Central Music Festival – discovering the universal language

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Dale Ladouceur, who plays an eight-string Chapman Stick, will perform at the festival
Photo courtesy Dale Ladouceur

DEBBIE OLSEN

RED DEER, AB - Just outside of Red Deer is a special kind of music festival that for the past six years has been developing a reputation for being one of the most popular family-friendly all-genre musical events in Alberta.

The Central Music Festival, held Aug. 16-18, features 100 per cent Canadian content this year and has a great line-up of acts that include renowned artists covering a wide range of musical styles.

“Music is music when you get down to it,” said festival producer Mike Bradford. “It’s a kind of universal language that appeals to all ages. When a jazz guitarist sits down with a Mongolian throat singer, they will find a way to communicate – even if they don’t speak the same language.”

Using this formula of featuring great acts from multiple genres, the Central Music Festival has grown from a one-day event six years ago to a fully-fledged three-day festival featuring some of Canada’s top musicians.

“We lost money on the first festival,” admitted Bradford. “But since then it’s become bigger and better. We have a great venue with lots of space, a vendor’s village, beer gardens, and a kids’ corner with crafts and plenty of activities for kids to enjoy. Our event has become incredibly popular with families and music-lovers of all ages.”

Held in a large outdoor venue with one stage and non-stop music, the festival is laid back and performers enjoy being there almost as much as the festival goers.

“This is my third time at Central,” said Amos Garrett. “It’s a great festival – even though we have had some years where we played in pretty severe weather.”


Blues and jazz musician Amos Garrett will play the festival for the third time this year.
Photo courtesy, Amos Garrett

Living in High River, Garrett who is arguably one of the top guitarists in North America, knows something about severe weather. This past year, he survived floods that severely damaged his home and destroyed two of his favourite guitars. Despite the personal challenges, it’s been a good year for Garrett artistically. He recently released his first jazz album called Jazzblues and it is getting rave reviews.

“Now that I’m older, I can afford to be a jazz musician,” joked Garrett. “I’ve been playing jazz my whole life, but I’ve never recorded a jazz album. Jazzblues is classic jazz and I think it’s my finest work to date.” For a guy who has played with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Ian Tyson and Maria Muldaur and recorded one of the most famous guitar solos of all time for the song Midnight at the Oasis, that’s saying something.

Garrett and his band will be playing some of the music from his new album at Central Music Festival. Also on the bill are great acts like Tacoy Ryde, Dick Damron, Leroy Stagger, The Mighty Popo, Jeff Bradshaw, Bill Bourne, some new up and coming bands, and a few unique musical performers such as Dale Ladoucer playing her eight-string Chapman Stick.

“We have put together a great lineup of acts and are expecting this to be our best festival ever,” said Bradford. “This year’s festival is a celebration of Canadian culture and it’s a celebration of the universality of music.”

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Central Music Fest

Check out more music festivals on our festival calendar page.