STELLA MUSICA FESTIVAL: CULTURAL CROSSROADS, FROM SPAIN TO THE BALKANS
The enchanting melodies of Stella Musica Festival once again filled the air last Friday, June 2nd marking the 8th edition of this illustrious celebration of music. Under the visionary artistic leadership of its founder, Katarzyna Musiał, the festival returned to Montreal to honor and promote women in music.
From Wednesday, May 31 to Friday, June 2nd, three extraordinary events unfolded, each captivating the audience with its unique blend of talent and cultural diversity.
Stella Musica Festival has garnered a reputation for its exceptional programming that transcends boundaries and showcases artists of remarkable skill.
This year’s lineup was no exception, delivering an innovative fusion of cultural traditions ranging from the vibrant rhythms of Spain to the captivating melodies of the Balkans, and even delving into the rich musical heritage of Indigenous peoples.
The festival’s eighth edition commenced with an intimate concert, followed by a thought-provoking round table discussion titled “Building bridges between indigenous artists and non-indigenous audiences.” Held at the enchanting Kin Experience on Wednesday, May 31, this event brought together innu soprano Élisabeth St-Gelais and the talented composer and member of Lac Seul First Nation in Treaty Three, Beverley McKiver.
Their impassioned dialogue explored the power of music as a unifying force, inspiring harmony and understanding among diverse communities.
However, the true crescendo of the festival arrived on Friday, June 2nd , with the highly anticipated Grand Concert, held at the majestic Le Gesù.
The evening transported the audience on a sonic journey through a tapestry of captivating performances.
First, the duo Tarniriik, affectionately known as “Two Souls,” took center stage. SamanthaKigutaq-Metcalf and Cailyn Degrandpre, two extraordinary young Inuit throat singers hailing from Ottawa, shared the mesmerizing beauty of Inuit culture with four very different songs.
From a lullaby, motivational song to the imitation of geese, their performance exuded passion and skill, leaving an indelible impression on the hearts of the audience.
The soaring soprano Lucie St-Martin followed, enchanting the crowd with her breathtaking rendition of Luigi Nono’s Djamila Boupacha followed by Kurt Well’s iconic ” Je ne t’aime pas”.
As a member of the esteemed Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal, St-Martin’s ethereal voice effortlessly conveyed the second song’s message of life and the complexities of love, resonating deeply with everyone present.
Adding a touch of fiery intensity to the evening, the group Fuego Flamenco graced the stage with their extraordinary fusion of flamenco and Latin American music.
Led by the exceptionally talented trio of Katarzyna Musiał (piano, dance), Hanser Santos Gómez (percussion, voice), and Hugo Larenas (guitar), Fuego Flamenco delivered a spellbinding performance, accented by stunning background visuals, that blended traditional and contemporary elements while captivating the senses.
Bringing the evening to its grand finale, the award-winning ensemble Oktopus showcased their virtuosity and their ability to seamlessly blend classical, klezmer, traditional Quebec music, jazz, and Balkan rhythms.
Their unique interpretation and camaraderie was very compelling and the group presented works by esteemed composers such as Holocaust victim Ilse Weber, Vanessa Marcoux, and Alicia Svigals , among others that resounded through the theater, providing an emotional journey that resonated deeply with the listeners.
As the band finished off with two versions of the popular Greek song Misirlou ( popularized by Director Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill ), the audience rose in a standing ovation, their applause echoing the sentiment of a truly unforgettable evening.
Stella Musica Festival’s 8th edition had not only celebrated the extraordinary talent of women in music, but had also transcended boundaries, bridging cultures, and enriching the musical landscape of Montreal.
The festival once again proved that music is a universal language capable of uniting diverse communities, fostering dialogue, and inspiring profound connections. Through the enchanting performances of these gifted artists, Stella Musica Festival illuminated the path toward a harmonious world where the beauty of music knows no bounds.
Gen’s Delights was happy to conduct an interview with Katarzyna Musial, Artistic Director of the Festival Stella Musica .
Can you tell me about the inspiration behind organizing a music festival that specifically highlights the exceptional contribution of women to the musical field?
The inspiration behind organizing this music festival stemmed from a deep desire to address the under representation of women in the music industry and celebrate their exceptional contributions. I came to realize, in the course of my career and by talking to other women artists, that women sometimes faced significant hurdles as professional musicians, and this festival aimed to give them a voice and a place to showcase their art.
As a female artist myself, I was motivated by the inequalities and challenges I witnessed and experienced among my colleagues. Additionally, coming from Poland and being inspired by the diverse cultural activities in Montreal, I felt the need to fill the gap by creating a festival specifically dedicated to showcasing the talent and achievements of women in music. My aim was two-fold: to enrich the community and to provide a platform for women musicians and artists to share their expertise and stories with varied audiences.
How do you ensure diversity and representation in the lineup of artists performing at the festival? To ensure diversity and representation in the lineup of artists performing at the festival, we implement several strategies. Firstly, we actively seek out and invite women artists from all walks of life, from various ethnic and cultural origins, and from various musical genres and backgrounds, via networking events and also by thinking outside the purely “classical music” box. To ensure this diversity, we strongly believe that it’s important to collaborate with local music organizations and networks that promote women in music and arts. Additionally, we conduct thorough research to identify and promote lesser-known but incredibly talented artists who may not yet have received mainstream recognition. We also provide opportunities for emerging artists to showcase their skills alongside established musicians. This is why each year, we are able to present a varied, fascinating and boundary-pushing programming that defies conventions and rethink what a “classical concert” is. The public seems to love it!
What challenges did you face while curating the festival lineup to showcase the wide range of genres and styles that women have contributed to?
Curating the festival lineup to showcase the wide range of genres and styles is an intense, challenging but exhilarating journey. As an artistic director, I thrive on the challenge of crafting innovative fusions between musical genres but also between different artistic forms of expression and venturing into unexplored artistic realms. It is a passion of mine to push boundaries and explore the intersections of different art forms, creating a truly immersive and transformative experience for our audience. The process of curating the lineup becomes an adventure in itself, as we seek to present a diverse and captivating tapestry of music, blending genres and styles in unique and exciting ways. This multidisciplinary and multi-genre approach has become our trademark over the years. One challenge we faced was securing the availability of highly sought-after artists who have made significant contributions to their respective genres. Scheduling conflicts and logistical considerations also posed challenges, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, discovering and promoting lesser-known artists who may not have received mainstream recognition required extensive research and promotion.
How do you engage with local communities and organizations to encourage participation and support for the festival?
We engage with local communities and organizations in various ways, while making sure that underrepresented artists of all musical genres have a place in our festival, and that they can have their say in music. We collaborate with numbers of local cultural institutions, music venues, and universities. By partnering with these organizations, we can grow awareness of the festival’s mission and the current situation for women in music and arts. It also allows us to promote the concerts to a wider audience. We involve our partnering organizations in the festival planning process, allowing them to contribute ideas and suggestions. Engaging with local media outlets helps spread awareness about the festival and encourages participation and support from the community.
Are there any workshops, panels, or educational initiatives integrated into the festival program that aim to empower and inspire young women interested in pursuing a career in music?
Yes, the festival integrates panel discussions and educational initiatives that aim to empower and inspire young women interested in pursuing a career in music. During the festival, we arrange panel discussions featuring successful women in the industry who share their experiences and insights. This allows young women to learn from established professionals and gain valuable advice. We also act as a place for networking, connecting aspiring musicians with established professionals who can provide guidance and support. Networking opportunities are provided to foster connections and collaborations among participants. We also invite young, up-and-coming and highly promising young musicians to perform alongside more seasoned, professional musicians so they can observe and learn from the experience.
This year we are thrilled to highlight in the intimate concert Emily Zhou, a 6-years-old, extremely talented piano prodigy.
As for educational initiatives, the round table discussions seek to deal with current issues facing the musical world: this year, for example, we’ll talk about building bridges between indigenous musicians and non-indigenous audiences.
Could you please share some success stories or notable collaborations that have come about as a result of the festival’s platform for women in the music industry?
As a result of the festival’s platform for women in the music industry, numerous success stories and notable collaborations have emerged. Several emerging artists who gained exposure at the festival have become major prize winners and received various distinctions. They have gone on to secure record deals and perform at larger events, increasing their visibility and career opportunities. For example, in one of our first editions, we presented Rose Naggar-Tremblay, whose career is now in full bloom. The festival’s platform has raised awareness about the talent and contributions of women in music, leading to increased opportunities and recognition for female musicians.
Overall, the Stella Musica Festival has been a catalyst for positive change, boosting the confidence and the self-esteem of the talented women musicians who participated. Especially for those in the early stages of their careers, the Festival has provided incredible opportunities for them to perform in front of an audience, in a professional setting. It has provided opportunities for emerging artists to shine, facilitated collaborations that push artistic boundaries, and empowered young women to pursue their musical aspirations. Through its efforts, the festival continues to contribute to a more inclusive and diverse music industry, where the exceptional contributions of women are celebrated and recognized.
I express my gratitude to Katarzyna for her valuable time and insightful responses to my inquiries.
To learn more about the Stella Musica Festival , please visit their main website: