How music came out of darkness

No question that guitars and those who play them sometimes gently weep.


But sometimes they heal, too.

September 2001, with the planes just back in the sky after the world-changing 9/11 attacks, a tradition was started.

“Guitar legend Don Ross was having a guitar weekend at his home in Cannington, right after 9/11 and we were thinking it would be cancelled,” said Del Vezeau.

But there is something resilient about guitar players.

“The air ban was just lifted and people came in for the workshop and performances from all over the world,” said Vezeau. “Planes, trains, automobiles and buses. People were not going to miss this.”

There was a statement being made to the terrorists about freedom but also an articulation about the love of the guitar.

“I saw the commitment people had,” said Vezeau. “Nothing was going to stop these players from playing.”

The Canadian Guitar Festival was born. It’s hard to imagine something so wonderful coming out of something so vile.

“Music is like that,” said Vezeau, himself a distinguished player. “It’s there when you need it.”

The first few events were held at the Odessa Fair Ground near Kingston before Vezeau heard about a campground for sale on nearby Loughborough Lake in beautiful and friendly South Frontenac.

“I bought the property just so I could have the guitar festival,” Vezeau said with a laugh, realizing he now spends as much time helping people set up trailers, fixing wells, putting in docks as he does pulling the musical strings.

But he’s never looked back.

“It’s a beautiful place and a perfect fit.”

This year’s festival July 28-30, is the 10th on his Loughborough Lake Holiday Park on Sydenham Rd. For guitar players it has become Mecca because it’s not just performances from the top finger style guitarists, and the competition among those hoping to get there, it’s also a meeting place for lessons, workshops, custom guitar makers and this year the debut of the upcoming movie documentary Acoustic Uprising that gathered some of its material from the event.

Antoine Dufour, Preston Reed, Calum Graham, Ed Gerhard, Goran Ivanovic Trio, Gareth Pearson and new talents John Ainsworth, Jay Calder and Erick Turnbull and 2016 Canadian Fingerstyle Guitar Competition winner Jamie Dupuis will all perform.

In the past, the Canadian Guitar Festival has had superstars like Rick Emmit and Steve Howe grace the stage and this year’s highlight show will be the joining together of the Montreal Guitar Trio and the California Guitar Trio to put six dynamic guitarists on stage at one time.

“I am so excited about it,” said Vezeau. “For guitar enthusiasts it just doesn’t get any better.”

Don Ross will also be performing again this year which is fitting since his original event in 2001 was the beginning of all of this magic.

The vibe at this event is like nothing else I have been to. I’ve attended most years and the thing I like about it, is it has a music festival in the woods feel about it where after the shows people sit around campfires with guitars and jam.

It’s a warm, friendly affair.

To think it all came out of the terror attack on 9/11.

“A lot of people said that the first gathering at Don Ross’s would not happen and our motto is each year of the Canadian Guitar Festival could be the last,” said Vezeau. “But each year it seems guitar players from around the world decide no matter the obstacles, they don’t want it to end.”

Like the sun that keeps on coming up, it seems the guitar not only brings tears but smiles as well.

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