Kaleido Family Arts Festival
Sept. 15 to 17
Between 90 and 94 St. and 118 Ave.
Admission: Free, donations accepted
The 12th annual Kaleido Family Arts Festival, one of the biggest multi-generational bashes of the season, opens its doors at Alberta Avenue on Sept. 15 to 17.
“We bring all the arts together and Alberta Avenue is our canvas. We use stages, rooftops, back alleys, art galleries and the sides of buildings. We bring in installations, dance performances, on-the-street theatrical performances and an Indigenous village. We also have a fun zone for kids,” said Christy Morin, executive director for Arts on the Ave, festival producers.
The three-day spectacle connects artistic disciplines of every form, from Chinese Lion Dances, Mexican marimba bands, francophone dancers and Danish singers to hip hop artists, giant puppets, live concerts and circus arts.
Internationally acclaimed bluesman Eric Bibb, Juno Award winning composer Vivian Funk, New York jazz saxophonist Jacques Schwartz-Bart and Montreal’s Cirque Kalabanté are just a few of the festival’s highlights.
Indigenous artists drop by for a double bill at the Takwakin (Autumn in Cree) Village with additional performances from the River Cree Singers and Dancers.
A new brand of creativity appears in the form of four 26-foot high giant puppets roving the streets even as the Iron-Heart Cook-off sees chefs battling it out on the grill using a mysterious ingredient.
A special highlight is a Sunday tribute to the late Don Vaugeois, founder of Don’s Piano Place and one of the region’s most generous supporters of the arts.
A cluster of St. Albert artists join forces for this 75-minute show. They include pianist Nancy Watt, flautist Crystal Krips, cellist Julia Dolman, pianist Charlie Wong, as well as duo Veronica Lednicky and Mark Donovan.
Iconic jazz pianist Charlie Austin, a close friend of the Vaugeois family, leads as master of ceremonies and musician. In a salute to Vaugeois’ francophone heritage, the Zephyr Dancers are also stepping up.
“Don was one of the most generous people I have ever known. I only met him once. I called him and talked about the type of piano we needed for Kaleido. He said ‘Whatever you need, I’ll do it.” At that time we needed a grand piano and he donated the piano, the rental fee, moving costs and maintenance,” said Morin.
In discussing the Sunday tribute, she added, “I think it will be very emotional, but it will also be a wonderful time. It will be a celebration of who he was. What a guy. For him, nothing was too much.”
The festival kicks off Friday night at 10 p.m. on the Avenue Central Stage with Grammy nominee Eric Bibb accompanied by three-time Canadian Folk Music Award winner and multi-instrumentalist Michael Jerome Brown.
Bibb enjoys a professional career that spans five decades, 36 albums, numerous festivals and countless radio and television programs. His non-stop touring across the world singing a blend of soul, gospel and folk has made him one of our leading blues troubadours.
“His roots and blues music is so great, and the message in his lyrics about building family and rebuilding community together resonates so much with community,” Morin said.
She first met him at the 2016 Edmonton Folk Festival. He just completed a performance and was mingling with fans. Initially shy about approaching him with an invitation to Kaleido, all she could think was “Oh, my goodness. I don’t believe I’m doing this. I didn’t want to be seen as groupie.”
But when Bibb heard about the festival’s mission to unite a community, he said, “I want to be there. Call my agent and we’ll make it happen.”
Another much-anticipated musician is saxophonist Jacques Schwartz-Bart accompanied by Polish pianist Nitai Herskovits. Originally from Guadeloupe, Schwartz-Bart uses his Caribbean roots to create dynamic writing and a powerful tone.
His passion for jazz puts him on the forefront of several musical revolutions: neo soul next to D’angelo and Erika Badu, and New Jazz as a founding member of Roy Hargrove RH Factor.
“Jacques was here last year. He is another amazing artist. What he charges us is half of what he charges others. But he’s a believer in rebuilding. He has put on several gigs at Kaleido and we are blessed to have him.”
On a different note, Mark Berg’s Tropic Harbour, a utopian space construction is slated to play the band’s dreamy pop soundscape. The four-piece electronic synth-pop band also features Markus Rayment, Kurtis Cockerall and St. Albert’s Andrew Rossum.
The ever popular Cirque Kalabanté, who delighted audiences at the International Children’s Festival of the Arts, returns to Kaleido for a fourth time. Based out of Montreal, they perform diverse African arts including explosive drumming, fiery dance routines and breath-taking acrobatics.
“They are incredible and a must see.”
Direct from Copenhagen, singer-songwriter Helene Blum and violinist-composer Harald Haugaard accompanied with cello and guitar are also major forces. The foursome is immersed in traditional and modern Nordic folk, but is also flirting with pop and jazz.
“Helene’s voice is amazing. It’s a pure and clean soprano. And the music is transcendent. You feel as if you’re on a Viking ship and the wind is blowing in your hair and a large Viking is going to ask you to dance,” chuckles Morin.
Another event that has Morin particularly enthused is the return of Juno Award winning composer Vivian Fung. She was raised in the Alberta Avenue community, but eventually left to train at Julliard.
The Canadian premiere of her electronic cello composition Humanoid is slated to be performed by the Edmonton Symphony’s principal cellist Rafael Hoekman on the rooftop of her parent’s building.
“Her music is not your typical cello music. It’s an electronic composition and it’s very different. Rafael said it’s quite a difficult piece but he’s up to the challenge.”
Fresh from his Caribbean experience, master puppeteer Randall Fraser introduces four 26-foot-high giant puppets. Manipulated from the bottom, the characters are Morroca Man, Calypso Cha Cha Girl, Aurora Dragon and Hug Monster.
“There’s a storybook quality to see these big, warm and friendly people on the Avenue.”
Edmonton Public Library is setting up a tent with pillows for storytime and Alberta Avenue blacksmith Shawn Cunningham presents a scorching demonstration of an almost extinguished art.
Six art galleries have lined their walls with fresh exhibits even as a Mongolian yurt purchased for the 2018 Deep Freeze debuts at this festival. Of course, there’s the much-loved traditional Lantern Parade and fireworks on Saturday night.
Anyone who wants to escape the festival’s hustle and bustle can drop by Jazz Alley lined with tables and porches to listen to some live jazz and sip a glass of their favourite beer or wine.
“It’s very intimate and very relaxed.”
As a whole, Morin describes this year’s $480,000 festival as “very avant-garde.”
“One of the things about our whole mandate was to edify our community through the arts. We have brought all the arts together and you see the interplay, the connection. We often have festivals that celebrate individual arts. But this brings all the arts together. It’s a real experience. There is something for each person.”
For a complete list and schedule of the three-day activities visit kaleidofest.ca.