5 of the best Edmonton spring music festivals

April 28, 2017

By Gene Kosowan

No matter the weather, music festivals continue yearlong in Edmonton. From the Early Music Festival to Shredmonton, here’s the best of the local music scene this spring. [Photo credit: Brett Kissel]

5 of the best Edmonton spring music festivals

Early Music Festival

To neophytes of the genre, a word of advice – don’t call it classical! Early music dates back to the sixth century all the way up to the Renaissance, while classical didn’t emerge on its own until the mid-18th century.

That makes for a lot of territory to cover. In that regard the Early Music Festival, running May 5 to 7 at First Presbyterian Church, doesn’t disappoint. 2017 marks 500 years of the Protestant Reformation and the Scona Chamber Singers will vocalize selections from composers who were in favour of the movement and those who sided with the Counter-Reformation.

Additional nights will be dedicated to Italian composers Arcangelo Corelli and Alessandro Stradella, as well as a special concert dedicated to the viola da gamba, a stringed instrument so rare, musicians owning these treasures are being flown in from other parts of the world to perform.


It’s being billed as the city’s loudest festival and probably should include a disclaimer as the festival set to host the most acts with malevolent band names. Raising decibels May 12 to 14 at the Mercury Room, the ear-bleeding affair features an all-Canadian lineup that includes Winnipeg’s Psychotic Gardening, Vancouver’s Unleash the Archers and Edmonton’s own Bleed.

In all, 16 bands are set to hit the stage. While the Mercury is a licensed establishment, all efforts have been made to ensure all-ages access to some of the attractions – such as an indoor convention and conference that includes drum, bass and guitar workshops as well as seminars on everything from promotion to stage presence.

NUOVO Music and Opera Festival

The ability to meld the genre of opera with other disciplines has slowly garnered the Nuovo Music and Opera Festival a reputation that’s as bright as the performers who grace the event’s stages this year. Running May 20 to June 30, the six-week extravaganza offers several attractions in various locations in and out of Edmonton, though the big-ticket items are what really draw the crowds. This year is no exception, with four mainstage productions taking place.

Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience runs at the Capitol Theatre at Fort Edmonton Park, with the music of Tchaikovsky gracing the production of Eugene Onegin at the Oasis Centre. Festival Place in Sherwood Park hosts The Cunning Little Vixen, sung in Czech with music by Leos Janacek and the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic Carousel.

Rainmaker Rodeo and Exhibition

In May, the thawed-out ground is soft enough for a cowboy to land on if a bronco or bull gets its way. With that in mind, patrons will head north to St. Albert to catch this unique rodeo, which is set to run over the May 25 to 27 weekend.

If man versus animal confrontation isn’t your thing, take the kids down to the midway or take in some live entertainment which features Alberta country favourites Brett Kissel and Jeremy Dallas as well as classic rock survivors Prism, Headpins and Harlequin.


Discover more fun things to do in Edmonton:


Heart of the City Festival

When the movers and shakers at Heart of the City claim their festival is one of the most down-to-earth events staged in the city, they’re not kidding. For starters, don’t expect any pampered big-tickets acts requesting brown M&Ms on their riders.

Instead, what you’ll see are a number of local upstarts playing their hearts out onstage at Giovanni Caboto Park. It’s two days of free entertainment on June 3 and 4, but that doesn’t mean anything goes. Case in point is that all candidates for the main stage have to audition live onstage to grab a slot, something that’s rather unheard of in local festival circles.

There’s local art for sale and access to vendors as well. The added bonus? You can check out some of the fare in the Little Italy neighbourhood where the festival takes place, from the unique eats at the Italian Cultural Society to pub fare at La Dolce Vita.

But wait, there’s more! But you’ll have to wait until summer officially kicks in later in June for the bigger events to take place. In fact, like the weather, Edmonton’s barely getting warmed up.

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