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The must-see season: A guide to summer's hottest cultural events Add to ...

Hillside Festival, Guelph, Ont.

July 27-29; Guelph Lake Island

Well-run, well-curated, well-sold. Tickets go fast for the highly rated indie-music get-together that happens a little more than an hour’s drive away from Toronto. Going to the country this July are Joel Plaskett Emergency, Great Lake Swimmers, Sandro Perri, Imaginary Cities, Chad VanGaalen, Deep Dark Woods, Rich Aucoin and Adam Cohen – a pan-Canadian roster unrivalled ( hillsidefestival.ca).

Greenbelt Harvest Picnic, Dundas, Ont.

Sept. 1; Dundas, Ont.

An absolute success with its inaugural concert a year ago, Daniel Lanois’s Hamilton-area picnic of posies, music and locally grown organic produce among the trees of the Christie Lake Conservation Area is back. Sarah Harmer and Gord Downie return, with Feist added to the list of 2012 talent. Clearly, the sound guru Lanois picks his performers with as much care as he takes with the heirloom tomatoes. ( harvestpicnic.ca).

Vancouver Island Musicfest, Courtenay, B.C.

July 6 to 8

River-swimmers come, as do forest-retreaters and sunset-viewers. The Comox Valley on Vancouver Island is an attraction in itself – not to diminish the drawing power of Richard Thompson, k.d. lang and the ageless silver-voiced siren Emmylou Harris. Someone less known is C.R. Avery, a marvel of beat-box blues, poetic spoken word and spirit-lifting enthusiasm. He is to be checked out ( islandmusicfest.com).

Roots and Blues Festival, Salmon Arm, B.C.

Aug. 17 to 19

The mysterious young lady who call herself Cold Specks will cause waves on Shuswap Lake, where her deep-blues and doomed aura are sure to rivet. Detroit soul shouter Bettye LaVette and the wild-voiced Serena Ryder are not shy at all, and Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, the roots-rocking crowd-pleasers whose latest album features all-star female singers, won’t have to look far for their guest vocalists ( rootsandblues.ca).

Live at Squamish, Squamish, B.C.

Aug. 24 to 26

Charles Bradley, the late-career sensation who zoomed onto all sorts of radars a year ago, keeps with his profound testifying. Last summer the American soul singer was the talk of Osheaga and Sappyfest (where he drew as much attention as the surprise guests Arcade Fire), and at Squamish he’ll not shrivel on a weekend bill with the Tragically Hip, Kathleen Edwards, City and Colour and the southern-styled wheat-field rock of the Sheepdogs ( liveatsquamish.com).


By Robert Everett-Green

Einstein on the Beach

Luminato festival, Toronto

June 8-10

This celebrated 1976 music drama by Robert Wilson and Philip Glass is more known about than known. These performances, part of a three-continent tour of the revived original production, are the first in North America outside New York. Wilson’s imagistic scenarios, Glass’s pattern-shifting music, Christopher Knowles’s allusive poems and Lucinda Child’s lean choreography offer an impressionistic take on the life and theories of the world’s most famous physicist and amateur violinist. The show runs for 260 minutes without intermission, but wandering is permitted ( luminato.com).

Sound Symposium, St. John’s

July 9-15

The 16th edition of the innovative triennial festival focuses on percussion – an apt choice, given the Newfoundland fest’s historically strong connection with drumming and drummers (including its late founder, Don Wherry). This year’s draws include the poetic Swiss drum-set virtuoso Fritz Hauser, Scruncheons percussion ensemble, the folkloric Cuban-Canadian drumming and dance group Ilédè, exploratory singer Laurel MacDonald, saxophonist-composer Paul Cram and the improvising Black Auks. There are also workshops, lectures and sound-art installations, including an open-air 3-D “audio augmented reality” piece accessible via iPhone ( soundsymposium.com).

Chamberfest Ottawa, Ottawa

July 26-Aug. 9

This daunting explosion of chamber music seems to get bigger every summer. The 2012 offerings (most of them in churches) feature recitals by pianist Janina Fialkowska, baritone Gerald Finley and lutenist Paul Odette, as well as a complete tag-team tour of the Beethoven string quartets by the Shanghai, Linden, Afiara, Cecilia and Penderecki String Quartets. There are also recitals by the Quatuor Ébène, the Nash Ensemble of London and the Bozzini Quartet with pianist Eve Egoyan, as well as six programs devoted to new and recent music ( ottawachamberfest.com).

La Virée classique, l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Montreal

Aug. 11

The OSM usually plays two or three times a week. During the 11 hours of La Virée classique (“the classical journey,” though the OSM’s official English title is A Cool Classical Journey) the orchestra offers 20 low-cost concerts, 45 minutes each, in three venues around Place des Arts. The orchestra plays four of those shows, with soloists Christian Tetzlaff (violin) and Lars Vogt (piano). The remaining chamber concerts feature a strong list of mainly Quebec musicians, including pianist Marc-André Hamelin, soprano Marianne Fiset and violinist Timothy Chooi (winner of the 2010 OSM Standard Life Competition), as well as the New Orford String Quartet and Canadian Brass ( osm.ca).

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