By Karen Herland

Shakespeare believed that the world was a stage, but Montrealers know that summertime here is a festival.

Montrealers had plenty of opportunity to get festive over the last few months. Magnifying glass

Montrealers had plenty of opportunity to get festive over the last few months.

From the Fringe in springtime to the World Film Festival as the days grow shorter, with stops for Carifete, laughs, jazz, fireworks, beer and les Nuits d’Afrique, you could get festive almost every day of the season. Meanwhile, the Highlights festival offers the opportunity to gather and celebrate during the shortest/coldest days of winter.

Given the gusto with which we throw ourselves into the festivities, you have to wonder if there is not something more than an excuse for a party going on.

Anita Grants thought that the Fine Arts FFAR series of courses (Fine Arts courses not intended for Fine Arts majors) might be a good place to explore the concept further. Many of the courses under this rubric explore aspects of popular culture from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Offering the course in the summertime made perfect sense. “There’s so much going on for free in the summer, there’s culture all around,” Grants said. Having been responsible for the FFAR program for many years, she knows that students from diverse fields take the courses. “If just one person in each course goes somewhere they have never been before, and then goes back once the course is done, well, then we’ve done what we set out to do,” Grants said.

Having Craig Morrison teach its inaugural term was also a logical move.

As an ethnomusicologist, with both classical education and a long-time career teaching courses in jazz, rock and, as of this term, the Beatles, Morrison has been exploring the scope and impact of musical styles and subcultures in the classroom, and on the stage, for decades. He earned his PhD here in the interdisciplinary Humanities program.

The festival course provided an opportunity to bring together concepts from history and sociology, leisure studies and postmodern theory.

Traditionally, feasts were an opportunity to mark change, in season or in circumstance — the harvest or a wedding, for example. Festivals developed from that concept, but have grown to encompass much more. “They are helping people to cope with changes, but they are also linked to the postmodern concept of placelessness,” Morrison said. For a designated period of time, in a designated part of town, people can gather with a common interest and sense of identity.

“This temporary place can also represent an image of a place,” Morrison added. Even if our jazz festival is not quintessentially Montreal, people associate the celebration with the locale and feel that in visiting the annual carnival, they are closer to the local culture and people.

The commercial angle is becoming increasingly prominent, and not just in terms of what food is allowed on site, or the sky-rocketing price of ‘official’ t-shirts and memorabilia. Folk festivals might have once represented an opportunity to form a collective counter-culture, but now corporate and government funds both help shape the events and determine who gets invited to the party.

Students in the course were able to view film footage of classic festivals and meet organizers of current events. Morrison also was able to get tickets for the students to a few official events.


Concordia University