucks at FAVA Photo

The Sidetrack Cafe

Shared by Trina Shipanoff 10333 112 St NW, Edmonton, AB T5K, Canada The Sidetrack Cafe Photo

The place to be if you were plugged into the cool goings on in the city was the Sidetrack Cafe. A perfect mix of humans it was the young the old, the hipsters the headbangers and everything in-between.... It was open for 26 years. This venue was the one that launched k.d. lang, Sarah Maclachlan, Blue Rodeo, Captain Tractor and the Barenaked Ladies careers.

A good night always included the sidetrack, I danced, I sang, I met and mingled.... you did not have to be or do or have anything.... but a smile.

The Sidetrack Cafe Photo

Finding Love Through Music

Shared by Rachel Johnson 11234 117 St NW, Edmonton, AB T5G 2W2, Canada Finding Love Through Music Photo

In 1996, both my now husband and I were chosen to write a symphonic work for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra when we were 17 years old. We both composed music as part of the Young Composers Project under John Estacio, the then Composer-in-Residence of the ESO. Through the support of this program my husband and I both learned a tremendous amount about composition and orchestration. It was a fun and challenging project and both him and I continued our studies in music after high school. It was this project that brought my husband and I together and now we’ve been together for over 22 years and appreciate and support the arts, music and heritage here in Edmonton. I hope to see more projects that support young artists in their passions that also provide learning opportunities (perhaps being mentored by other more experienced artists, similar to the experience we had). It would be pretty wonderful and inspiring to see our own children involved in the arts in Edmonton in the future.

Tags Music
Finding Love Through Music Photo

this theatre is appreciated

8712 109 Street Northwest, Edmonton this theatre is appreciated Photo

I love that this theatre supports local, independent, and unusual programming. The curated series of films are wonderful. this place keeps me learning about topics near and far from my home. I wish this place had better attendance, was more broadly publicized as a gem of Edmonton.

this theatre is appreciated Photo

Sparks my love for Edmonton

Shared by Laurie 10030 102 St NW, Edmonton, AB T5J 0V6 Sparks my love for Edmonton Photo

I went to my first concert at the Starlite room at 17. I had never really been in downtown Edmonton before that. No real reason to go. It was dark out and the snow was falling. Seeing people crowd around this alleyway made me feel so cool. The mixing of cigarette smoke and the breathe of conversation in the air. It made me feel like I invited to this secret party as we waited in line.

Tall brick buildings squishing it's patrons two by two as you hear the opener through the walls. This started my love for Edmonton. I've become a large participant in public events and buying through local businesses. I advocate for this city whenever I can.

Sparks my love for Edmonton Photo

Symphony Under the Sky / Freewill Shakespeare Fest

Shared by Dan Rose 9330 Groat Road, Edmonton, AB T6G 2A8 Symphony Under the Sky / Freewill Shakespeare Fest Photo

The Symphony Under the Sky and the Freewill Shakespeare Festival are two incredible opportunities to take part in the arts and culture scene in Edmonton, in an accessible venue and without the intimidating crowd or space usually associated with orchestra music and theater. It's so great to sit outside on a warm summer evening and immerse yourself in something new. Would love to see more opportunities to bring art, music and theater outside of the usual brick and mortar institutions, to where people are, and to create new experiences for new audiences.

Symphony Under the Sky / Freewill Shakespeare Fest Photo

Where Bodies and Ideas Meet

Shared by Sydney Lancaster 10816 95 St, Edmonton, AB T5H 2E3, Canada Where Bodies and Ideas Meet Photo
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Mile Zero Dance has been such a tremendous asset to this city since its inception. It has always been a place of risk-taking, experimentation, and innovation in dance and dance-related arts - but Mile Zero also has (and continues to) provide a place of welcome and community for dancers and non-dancers alike. This organization has shown leadership in community outreach, school programs, kid's programs, health-related movement workshops ... the list goes on. Spazio Performativo has created a home for artists of all disciplines to come together, work together, take chances together - and feel safe doing it. As a visual artist, Mile Zero has offered me the opportunity to take some tentative steps outside my regular practice: my participation in the SubArctic Improv series allowed me not only to create work with and for artists of other disciplines, but also to take some steps toward understanding how performance practice could contribute to my work going forward. The value of spaces such a Mile Zero, that offer places for experimentation cannot be underestimated! Risk-taking makes artists better at what they do, and builds community and new collaborations - and we need more opportunities and venues to do that - and we need to actively support Edmonton institutions like Mile Zero that gift our community with these resources and support.

Where Bodies and Ideas Meet Photo

From language learner to arts participant

Shared by K. Baron 9831 75 Street NW, Edmonton, AB T6A 2Y8, Canada From language learner to arts participant Photo

My family lost our ancestral language due to the assimilationist policies of the provincial government and the bigoted attitude of other Albertans in the mid-twentieth century. My father purposely forgot how to speak it, so I never learned as I child. As an adult I've been trying to recover this lost gateway to my culture. For this reason, my wife and I started taking курси (classes) at St. Andrew's, the last place left in the city that still offers adult evening classes in Ukrainian. My progress in the language wasn't great, but being part of that community led me to other discoveries in arts and culture. One of the instructors, Mr. Ludvik Marianych--one of Alberta's unsung cultural heroes--recruited my wife and I to be part of Чайка (Chaika) a youth orchestra that plays Ukrainian-language music. This was a big step because, although I could (barely) play the guitar I had never been part of a band (never mind an orchestra) and hadn't played in front of anyone in years. But Mr. Marianych made it seem totally possible that anyone could participate, even me: someone who could only bang out a few chords. The next thing I knew, not only was I the group's guitarist but I was volunteering to learn to play the mandolin as well, so we could add that instrument to the band. Mr. Marianych has the gift of making music accessible to everyone, and inspired me to believe I could do more.

From their I went on to singing with the Верховина (Verkhovyna) choir under the amazing Orest Soltykevych (of CKUA fame). I 'm not a natural singer--to put in mildly--but was again taken by the hand and told that anyone (even me) could sing. And not just sing, but sing both baritone and tenor, stay in tune with the choir, and do it all entirely in my third language, one that had only just started to learn (Ukrainian). Somehow I did it (or at least felt like I did).

The highlight of this cultural journey for me (so far) was appearing on the main stage during the "Svieto 25" celebration in Churchill Square in August of 2016, honouring the 25th anniversary of Ukrainian independence and 125 years of Ukrainian settlement in Canada. I was there twice: once to play with orchestra, and once to sing with the choir. It was something I wouldn't have thought possible just a few years earlier.

Since the birth of my second child, I've had step back from some of my commitments. But those years when I was actively participating in the arts were made much richer because of the involvement I did have: arts and culture made my life better. Soon, I hope, they will be doing the same for my children.

It matters that I learned that I could participate in the arts and culture through an ethnic community. That is not an accident. In our ethnic communities we find examples of true participatory culture: it's not about listening to or watching professionals. It's about having pride or curiosity enough that you to want to live out the community's traditions, whether they are part of your birthright or something you are learning along the way.

My vision for the arts in culture in Edmonton is that others will have a similar journey to my own: using one part of culture as ladder to reach for the next one, and being welcomed and included along the way. And I hope that the city as a whole can recognize the value of ethnic communities in that process. Having a thriving arts and culture scene should really mean that we have a cultural ecosystem that include niches for the ethnic arts.

And yes, I'm still working on that language! Language is the conduit through which the rest of culture flows. Any arts, culture, and heritage vision MUST include a language component or it is fundamentally incomplete.

From language learner to arts participant Photo

Dance for anybody, any body

Shared by Michelle K 11805 94 Street Northwest, Edmonton Dance for anybody, any body Photo
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There’s a community of dancers here. A community which has become a family over time. A family full of support and creativity and acceptance regardless of any differences. A group of open arms, open minds, and open hearts; and the beautiful movement of dance binds them.

Dance for anybody, any body Photo

Dancing in the aisle

Shared by Annette 4 Sir Winston Churchill Square NW, Edmonton, AB T5J 4X8, Canada
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I’ve always loved attending performances and events at the Winspear... it beautiful space and sound. But my heart overflowed when I took my one-year-old to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra Candy Cane Christmas concert this past December. The pure joy and excitement she had seeing the live performance and dancers was contagious. We can’t wait to make this a family tradition.

The Blackspot Cafe a short-lived music venue gem

15120 Stony Plain Road, Edmonton The Blackspot Cafe a short-lived music venue gem Photo

The Blackspot Cafe was an incredible basement venue, which was only open for a couple of years in the mid-late 2000s. I saw lots of musical acts build confidence and community there. The volunteers who served drinks and worked door became really good friends, and lots are still friends and active in the arts/music scene today.

The Blackspot Cafe a short-lived music venue gem Photo

Found Festival

Shared by Andrew Ritchie Dr. Wilbert Mcintyre Park, 104 Street Northwest, Edmonton, AB Found Festival Photo

This is where Found Festival was born! In 2012 Elena Belyea, Molly Staley, Tori Morrison and Andrew Ritchie founded the Found Festival, a multi-disciplinary found space arts event. In the first year we met at the Gazebo to begin our two day adventure to take in eight one-off performances by emerging artists all over Old Strathcona. It is now 2018 and the festival has grown so much in 7 years! It began with just a few artists thinking "Hey what if we did a festival where we didn't pay for a single venue"

Found Festival Photo
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