Joy of Life fest is labour of love for Daniel Lapp

IN CONCERT

What: Joy of Life Festival with Daniel Lapp, Stephanie Cadman, David Vest, Folkestra, the Joy of Life Choir and the BC Fiddle Orchestra
Where: Alix Goolden Performance Hall, 907 Pandora Ave.
When: Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4, 7:30 p.m. (doors at 7)
Tickets: $14.85 to $25.85 ticketfly.com and the Victoria Conservatory of Music front desk (900 Johnson St.)

Daniel Lapp has so many moving parts to assemble when it comes to planning his Joy of Life Festival that he has given up even thinking of being stressed out.

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For a producer just days away from a two-day event that will put nearly 200 performers on stage at the Alix Goolden Performance Hall, he was surprisingly calm during an interview. Perhaps he simply knows to expect the unexpected at this point.

The Joy of Life Festival will celebrate its sixth year of fiddling and fun during performances Friday and Saturday, the likes of which will feature several Lapp entities — Folkestra, the Joy of Life Choir, and the B.C. Fiddle Orchestra — in addition to special guests Stephanie Cadman and David Vest. The musician and teacher (he’s the artistic director of the Victoria Conservatory of Music’s School of Contemporary Music) has spent months putting together the program, and it bears the unique trademarks of one of the city’s most vital community leaders, music or otherwise.

The festival is split into two halves, with Joy of Fiddle on Friday and Joy of Song on Saturday. Making matters more hectic for Lapp, there is also Pyjamajam, a B.C. Fiddle Orchestra showcase at the Alix Goolden Performance Hall, on Sunday at 7 p.m.

The 100-person Joy of Life Choir, 40-person Folkestra, and 24-student B.C. Fiddle Orchestra will be present throughout the festival, which adds a carnival-like feel, Lapp said. There’s so much going on, fans often come for both nights so they don’t miss any activity. Much of the program is written well in advance, though Lapp leaves room for happy accidents. He expects plenty this weekend, with the varied roster of guests he has put together.

The B.C. Fiddle Orchestra will celebrate its 25th Anniversary tomorrow with help from Cadman, a Canadian Folk Award winner and member of the fiddle group Belle Starr. Lapp performed with Cadman when she was in her teens and, normally, would not have had the budget to fly her from Ontario to play. The world champion tap dancer, and renowned Ottawa Valley fiddler and step dancer, recently moved to Salt Spring Island, however, so Lapp brought her into the fold. “She’s magnetic,” he said. “She’s going to blow people away.”

Cadman will be joined on the program by Salt Spring Island guitarist and longtime Lapp associate Adam Dobres, who will be given a featured role alongside three of Lapp’s soon-to-be grads from the B.C. Fiddle Orchestra. One of them, bassist Isaiah Smith, has been awarded a full scholarship at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. The program takes a unique turn Saturday for Joy of Song, which will celebrate Canadian women. The choir will perform arrangements by Lapp of songs from Rita MacNeil (Working Man), Joni Mitchell (Big Yellow Taxi), Feist (1, 2, 3, 4), Loreena McKennitt (Mummer’s Dance), and Buffy Sainte-Marie (Up Where We Belong), among others. “It has taken shape quite nicely,” Lapp said. “Most of these songs have never been sung by a choir before.”

Legendary Vancouver singer-songwriter Shari Ulrich will be in attendance to hear her song Watching the River Run performed by the Joy of Life Choir. “She is not one of our musical guests this year, but she heard that we are going to be doing one of her songs and she’s going to fly out to Victoria just to see it.”

Victoria bluesman David Vest, who is performing with the house band (Dobres, keyboardist Danuel Tate, bassist Joey Smith, and drummer Kelby MacNayr) on Saturday, will also perform a few covers by his favourite female artists, in addition to his own songs.

Spotlighting the women of Canadian song is not only an important part of the festival, it’s historically important, Lapp said.

“A lot of these iconic Canadian songwriters, their music hasn’t really become part of our Canadian songbook yet.

“Part of my goal for the last couple of years was to hand-pick great Canadian songs and arrange them for three-part harmonies, with the hope they might start finding their way into curriculum at schools and with other choirs.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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