Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council
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Wintertide Music Festival

Locations: Corner Brook, NL
NLAC Program Funded Under: Annual Operating Program for Professional Arts Organizations
Amount Funded: $7,000

2016 Wintertide


Dates: April 15, 2015 to April 14, 2016
Festival ran January 14 to 17, 2016
Contact: Heather Tuach
Contact E-mail:

January may seem like a strange time of year to hold a music festival on the west coast of Newfoundland. However, fortunately Corner Brook residents are not easily deterred by stormy weather. For music lovers, the chance to see live classical music of such a high calibre on their doorstep is worth bundling up for. The festival brings welcome respite, warmth, and community spirit to the long winter.

Established in January 2014, the festival was a way for its founder Heather Tuach to have a presence in her hometown while living in London, UK, where she had been working as cellist of the Fitzwilliam String Quartet since 2008. Together with Toshon Dawe and Ruth Gingrich, she works throughout the year to coordinate the events, performances, and activities that make the festival come to life.

The formula for Wintertide hasn’t much changed since the festival was created. Visiting musicians perform in more than one concert, cutting down on travel expenses for incoming artists and giving them greater chance to collaborate with local young and established musicians. The first festival brought versatile saxophonist Uwe Steinmetz to the island from Germany. He performed as part of a traditional jazz focused evening as well as in a classical line up, backed up by local Corner Brook musicians.

2015 Wintertide

Last year, Fitzwilliam String Quartet collaborated with Professor Olaf Janzen of Grenfell University.  They gave a moving rendition of Haydn’s Seven Last Words from the Cross interspersed with readings of war poetry, to commemorate the centenary of WWI. For another concert, the Quartet accompanied two local pianists – Gary Graham and his student Stephen Eckert for a Mozart Piano Concerto.

The recently concluded 2016 festival featured some of the top classical musicians from St. John’s including Duo Concertante, the Atlantic String Quartet and clarinetist Christine Carter, alongside Corner Brook soprano Wendy Woodland, pianist Jennifer Matthews, and young pianist Gina Spencer. They gave four evening concerts, a free public concert for children, and outreach concerts at schools and a retirement centre.

As has happened in past years the response and enthusiasm of Corner Brook’s classical music lovers, as well as those that come to visit for the event, make it all worthwhile according to Tuach. In our latest feature, we speak with her about how it all went and what’s next...

Q and A with Heather Tuach...

ArtsNL: How do you select the visiting and local acts that get included in the festival line-up?

2015 Children's Concert

Heather: So far, it has mainly been people I have worked with, although this year clarinettist Christine Carter came about through an excellent suggestion from an audience member. I try to invite people who can play in more than one concert. For example, this year Duo Concertante performed as a duo, in a trio with Christine Carter and also with local soprano Wendy Woodland and pianist Jennifer Matthews. I’m spoiled for choice with a host of fabulous local professional and young musicians to choose from. Maybe one day we’ll have artists contacting us wanting to play, but we haven’t gotten to that stage yet.

ArtsNL: How was the turn out at this year’s festival for the four evening concerts and the children’s concert?

Heather: We have a strong core audience of about 60 that will come to everything but it’s hard to know what attracts people beyond that. Last year, we had a record 110 at a concert which included a Mozart piano concerto with local soloists Gary Graham and Stephen Eckert with the Fitzwilliam String Quartet – that must have been the winning combination of world’s most popular classical composer with foreign string quartet and local musicians.

ArtsNL: Why is doing the children’s concert important for Wintertide? How does it differ in terms of content and approach given the audience?

2015 Wintertide Evening

Heather: It’s important to grow a new audience for classical music and it’s also a way to give something to the community, especially to those who might not be able to get to or afford an evening concert. For the performers, after coming all the way to Corner Brook, they get more chances to perform and reach a wider audience. The concert involves a variety of short pieces, interspersed with talking about the pieces of music themselves and the instruments, so that it’s fun and educational.

ArtsNL: Can you talk a little more about the outreach performances and efforts that are made in schools and retirement homes?

Heather: This year the ASQ visited Immaculate Heart. Unfortunately the other school concert was cancelled due to bad weather, always a risk for this festival I’m afraid. The string quartet works really well for outreach concerts because it’s mobile and versatile. Its great history, tradition and repertoire lend itself to many talking points to captivate the young imagination. This year, Duo Concertante played at Mountain View Retirement Centre, which I think brought a lot of joy to the residents.

ArtsNL: What kind of reactions do you get when you bring classical music to these different and new audiences?

Youth Workshop

Heather: When we reach a new audience and they have a good experience, it’s a rewarding thing.  It’s great to observe an audience of children. Their emotions are so clearly written on their faces. The music affects them profoundly and in question time, I’m always amazed by some of the thoughtful comments they give. When asked ‘how did that make you feel?’ or ‘what images did that bring to your mind?’ it’s clear they are connected to the music.

ArtsNL: What are some of the challenges you face as a festival that is only a few years old?

Heather: Some things have been surprisingly easy. Right off the bat we had a huge amount of support from community members, ArtsNL, and City of Corner Brook - that was very encouraging. The biggest challenge I think is programing a festival with enough variety and number of musicians to make for interesting concerts on a tight budget.

ArtsNL: What kind of feedback did you receive from concert goers from this year’s festival? Do you get many people coming to the festival from outside of Corner Brook?

Heather: We got great feedback and many nice emails of thanks for organizing the festival. People are really glad that it is happening. We get people coming from as far away as Stephenville and Deer Lake and everywhere in between, but it’s not easy for them because of the unpredictable weather and night-time highway driving.

ArtsNL: What kinds of genres of music appear in the festival, jazz and classical were mentioned, but can you be a little more specific?

Heather: The first year, we incorporated some jazz, mainly because I had been working with saxophonist Uwe Steinmetz on a recording and was in awe of him. Uwe was a great success, but since then, we decided that a purely classical festival, especially chamber music and strings, would better serve Corner Brook, since that is what is really lacking.

ArtsNL: How would you like to see the festival grow for next year and in the longer term?

Heather: It feels about right in terms of number of concerts. More concerts wouldn’t necessarily mean more people coming out. It would be great to be able to bring a quartet every year but it is very expensive and we might have to do things more economically next year. I’d like to see the festival grow in terms of the budget for administration and publicity, the number of musicians we can involve and the fees we can pay to them.

ArtsNL: Who else do you work and partner with to make the festival happen?

Heather: The City of Corner Brook has been extremely supportive in terms of grants and use of the City Hall for the Children’s Concert. This year, Gros Morne Summer Music helped out with a lot of the legwork. Also the Arts and Culture Centre and Rotary Arts Centre co-sponsored concerts.

ArtsNL: How does the ArtsNL funding from the Annual Operating Program for Professional Arts Organizations help?

Heather: ArtsNL is our main source of funding. Without it, the festival would not be possible in its current form. It might become a solo cello festival!

ArtsNL: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Heather: Just my thanks to ArtsNL - we are extremely grateful for funding us since the beginning - and thanks to this year’s musicians for their great performances, hard work and generosity.