The date change for this year’s 11th installment of the Canadian Guitar Festival, which takes place at Loughborough Lake Holiday Park just south of Sydenham, in no way affected the turnout for the annual three-day event, which showcases some of the best guitar playing gurus from near and far. The festival took place on July 24, 25 and 26, a week earlier than usual, but still attracted enthusiastic lovers of the genre.
Canadian guitar guru Don Ross not only played his usual inspiring and stellar set, but also manned the mic this year as festival emcee, standing in for Holmes Hooke, who had a conflict with this year’s dates.
Saturday evening’s performances rated high on a number of attendees’ lists, including the performance by John Ainsworth of Manchester, England, who was described by festival founder and organizer Del Vezeau as “a very cerebral young artist, a cross between Nick Drake and Sid Barrett” and was making his first trip from his native isle.
Other new and notable performances included the Dave Barrett Trio. Barrett, best known as one of the founders of Platinum Blond, closed Friday night’s show to much applause.
I saw the last performers of the festival, an eclectic virtuoso duo called 2ish, who played a mash up of fascinating originals and highly intricate tunes that come from a number of varying musical influences including jazz and folk, with additional elements sourced in from the deep and rich well of world music. Their sound is exclusively instrumental and is highly original, with Saskia Tomkins playing the nyckelharpa, viola and violin and Brandon Scott Besharah playing acoustic finger-picking guitar and the hurdy gurdy. Both have played and recorded individually with numerous solo artists and bands and together their sound is like none other, an intense intermingling of pure and joyful music that is highly complex and yet sounds fresh, clear and true.
Sunday’s finger picking competition had listeners sitting on the edge of their seats, eager to find out who of the long list of competitors that included players from all over Canada and the US, and from as far away as Japan and France, would take away the various prizes, which were musical instruments donated by a number of instrument-making kings in the field.
The competition was judged this year by five artists from the main stage that included Don Ross, Dave Barrett, John Ainsworth, Justin St. Pierre and Thomas Leeb. This year’s first place winner was Blake Goodwin of Little Rock, Arkansas, who chose a Stonebridge semi-acoustic as his prize and who dazzled fans with his masterfully quick yet subtle style. Like all past first-place winners, Goodwin was invited back to perform and will open next year’s festival. Adam Crossman of Peterborough won second place and chose a Hagstrom semi-acoustic guitar for his prize. Ace Ting, a Kitchener, Ont. native who now calls Toronto home, took third place and snapped up a brand new Breedlove mandolin.
The festival was founded and is run every year by Del Vezeau, who said he believes the festival date change will stick since lovers of the festival will return year after year no matter the date. That way, holiday campers who booked the park solid for the August long weekend, will not be squeezed out. In addition the change will also give Vezeau and other music lovers a chance to visit the Blue Skies Festival, which begins on Friday, July 31 in Clarendon.