By Sue Tiffin
These highlands are alive with the sound of live music, and the Haliburton County Folk Society has been awarded for setting the stage to ensure the show goes on.
The folk society, which has a mandate to foster an appreciation of and participation in folk music in Haliburton County, was awarded the Setting the Stage award, alongside co-winner Hillside Festival, as part of the Folk Music Ontario Awards presented last weekend. The Setting the Stage award, established in 2018, is given to a club, venue or festival in recognition of their outstanding contributions to Canada’s live music industry.
“I have to assume that part of this was the fact that we are a very successful, very active and I think very innovative presenter in such a small, rural community,” said folk society president Thom Lambert. “We all take it for granted, when we’re in the Haliburton Highlands, we just assume there’s theatre every week, music every week, dance performances four times a year and a sculpture forest and two thriving galleries and then you start looking – you don’t have to look very far away to realize communities that are 10 times the size of us don’t put on half as many presented art performances in a year.”
Lambert said reviewing the nomination, which was written by past-president Barrie Martin, the work the folk society has done is “pretty astonishing for a small county,” presenting at least 25 live performances per year, including an annual concert series, the winter folk camp, and monthly open stages. The latter, Lambert said, has been an incredibly important part of what the folk society does in how the events support local musicians with at least half a dozen of those who got their start at open stage becoming professional or semi-professional musicians and bands. Besides performing opportunities, the folk society has also supported local musicians with recording subsidies, CD production and sales, loan and rental of sound equipment and professional development.
Lambert also said it’s “heartening” to see the list of organizations and partnerships the folk society has made to help bring live music to events through initiatives including performances, funding or sound equipment and technical support.
The Haliburton County Folk Society has worked since 1996 to build a community of music locally, and Lambert acknowledged those who have done and are doing that work.
“There was a time when it was very, very difficult for the folk society to maintain, to keep its head above water, and these folks never gave up,” he said. “Some of these people have been plugging away for 20 years now, since the beginning of the folk society, and I really have to give it to those folks, they’ve had a vision for live music in this community and have really never given up.”
Lambert also made note of the crucial funding support the folk society receives from Canadian Heritage, which he said allows the group to be creative in terms of music it presents in the county, and also to keep ticket prices to a reasonable price in a rural community.
Despite the challenges of physical distancing and crowd restrictions during the pandemic, the folk society has adapted to continue promoting opportunities and bringing performers and audiences together by hosting online live streaming concerts accessed by viewers at home during the provincial lockdown; creating the music instruction subsidy program to support the music community during a difficult time and moving open stage events to an outdoor venue, at Haliburton Highlands Brewing, in warmer months.
The Folk Music Ontario Awards, typically announced annually at the Folk Music Ontario conference, were presented in a ceremony online on Oct. 23 gathering restrictions currently in place.
For more information about the Haliburton County Folk Society, visit: haliburtonfolk.com.