The Westben Arts Festival Theatre is the realization of a Dream.
It is a magical blend of world class music, wonderful people and a magnificent setting.
In 1990, soprano Donna Bennett and pianist / composer Brian Finley were enjoying the early stages of international careers. Having lived and worked for several years in Europe, they returned to Donna’s hometown of Campbellford, Ontario to start a family.
Inspired by the talented and energetic community, the couple shared their love of music making by performing and hosting events at local venues. They also began teaching advanced level music students and leading the music program at St. John’s United Church in Campbellford.
It was the exciting success of Jesus Christ Superstar, a fully-staged community event, that galvanized the support for a permanent performance organization.
In 1999, The Westben Arts Festival Theatre was formed as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to creating, enriching and integrating professionals and amateurs in musical projects and educational activities. Run by a Board of Directors, Westben received its charitable status in 2000.
Brimming with enthusiasm, Donna and Brian led the young organization in building a new concert hall to reflect the co-founders’ multi-faceted artistic vision. This new facility must be acoustically suited for classical music, accessible for audiences, in both comfort and style, and harmonious with the surrounding farmland.
Didier Schvarts of Lakefield’s Sun Wood Company took on the challenge. The result is a stunning timber-frame structure. An acoustical marvel, the concert facility is beautiful in its grand simplicity. Creatively indigenous to its pastoral setting, the audience-friendly venue has come to be known affectionately as The Barn. Construction on The Barn in 2000 culminated in a spectacular gala opening on Canada Day of that same year.
Concerts at The Barn 2000 featured 70 internationally acclaimed Canadian artists in 10 concerts over 5 weekends.
The following year, the season was augmented by eight performances of Artistic Director Brian Finley’s opera-musical SAMSON starring Mark DuBois, Donna Bennett and a cast and crew of over 200 Philistines and Israelites.
In 2002, Westben added its Autumn Feast for the Ears, a festival in late September which celebrated the region’s beautiful autumnal colours. Finley’s musical adaptation of A Westben Christmas Carol in 2002 led the way to further winter activities at The Barn.
Now with an array of musical events from June to December, Westben is looking forward to presenting many more concerts in the future featuring everything from Bach to Broadway favourites, opera and jazz.