The 36th annual Harrison Festival of the Arts, running from July 12 to 20 in Harrison Hot Springs, will offer audiences a distinctly Langley sound when it opens this weekend.
The first concert, Straight from the Valley, will feature some of the area’s most accomplished performing groups, including the Langley Ukulele Ensemble.
“I first heard of the Langley Ukelele Ensemble years ago while I was teaching at a music camp in Washington State,” recalled Harrison Festival artistic director, Andy Hillhouse.
“One of my fellow teachers, James Hill, whose playing took the humble ukulele to new heights, told me he discovered his passion for the instrument while playing with the Langley Ukes.
“When I saw and heard the group myself I understood why he was so good — they are highly accomplished and disciplined, but more than that, they are a lot of fun.”
During its more than 30 years of its existence, the LUE has been playing arrangements of pop, classical and folk music with precision, dexterity and a sense of fun.
The 19 ensemble members range in age from 12 to 21 years and are students attending middle school, secondary or post-secondary institutions. Performing as many as 80 concerts per year, they have traveled throughout Canada and the US, as well as to Japan.
The group is now led by Paul Luongo, son of Peter Luongo who led the group for 33 years. Following their performance in Harrison, they will be heading to Waikiki, Hawaii, the land most associated with this small but much-loved instrument.
“We are incredibly honoured to be hosting their send-off gig before they leave for one of their regular visits to the ukes spiritual home,” says Hillhouse.
“We also look forward to having their intermediate group perform as part of our Children’s Day activities Wednesday, July 16.”
Also performing at the July 11 opening concert will be UFV Bhangra Club and fiddle family The Sabir Sisters.
Evening Concerts feature the likes of acoustic blues master Eric Bibb, Zimbabwe’s next generation of hope Mokoomba, Mexican singer-songwriter Quique Escamilla and award-winning contemporary pipers Ross Ainslie & Jarlath Henderson.
Tickets to the 36th annual Harrison Festival of the Art can be purchased online at www.harrisonfestival.com, by phone at 604-796-3664 or in person at the Ranger Station Art Gallery in Harrison. For schedules or more information, go to harrisonfestival.com.