Yuletide may have come and gone but the festival that founder Lido Chilelli refers to as Christmas in the Beaches didn’t disappoint.
The area was converted into an oversized concert stage for the 23rd annual Beaches International Jazz Festival from July 15–24.
“We had our biggest crowds ever,” said Chilelli. “It was a real jazz lovin’.”
About 700,000 people flocked to the neighborhood for the event that featured multiple stages along and more than 50 Canadian bands performed as part of the traditional StreetFest on Queen Street East.
All the musicians didn’t disappoint festival artistic director, Bill King.
“I thought the bands were just great, and there was even more of an emphasis on the younger players and the younger bands,” he said. “I think it just gave a lot more vibrancy to it.”
The new Big Band Stage also received an enthusiastic reception.
“I was really surprised,” Chilelli said. “I knew there was interest but it was overwhelming.”
Along with the Latin stage that was introduced last year, performances like Bhangra-jazz fusion group Red Baraat expanded on the traditional festival fare.
“People were dancing, they were having a ball, even in the rain,” King said.
Chilelli agrees visitors were impressed.
“People just were overwhelmed with the talent, the friendliness, the uniqueness,” he said.
As satisfied as the organizers are, they are thinking about what next steps to take.
“Once you see things that work really well, you keep polishing that, you keep trying to improve upon that,” King said.
New options could include big name performers at a major celebration of the festival’s 25th anniversary, and a world stage that would feature more diverse music.
The score for next year’s festival is already being composed. The website has been updated to let fans know they can come back from July 20–29, 2012.
Chilelli will be making sure of that.
“We have a great team and we work on it every day of the year.”
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