Beverley Harris has been the Artistic Director of the Waterside Summer Series on Amherst Island since 2005. Her leadership has made an important contribution to one of the most successful summer music festivals in Canada. This success is measured by the number of sold out concerts and the quality of the performers who make a special effort to come to this little island in Lake Ontario.
The Island itself is an attraction for the audience who enjoy the ferry ride and the small 140 seat church on the hill where five concerts are held each summer. Equally important is the consistent quality and variety of the performers. Ticket buyers comment on the trust they place in Beverley for their choices. Finding the performers is one of the pleasures of the job for Beverley. She attends many concerts each year seeking exceptional artists who are interested in performing for her discerning audience. Often these discoveries can be shared with other summer festivals in Ontario, making it more attractive for the performers.
Of course Beverley’s background in music is an essential ingredient. Originally from Toronto she studied both piano and voice at the Royal and at the Western Ontario conservatories. She taught piano for thirty years and sang with several choirs. But it was Beverley’s interest in sailing that brought her to Amherst Island in 2001. For seventeen years she and her husband Bill had sailed their boat down to the Thousand Islands from their home in Oakville, until they decided to sell the boat and build their “land yacht” at the eastern end of Amherst Island. This meant that while Beverley had to give up her piano studio, she could make an important contribution to the local choir at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church-where the Waterside concerts are held.
Beverley credits the “Owls” for a good part of her success in attracting performers. As Beverley says, “It is not possible for us to attract fine performers if we cannot afford to pay them fairly. That means we need much more than the ticket price that our audience is asked to pay.”
Beverley also credits Waterside’s success to the amazing number of musically knowledgeable people on Amherst Island. Eric Friesen, formerly of CBC, has encouraged artists to perform at Waterside. Others open their homes to the visiting artists for the very important after-concert supper!