Keeping the MusicFest spirit alive all year long

Several times a month, VIMF presents concerts at Comox Valley venues and beyond.

Vancouver Island MusicFest happens only once a year but Doug Cox and team keep the spirit — and sound — alive all year long.

Several times a month, VIMF presents concerts at Comox Valley venues and beyond.

“We probably won’t present any concerts in June and July because all our energy is focused on MusicFest at that time,” says artistic director/executive producer Doug Cox. “But we hope to start again in August.”

Most of the concerts, which include folk, roots and blues musicians, take place at the Cumberland Hotel. “It’s a lovely, intimate venue, almost like a folk club,” says Cox. “Lots of people have told me they were surprised at how nice it is.”

On April 9, VIMF is partnering with I-Hos Gallery and the Comox Valley Multicultural and Immigrant Support Society to kick off a global music series. The first concert takes place at K’ómoks Band Hall featuring Red Chamber, a troupe of Chinese musicians that perform contemporary music based on the traditional Chinese “plucked string” repertoire.

Larger concerts and dances will be held at the Native Sons Hall in Courtenay. The first, on May 11, presents renowned acoustic guitar player Leo Kottke.

Although VIMF has presented ongoing concerts in the past, they haven’t done so for a few years.

“Everything went so smoothly at the festival last year that we decided to do it again,” explains Cox. “The secret is to have a good team. We have an amazing one now — one of the best ever — so have the energy and capacity to present concerts year-round.”

If it wasn’t for VIMF, many of these musicians wouldn’t be finding their way to and performing in the Valley. And to spread the musical wealth and make it worth everyone’s while, VIMF has begun partnering with other organizations to present shows in places like Victoria, Seattle and Salt Spring Island.

“There used to be quite a selection of circuit dates in B.C. for touring folk musicians but that’s changed drastically in the last four or five years,” notes Cox. “If we partner with other groups and can offer a musician three or four shows that makes it worth their while to come to the West Coast.”

Cox is excited about two shows in March.

“It’s just a fluke that we have two Scottish artists coming,” he says. “One’s a seasoned performer and the other one is newer so the two gigs will be really diverse.”

On March 13, the legendary Archie Fisher will take the stage at the Cumberland Hotel. He’s known throughout Scotland as host of BBC Radio Scotland’s award-winning Travelling Folk Show, which he presented for more than 25 years.

Personal accolades include being inducted into the Scots Traditional Music Hall of Fame and, in 2006, being honoured as a Distinguished Member of the British Empire.

“Archie’s the elder statesman of the Scots folk scene,” says Cox, who performed on Fisher’s radio program. “He’s one of my all-time favourite singer-songwriters.”

On March 21, Maeve Mackinnon, will return to the Valley. An award-winning young Gaelic singer, Mackinnon has become one of the leading Scottish folk musicians of her generation, the VIMF website notes. She’ll be accompanied by guitarist Ross Martin and Celtic musician Brian McAlpine.

“Maeve performed for the first time ever in North America when she opened for k.d. lang with her band, Sketch, at last year’s festival,” says Cox. “She’s a lovely, lovely singer.”

For more information on the VIMF ongoing concert series or to order tickets online, visit www.islandmusicfest.com and scroll down to ongoing concerts.

Paula Wild is a published author and regular contributor to the Comox Valley Record’s arts and entertainment section.

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