By Bryan Dearsley
Concertgoers in the Haliburton Highlands are getting ready for cottage country’s top music event, the much anticipated Forest Festival, which returns August 14 – 18, 2019.
One of the most popular things to do in Haliburton each summer, this year’s festival offers a stellar line-up of top Canadian music talent. Performers over the five day festival include the Steven Page Trio, headed by former Barenaked Ladies’ frontman Steven Page; the high-energy Slocan Ramblers, Canada’s leading Juno-nominated Bluegrass band; and popular Juno-award winning reggae band, The Sattalites. Also gracing the festival’s stage is country blues performer Collette Savard & The Savants; the funk-, soul-, and RnB-influenced Soul Stew; andaward winning pop and roots artist, Amanda Rheaume.
Founded in 2007 and held at the Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve – a 100,000 acre attraction featuring the world's longest forest canopy walk and the popular Wolf Centre – the Forest Festival this year sees performers take to the stage in the historic Logging Museum.
“Our beloved Bone Lake Amphitheatre is closed for renovations and audience-friendly improvements, so the focus this year is on the rustic ambience of the Logging Museum,” says Stuart Laughton, the festival’s Founder and Artistic Director. “There’ll be new and entertaining formats at the evening shows, award-winning artists in the afternoon matinees, and some special ticket packages. It will be a memorable season in this intimate venue. So things are indeed changing – and the best is yet to come!”
A variety of new things to do have been added to this year’s Forest Festival. Highlights include the first-ever dance parties, slated for Friday August 16 and Saturday August 17, featuring performances by leading party bands each night. And closing the season is well-known CBC radio host and composer Tom Allen, who’ll be showcasing his ground breaking ‘Exosphere’ accompanied by a chamber orchestra.
Meet the Acts Performing at the 2019 Forest Festival
An Intimate Evening with Steven Page
With sales of more than 15 million records as one of the frontmen for famed Canadian pop group Barenaked Ladies, Steven Page is accompanied on cello by Kevin Fox and Craig Northey on guitar, performing together as the Steven Page Trio.
Says Stephen: “I think some people, when you say ‘trio’ and there’s no drummer, assume it’s kind of mellow and adult. And it has elements of that, but for the most part it still has the energy of a rock show; it just has the intimacy of a hang with friends, too. And if people want to know what I’m playing, I’m playing everything back from the Ladies’ Gordon debut all the way up to the new album.”
You can catch the Steven Page performance on Wednesday, August 14, at 8pm. To hear excerpts from his new album, Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt. II, visit his website at www.stevenpage.com.
The Slocan Ramblers
Having received a great deal of attention after being nominated for a 2019 Juno award, the Slocan Ramblers bring a dose of high-energy Bluegrass to the Forest Festival. Promising a memorable evening of foot-tapping acoustic tunes, band members Adrian Gross (mandolin), Alastair Whitehead (bass), Darryl Poulsen (guitar), and Frank Evans (banjo) make up an act you’ll definitely want to include on your ‘must-see’ list at this year’s festival. Named after an old abandoned mine in BC’s Slocan Valley, the Slocan Ramblers energetic live show will feature tunes from their best-selling Queen City Jubilee album.
You can catch the band performing their unique traditional roots music on Thursday, August 15 at 8 pm. You can learn more about them at https://slocanramblers.com.
Widely considered a Canadian musical treasure, the eight-piece Juno award winning Sattalites are bringing their unique brand of reggae to the festival on Friday, August 16 at 8 pm. Hailing from Toronto, the band’s upbeat Caribbean vibe – a mix of reggae classics and self-penned titles – has been entertaining audiences far and wide for years. Led by frontman Fergus Hambleton, a Canadian musical icon for some 40 years,
The Sattalites will feature a powerful three-piece horn section for their contribution to Forest Festival’s Friday night dance party in the historic Logging Museum. You can learn more about the Sattalites here.
Collette Savard & The Savants
Citing influences as diverse as Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, and Joni Mitchell – along with traditional French folk music – Collette Savard’s unique style will be on stage for all to enjoy at this year’s Forest Festival. Her powerful songs of love, loss, and empowerment are performed on a wide variety of different folk instruments, which perfectly compliment a voice that has been described as both sultry and smooth.
You can catch Collette together with her band, The Savants – consisting of Rebecca Campbell (vocals), Martin Worthy (drums), John Switzer (bass), Tim Posgate (guitar), and Megan Worthy (keyboards) – performing their jazz-, folk-, and pop-infused countryblues at a special matinee performance on Saturday, August 17 at 1pm. You can learn more at www.collettesavard.com.
Making a much welcome return to the Forest Festival, Toronto’s Soul Stew will be heading up the event’s second party night on Saturday, August 17 at 8 pm. A cool mix of old school RnB, funk, and soul, this legendary Canadian band has been around since 1990. Led by Juno award winner Roberto Occhipinti, together the band have an incredible pedigree, with members having recorded and performed with big name artists including Gorillaz, Bruce Cockburn, Chaka Khan, Herbie Hancock, Bonnie Raitt, Holly Cole, Marc Jordan, Gino Vanelli, Aretha Franklin, and Nelly Furtado, to name but a few.
In what will undoubtedly be a highlight of the festival, Soul Stew will have you dancing to a lively mix of musical styles that will also include a dash of reggae… and plenty of classic soul. Visit the Soul Stew Website for more details.
Award winning roots and pop artist Amanda Rheaume has built up a solid reputation (and fanbase) for her live performances across North America and Europe. Taking time out of her international travels to play closer to home at the Forest Festival, this Toronto-based musician will be showcasing her latest album, The Skin I’m In (produced by blue Rodeo’s Colin Cripps) along with favourite tracks from her extensive back catalogue. You can catch Amanda and her three-piece band at a 1pm matinee on Sunday August 18. Check out her website at www.amandarheaume.com.
Tom Allen’s Exosphere
Rounding off the weekend is CBC Radio’s Tom Allen. A prolific songwriter and storyteller, Tom’s bringing along a cast of musical friends to perform a unique cabaret-style experience chamber music and his storytelling skills. Joining him for Exosphere are soprano singer Patricia O'Callaghan, dancer Julia Aplin, harpist Lori Gemmell, and guitarist and sound designer John Gzowski. Featuring music by Bach and Handel, among others – as well as a number of original cast compositions – the story focuses on a distant future that’s not turned out so well for humans.
You can catch what promises to be a remarkable performance on Sunday, August 18 at 8 pm. To learn more about this and other work by Tom Allen, visit his website at www.tomtomallen.com.
For further details about the 2019 Forest Festival, including tickets and general visitor information, visit their website at www.theforestfestival.com, or call the Box Office directly at 1-800-631-2198. For information regarding special packages, visit www.facebook.com/HaliburtonForestFestival.
Bryan Dearsley is Editor-in-chief of LuxuryHaliburton.com.