In the 1970’s and ’80’s, the historic St. Mary’s Church, now home to the Indian River Festival, was in serious disrepair. At that time, suggestions were made to tear down the church as the parish alone could not afford to undertake the expensive renovations. Instead, the “Save St. Mary’s” campaign was launched in 1987. Due to an overwhelming response from area churches, businesses, individuals, families and other groups, the necessary renovations were paid for and completed within 3 years. One of the campaign initiatives was the “Sundays in the Summer” concert series proved to be extremely popular and a secure source of revenue; however, the volunteer core behind the series became stretched to its capacity. In order to evolve to the next level, a dedicated focus was required to become a separate entity and permanent event.
Consequently, in 1996 the Indian River Festival Association Inc. was formed as an incorporated, non-profit body for the presentation of fine music, and to aid in the continuing upkeep and restoration of St. Mary’s. In 2009, St. Mary’s Church was deconsecrated by the Roman Catholic Diocese and subsequently purchased in 2010 by the Association. In July of 2012, the church became a designated heritage place in recognition of its cultural and historical significance to Prince Edward Island. Together, the Association and the Friends of St. Mary’s work in partnership to support the restoration and preservation of this historic building.
Since incorporation, the Festival has been bringing the very best in classical, traditional, folk, jazz and world music to St. Mary’s Church. An annual destination event for tourists and locals alike, it continues to facilitate restoration projects to preserve this beloved venue while maintaining a busy concert schedule from June-September each year.
Over its 21 year history, the Festival has received many accolades: a 2012 Music PEI Award for Achievement in Classical Music, several ECMA nominations for event and venue of the year, twice named in the Globe and Mail as one of the best small summer classical music festivals in Canada, and most recently, it was listed as one of the top summer classical music festival’s in Canada byCBC Music in May 2014.
Each year, the Festival depends upon financial support from individual donors in order to simply breakeven. In 2016, our goal to ensure we can cover our operating costs is $30,000 and as of April 22nd, we still have $21,000 to go!
On the capital side of things, we are immensely proud that last year’s major infrastructure project (renovating the artists’ change rooms and public washrooms as well as replacing the tent with a permanent pavilion) is almost completely funded. We have raised $602,000 of the $626,000 total budget, quite an amazing feat…. and a testament to how well regarded the Festival is.
But that means to become debt-free and stay that way for the balance of this year, we need to raise approximately $45,000 in individual donations.