Soccer is a global common denominator, as events in Brazil surely prove. Music is another passion that cuts across international boundaries, as can be seen at Saturday’s ninth iteration of the Our World Festival of Music in Kitchener.
Usually held earlier in June, part of the city’s annual TAPESTRY Celebrations of Diversity, this time around Our World joins celebrations marking the solstice. Both Kitchener and Waterloo, along with their respective BIAs, are offering up the first Summer Lights Festival. The goal is a festive outdoor vibe marking the start of summer.
The weekend also offers up K-W Multicultural Festival, running June 21 and 22 in Kitchener’s Victoria Park, a popular event for more than 40 years.
As always, the Our World Festival of Music is a free, family friendly event at the civic square in front of Kitchener city hall. Along with concerts at 8, 9 and 10 p.m. on Saturday, the evening rolls into the next morning with a midnight screening of the Night of The Living Dead accompanied by live soundtrack performed by VOC Silent Film Harmonic.
“Our World has evolved. A number of arts groups have come together … with the Summer Lights Festival to make it a really exciting night out,” said artistic director Lawrence McNaught. “It should be a fun night.”
From later hours at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery to events on the square in Uptown Waterloo, there’s a coordinated effort to mark the solstice.
At Our World, that means music.
Things get rolling at 8 p.m. with a performance by Chasaya Sichilima, who began singing as a young boy in his native Zambia. While studying computer science at the University of Salford in Manchester, England, he re-discovered his love of music and played frequently. It was in England that he met his wife. The couple moved to Kitchener in 2010, where his wife is a pediatrician.
He’s credited with introducing Zambian music to Canada at the 2003 Afrofest. Since then he has performed locally, including The Registry Theatre, Black History Month Celebrations, Castle Kilbride in Baden, and the recent Dream for Uganda Evening of African Music and Dance.
“He’s got a poppy sound, and soulful stuff that’ll be fun,” said McNaught.
Next up at 9 p.m. are the Steel City Rovers, a new Celtic-world ensemble. They clearly have a great time performing, and the dynamic is infectious, he said.
Anchored by veteran Celtic multi-instrumentalist Mark Fletcher (Shaggy Haggis, Rant Maggie Rant), the band bursts with energy, the veteran perhaps charged up by the young players he’s surrounded himself with: front man Ryan McKenna, brother Joel McKenna on backup vocals and rhythm guitar, fiddler and vocalist Dave Neigh, and ferocious drummer Jess Gold.
“They’ve got the Celtic roots, but it’s rocky as well,” explained McNaught of the fusion. “It’ll be really interesting to see how far they’ll go with that sound.”
Wrapping up the concert portion of the evening at 10 p.m. will be Alysha Brilla & Her Band.
The critically acclaimed Tanzanian-Canadian artist is known for her delightful mix of jazz, world and pop music. Now based in K-W, Brilla was a 2014 JUNO Award nominee for her album In My Head.
The 2012 Arts Awards Waterloo Region Leading Edge winner has performed at The Montreal Jazz Festival, The Mariposa Folk Festival, and last year’s Our World fest. She was such a hit, organizers were eager to welcome her back to headline Our World 2014, said McNaught.
“She’s very enthusiastic. The music is very upbeat – the sort of thing you’d like for an open air event.”
Outdoors is the operative word for all of the weekend’s events, so organizers have their fingers crossed for the kind of weather that will encourage people to get out and mill around.
For Our World, the backup plan involves moving things inside the rotunda at the city hall. That includes the evening’s finale, the screening of Night of The Living Dead
The VOC Silent Film Harmonic is a group of accomplished Kitchener-Waterloo musicians, dedicated to performing along with classic silent movies. Most silent film music was supplied by pianists, or small ensembles that worked from classical themes or from cue sheets of generic music that served as the basis for creating the soundtrack. This improvisational approach, responding to the film, is the tradition that the VOC pursues.
This version of Night of The Living Dead features titles rather than sound – The living dead ate the soundtrack – with the VOC putting its mark on the original zombie classic from George Romero that started it all. Bring your blankets, chairs and appetite for human flesh.
More information about the weekend’s activities can be found online at www.tapestrycelebrations.ca and www.summerlightsfestival.com.