Skip to content
Sponsored Content

Guelph Festival celebrates 17 Years in May

Do you love live music? Thanks to Guelph Musicfest, you don’t have to travel far to enjoy great concerts.
Festival Trio

The annual festival takes place in the intimate, acoustically superb Recital Hall of the Guelph Youth Music Centre in downtown Guelph.

Guelph Musicfest started with a bang in 2007, following the demise of the original Guelph Spring Festival, which ran annually from 1968 to 2006. Guelph pianist Ken Gee jumped on the chance to fill the music void left by the GSF and bring concerts to the Recital Hall. With help from well-known area musicians, Guelph Musicfest was introduced, and the press jumped on the bandwagon, calling it the next spring festival. The concerts were a hit, and the seats were filled with music lovers.

Now, Season 17 is coming up. The GYMC will see great music on five consecutive Friday nights beginning May 24. The artists that appear are more accustomed to international stages but love to perform in the Recital Hall, where only 160 people can be up close and personal with the performers. And it’s not just “Classical” music. The upcoming series features Beethoven, Schubert and Rachmaninov and an all-Gershwin concert, a jazz quartet and the virtuoso Quartetto Gelato.

After all these years, founder/artistic director Gee still runs the festival alone, doing everything from booking the artists to designing the promotion and website, selling tickets, and performing. He knows the regular patrons and tries to ensure they have their favourite reserved seats beside friends. They wave to him in the grocery store and say how much they look forward to the concerts.

To Gee, it’s like running a good restaurant. You take care to present a fine menu beautifully, be aware of what the audience enjoys, and create patterns of music that satisfy both emotionally and intellectually. The regulars have come to trust that every concert will be great. Many of them even make donations to help with the costs of the concerts. Many send messages to say how much the concerts mean to them. And there have been special individuals over the years who have made significant anonymous donations.

All this love motivates Gee to keep the concerts coming. In fact, enough regular patrons, along with donations, kept the festival going through the pandemic. Guelph Musicfest was one of the first series to go hybrid with streaming and video replays making up for the public health limits on attendance. Some concerts were rescheduled, but none were cancelled. The bonus souvenir of those dark days is Digital Musicfest where all the concerts are recorded in HD video with exceptional stereo sound. The in-person patrons get to watch the video for 7 days after the live performance at no extra charge, and people who can’t attend the live concerts can purchase tickets to enjoy the online video.

Amazingly, lots of people still haven’t heard of Guelph Musicfest. Publicity is expensive, so it’s hard to reach out to everyone, especially when running a small festival with limited money and no government grants. Most of the ticket money goes to where it counts—the performers and the rent. But when people experience one of the concerts, they’re hooked and return for more.

Festival Trio

Opening night features the Festival Trio, Gee’s crack ensemble made up of great musicians with a connection to Guelph, and now a regular feature of Guelph Musicfest. He lives here now, and violinist Sadie Fields grew up in this city before building a stellar career in Europe and settling in Brussels, Belgium. Cellist Paul Pulford spent his High School years in Guelph. He became a performing globe trotter as a longtime member of the renowned Penderecki String Quartet and an outstanding soloist. Paul moved to New Brunswick after retiring from the Laurier Faculty of Music, but still hops in his Prius and drives to Guelph for the Festival Trio that all the members love.

Great Trios by Schubert and Beethoven and a contemporary work by British composer Charlotte Bray are on the menu.

Sheng Cai

Pianist Sheng Cai, who has been travelling the world with Rachmaninov in his back pocket and played Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Guelph Symphony earlier this season, performs the original 1913 version of the monumental Sonata No. 2 in b flat minor, Op. 36, along with Rachmaninov Preludes, Beethoven and more.

Stewart Goodyear

Pianist Stewart Goodyear brings an all-Gershwin program to the festival, including the solo version of Rhapsody in Blue (celebrating the 100th anniversary of the famous composition) and lots of virtuoso versions of hits that will leave the audience humming for weeks.

Jerzy Kaplanek Jazz Quartet

Violinist Jerzy Kaplanek, internationally known as a member of the Penderecki Quartet and a brilliant soloist, shows off his jazz chops with top performers from Toronto in his own Jerzy Kaplanek Jazz Quartet.

Keeping one foot in Classical music, this special concert’s opening act welcomes pianist Gee to join Kaplanek in Ravel’s beautiful Sonata for Violin & Piano, opus posthumous.

Quartetto Gelato

The wildly popular Quartetto Gelato returns to Guelph Musicfest for what is sure to be a sold-out series Finale!

As if that weren’t enough, Sadie Fields flies back from Brussels, and Paul Pulford hops in the Prius again to join Gee for Guelph Musicfest ENCORE concerts in November.

There’s too much to describe in one story, so be sure to check out the festival website—

You can also contact director Ken Gee at 519-993-7591 or [email protected]