Artists unite in Harmony of Nations Music Festival

Submitted by: Wanda Botsford

Original aritcles by The Westend Weekly and Heather Latter, Fort Frances Times Online

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MNO Regional Councillor Theresa Stenlund, with her daughter Katelyne
Stenlund and Chloe Dolyny represented the Métis within the opening
ceremonies of the Harmony of Nations Music Festival in Fort Frances.

The inaugural Harmony of Nations Music Festival set out to unite artists and audience members from First Nation, Métis, Canadian, and American communities in a creative, musical environment—and that’s just what it did July 18-19 in Fort Frances, Ontario.

“Our goals were to work towards bringing together the four cultures and we did do that,” said event co-ordinator Shannon Darby. “We did that from an organization point of view, in terms of getting volunteers, we did that with the musicians, and we did that from the audiences point of view, too.”

Held Friday and Saturday under the big tent at the waterfront, the festival featured a solid lineup of highly-regarded musical entertainment by award-winning singer-songwriters and up-and-coming local stars—ranging from folk and bluegrass to country and rock.

Both days also are filled with vendor displays, community performances, and interactive artist workshops.

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Cousins Chloe, left, and Ava Dolyny danced around and around while
participating in a Métis jigging workshop at the Fort Frances Public Library
Technology Centre offered up in conjunction with the Harmony of Nations
Music Festival. Photo Credit: Heather Latter, Fort Frances Times.

“I am very happy with the quality of the musicians; the commitment and talent of the volunteers; and the audience response,” said Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) citizen Wanda Botsford, a member of the organizing committee. “I thought it was an awesome weekend.”

The festival kicked off with opening ceremonies that featured flags from Canada, United States, Métis Nation and First Nations, as well as children dressed to reflect their nation. Flag carriers were MNO Regional Councillor Theresa Stenlund, Deputy Mayor John Albanese, International Falls May, Bob Andersom, and Chief of Couchiching First Nation, Sara Mainville.

Stenlund was pleased to be there. “Thank you for inviting us to participate and share our talent and culture,” she said adding that the festival represented the opportunity to “move forward together, striving for harmony”.

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Award-winning musician Sierra Noble kicked off the Harmony of Nations
workshop series at the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre,
showing her fiddling skills and sharing how she overcame bullying to follow
her heart and create a rewarding career in music. Photo Credit: Heather Latter,
Fort Frances Times.

The headliners were Chad Brownlee, a country music singer/songwriter from Kelowna, B.C., and Canadian icon Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Then there are a number of featured artists, such as Sierra Noble, Shy-Anne Hovorka, Nick Sherman, Jean-Paul De Roover, The WoodPicks, and Cornshed (featuring three former residents).

Local performers included Alex Marusyk, Larissa Desrosiers, Percy Bird, Ben Sletmoen, Sandra Lori Allan, Jeremy Jordan, Jerome Tuesday, Mike McCaig, and the Sloughgrass Family Band.

“One of our other goals was getting local musicians involved in the performances and having youth involvement,” Darby noted, citing they had a lot of young people out at the workshops, as well as some young musicians who performed.

Workshops included Métis and Ojibway activities, as well as learning about fiddler Sierra Noble overcoming bullying, the “Art of Looping” with Jean Paul de Roover, and song-writing with Shy-Anne Hovorka.

Members of the WoodPicks even taught local musicians how to play a bluegrass tune on the bass, fiddle, and guitar.

“I think the workshops gave insight into what their art was, what their lifestyle was like, and all the artists are great people,” Darby stressed. “They were open to meeting the public and open to sharing their stories and interacting.”

“I hope the workshops helped to motivate participants in the arts and gave them some technical knowledge that they may never have had access to,” Botsford indicated. “The performances were memorable and such high quality that they were motivating for anyone in the audience to go home and practise their instruments.”

Darby noted a decision has not yet been made as to whether the “Harmony of Nations” Music Festival will run again next year.

“I think one of our big successes this year was bringing in a great diversity of performers and types of music,” she explained. “And they were all very skillful musicians. The performances were all really great. I think we were proud of what we could offer in our first year.”

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