Feature Story                                                                                                 Thursday, June 11, 2015

 

Strings Attached

Harrison Festival showcases artists and instruments from far-off mystical places

By Mel Dunster/Submitted photos

 

Don Alder will be playing an instrument called the harp guitar on the Beach Stage during the Harrison Festival of the Arts. Below, Boujou Cissoko will be on the kora.

 

he Kora. The Ngoni. The Zheng Zither. Visitors to this year's Harrison Festival of the Arts running July 11 to 19 in beautiful Harrison Hot Springs, BC will notice a particular type of diversity on display: an amazing array of string instruments from around the world.

 

With sounds ranging from gentle to the intense, these unique, sometimes rare and historically significant instruments, have emerged from cultural histories in Africa, China, the Middle East, North and South America, as well as Europe. Cultural diversity has always been at the core of the Festival’s mandate.

 

Harrison Festival Society Artistic Director, Andy Hillhouse, is very mindful to seek out international artists, but admits his own tastes have played a part into this year’s programming. “As a string player, my ear is drawn to music that involves interesting string sounds and textures,” Hillhouse explains.

However, he knows he is not alone as there is a large fan base for this particular family of sounds. For instance, the Malian Ngoni master Bassekou Kouyaté is someone with a broad appeal. Fans of the blues and rocking electric guitar will appreciate him as much as aficionados of West African music as he and his sons run their traditional plucked Ngoni lutes through effects and play them with virtuosic ability and soul. “In short, they rock out on this ancient instrument,” says Hillhouse.

Also from West Africa, the now Vancouver resident Boujou Cissoko is a hereditary player of the kora, a string instrument that exists somewhere between a lute and a harp. Audiences will also enjoy the Chinese group Red Chamber as they play an assortment of string instruments including the plucked pipa and ruan, and the zheng zither. The traditional repertoire of their homeland is intersected with other world string traditions, such as bluegrass and Celtic music. The Persian family band Vashaan Ensemble play a wide variety of historically significant instruments from the Middle East, such as the 'oud (from which the English word lute takes its name), the tar, ancestor to our word guitar, and the santour, a type of hammered dulcimer.

 

For fans of the Western string traditions, the Festival will also feature some bands that use string accompaniment in beautiful and sometimes inventive arrangements to accompany song. The Once from Newfoundland is a deceptively simple set up - just a woman singing with two players accompanying her on guitar, bouzouki, and sometimes fiddle. However, the combination of her voice, one that goes right to the soul, and the simple sound of the strings is magical. As well, the young band The Bombadils are on the surface a bluegrass band with fiddle, guitar, upright bass and flute, however they create evocative soundscapes with their arrangements to accompany their traditional and original songs. Creating a one man
band of string textures and percussive sounds will be dazzling acoustic guitar virtuoso Don Alder, who will be playing an instrument called the harp guitar.

The cross influences of musical traditions is what creates diversity through history and continues to do so at the Harrison Festival. The harmonies created by soft, strong or seductive strokes of these collective and distinct strings will surely strike a chord with this year’s Festival audiences.

Complete lineup and tickets for the 37th annual Harrison Festival of the Arts are available online at www.harrisonfestival.com, by phone at 604.796.3664 or in person at the Ranger Station Art Gallery in Harrison. Early bird pricing available until June 26.

About the Harrison Festival Society

Known worldwide for its professional artistry and small town hospitality, the Harrison Festival Society has long been a beacon for growing acceptance of diversity and purpose fueled programming. Each July for more than 35 years the Society has produced the internationally acclaimed Harrison Festival of the Arts, a nine day, cross-disciplinary, multicultural art event set amidst the small town atmosphere and breathtaking scenery of Harrison Hot Springs, BC. A non-profit, grass-roots organization, the Society also presents an annual Season of the Performing Arts from September to May and works closely with a number of Fraser Valley partners in continuing to bring high quality, inclusive and accessible performing arts into the area.


The Harrison Festival Society is proudly supported by the following partners & sponsors:
 

 

 

 

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