Canada Dreams at Westben

The Link Magazine
Donna Bennett accompanies Brian Finlay at the piano. Photo: Melanie Dunford-Elliott

The Link, Spring 2017
| by Sharon Harrison |

To coincide with Canada’s sesquicentennial year Westben Arts Festival Theatre is planning a superb musical lineup with many one-of-a-kind experiences.

As part of their summer programming, the theme of Canada 150 is reflected in many events beginning with a free concert to be held on Sunday, July 2. ‘Canada Dreams’ is a musical celebration bringing together an array of local and guest musicians. New works as well as familiar musical choices will be included such as Ojibwa drummer Jordan Mowat, the Wakimi Wailers and the Westben Festival and Youth Choruses.

“…a cross-community celebration of togetherness…”

Dubbed as a spectacular musical tribute to Canada’s 150th anniversary, the afternoon will also see four composers – Brian Finley, Ken Tizzard, Andy Thompson, Howard Baer – demonstrate and discover the dreams of the country set through music, with a new song written especially for the occasion. As Westben asks: “What are your dreams for Canada?” The experience is not meant as a reflection of Canada’s past, but rather a look to its bright future.

An array of artists and styles will welcome one and all to The Barn for this memorable gathering. Not just an afternoon of joyous entertainment, this special Canada Day long weekend will be a cross-community celebration of togetherness and include a ‘big party’ atmosphere involving various food merchants and stunning musical accompaniment influenced by the theme of Canada 150.

‘Canada on the World Stage’ continues Westben’s Canada 150 celebratory theme hosting a variety of mostly classical performances running from July 20 through 23. Spend an evening in song with Westben co-founders Donna Bennett and Brian Finley on Thursday, July 20. With music from Canada’s colourful heritage and diverse beauty, this evening will include the world premiere performance of Brian’s ‘Preludes to Canada’ piano solo as well as a CD launch.

Friday, July 21 welcomes pianist, organist, harpsichordist – and artistic explorer – Rashaan Allwood with a fascinating and interactive performance featuring adaptations of birdsongs in piano music. ‘Bird Songs’ will investigate the sounds of nature and explore how it is translated into music. The evening will include a pre-concert chat and projections of photos, art and video as it delves into the process of the transformation of bird songs into classical music and more.

At just 21 years of age, the extraordinarily-talented, first-generation Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki continues Saturday, July 22 afternoon’s programming with ‘Romancing the Piano.’ Enjoy the distinctive and mature interpretation of a young classical artist as he explores Schubert, Bach, Chopin and Schumann.

Weekend activities conclude on Sunday, July 23 with a much-anticipated afternoon of Bach as Canadian icon and classical pianist Angela Hewitt graces the Westben stage. A special Canada 150 celebration will follow the performance.

In this year of great celebration, it would be remiss not to mention Brian Finley and Donna Bennett’s many achievements in their musical and local community. Musicians, artists, artistic directors and founders of Westben Arts Festival Theatre, Donna and Brian are both deservedly recent appointees to the Order of Canada.

As Canada proudly celebrates 150 years since Confederation, Westben’s unwavering focus continues as they strive for excellence as well as fresh, unique and thrilling world-class programming, while remembering the importance of inclusivity, diversity, unity and the ability to bring the element of fun to each performance.

Westben’s summer season runs from July 2 to August 6 with a comprehensive, multi-genre program from classical and jazz to folk and Broadway, fiddle and more. A full listing of events and further information on Westben Arts Festival Theatre can be found at