The annual NWT International Lute Festival is returning later this month, and this time with some increased fame.The little festival that could has been recognized internationally.
These days, festival founder and lute player/enthusiast Tyler Hawkins of Hay River has an issue of Lute Quarterly close by at all times.
“They published a little blurb about last year’s festival,” he said. “This (magazine) goes all around the world – to universities, music libraries and lute enthusiasts all over the world. All of a sudden, I get an email from a lute player in Tasmania who is starting up a festival under very similar circumstances.”
Recognition of the festival is growing and more people are learning about Hay River, Hawkins said. “Who’d have known that at the end of a meandering river in a subarctic area of Canada that there’d be a lute festival going on?”
The NWT festival is in its sixth year, and its second year operating under the not-for-profit Hay River Early Music Society.
Performers will be travelling between Yellowknife, Hay River and Fort Smith from Sept. 27-29.
On the bill are performances by Nigel North, a lute player for more than 30 years who performed at the second edition of the festival. North is a faculty member at the school of early music at the University of Indiana.
“He’s one of the great world master lutenists,” said Hawkins. “There are probably only about 20 people like him in the world.”
As well, the duo Les Voix Humaines made up of Susie Napper and Margaret Little from Montreal will be playing baroque instruments – viola da gambas.
On Sept. 6, Napper had just returned from touring Europe, performing 10 concerts in 14 days, and was about to jet off again to teach in Copenhagen before taking the trek north to play at the festival.
Napper and Little’s one-hour-plus show involves pictures, a storyline and period musical pieces to tell the tale of Louis the 14th of France. The lute festival performances will be this particular show’s Canadian debut.
The appearance at the festival will also be the duo’s first time in the NWT.
“We are definitely looking forward to experiencing the North,” said Napper. “We are playing this funny instrument that not many have seen before. It looks like a cross between a guitar and cello. Our instruments are quiet and designed for playing in salons.”
A tourism feature has also been added to this year’s festival. People who want to take a tour of Wood Buffalo National Park can hop on a bus with the performers and travel from Hay River to Fort Smith to catch the final show.