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A Look At Canada 150's Musical Events

Kerry Doole's picture
Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable Melanie Joly, at a Canada 150 music event
Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable Melanie Joly, at a Canada 150 music event

The Canada 150 Fund was established in April 2015, with an overall budget of $210 million, and it is administered by the Department of Canadian Heritage. The department’s website explains that “The goal of the Canada 150 Fund is to create opportunities for Canadians to participate in local, regional, and national celebrations that contribute to building a sense of pride and attachment to Canada.”

"The main themes of the Government of Canada’s vision for the 150th anniversary of Confederation are diversity and inclusion, reconciliation from nation to nation with Indigenous people, the environment and youth."

"Through the Fund, the Government of Canada will continue to make strategic investments in activities that support the vision of the 150th anniversary and encourage Canadians to participate directly."

Many of those celebrations will have a major musical component, and a large number of applications for funding were filed prior to the deadline of Oct. 21, 2016.

A limited number of high impact, large-scale projects that are national in scope are also supported through the Canada 150 Fund as Pan-Canadian Signature Projects.

As reported earlier in FYI, one such project is Canada Mosaic, from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Described as “TSO’s national celebration of Canada's diverse musical landscape,” this series features dozens of new works and thematic programs to be performed by the TSO and other orchestras all across Canada. Funding of $7.5 million for the project was announced by Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly last March.

Another of these signature projects is the Edges of Canada sesquicentennial tour, described as the most ambitious undertaking ever by the National Youth Orchestra. It features performances in 12 cities coast to coast to coast.

Canada 150 isn’t just about high-profile festivals or series featuring major artists. Local events featuring largely unheralded musicians are also given a seat at the table. For instance, Bands 150 is a sesquicentennial project of a group of London, Ontario, community bands which will involve about 250 musicians in at least 12 bands. They will perform at Victoria Park, London, on the weekend of Sept. 16-17.

FYI interviewed some agents, managers and promoters for insight on the impact that Canada 150 is having on their business.

Rob Lanni, President and co-founder of music management company and record label Coalition Music, notes that “there are certainly more people talking about the anniversary and those same people are trying to find creative ways to access the money that the Department of Canadian Heritage has generously allocated.

"Like everyone else, we will be pursuing all opportunities. We’ve received several offers and we are hoping that more will be coming our way.”

Joel Carriere of Dine Alone Records and Bedlam Music Management works with many elite level Canadian artists. He tells FYI that Canada’s 150th anniversary “has been positive for us so far.

"Any time you can attach a story and a celebration to something is a good thing. We partnered up with Brand Live this past New Year’s and had eight of our bands play their NYE party in Vancouver. It was great exposure and branding for us, and having 60,000 people in attendance was amazing.

“We are gearing up for our big Niagara-on-the-Lake Canada Day show this summer and are very proud to feature all-Canadian artists. The 150th gave us a good excuse to make it all-Canadian and give people a reason to come celebrate. We are bringing in partners we wouldn’t have been able to typically because of this. The celebration of this young progressive country is positive for us.”

The Canada Day show Carriere refers to is on July 2. Featuring City and Colour, Blue Rodeo, Stars, The Strumbellas, and Dear Rouge, it is fittingly to be held on a National Historic Site, the Commons at Butler's Barracks.

Veteran concert promoter Ron Sakamoto of Gold and Gold Productions is also upbeat about Canada 150. “As far as I am concerned it is a real positive for our country and our music business and we wish everyone success in their endeavors.”

He is only producing one show for the anniversary, but it’s a big one, he tells FYI. “It is called 'Stars and Thunder,' and it is an eight day International fireworks and music festival in Timmins, Ontario, beginning June 24.”

Eight international fireworks teams will compete, and the fest has a strong music lineup, Sakamoto explains. “We have used mostly Canadian artists to support our own country's great talent and because it is Canada's 150th birthday. All of our 22 plus artists are Canadian except [headliner] Keith Urban.  We saved a lot of money on not paying US exchange dollars.”

Sakamoto reports an enthusiastic early response. “In the first month of sales it has grossed almost $3 million in ticket sales. I am predicting a sell out of 25,000 so Mayor Black and the City businesses should be really happy with millions of dollars in spinoffs as over 200,000 people will visit the Hollinger Park site of the festival.”