Northern Lights Festival Boréal

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Northern Lights Festival Boréal
Melbourne Ska Orchestra.JPG
Melbourne Ska Orchestra performing at Northern Lights Festival Boréal in 2014
GenreFolk, rock, roots music, jazz, blues, First Nations music
DatesFirst weekend in July
Location(s)Greater Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
Years active1972–2019, 2021–
WebsiteNorthern Lights Festival Boréal

Northern Lights Festival Boréal is an annual music festival in Greater Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.[1] It is one of Canada's oldest music festivals in continuous operation, having been staged every year since 1972;[2] although the Mariposa Folk Festival is nominally older, that festival was not staged in 1980 or 1981.

The bilingual festival is held in Bell Park, including the Grace Hartman Amphitheatre, on the shore of the city's Ramsey Lake.[3] It presents a diverse program of music in a variety of genres, arts, crafts and children's entertainment,[4] typically featuring a mix of national, international and local artists and performers. Musicians at the festival typically participate in both conventional concert performances and "workshop" sessions collaborating with several other musicians.

In addition to the main festival, the organizing committee also sponsors a number of concerts and other cultural events in the city throughout the year; during the festival weekend, an additional lineup of local artists also performs downtown at the Towne House rather than at the park site.

The festival is usually held on the first weekend in July, although it was postponed until the last weekend of the month in 1988 to serve as the cultural festival for the 1988 World Junior Championships in Athletics, which were held in the city. Most commonly held over three days from Friday to Sunday, at various times in its history the festival has taken place over one, two or four days as well.[2]


The festival is historically noted as the venue where Canadian folk musician Stan Rogers wrote one of his most famous songs, "Barrett's Privateers".[5] He reportedly wrote the song because he did not know any traditional sea shanties to contribute at a collaborative performance session with the band Friends of Fiddler's Green.[5]

In the 1980s, the festival was one of the first major music venues ever to book Shania Twain, before she was even signed to a record label.[6]

In 1990, the event staged the first-ever collaborative performance by folk musicians James Keelaghan and Oscar Lopez, who later recorded two Juno Award-nominated albums together as Compadres.[7]

In 1992, the festival was one of the arts organizations profiled in the TVOntario series Putting On the Arts.[8]

In 1999, a minor controversy ensued when pop singer Amanda Marshall announced a concert in the city on a date that conflicted with the festival.[9] The issue was resolved when Marshall's promoters offered a special promotional pass which would enable ticketholders to attend both events;[9] however, attendance at the festival still fell below expectations that year, leaving the event in a financial deficit.[10] The following year, the festival recovered financially by presenting a smaller-scale program.[11]

In 2017, the festival expanded from its usual recent three-day schedule, adding a Thursday night performance lineup devoted exclusively to indigenous music.[12]

In 2020, the festival was cancelled, for the first time in its history, due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada.[13] Organizers have indicated that acts who had already been booked to play at the 2020 event before its cancellation will be offered a slot in 2021.


The festival presents an annual Jackie Washington Award for distinguished contribution to Northern Ontario's cultural life.[14] Past winners of the award have included Robert Paquette, Ken Whiteley, Paul Dunn and Charlie Angus.[14] The award is named for Jackie Washington, a blues musician who performed at the festival 25 of the 38 years between its inauguration and his death.

Also awarded each year is the "Bernie Melanson Volunteer Award", named after one of the original founding members of NLFB and given to individuals or groups who have given long standing and/or exceptional volunteer service to the festival.



CANO, Tom Rush, Stan Rogers[15]


Scott Merritt, Lauri Conger and Lorraine Segato, The Nylons, the Bop Cats, Joe Hall, Nancy White, Eritage, Shirley Eikhard, Richard Séguin, Robert Paquette, CANO, Paul Dunn, Daisy DeBolt, Jacko Chartrand[16]


James Keelaghan, Oscar Lopez, Tom Paxton, Josephine, Loreena McKennitt[17]


Ashley MacIsaac, Kashtin, Nadjiwan, The Wailing Aztecs, The Shuffle Demons, Stephen Fearing, Eric Nagler[18]


Blue Rodeo, Bob Wiseman, Universal Honey, Change of Heart, The Pursuit of Happiness, Bob Snider, Fred Eaglesmith, Pacande, The Wailing Aztecs, Nadjiwan, Les Chaizes Muzikales[19]


Bruce Cockburn, Natalie MacMaster, Rheostatics[20]


Mackeel, Buckwheat Zydeco, Grievous Angels,[14] Kim Stockwood[21]


The Arrogant Worms, Rita Chiarelli, the Corndogs, Alun Piggins, Carlos del Junco, Konflit Dramatik, Ruby Craig, the Rockin' Highliners, Debbie Danbrook, Hank Engel and the Hoosier Daddies, No Reservations, Darlene[22]


The Arrogant Worms, BeeBop Cowboys, Broche a Foin, Kevin Closs, Sarah Craig, Véronic DiCaire, Brian Dunn, Fred Eaglesmith, Grievous Angels,[23] The Havocs, Colin James, Kingpins, Konflit Dramatik, Corb Lund, Kate Maki, Matapat, Mondo Idols, Ox, Pilate, Andy Stochansky, Sweetwater, The Wailin' Jennys, Verge[24][25]


Ron Sexsmith, Leahy, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Peter Case, Les Breastfeeders, Oh Susanna, Peter Elkas, Ox, Kim Barlow, Torngat


Kate Maki, Old Man Luedecke, Nathan Lawr, Two Hours Traffic, Daniel Bélanger, Ian Tamblyn, David Francey, Miracle Fortress, The Sadies, Don McLean


Serena Ryder, Bob Wiseman, Joel Plaskett, Jenn Grant, Bob Snider, Angie Nussey, Stéphane Paquette, J. P. Cormier, Norman Foote, Mr. Something Something


Broken Social Scene, The Weakerthans, Lunch At Allen's, Ron Hynes, J. P. Cormier, Ladies of the Canyon[26]


Daniel Lanois, Steven Page, Joel Plaskett, The Good Lovelies, The Hidden Cameras[27]


Serena Ryder, Kathleen Edwards, Buck 65, Lynn Miles, Caracol, Elisapie, Swamperella, Cindy Cook


Amélie, Annie Lou, Bustamento, Bruce Cockburn, Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Melbourne Ska Orchestra, Barry Miles, Stéphane Paquette, Red Moon Road, Crystal Shawanda, The Strumbellas, Tokyo Police Club, Wintersleep


Fanny Bloom, Big Tobacco & The Pickers, Billy John & The Irish Wake, The Bombadils, Duncan Cameron, Cello Tales, J. P. Cormier, Quique Escamilla, Five Alarm Funk, Sarah Harmer, Hello Holiday, House of David Gang, Jayme Stone's Lomax Project, Kobo Town, Lee Harvey Osmond, Dan Mangan, Melbourne Ska Orchestra, Mimi O'Bonsawin, Lisa Marie Naponse, Le Paysagiste, Pistol George Warren, Les Poules à Colin, Adonis Puentes, Reuben and the Dark, Scarlett Jane, Ben Sures, Tuba Boy, The Wild Geese


Afrikelektro, The Amazing René, Bahamas, Mélanie Brulée, Collective Roots, Cindy Cook, Digging Roots, Brian Dunn, Paul Dunn, Fagroongala, Martine Fortin, Matt Foy, Anique Granger, Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra, Jennifer Holub, Les Hotêsses d’Hilaire, Hugh Jazz, François Lemieux, A. David MacKinnon, Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy, Kate Maki, Mandala, Minotaurs, Murder Murder, Orkestar Kriminal, Steven Page, Pretty Archie, Chuck Roberts, Sheesham & Lotus & Son, Frederick Squire, Jeff Stewart and Community Drums, Rose-Erin Stokes, Sun K, Dwayne Trudeau, Josh Turnbull, Union Duke[2]


Aerialists, The Ape-ettes, Barry Miles and the Congregation, Bboy Redsky, Bixiga 70, Black Bull Moose Singers, La Bronze, Christian Cirelli, Dr. Tom's Travelling Medicine Show, M. D. Dunn, Ever-Lovin' Jug Band, Les Frérots Rochers, Stephanie Fyfe, Emmanuel Gasser, Louis-Philippe Gingras, Sarah King Gold, Nico Glaude, Joy Harjo, Hidden Roots Collective, The Jerry Cans, Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboys, Bryden Gwiss Kiwenzie, Mclean, Miss Sassoeur & Les Sassys, Mob Bounce, Music by Jake, No Reservations, Fred Penner, Dale Pepin, Plugged Nickel String Band, Quantum Tangle, Rabbit and Bear Paws, Jenny Ritter, Don Ross, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar, Andy Shauf, Nick Sherman, Ansley Simpson, Rae Spoon, Shotgun Jimmie, Annie Sumi, Leonard Sumner, Chris Thériault, Trad, A Tribe Called Red, Tuns, The Turbans, Whitehorse, Clayton Windatt, Yukon Blonde


Afrikana Soul Sister, Afro Madness Drum Troupe, Alvvays, Andrew Queen and the Campfire Crew, Arkells, C.R. Avery, Les Barricades, BBBRTHR, Seth Bernard, Binaeshee-Quae, Black Bull Moose Singers, Bonsa, Aleksi Campagne, Canailles, Casper Skulls, David Cordero, Aron d'Alesio, Russell deCarle, Les Deuxluxes, Cécile Doo-Kingué, Matt Foy, Frank Deresti and the Lake Effect, Fresh Kils & Vekked, Jane's Party, Connie Kaldor, Doctor Nativo, Guitars Alive Quartet, Hellnback, Richard Inman, Iskwé, JoPo and the Rize, Julie and the Wrong Guys, King Abid, Kira May, The Keyframes, Édouard Landry, Abigail Lapell, Lisa Leblanc, Lee Harvey Osmond, Paul Loewenberg and Richard Mende, Pat Maloney, Mama's Broke, Rodney Meilleur, Mickey O'Brien, Murder Murder, NiLLa & Ghettosocks, Orlando Julius and Afrosoundz, Joel Plaskett and Bill Plaskett, Donné Roberts, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, Sheesham & Lotus & Son, Sulfur City, Team T&J, Mara Tremblay, Laetitia Zonzambé


The Almighty Rhombus, Bedouin Soundclash, Boogat, Kevin Breit, Brooke Bruce, Basia Bulat, The Burning Hell, Duncan Cameron, Eric Clancy, Kevin Closs, Jean-Paul De Roover, Cris Derksen, Fred Eaglesmith and Tif Ginn, ECHLO, Nick Ferrio, Eva Foote, Half Moon Run, Haviah Mighty, Jennifer Holub, Jane's Party, Jennis, K'naan, Mélissa Laveaux, Céleste Lévis, Magoo, Mayhemingways, Rodney Meilleur, Hannah Shira Naiman, Safia Nolin, Oh Geronimo, Pop Mach!ne, William Prince, Rayannah, Sam Roberts, Shaky Stars, Sheesham & Lotus & Son, Al Simmons, Ansley Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Ben Sures, Trapment, David Dino White, Jojo Worthington, Zeus

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Festival turns 35 this year". Sudbury Star, May 25, 2006.
  2. ^ a b c "Northern Lights Festival Boreal finalizes 45th anniversary performance roster". Soo Today, April 20, 2016.
  3. ^ "Good, bad or ugly, the folk festival endures". Toronto Star, June 15, 1995.
  4. ^ "Festival expands its artistic ambitions". Sudbury Star, July 10, 1999.
  5. ^ a b "Stan Rogers: 10 Years Gone". Ottawa Citizen, July 11, 1993.
  6. ^ Barbara Hager, On Her Way: The Life and Music of Shania Twain. Berkley Boulevard, 1998. ISBN 9780425164518.
  7. ^ "Just your average 'Celtino' guitar duo; The unlikely fusion of Latin American and Celtic music came easily to Lopez and Keelaghan". Toronto Star, October 11, 2007.
  8. ^ "Arts on TV". Windsor Star, June 20, 1992.
  9. ^ a b "Everybody loves Amanda Marshall". Sudbury Star, July 9, 1999.
  10. ^ "Festival will continue". Sudbury Star, December 5, 1999.
  11. ^ "Performance artist wowed the crowds at Northern Lights". Sudbury Star, July 15, 2000.
  12. ^ "Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tribe Called Red to highlight Northern Lights festival". CBC Sudbury, April 25, 2017.
  13. ^ Mary Katherine Keown, "Organizers cancel Northern Lights Festival Boreal for this year". Sudbury Star, May 4, 2020.
  14. ^ a b c "Music, art combine to make NLFB a success". Sudbury Star, July 18, 1999.
  15. ^ "Folk music lives, from coast-to-coast". The Globe and Mail, June 27, 1980.
  16. ^ "Folk festivals forge their own traditions". The Globe and Mail, June 27, 1980.
  17. ^ "Playbill". Windsor Star, July 7, 1990.
  18. ^ "Sudbury festival list was wrong". Toronto Star, June 16, 1995.
  19. ^ "Summer's sounds of music All across Ontario tunefests ranging from folk and roots to global world beat are getting ready to roll". Toronto Star, June 15, 1997.
  20. ^ "Out of town". Toronto Star, July 2, 1998.
  21. ^ "Time to head out on the highway ; Music festivals are beckoning from across the province". Toronto Star, June 17, 1999.
  22. ^ "Music abounds at Northern Lights". Sudbury Star, July 3, 2000.
  23. ^ "New MP hits the stage in Sudbury". North Bay Nugget, July 5, 2004.
  24. ^ "Festival Boreal stays true to roots in its 33rd year". Sudbury Star, May 24, 2004.
  25. ^ "Festival Boreal enjoys another great year". Sudbury Star, July 8, 2004.
  26. ^ "Northern Lights Festival Boreal - performers (2011)". Archived from the original on August 28, 2011. Retrieved 28 Aug 2011.
  27. ^ "Northern Lights Festival Boreal - Performers (2012)". Archived from the original on July 30, 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2012.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 46°28′36″N 80°59′32″W / 46.47661°N 80.99211°W / 46.47661; -80.99211