The Lamèque International Baroque Music Festival in New Brunswick is the dean of Canadian festivals dedicated to this music. Since its inaugural concert in 1970, a harpsichord recital, the festival has spread its wings. In years past, it welcomed the leading names in the field, both Canadian and international. Its founder, Mathieu Duguay, was truly a man of vision. No one back then could have imagined a baroque festival lasting all these years, and so far away at land’s end of the Acadian Peninsula.
The very fact of organizing an event like this in an area with so few musicians and facilities to present concerts is a challenge. Yet dozens of singers and instrumentalists make the long trek to Lamèque every year to perform the works of Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and their contemporaries. This small miracle is no fluke, but the result of much hard work from a totally committed board of directors and a host of dedicated volunteers up to the task, no matter what.
Festival-goers appreciate its user-friendliness and are very much inspired by the community involvement and enthusiasm. Of its venues, the Saint-Cécile de Petite-Rivière-de-l’Île church has been the stage for many an enchanting evening over the past 44 years, its slightly eccentric decor providing a concert setting that is far from bland. Performers are not put up in hotels but welcomed in private homes. Not only does this serve the purpose of making the event more congenial, it also removes barriers between musicians and audiences in search of a better understanding.
As successful as it has been in drawing international stars, the festival is just as committed to bring newcomers into its fold. Already on tap for next summer is the return of the Mathieu Duguay Early Music Competition, first launched three years ago. This is a rare opportunity open to musicians under 30 to travel from all corners of the world to perform at one of the most important baroque music showcases in North America.
I cannot help but be impressed by the increasing appeal of the festival from one year to the next. Music-lovers from all over the continent make the trip to enjoy the music, the town of Lamèque and its surroundings. In 2015, I was hired as its artistic director, and am very much humbled by the task. The experience of working with such a devoted team has been amazing. I am also grateful to the performers, who inspire me so much. What’s not to like about spending time vacationing in the Acadian hinterland?
Artistic director of the Lamèque festival, Vincent Lauzer is a former Radio-Canada Revelation of the Year (2013-2014) and winner of the Fernand Lindsay Bursary for Career Development. Vincent has appeared with Flûte Alors!, Les Songes, Les Violons du Roy, the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, Les Idées Heureuses, Arion, the Orchestre Baroque and La Cigale. He has performed in Mexico, France, Germany, Spain and Belgium.