After a decade, Open Waters Festival keeps music flowing with online 2021 edition | Local-Lifestyles | Lifestyles

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Halifax’s Open Waters Festival came into its own in 2011, and a decade later the year’s annual inaugural musical event is taking its own spirit of improvisation and evolution to heart by going digital in 2021.

Due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings and events, the Upstream Music Association’s signature winter event will keep the flow going with daily streaming concerts and events from Halifax and beyond from Wednesday, Jan. 6 to Saturday, Jan. 16. 

“We had to adjust and think outside the box to ensure that Open Waters Festival would become a reality in 2021 keeping in mind all the challenges we are faced with,” says Upstream artistic director Lukas Pearse. “As usual, music will prevail and our performers will be able to provide a much-needed escape to our audience.

“Finding a way forward with Open Waters Festival in this abstracted online format offers inquisitive artists and curious audience connections from which we all benefit.”

Open Waters opens with award-winning Mi’kmaw artist and musician Alan Syliboy & the Thundermakers performing at the festival’s headquarters, the Music Room, on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and wraps up on Saturday, Jan. 16 at 7:30 p.m. with a set from Vancouver by the trio Process featuring violinist Meredith Bates, cellist Peggy Lee and Aram Bajakian on guitar.

The days in between will feature Open Waters favourites like vocalist Janice Isabel Jackson (Thursday, Jan. 7; 7:30 p.m.), the Upstream Quartet with guest pianist/composer Behrooz Mihankhan (Saturday, Jan. 9; 7:30 p.m.), pianist Jennifer King (Sunday, Jan. 10; 3 p.m.)  and the cross-cultural Open Borders collaboration (Monday, Jan. 11; 7:30 p.m.).

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Other fresh sounds can be heard when India Gailey performs new music for solo cello (Sunday, Jan. 10; 7:30 p.m.), Tim Crofts presents his new seven-keyboard piece Herd of Pianos from the Dalhousie Art Gallery (Tuesday, Jan. 12; 7:30 p.m.), and Nova Scotia alt-rock and electronic music master Brian Borcherdt (Holy F***) teams up with Kim Barlow, Mairi Chaimbeul and Sahara Jane for a livestream from Wolfville (Friday, Jan. 15; 7:30 p.m.).

Tickets for Open Waters Festival are available as single event tickets for $10/$5 Upstream members or the all-access Festival Pass for $30/$25 Upstream members, available through

Upstream Association membership is $10 per year, which can be purchased on the Upstream website at

Open Waters Festival Performance Schedule

  • Wednesday, Jan. 6; 7:30 p.m. — Alan Syliboy & the Thundermakers (online from the Music Room)
  • Thursday, Jan. 7; 7:30 p.m. — Janice Isabel Jackson, vocalist (online from the Music Room)
  • Friday, Jan. 8; 7:30 p.m. — Crofts/ Adams/ Pearse (Online from the Music Room)
  • Saturday, Jan. 9; noon  — Improvisation Talk Back (Online via Zoom)
  • Saturday, Jan. 9; 7:30 p.m. — Upstream Quartet (Dawn Hatfield, Geordie Haley, Andrew Miller & Lukas Pearse) with special guest Behrooz Mihankhan
  • Sunday, Jan. 10; 3 p.m. — Jennifer King (Online from The Music Room)
  • Sunday, Jan. 10; 7:30 p.m. — India Gailey new music for solo cello (Online from the Music Room)
  •  Monday, Jan. 11; 7:30 p.m. — Open Borders – Mohammad Sahraei, Yousef Mousavi, Behrooz Mihankhan, Matt Gallant and Lukas Pearse (Online from the Music Room)
  • Tuesday, Jan. 12; 7:30 p.m. — Herd of Pianos- (Tim Crofts piece for seven grand pianos, presented by the Dalhousie Art Gallery and the Fountain School of Performing Arts)
  • Tuesday, Jan 12; 8 p.m. — Upstream Music Association Presentation of the Paul Cram Creation Award
  • Wednesday, Jan. 13; 7:30 p.m. — Éric Normand and Robin Servant (Online from Rimouski)
  • Thursday, Jan. 14; 7:30 p.m. — Joel Miller with Mark Adam and Stephen Lewis (Online from Fredericton)
  • Friday, Jan. 15; 7:30 p.m. — Brian Borcherdt, Kim Barlow, Mairi Chaimbeul, Sahara Jane (Online from Wolfville)
  • Saturday, Jan. 16; 7:30 p.m. — Process: Meredith Bates, violin, Peggy Lee, cello, and Aram Bajakian, guitar (Online from Vancouver)




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