Standing in the golden hayfields that roll down to the ocean’s edge, I look over the sparkling water to the snowcapped mountains of Vancouver Island. I think to myself that there couldn’t be a more beautiful place to host a music festival. “The Farm,” one of the venues of the Hornby Festival, is a stunning place to spend time each summer. July is an insanely busy prep time for the Hornby Festival team, but we always take a moment to appreciate the breathtaking natural splendor of this place, and to remember the generosity of the owners who invite us to their peaceful homestead each year to host the first half of a hopping 10-day music festival.
On an island that is home to only 800 year-round residents, over 120 volunteers join our small, dedicated staff for the first part of August to help deliver our “10 days of magic.” As the music festival begins, the year of fundraising, scheduling, budgeting, and meticulous planning fades away. It truly is magical to see over 1000 people from age zero to almost 100, from all walks of life—long-term residents and visitors alike—who have come together to dance and share the joy of listening to some of the world’s best musicians on a perfect summer evening.
The moon rises over the ocean and high above the festival grounds. The music pulses through the night air, and from backstage we can see the crowd bouncing up and down in unison, a thousand smiles facing our way, interacting with the musicians on stage. It is such a moment of togetherness and elation. Every community needs this—a carefree moment of merriment to bask in the beauty of our lives together and to forget, if only for an evening, the worries of this world.
The Hornby Festival goes far beyond its main stage performances. You might be walking down a forest trail and stumble upon a performance of one of the world’s greatest mbira ensembles from Zimbabwe, as part of Hornby Festival’s “Art In Unusual Places” program. A morning kayak paddle might lead you to a classical violinist who played at Carnegie Hall last week and is now performing Bach to a cliff-top audience of enthralled children with the Festival’s “Classical Kids” program. If you are an emerging musician yourself, you can sign up for the Hornby Festival School for Emerging Musicians that runs concurrent to the Festival. Lovers of literature are welcome to attend our one-day Writer’s Festival. The art show adds a visual element for the senses to savour as well.
The Hornby Festival is in its 38th year, making it one of the oldest music festivals in Canada. Becoming less and less of a well-kept secret, the Festival’s audience has grown significantly over the past decade. The key to the success and longevity of the annual event is, without a doubt, the dedication of the volunteers, staff, and the community, who go that extra mile to make it as special and spectacular as the island itself.