Halifax hosts some 50 public music events from May 28 to June 11, during the 38th Scotia Festival of Music. With concerts, recitals, open rehearsals, coaching sessions, and a Young Artist Program, there’s a lot to look forward to.
“This festival is as good as any in the world,” says managing and artistic director Chris Wilcox. “We’ve got a string quartet put together that is a dream.”
Juno- and Grammy-winning violinist James Ehnes helms that string quartet. “He’s one of the best violinists in the world,” says Wilcox. “I saw him play at the New York Philharmonic. He sold out two nights in a row, with standing ovations, screaming and yelling. He’s very special.”
He’s played in Halifax a couple of times before, including the 2016 Scotia Festival of Music, and always sells out quickly. According to Wilcox, Ehnes typically spends his time travelling around, playing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with large orchestras. An intimate chamber-music performance is a rarity for him.
The quartet also includes Richard O’Neill, a multi-talented violist with a viola recording that’s sold 100,000 copies, Ani Aznavoorian, a cellist the other quartet members highly recommended, and violinist Giora Schmidt.
“[Schmidt’s] got some special qualities no one else has,” says Wilcox. “When he walks out onstage, he always does something like not wearing socks. When he walks out onstage, you know something special is going to happen, just by looking at him. You don’t have to hear a note.”
Other artists include violinist Airi Yoshioka, violist Sharon Wei, pianist John Novacek, flutist and bagpiper Chris Norman, and the Mobius Percussion ensemble. There will also be dancers, including Rebecca Lazier (a New York-based choreographer from Nova Scotia) and Christopher Williams, noted for his movement-based works that blur lines between art forms.
Wilcox is excited. “I just wrote a little letter that went out with the brochure,” he says. “And in the letter I said, ‘If you can find another festival as good as this one in terms of quality, you can get your tickets free.”