Ottawa
2 min

Lining up the crowd pleasers

Women's Voices reaches out

MUSICAL RISE. Marika Jemma, promotions director for Women's Voices, is in knots over the ever-growing caliber of the music programming. Credit: Colin Seaman

Some women call it a need. Others, a comfort. But however you feel about it, the gears are already grinding in preparation for this summer’s seventh annual Women’s Voices Festival.



“I think the first one had 300 people and it was actually in someone’s backyard,” explains music director Brenna Rivier of the little festival that has tripled in size since then. “It’s chock full of people, but the energy hasn’t changed. It’s still really comfy.”



Laura Smith, Cindy Church and Susan Crowe took their bows at the NAC’s Fourth Stage as a fundraiser for the popular event. A golf tournament, followed by a dinner and dance, is also in the works for summer, says Marika Jemma, promotions director.



“We’re using these events to promote women’s music,” she explains of the festival’s ever-growing audience and musical roster. “We’ve had women come in from Sudbury and North Bay and Montreal and Vancouver. The caliber of the music programming is also increasing.”



Jemma credits mounting interest to the festival’s ambassador program, created to promote the event far and wide. And so far, Rivier’s line-up is nothing short of solid. “This year we’re bringing back people we haven’t seen for a few years,” says Rivier. “As well as some real crowd-pleasers.”



The weekend’s program includes French-Canadian singer Lucie Blue Tremblay, rhythm and blues singer Margaret Stowe and Vinnick, Sheppard and Harte. The main headliners are The Wyrd Sisters and Swivel Hips. But for local music fans, Saturday afternoon may be the highlight.



“We’re going to have some-thing along the lines of an Ode to Ottawa. Only Ottawa bands,” says Rivier, whose own band, the Herb Girls, will take the stage. Malaika, a four-woman a cappella band, is also expected to whet the audience’s craving for local talent.



This year, the festival is considering offering an alternative to the dance held Friday and Saturday night and will likely be airing the one-time musical episodes of the shows Xena Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And of course, sitting around a campfire is always an option. “It’s the mix thing,” Rivier says of the varied, yet all-female, crowd. “You’re also dealing with some people who want to sit around and sing Kumbaya My Lord.”



Aside from music, the weekend offers dances, vendors, and workshops. “The workshops are about things like buying a house, car maintenance, yoga. They’re quite informative, quite well-attended,” says Rivier of the mostly free activities. “They’re not necessarily music-related. It’s like aromatherapy stuff, working with herbs, unleashing your inner dancer. It’s a big wide variety.”



But perhaps the biggest draw of the event is the women-only aspect of it. While the festival is restricted to women and children, being a lesbian is not a necessity. “It’s women-positive. It’s comfy for anybody who goes,” says Rivier. “It’s not this sort of whole politicizing weekend. Whoever you sleep with is whoever you sleep with.”