The summer I was 17 the “festival” came to town. I was working at a shop at the Parry Sound Mall when a man with a dignified demeanor and a pleasantly undefinable accent came in to buy an assortment of the strange things we had on offer. Obligatory plastic pails and beach towels were purchased but also cutlery and china. I felt he was more than just a summer cottager.
As it turned out, he was. During the summer of 1979, the renowned pianist Anton Kuerti purchased a summer home just north of Parry Sound and set about organizing three concerts by exceptional Canadian musicians. Anton Kuerti has an international reputation as an outstanding musician and is one of the world’s most recorded pianists. His recordings include all of Beethoven's concertos and sonatas. At that time Kuerti and his wife, cellist Christine Bogyo, had one child, Julian. I ended up baby-sitting Julian once – I’ll never forget that he asked for change for a $10.
The response to the concerts that Kuerti had planned was enthusiastic and inspired him to launch an annual concert series. The event was christened the Festival of the Sound and with Mr. Kuerti as Artistic director, this marked the beginning of Ontario's first annual international summer classical music festival.
In 1985, James Campbell began his tenure as the Festival's second Artistic Director, a position he still holds today.
Hundreds of Canadian and international musicians have performed at the Festival of the Sound, among them: Pinchas Zukerman, Yo-Yo Ma, Denis Brott, Victor Borge, Dave Brubeck Dizzy Gillespie, George Shearing, Peter Appleyard, Moshe Hammer, Norbert Kraft and Angela Hewitt. Plus Baritone Russell Braun, the Gryphon and Beaux Arts Trios and the Elmer Iseler Singers to name a few.
As part of the annual repertoire, cruises aboard the 500 passenger Island Queen feature on-deck music from classical to Dixieland.CBC Radio broadcasts Festival concerts yearly. TV Ontario (TVO) has filmed concerts and a joint CBC/BBC documentary was for filmed for Canadian and European audiences.
Much has changed in the 30 years since Anton Kuerti organized the first classical music concerts in the small gym at Parry Sound High School. Summer after summer, organizers had to grapple with making the gym into a concert hall, not to mention overcoming the nightly noise of the trains. Concerts were also held in people’s homes and there was a stint at St. Peter’s Parish Hall.
In 2003 the long-time dream held by the Festival of the Sound of having a concert hall of their own was realized with the opening of the new Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts on the Parry Sound waterfront. Immediately, numbers of Festival attendants doubled.
“It’s one of the best halls in the world for un-amplified music,” said Margaret Boyd, FOTS Executive Director.
© 2009 Festival of the Sound