Here at Indian River Festival, we’ve made a lot of different friends over the years. One of our oldest and most-valued pals is none other than Adrian Hoffman, classical musician and CBC veteran. Through his work in the media industry, Adrian has continually shone the spotlight on IRF, helping turn our little grassroots festival into a global sensation. To show our gratitude, we thought we’d return the favour and turn the spotlight back towards Adrian.
Just like Historic St. Mary’s itself, Adrian was made for music. Born in Mississippi, he grew up just outside Boston, the son of two very musical parents. He studied cello then trombone, composition and opera direction at the New England Conservatory of Music. Following his studies, he freelanced with the Boston Pops Orchestra (Arthur Fiedler), the Boston Ballet Co., the Boston Opera Co., the Boston Philharmonia, the Shubert and Colonial Theatres and the Handel Haydn Society, just to name just a few.
Adrian moved to Canada in 1969 as a member of the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra as a trombonist, composer, arranger, librarian and occasional conductor. He joined CBC Radio in Halifax in 1978 before becoming executive producer of Radio Music & Arts. He went on to produce and host both All the Best and Musically Yours and produced and guest hosted for numerous network radio programs. Adrian is no stranger to success—in 2002 he received a Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal. In 2003 received a Finalist Award in the 2003 New York Festivals, honoring the World’s Best Radio Programs™ – Best Classical Format.
Adrian is clearly a big shot musician—but we know him better through his work at CBC. “Part of my CBC responsibilities was to reflect the musical activity of all three Maritime Provinces to the Region, the rest of Canada, and the world through international exchange broadcasts,” says Adrian. “When I was invited to visit St. Mary’s Church in Indian River by founder of the Indian River Festival, Mary Crane, I instantly recognized the outstanding acoustics of the historic building designed by Island architect, William Critchlow Harris. I also met with the then Executive Producer of Current Affairs at CBC Charlottetown, Barbara Nymark, who became an instant supporter both of the Festival concept and ensuring local media coverage of the Festival. For many years, live music performances at the Festival were featured on CBC Regional and national network programmes.”
When it comes to his favourite Indian River Festival, Adrian struggles to pinpoint just one. “I can’t remember the very first broadcast we produced as there were so many that were outstanding. However, if I were to cite my best memory, it would involve the ongoing collaboration over the years with the Festival’s brilliant Artistic Director, Robert Kortgaard. His ability to conceive combinations of Island, Maritime, and Atlantic Canadian artists with others from across Canada made it easy to sell to both Regional programmes and those across the English and French CBC/SRC Networks. Many of these performances were preserved for posterity in CD recording sessions produced at the Church, including PEI soprano Sung Ha Shin Bouey, New Brunswick soprano Wendy Nielsen (nominated for a Juno Award), a compilation of performances released by the Festival featuring the Northumberland Brass and others. But if I had to choose a favourite performance, it would be any featuring Truro-born turned international super star, coloratura soprano Jane Archibald.”
It’s nice to look back on fond memories of the festival, but we also need to look forward—and concerts aren’t going to be the same any time soon. Even so, Adrian is confident that live music will return eventually. “It is impossible for me to believe that at some point live concerts with a capacity audience will not return. However, given the current situation some accommodations have to be made, similar to those happening now in Europe. As much as I enjoyed producing what were, in fact, virtual concert broadcasts, there is no substitute for being in an acoustic space like St. Mary’s Church and experiencing the thrill of an outstanding and truly unique musical event.”
Historic St. Mary’s is indeed a special venue, and we at Indian River Festival cannot wait to safely welcome patrons back. “I was looking forward to attending this summer’s Indian River Festival weekend of 2020, during its 25th anniversary,” says Adrian. “While I wish to convey my congratulations on reaching this milestone, I look forward to sitting one again in St. Mary’s Church for a performance in 2021. And what I will be listening for is that moment of glorious silence that rebounds in those wooden ceiling arches before the first note is sounded.”
Until that moment comes again, we must remain grateful for all the support we have received to even make it to 25 years. And while nothing will beat the experience of attending an in-person concert at Historic St. Mary’s, we are forever grateful to Adrian for reverberating our music beyond the confines of our venue and to the Canadian public at large.
Written by: Dani MacDonald