In 2011, under the leadership of Gerald Fagan, a choral conductor based in London, a summer festival presented its first season in Exeter and southern Huron County. Bach Music Festival of Canada, with an emphasis on choral repertoire, it continued for three more summers in 2013, 2015 and 2017, after which Mr. Fagan’s failing health led him, along with some of its original Directors, to bid the Bach Festival farewell.
But the remaining Directors still believed strongly in the value of a festival for their under-serviced region. They sought a refreshed mandate, new colleagues with skills necessary to build a formidable and effective Board, and then a new artistic leader. From this process came a determination to continue the Festival with a bold and wider vision. Huron Waves Music Festival, as the second-generation came to be named, thus reflects a continuing determination by local citizens to bring quality professional music to their communities, small and moderate in size, in Southwestern Ontario.
After designing its name from the waves of Lake Huron, the waves of the winds over the crops in the counties’ abundant fields and the air waves by which music travels, Huron Waves set four goals: to be a Spring rather than a Summer festival; to bring major Canadian and international talent from a variety of genres to the region; to be wider in its geographic setting than in just one community as it was in the past three seasons; and through distinctive presentations, to attract visitors to Huron County with all the benefits tourism offers to the economies of the region, especially in the shoulder season of Springtime.
As their second Artistic Director, in 2018 the Board engaged John A. Miller who had recently retired after 18 years as the Founder and Artistic Producer of the successful Stratford Summer Music, literally a half-hour away from Huron County. For 18 months Miller has worked closely with the Board of Directors to set goals, an organizational structure and the artistic programming for a 10-day season in May 2020.
That festival was officially announced on March 10, 2020 but almost immediately suspended as the coronavirus scourge closed the region, the province, the nation. The season was revamped for December, 2020 with the intention that internationally celebrated Kingdom Choir from Great Britain would honour its commitment to Huron Waves for a single Canadian stop in Huron County, on December 10 & 11. However, that live festival was replaced with a very successful online holiday program that drew about 13,000 viewers. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues well into 2021, we have once again cancelled our springtime live festival and plan two on-line videos, one in the summer and one in the winter.
Public support already indicates strong encouragement for the refreshed festival, especially from towns and villages like Bayfield, Blyth, Goderich, Grand Bend, Seaforth, St. Joseph and Zurich, all of which were not sites for concerts of the Bach Festival in Exeter. The leadership knows the prognosis for Huron Waves’ future is good because the communities are telling them so, while professional Canadian musicians and agents of note are also sending their clear messages of wanting to be part of a festival that welcomes new opportunities to perform before accepting, eager audiences.