A summer heatwave isn’t the only thing heating up Harrison Hot Springs this week, the 36th Annual Harrison Festival Of The Arts is now underway. Bringing hundreds of visitors to the village to watch world class local and international talent, the “best little fest in the west’ lives up to its title.
Friday night, the Festival kicked off with a preview “Straight From The Valley” concert at the Memorial Hall, a few hundred patrons filled the hall for a taste of what was to come during the 10 day festival. The Langley Ukulele Ensemble, UFV Bhangra and The Sabir Sisters showed off the diverse talent that the Fraser Valley has to offer.
The Langley Ukulele Ensemble is an entertaining collection of 2 dozen youth, part of a wider organization of ukulele bands, who played a selection of classic rock like Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Queen, Hawaiian and traditional Portuguese seafarers standards. Ensemble director, Paul, kept the group on beat and kept the audience entertained with witty jokes and stories throughout the performance. While the show was mostly ensemble instrumental, a few of the youth performed solos and sang some of the traditional songs. For a youth group, Langley Ukulele Ensemble has a mature stage presence and put on a very professional set, a great way to kick off the night.
After a short break the next act was quite different but equally entertaining, UFV Bhangra combines members of University Of Fraser Valley and Bhangra Beat Academy. From start to finish, the troupe’s high energy dancing and vibrant costumes kept the audience mesmerized. The set was broken into three parts seeing the male members, female members and the whole group performing. The combination of traditional Bhangra and current hip hop beats kept the show lively and the non-stop dancing was an amazing show of vitality to keep the audience’s feet tapping.
Wrapping up the evening, The Sabir Sisters, a fiddling family originally from the Fraser Valley but now living around the world, reunited for the Festival. The quartet of sisters were backed up onstage by brother-in-law, Mark Sullivan on guitar and John Ford on bodrhan (drum). Sullivan, also a champion fiddler, performed on his own fiddle with Festival organizer Andy Hillhouse on guitar for a couple of tunes mid-set. Fiddling and singing throughout, The Sister’s selection of traditional celtic and self-penned tunes combined upbeat foot stomping tunes, with classical influenced ballads wound up the evening.
The evening was a diverse teaser for the Festival to come and from the enthusiasm of the audience, they were looking forward to what lay ahead.
The Harrison Festival of the Arts runs until July 20th in Harrison Hot Springs, BC. Daytime concerts on The Music On The Beach stage, Arts Market and Art Exhibition are free but a $2 daily Festival button shows your support for the Festival. General admission tickets to the Evenings In The Hall concerts are $25.