A diverse stream of musical talent will trickle through Whistler this summer with the announcement this week of the lineup for this year's free Summer Concert Series.
Blue Rodeo, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Spirit of the West, Dal Richards' Orchestra and Chantal Kreviazuk (performing with Raine Maida as Moon vs Sun) are among the performers at Whistler Olympic Plaza in July, August and September.
They join three already announced classical shows from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) led by Bramwell Tovey, at the beginning of July, and the students of the new VSO Institute at Whistler, which is holding a public concert in its inaugural year.
Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said two acts, in particular, stand out for her this summer.
"I'm really happy to see Blue Rodeo again. They always put on such a fantastic show," she said.
"And I think the Vancouver Symphony Institute at Whistler is going to add an interesting dimension this year with 80 young people in the village holding concerts, and I'm really excited."
The Summer Concert Series was started by the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), following the success of Whistler's music program during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
It has turned into a highly successful addition to the summer, working in tandem with other special events like Crankworx or the Whistler Children's Festival, as well as the mountain bike park and other activities that are open daily through the summer months.
"All of the animation in the village, the bigger events that occur, the GranFondo, Ironman... these things are drawing people to Whistler," Wilhelm-Morden said.
In the first year, 2011, the approach was to bring in larger acts, including the Barenaked Ladies.
"The summer of 2011 was experimental... We were really moving from 'bring in these big acts' and then have people drive up to Whistler for the purpose of seeing a concert and then turning around and going home. That is effectively what happened in 2011," recalled Wilhelm-Morden.
This meant that a large event, however popular, had its drawbacks, she said.
"(It) doesn't really do anything for (hotel) occupancy levels. What we are trying to do is to entice people to come to Whistler for all kinds of reasons, not just to hear a concert or live music," Wilhelm-Morden said.
It even became an election issue in November 2011, she said.
"Should the municipality be in the concert business and what do they know about holding these large-scale concerts?" Wilhelm-Morden said.
"When the council that I led won in (2011)... one of the things was to create the FE&A (Festivals, Events and Animation) Oversight Committee so that we could actually set policies, instead of throwing money at a wall and hoping it would stick.
"One of those policies was to move away from these large concerts to smaller, potentially more frequent concerts, to give the feeling that there was always something happening in Whistler."
Asked if it seemed like a risk at the time, Wilhelm-Morden said no.
"I think it was exactly the opposite. What had gone on in the summer of 2011 was risky because so much money was being spent on one or two or three acts," she said.
Wilhelm-Morden says the success of the series has been determined through annual surveys of concertgoers taken by Tourism Whistler (TW) on behalf of the RMOW.
"Tourism Whistler has been surveying summer visitors to ask visitors what they (thought about the concerts)," she said.
"We've had the busiest summers on record and we've been advised from our research that we've been getting very high satisfaction ratings with respect to the concerts. Also in terms of the overall Whistler experience."
The RMOW uses the TW survey information when determining their approach to the following year's concert series.
"Certainly, that input goes into the FE&A working group and then the FE&A Oversight Committee is also privy to that information when they're approving what the program for the season looks like," the mayor said.
The funding for this year, like every year of the concert series, comes from Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funds granted by the provincial government. Wilhelm-Morden said $40,000 more was being spent this year than in 2014.
"That's the Whistler Presents Summer Concert Series which has 14 concerts in total and they're all funded from RMI," said Wilhelm-Morden.
Whistler received the lion's share of RMI funding, which is made available throughout B.C. — $7.1 million in 2014.
Overall, the province provided $10.5 million for the 2013/14 fiscal year and the same for the 2014/15 fiscal year.
-With files by Alison Taylor
Whistler Summer Concert Series
All shows are free; bring your blanket and dress for the weather. Evening shows end by 10 p.m.
July 1-4 Times Vary Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
July 5 2 p.m. Whistler Institute Orchestra
July 30 7 p.m. High and Mighty Brass Band
July 31 8 p.m. Nahko & Medicine for the People
Aug. 1 8:30 p.m. Michael Franti
Aug. 21 7:30 p.m. Dal Richards' Orchestra
Aug. 22 7:30 p.m. Moon vs Sun featuring Raine Maida and Chantal Kreviazuk
Aug. 28 7:30 p.m. Shane Koyczan and the Short Story Long
Aug. 29 7:30 p.m. Blue Rodeo
Sept. 5 7:30 p.m. Great Lake Swimmers
Sept. 6 Celebrate the RMOW's 40th anniversary with Spirit of the West
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