Winter festival continues to host performances at National Historic Site, Medalta in the Historic Clay District
Imagine yourself in a dimly lit, circular room surrounded by old brick that was stacked in 1913, with the sounds of acoustic guitars, lightly played pianos, strong cellos and a story-telling voice, all in unison, softly floating off the walls and landing into your ears.
Hosted every winter at Medalta in the Historic Clay District, Tongue on the Post Folk Music Festival (TOP) will celebrate its 16th anniversary live-streaming over 30 Canadian musicians from January 24-29 in 2022.
“Over the last eight years, we’ve felt Medalta has been a natural home for Tongue on the Post. There is soul and warmth in the walls that is incomparable to anywhere else,” says Rob Pape, executive director for TOP for seven years. “Both Medalta and the festival are rooted in Medicine Hat, and we’re happy to showcase this crown jewel in the city.”
Traditionally, the event spreads the artists out in local venues and coffee shops with the finale being held at Medalta, one year a mobile stage was brought to the Saamis Tepee where free music was offered for five hours, but in 2021 the 12-person festival board decided live streaming was the best alternative to an in-person event. The stream reached over 85,000 people in six days, an audience number the board members never imagined the festival would reach.
In early 2022, new regulations were made around live events due to COVID-19. It made sense to the board to only stream the event again inside Medalta, so those who live outside and within Medicine Hat could still experience the harmonious artists in the comfort of their home.
“Festivals, and music in general, are integral to bringing communities together. When anyone’s able to share music with a large group of people, everyone will always find a common ground, and we’ve proven that time and time again with these festivals,” says Pape.
Pape has experienced life-changing moments since he started volunteering in 2011. The beginning of the journey eventually led him to his current position. He also runs an artist management and development company in Medicine Hat that works with musicians all across Canada and North America.
“It’s a great opportunity to meet a lot of amazing people and artists, and then share those people with the Medicine Hat community through the folk music festival,” says Pape. “When I look back, I can’t single out a favourite moment, because it’s just been amazing to connect with the community members and different artists year after year.”
The support over the last 16 years has been phenomenal, and Pape says they see it in every corner of the community, no matter where they turn and look.
“Everyone believes in what we’re doing.”