We’ve all been involved with planning special gatherings or parties when there’s a birthday or anniversary of note. Usually it involves doing something extra special and making sure friends and family from past and present can all attend. As the SweetWater Music Festival marks its 15th anniversary from September 21 to 23, it’s very much what we’ve been doing over the past few months.
SweetWater is like a family… that’s how it all started. Artistic Director Mark Fewer way back became almost an adopted member of the Medley family. This connection led him to perform a special one-off concert at the Historic Leith Church. The response to his performance playing violins made but local luthiers was extremely positive. That’s what inspired Mark, Keith and Jean Medley, along with many other dedicated volunteers to launch an annual music festival. And as they say, the rest is history…. but what a history! SweetWater has showcased many of the world’s top classical, jazz and contemporary musicians including Russell Braun, Elizabeth Wallfisch, The Gryphon Trio, James Campbell, St. Lawrence String Quartet, Phil Dwyer, David Braid, and John Novacek. Anyone who has attended SweetWater (and many have since day one) likely have a special memory or performance they’ll never forget. It’s that kind of a festival… unforgettable.
For SweetWater 2018, we’re bringing together much of our SweetWater family of performers. Many have performed here multiple times like James Campbell, Denis Djokic, Guy Few, Douglas McNabney, Kati Gleiser, and Joe Phillips. But like any special gathering, there are always new friends and distant relatives who show up. This year audiences will get to meet established vets like Suzie LeBlanc and Alexander Tselyakov as well as younger performers like Yolanda Bruno and Quatuor Despax. No matter where they come from, what they play, or how long they’ve been performing, each share something in common – they want to be here for SweetWater’s big celebration.
Beyond SweetWater’s performer family, there’s the very important volunteer family. During our Festival preparations, our volunteer ranks more than double. I can truly say that we could not make our Festival happen without their help. It’s a team effort and like a family, we all pitch in to make it happen. That’s very much how SweetWater started thanks to artistic vision of Mark combined with the energy and enthusiasm of Keith and Jean. They inspired family and friends to make SweetWater come to life. It’s great to know that legacy continues and is very much why SweetWater is what it is today.
And finally, the biggest part of our SweetWater family, our patrons and supporters. SweetWater has been so fortunate to have so many that return year after year. Their enthusiasm for the performances not only ensures our Festival thrives but is something that every performer who has participated in a SweetWater concert always notes. Like a family member or good friend, they are always there.
It’s going to be quite the “family” reunion this coming week when SweetWater 2018 gets underway. As we remember the great moments of the past, we’ll celebrate what we’ve become in just a few yeas and look forward to more great performances in the years to come. Let’s get the party started!