Camping with CAMMAC builds a musical community

Moving to the music at the CAMMAC summer music centre.

Music in a community isn’t always about professional performers. There are folks who enjoy the musical experience as a pastime.

That’s where CAMMAC comes in. Canadian Amateur Musicians/Musiciens Amateurs du Canada is a non-profit organization supporting amateur music making in cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City and Ottawa-Gatineau.

There are workshops and performances in the national capital area but, in the summer there is another venue for those who are interested.

For 64 years, CAMMAC has run a summer music centre. Located, since 1968, on the shore of Lake MacDonald at Harrington, Quebec about 30 minutes north of Lachute on Highway 327, the centre was the brainchild of two professional musician brothers, George and Carl Little, who made their living in Montreal but were originally from New Brunswick.

Today people come from as far away as France and the United States and from across Canada, says Julie Roy, the centre’s director of operations, to take part in individual weeks of classes and music-making. The camp offers these endeavour for musicians of all ages and skills. The classes are taught by a coterie of professional musicians, Roy says. In addition to all of this learning is a concert series that has featured such performers as the Vienna Piano Trio, jazz pianist Guillaume Martineau and the cellist Stephane Tetreault.

Warming up lakeside.

Programming these artists has raised the bar for the festival, Roy says, noting that it is the result of hard work work by the Ottawa-based violinist and violist Guylaine Lemaire who is the artistic director for the centre.

“This year we have worked very hard to increase the scope of the festival,” Roy said.

The season at the centre runs from from June 25 to the middle of August. This year the final concert is on Aug. 13 and features an a cappella quartet called Quartom.

“We do add a bit of novelty every week. For example, we have added flamenco guitar. We have a jazz week and a Broadway week. These are a way for us to attract younger participants.”

The summer sessions are week by week, Roy says. There is also an intense four-day session around the Thanksgiving weekend, she added. And there is a March break session available for grandparents and grandchildren.

A place to stay while enjoying the music.

The idea of CAMMAC is community, she says, noting that it crosses generations.

“Now we have grandparents coming with younger children and teenagers. We have folks who have been coming for 30 years, who are now into their 80s,” Roy say, adding that children can attend the summer program but only with an adult accompanying them which has the benefit of strengthening the family connection.

“I have a friend who has been coming for 15 years and who is still considered to be a newcomer. Friendships are always being being created. My own kids are here for the first time and they are already forming strong friendships.” Roy has a music tradition in her family. Her father was a music teacher and then a professional pianist in the Gatineau area. She works on the administrative side however.

The centre never closes even though the summer program ends.

“The centre is open year-round. We rent it out to (for example) businesses looking for a site for a company retreat. These allow us to make money and be financially stable to be able to carry out our primary mission during the summer,” she says. The centre’s Lucy Hall is also available for concerts, Roy added.

Registration for the summer program opens in late February but people are still signing up even after the programming begins in June.

Classes are led by professional musicians from Montreal and Ottawa.

The fees are $525 for one adult for a week of music instruction. Children are roughly half that, Roy says. There are separate charges for room and board. Those who wish to stay in the main residence building, which features single, double and quad rooms, are also required to take a meal plan. A single room in the main building for an adult is $450. The meal plan is $350 and a membership is $35. There are rooms in another older residence which is cheaper as well. Patrons can camp which is the cheapest option at $310 a week for an adult. Campers can join the meal plan. People can also stay off-site and come to the classes during the day. For all the details please see

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.