What started as an artistic camping trip in East Kelowna debuts at the end of June as a fully monetized, live-streamed festival for the singer/songwriter folk music crowd.
International musicians, visual artists and a community mindset are sure to spawn new collaborations.
In other words, Lille Gard Arts and Music Festival is all grown up and ready for the masses.
“Most of us are old church people who have lost touch with our congregation, but there’s still that kind of respect for each other and there’s still this sense of grounding as far as our spirits go,” explained performer Ari Neufeld, who was among the founding friends who started the festival in 2010 on a property now known as The Bottega Farm Inn.
Billed as a retreat where the artistic community can spend a few days writing, recording and performing, the Bottega Farm Inn is a modern, glass-encrusted hall with high-end audio, cathedral ceilings and woodwork to make a carpenter swoon; but when the festival got started, the friends and artists involved were literally pulling their families together to camp out among a smattering of pine trees to share their latest work.
“It was there to be a vulnerable place for artists to show where they were at,” said Neufeld, noting it was non-denominational, even non-Christian but focused on a collective desire to contribute to social justice movements through art.
He and organizer Nico Boesten, a singer/songwriter who now heads Tribehouse Collective, handled some of the cooking to add a personal touch to the event.
“The pancake breakfast was one of the things that really stuck out for me,” said Neufeld. “It was us making crapes on barbecues for like four hours and making music under the trees.”
Flash forward three years and, aside from the fancy new digs, the festival has taken on a far more professional flare.
Coming from Germany, Sarah Brundel will add a European touch, while The Violet Burning, fronted by popular songwriter Michael Pritzl, brings an American influence.
Local band Cod Gone Wild, a funky Celtic group now on its third incarnation with members from across the Okanagan, will take the stage along with Tribehouse staples Graham Ord and Norm Strauss in the The Ord Strauss Blues Revue.
Ezra Kwizera, a world beat artist from Uganda, is on the bill, but so too is Corey Doak, a 10-year veteran of the Okanagan music scene whose upcoming album was produced by Strauss with big picture production influence from Curtis Tulman of The Cruzeros.
“I think this is a great way for people to see astounding talent from their own backyard,” said Doak. “It’s one of the those things that’s easy to let pass you by if there’s not a big Top 40 headliner, but it’s really going to be well worth it with some great surprises.”
Joining the pancake breakfast on the food front, there will be a beer garden this year and, though Neufeld said he likely won’t feel comfortable pulling out the new material he’s writing this month on Vancouver Island, there’s sure to be some creative sparks. One of his favourite songs at the moment, Hummingbird, was written at the second Lille Gard Festival with singer/songwriter Jane Eamon, who also released an album and poetry book this year.
Eamon will be back, as will a visual arts component, including local artists John Revill and Dave Watland. There’s plenty more in the line-up including David Ruis, Old Mare and Brent Tyler; tickets are $15/person or $25/family pass and can be ordered online.
The third annual Lille Gard Arts and Music Festival runs June 30 through July 1 at the Bottega Farm Inn, 4485 Sallows Rd, in East Kelowna.
Complete line-up includes:
Music—David Ruis, The Violet Burning, Sarah Brendel, The Geese, Old Mare, Brent Tyler, Ari Neufeld, Cod Gone Wild, Ord Strauss Blues Revue, Joshua Smith, Jimmy Balfour, Zerbin, Ezra Kwizera, Mark Irving, Kim McMechan, Jane Eamon, Cowboy Bob, Corey Doak, Johathan Inc., Raquel Warchol, Daisy and the Sparrow, Bruce and Brian Wiebe, Joel Strauss, Josh Cullen, Urban Birds, and Nathan Hare.
Visual Arts—Carrie Harper, Dave Watland, Nikki Balfour, James Hayes, Madelyn Hamilton, Sara Gagnon, Julie Elliot, Christine Cloutier, Gord Whyte, John Revill, Cool Arts, Charla Maarschalk and Dylan Ranney.
Speakers—Chris Janzen, Ezra Kwizera, David Ruis, Brad Jersak.