A staple of the artistic landscape in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada for over 40 years, Scotia Festival of Music exists thanks to the vision and tenacity of Chris Wilcox, our founding Managing and Artistic Director. Along with Robert Marcellus, the principal clarinetist of the Cleveland Orchestra, Chris conceived and planned the first Scotia Festival of Music in 1980, with guest artists including superstar pianist John Browning, and Lynn Harrell, one of the world’s greatest cellists.
Scotia Festival of Music was firmly placed on the international map in 1991, when it organized and funded a five-city Eastern Canadian tour for Pierre Boulez and his 36-member Ensemble Intercontemporain. The Ensemble was in residence at Scotia Festival of Music for a week and Boulez stayed for a second week lecturing, working with composition students and conducting. The Globe and Mail called Scotia Festival of Music 1991 “the greatest music event in Canada’s history.”
We have hosted many composers including Oliver Knussen, Philip Glass, Alexina Louie, R. Murray Schafer, Christos Hatzis and Emily Doolittle.
Guest artists like violist Sharon Wei, cellist Denise Djokic and pianist John Novacek return year after year, bringing repertoire ideas to the planning process and becoming part of the festival family. We take great pleasure in Nova Scotian talent – it’s wonderful for our audiences to see local musicians like oboist Suzanne Lemieux and pianist Peter Allen on stage with visiting stars.
From the start we have been equally dedicated to performance and education, providing an opportunity for fine young student musicians to train with and play alongside our guest artists via our Young Artist Program.
Among the impressive list of our Young Artists who have gone on to successful careers in music are the entire St. Lawrence String Quartet; conductor Kenneth Woods (now Music Director of the English Symphony Orchestra); Blair Lofgren, principal cellist of the Quebec Symphony Orchestra; Daniel Sholz, principal violist of the Winnipeg Symphony; Dominic Desautels, principal clarinetist of the Canadian Opera Company orchestra; Rafael MacNabney, principal bass of Les Violons du Roy (Quebec City); and Barbara Hannigan, born in Nova Scotia and now one of the world’s most sought-after sopranos.
In 2002 Scotia Festival constructed the award-winning Peggy Corkum Music Room, which fits Pierre Boulez’ definition of a masterpiece, “the unexpected which has become necessary.” The Music Room is a unique community resource, always busy with recitals, competitions, recording sessions, meetings, workshops, and more.
The principal event that Scotia Festival presents in the Music Room is The Music Room Chamber Players Series, now in its eighth season, which partners with Dalhousie University to present a 20-concert series of recitals and chamber music, with a mix of local musicians and visiting artists.