Sun Times staff
Amazing voices, singing blues, rock, folk, jazz, country and more, will start another season of Sunday night free concerts at the harbour in Owen Sound.
The launch show June 10 at the Legion, with the popular MacKenzie Blues Band, is the only ticketed event, to help support the series. It features the MacKenzie Blues Band’s Tara MacKenzie, who had a hand in selecting the other diverse vocalists for Amazing Voices.
They include the veteran power rocker Hans Langedyk, Anna Horvath, who writes and performs her own folk songs as Merival and sings with First Rate People and Kildear, trained vocalist Jamie Smith of Owen Sound, whose repertoire includes celtic ballads, show tunes, jazz and bossa nova, and 13-year-old Brontae Hunter, of Kincardine, who is already a Summerfolk veteran.
“She’s a real vocalist. That’s her instrument and she has a very powerful, strong voice and has an unusual passion for her music,” Tara MacKenzie said.
With his “huge and powerful, big rock voice,” Langedyk is a tenured rock pro, living in Jackson. He’s toured with Labyrinth and Fallen Angels and is known now locally for performances with Dirty Mack, which includes The Mackenzie Blues Band’s guitarist Trevor MacKenzie.
Doors open at the legion at 7 p.m. and tickets are $12 at the door, $10 in advance at Fromager Music, The Ginger Press Café and Bookstore, Mr. Inkbee Grey-Bruce, and SunSpa.
The weekly Harbour Nights concert series, most on Sundays, start June 17 at the west harbour area beside the visitor centre. All shows are free, with donations encouraged, and start at 7 p.m. They include;
* June 17 -Father’s Day special features local, well-known musical dads and their grown-up children, with John and Linsey Beckett of The Beckett Family, Martin and Jeremy Cooper, Ken and Levi Dow, Larry and Kate Dickinson, Kevin and Katie Dandeno.
* June 24 -Blues rocker Erin McCallum and her band.
* July 8 -Jazz guitarist Jamie Ruben and his trio.
* July 15 -Local band Wakin’ Up Johnny, blues and rock.
* July 22 -Venerable local duo Larry Jensen, singer, songwriter, guitarist and keyboard player Rob McLean.
* July 29 -Coco Love Alcorn, acclaimed jazz, soul and folk-influenced singer-songwriter now living in Owen Sound.
* Wednesday, Aug. 1 -Guitarist Paul Danard with former students Carey Worrod, Gavin Gardiner, and Cory Mayne, drums, and Archy Hachy, keyboards. Rock, blues and jazz.
* Aug. 5 -Beggars Road returns with traditional Celticinfluenced original songs, with pipes, fiddle, guitars, drums, bass and powerful vocals.
* Aug. 12: Summerfolk preview. The stars of tomorrow shine from the Harbour Nights stage.
Category Archives: News feature
Sun Times staff
Singing for family and friends isn’t quite enough to “raise the bar,” Chantry Singers music director Anne Little said.
So at least every second year, the 60 Saugeen Shores-based choristers take part in the annual Grey County Kiwanis Festival of Music.
The festival performance and the feedback from adjudicators motivates the group to work hard and excel, Little said as the choir was set to perform as part of the Festival Stars showcase concert Tuesday night.
“To come to festival we feel like we have to practise really hard. It puts the bar up a lot higher than just singing for all our friends and relatives who think we’re wonderful,” Little said.
“It’s all about the adjudication,” singer Chuck Beaton said. “I think there’s a sense of competitiveness in the choir that makes us want to sing really well, and then to hear from someone how well we did.”
Elizabeth Reid joined the Chantry Singers in 1975, a year after the choir formed. For her it’s the love of singing and sharing, with the Kiwanis festival performances a reward.
“At first you think it’s a lot of stress because you’re going to be judged on what you do, but it’s just a wonderful feeling and to hear the adjudicators speak highly of your choir is really something,” Reid said.
Faced with dwindling festival participation — registration has dropped more than 50% since 2005 — that’s one message and an example festival organizers want to highlight this year.
A federal New Horizons grant of more than $21,600 that MP Larry Miller announced during this year’s two-week festival will help hire someone to engage senior performing groups, people at retirement residences and other adults and promote the festival’s value to potential adult participants.
Festival organizers said they’ll also create new vocal and instrumental classes just for adults and welcome suggestions from the community for new categories and new musical genres.
Engaging that new, adult participation is only part of this year’s challenge, said executive-director Mary Jane Quinn.
Overall participation has dipped steadily in recent years, from more than 1,000 entries in 2005 to just over 800 on 2008 and 475 this year, which is the festival’s 80th.
“We do need to increase our entries,” Quinn said.
The festival awarded close to $14,000 in scholarships and bursaries this year, with the top soloists receiving as much as $300 and bands $350. About 100 awards were handed out during the two festival stars concert this week.
The money comes in part from endowments and from donations, including $70,000 over seven years from The Dock radio station, announced a year ago, and another $4,000 from a retired teachers group, Quinn said.
While participation from community choirs and bands was down again this year, most of the participation bleed over the years results from far fewer school choir, band and individual student entries.
That’s partly due to an overall enrolment decline, but it is mostly because of a change in school culture with less emphasis on music education, Quinn said.
Once, each school had vocal and instrumental music specialists. Vocal music teachers would lead several classroom choirs and school choirs. Instrumental experts taught Grade 7 and and Grade 8 music and led bands.
Many schools still have trained band instructors, but a board directive a few years ago did away for the most part with vocal music specialists, encouraging classroom teachers to cover all their own subjects, including vocal music, said Quinn, who for 10 years was a choir specialist at Hilllcrest school. She brought to the festival numerous groups each year.
“The music just gets shoved to the back now,” Quinn said.
Sun Times staff
Until she discovered the stage, Glyneva Bradley-Ridout wasn’t nearly so sociable.
“I’m naturally a shy person, and theatre has really helped me to come out of my shell,” the Grade 12 student said.
Bradley-Ridout plays Dorothy in the West Hill music theatre class’s new take on the classic Broadway musical Wizard of Oz. It opens Friday night at The Roxy Theatre.
With a cast of close to 40, and a technical crew of 10 or so, the team worked together on this project since September.
Jennifer MacKinnon, The Tin Man, said she isn’t shy, but has learned much about herself and working with others. She’s made connections and friendships with people it’s unlikely she’d have met outside this theatre project.
Both actors have been in several school and community productions before and said every show is a new challenge, building on their acting, singing and dancing skills. But theatre also teaches time management, communication, cooperation and other life skills, the actors and some production crew said.
“Since I’ve gotten into theatre I’ve gotten way more sociable with people and more comfortable with myself,” Bradley-Ridout said at a rehearsal Tuesday. “I’m more outgoing and more confident.”
Stage manager Samantha Blake and tech crew member Jantien Sneyd, also a theatre co-op student at The Roxy, said life and interactive skills they’ve developed go beyond the needs of this production.
“I’m generally an independent worker but working with everyone here has shown me that I can trust other people to do work,” said Blake.
She took the course to acquire technical experience and said working with the group has been a revelation.
“We have to keep very open lines of communication, which I think is another thing a lot of us have learned is how to talk to one another and say I need help, me especially, I don’t usually like to ask for help.”
An Owen Sound Youth Theatre Coalition veteran with a long interest in theatre and much organizational experience, Sneyd isn’t in the music theatre class this year, but lends her expertise as part of her Roxy co-op this semester.
She said theatre has taught her to work with others and manage her time in other aspects of her life.
“Before I started getting involved in theatre I was a bit of a slacker, not going to lie,” Sneyd said. “Especially as stage manager it helped me realize how much organizing your time and everyone else’s time makes things so much easier. It’s helped me in school and I know it’s helped other people in school as well. It kind of pushes people to do better than what they were before they were involved in theatre.”
Those life skills are as much the point of a music theatre class as putting together the production, said Emily Cameron, who teaches the class with Henriette Blom.
“Giving them the skills that they’re going to need to be successful later on in life. I think that’s the ultimate goal as a teacher,” Cameron said Tuesday at The Roxy.
“It’s teaching kids about life, how to cope with stress, how to get along with people you might not otherwise find yourself with, or even like. It’s learning about yourself as a person. What better way to put yourself in someone else’s shows than to not only pretend to be someone else but to have to deal with 50 other people everyday; deal with their emotions, their baggage, their problems as well as your own and get through it all.”
West Hill’s version of the Wizard of Oz adds some new staging twists to the classic script, with plenty of singing and dancing and some symbolic emphasis on the message within the simple story, both teachers said.
A dancer for 14 years with Anne Milne’s School of Dance, Jen MacKinnon brings that expertise to the mix as The Tin Man.
Nick Varley is Scarecrow. Aaron Crose is The Lion.
The Wizard of Oz is at The Roxy Friday night at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. and again Monday and Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are availabe at the Roxy box office.
While Milne has choreographed the three main dance scenes for the group, MacKinnon has provided both coaching in class and some choreography for other scenes. It’s the first leading stage role in the community for the Grade 12 actor, singer and dancer who plans to study performing arts as a “triple threat” next year. She played Grace, an ugly step sister, in YTC’s Cinderella, was a witch in OSLT’s Macbeth and was Rose, a part created to feature her dancing in West Hill’s last musical, Beauty and The Beast two years ago.
MacKinnon also brings to the cast a positive approach she says is the reason she plans to pursue a performance career.
“I’m a very crazy person. I really enjoy acting,” she said. “If someone is a in a down mood, I will go crazy to make people happy. I just really enjoy entertaining people.”
This role has confirmed that career interest.
“It’s kind of my last chance to make sure that I’m feeling confident with myself. So far, so good.”
Blom, who is both music and artistic director for the project, said the intense, months-long project can be “a life transformative experience for students.”
“They are learning to interact with each other in ways they would never do. We’ve spent three or four hours together every day for the whole semester and now we’re up to eight hours a day together. There’s something about community in that.”
Everybody contributes a gift, on and off stage, with a goal of not just telling the story but sending audiences home with a deeper understanding of this classic tale, Blom said.
It’s about a lonely child discovering she is her own hero and realizing she is loved in ways she would never have understood without adversity.
“That’s part of the message here. Everybody came together for Dorothy, even though it was in her imagination, or was it?”
Sun Times staff
Summerfolk needs a new artistic director.
Richard Knechtel will step down once his contract ends this fall, he confirmed.
Knechtel, who first performed at Summerfolk in 1976, then at all but three or four festival since, has been the popular annual roots music and craft event’s programmer for five years. Before that, he assisted former AD Liz Harvey-Foulds with programming for two years.
Knechtel said Friday he parts company with the GBFS on good terms and it was entirely his decision not to renew his contract.
“And it was a hard one,” Knechtel said. “It can be an all consuming job.”
The folk society’s board of directors learned of Knechtel’s pending departure in an e-mail Friday from President Ruth Parsons.
“These are BIG SHOES to step into,” she wrote “I will miss Richard’s humour, artistic vision in the programming, and many other of his fine contributions. I have appreciated working with him in my first year as president.”
The GBFS also issued a news release Friday announcing Knechtel’s pending departure and saying the board is now seeking someone to program the 2012 and 2013 Summerfolk festivals, and noting that Knechtel will not be renewing his contract.
“It was very hard, because I love the festival and Summerfolk is the festival that influenced me and affected me in terms of my love for folk music and all that incorporates,” Knechtel said.
Parsons was out of down and could not be reached Friday for more details. Two board members contacted by The Sun Times both said only the president and the artistic director are authorized to speak to the media about GBFS business.
With the Discoveries competition to recruit young performers, the new dance area, the instrument petting zoo, the popular Jumble Jam and Sharing Circle and other aspects, Knechtel has emphasized audience participation during his tenure with the festival, while programming main stage, beer tent and workshop entertainment at the festival.
“I placed a real emphasis on breaking down the barriers between performers and the audience,” he said. “So many people that come to the festival are perfomers themselves, or players, and everybody dreams of playing on the Summerfolk stage … they get a chance to do that and the energy that creates is pretty fantastic.”
He has also given the society a higher off-season profile through partnerships with community groups to host such things as Monday music nights at the Downtown Bookstore.
Knechtel said five years in the exhausting AD role is long enough and he will now concentrate again on his own music career. He performs both as a singer/songwriter and as the popular regional children’s entertainer Dickie Bird.
“I’m going to just breathe for a bit,” he said. “It’s just tiring. It’s a lot of details and some days I would just like to wake up and play my guitar for awhile.”
With several projects on the go, including deciding a theme for next year and completing an important grant application, he will stay on until the folk society finds a replacement.
”I’m still on the job until somebody takes over, as much as I’d like to walk away and get a good night’s sleep.”
Sun Times staff
Otherfolk began recently with melodious psychedelic guitar riffs drifting downtown from the bandshell across the river.
Then there were short films at the library, classical music at the art gallery, jazz at The Roxy, and eventually folk or country-ish, electronic, dub, DJ, metal, blues, improv and other music at pubs, coffee shops, restaurants and bookstores all over downtown. Oh, and writers were reading poetry and talking about their novels. And there was photography and sculpture.
With his second and much expanded Otherfolk event, Josh Richardson has managed to both unite the downtown merchant community and showcase the city’s musical, visual, film and literary arts communities, some venue owners and performers said Thursday night.
Sun Times staff
As always at Summerfolk, expect surprises, advises artistic director Richard Knechtel.
With 55 local, national and international folk, world and roots music acts — some legends, some unknown — set for three days of concerts, workshops and dance and other participation events, those surprises can come from anywhere at the music and craft art festival at Kelso Beach, he said.
The die-hard song folkies will be eager for new and old offerings from notable writers Ron Hynes, David Francey, James Gordon and Danny Michel, as well as new discoveries such as Michael McNevin and Corrin Raymond.
Knechtel’s balanced lineup, a mix of male and female singers and instrumentalists playing blues, bluegrass, big band jazz, old folk, new folk, trad folk, altfolk or country, gospel, comic songs, world music, dance music and more as soloists, duets, groups and a choir.
“I think you come to Summerfolk looking for surprises, people that you’ve never heard before,” Knechtel said this week.
Look to Friday folk/Pink Floydish closers Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, the bluesy 24th Street Wailers, unique ukelele virtuoso James Hill, the exotic Orchid Ensemble or horn-driven contradance band Elixer for some of those surprises throughout the weekend, he said.
Local trad folk-influenced band Beggar’s Road launches the weekend from the amphitheatre stage Friday night, part of another strong contingent of performers who are either local or have Grey-Bruce roots.
Among them is fiddler Tyler Beckett. Based now in Missouri, he returns as part of the modern bluegrass band The Chapmans.
Along with several youth acts recruited through the Georgian Bay Festival’s Discoveries competition, local performers include the popular area song-writing duo Beckon, keyboard player and MC Rob McLean, fiddler Gary Weinger’s klezmerstyle Gypsy Jive Band, Lookup Theatre, with a dozen local circus performers in training, led by Angola Murdoch, fire spinner Vita Bowen and The Drift, a poetry group that holds a monthly spoken word and music event at The Downtown Bookstore.
“Lots of festivals toy with the spoken word but I think we’ve got something great going on in Owen Sound already and let’s build on that,” Knechtel said.
Sun Times staff
Otherfolk’s roots reach back to Josh Richardson’s high school years in Owen Sound.
It was the early 1990s when the impresario who launched the music, arts and cultural festival a year ago first lamented this city’s dearth of venues for developing young performers.
Richardson started organizing a few shows for high school bands. Along with performing electronic, improvised music of his own, he has been promoting shows off and on since then, including the much expanded sophomore Otherfolk event, which happens all over downtown on Thursday.
His dream, Richardson said this week, is to see Owen Sound’s artistic community reach and exceed its potential.
“You produce jobs, you bring in money through tourism and by providing a venue you really do cast the possibility that one of these acts might go on,” Richardson said.
Otherfolk has grown this year. There are more artists, more and bigger venues — 16 in all — more music genres and more than music, with the inclusion of short films at the library and several notable poets and writers reading at The Downtown Bookstore.
Richardson is also highlighting the city’s arts establishments with a related self-guided walking tour of the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, the library, downtown galleries and Otherfolk-themed store fronts.
“If you can have a city that’s producing top-calibre talent in multiple disciplines you have all the bases covered. It’s like diversifying your funds, your investments,” Richardson said,
Building Otherfolk at downtown venues that are friendly to music, arts displays and performances year-round does what Richardson believes Summerfolk could and should be doing. That was part of his very public criticism of the long-running folk and craft festival, which runs this weekend at Kelso Beach.
It’s no coincidence that the two events dovetail.
Richardson mounted the first, much more modest Otherfolk event a year ago in response to challenges to his criticisms that Summerfolk’s musical focus was too narrow.
The big festival, he said, neglects indie rock, electronica, rap and other genres not only favoured by youth, but pursued locally by developing young artists, several of them now recording for his Owen Sound based Mudtown Records. It’s also removed from downtown and the venues that support the local arts community, he said.
“That’s part of how I saw Summerfolk improving, moving into downtown and expanding their musical base and providing more money to the city,” Richardson said. “And every year they don’t do it they’re missing out.”
Otherfolk began as “an experiment to see if people would go for it.” Admission was free, and audiences could see local performers. Some had been on Summerfolk stages, but most would never fit in there.
Richardson refined the concept with his Lupercalia festival last February, relying also on local artists in local venues — most of which were packed.
Thursday’s Otherfolk festival still features some free music at the bandstand near the library and outside the city market building. A single $10 adult advance ticket, or $5 for people under 18, is good for any and all other venues. Some are for all ages, a half dozen are licensed.
Also this year, a few acts from outside Grey-Bruce, notably Yukon-based alt-country singer Sarah MacDougall (Ginger Press, 8 p.m.) and Toronto alt-rockers 5th Project (Chaise Lounge, 11 p.m.) are on the bill. But mostly Otherfolk is about local musicians, local visual artists and local filmmakers or people with ties to the area in local venues. It is meant to inspire, encourage and enhance the local arts community as a local economic force, Richardson said.
“I want to see things happen from the inside,” he said. “It’s a natural resource. That’s the whole idea with the culture industry. A community has a natural resource in people with creative powers, and those people create the products to sustain the artistic community.”
Highlights to watch for this this year:
• Rock and more at The Coach Inn’s Darkside from 9 to 1, Rajasi, Meaford desert rock trio A Vicious Lullaby, metal band Seed and finally, a Juice reunion.
• Jazz at the Roxy Theatre from 7 to 11 with sax player Neil Morley kicking it off, then Rob Gasidlo, keyboards, Parsons and Brown and finally bassist and guitarist Joel Morelli with Kincardine-based sax player Jason Hunter. Both have played together with Gasidlo as part of Sploink.
• Classical at the Thomson gallery from 6 to 8, with the Corazon Quartet, cellist Kitty Thomspon, and composer violinist Richard Mascall leading an ensemble.
• Films of Grey-Bruce, 5 to 7 at the library.
• Writers and poets, with Meaghan Strimas, D.J. MacIntosh and others at The Downtown Bookstore 8 to 10.
• 5th Project then Blobject, last two acts at The Chaise Lounge, at 11 and 12.
• Pianist Kati Gleiser, last up at The Ginger Press at 9 p.m., following Sarah MacDougall, with Paul Danard adding some lap steel.
• Blues, rock and lots more as Tara and Trevor Mackenzie take the Shorty’s stage at midnight.
Sun Times staff
Choristers with the Georgian Bay Children’s Choir’s touring ensemble are taking to Austria and Hungary some local and Canadian culture.
With a sightseeing stop in Paris, the choir’s 11 senior singers leave Owen Sound Thursday, primarily to compete at Summa Cum Laude, Austria’s premier global youth music festival for choirs, bands and orchestras, in Vienna.
But the real point of the 10-day trip is to immerse the children in other cultures and connect them with other musicians. They’ll stay among 1,000 young singers and musicians from around the world at an Olympic-style international global village facility, choir director Linda Hawkins said.
“We’re interested in our children becoming world citizens and obviously music is our connecting link,” Hawkins said.
The children are also scheduled to see the sights of Salsburg, Austria and perform in Hungary.
As an education-based choir, Hawkins said, the Georgian Bay Children’s Choir emphasizes repertoire in many languages and from many cultures, often with accompanying dance steps and percussion. The group’s mandate, for international trips and journeys within Canada, is to connect the young choristers, aged between 11 and 16, with youth from other cultures.
“That’s why we’re going,” Hawkins said. “If you have young musicians from all over the world and you can put them together for a few days, that’s where friendships are forged.”
The GBCC’ director for 10 years, Hawkins has seen that happen during trips to Spain and France in 2007 and to Germany in 2005, where associated home stays led to still-active family friendships with German hosts since visiting Owen Sound. The choirs has also trekked to Iowa, Vancouver and Powell River, B.C. Newfoundland, Ottawa and Cape Breton for competition, all of which offer the young singers cultural opportunities they can’t find at home, Hawkins said.
“If your focus is education and you’re a musician, you must expose children to music from all over the world. So we are committed to performing world music,” she said. “We do all of that, so the next step is to take them to places where they will be exposed to an even greater range.”
Sun Times staff
Close on three decades – first with folk, almost country, then alternative and eclectic rock – Spirit of the West has achieved what drummer Vince Ditrich calls “legacy” status in Canadian music.
It means steady gigs, and steady crowds of fans now bringing their children and grandchildren. The much-admired and influential, celtic-inspired B.C. quintet plays Meaford Hall Thursday night.
Expect a “pretty relaxed, pretty intimate” show as Spirit of The West references 13 albums recorded over the last 28 years, Ditrich said Monday from his home on Vancouver Island.
“After all these years, we’ve got a good supply of patter and stories and tall tales,” he said. “It should be a lot of fun.”
It began in 1983 with front man John Mann, guitar, vocals, Geoffrey Kelly, flutes, whistles, bodhran, guitars and multi-instrumentalist Hugh McMillan. The folk trio evolved into a five-piece, award-winning band that pioneered high-energy celtic rock in Canada.
“We’re for sure the grand daddies of that in this county,” Ditrich said.
He was added to the lineup for his percussive pulse 23 years ago, bringing a background in not just celtic music, but also jazz, soul, R and B, rock and roll, art rock and 30s and 40s dance music.
Tobin Frank, basses, piano, organ and accordion, was added in 1997, the year after Linda McRea left to pursue a country music career.
With four gold and two platinum albums, lifetime achievement and hall of fame status in several music and publishing associations, the band’s focus now is on current concert dates and planning a suitable 30th anniversary CD project and major related tour in 2013, Ditrich said.
Although folk fans were at first alienated by the harder edge, it was to lead to a more mainstream acceptance.
But Ditrich said Spirit of The West has never abandoned a celtic connection.
“We certainly see the value and the beauty of a through line, and that through line that we maintain is the Celtic heart to the songs, with the celtic instrumentation,” he said.
Sun Times staff
A lot of whatever it is Al Simmons gets up to on stage starts with a song.
But singing is never enough for the Juno-winning Winnipeg-area kids entertainer who plays the Roxy Sunday at 2 p.m., bringing along some 200 pounds of mechanical hats, weird costumes, bizarre gadgets and other props.
Simmons and his audience “might get bored” if he just stood on stage and sang tunes like Edith Piaf’s La Vie En Rose, he said from his home in Manitoba Monday.
“I’ll develop a prop that goes along with it that holds my attention and the audience’s attention longer and I get to sing the song,” Simmons said.
For the Piaf song he turns to his Paris in a suitcase prop.
“As the song unfolds I unpack the suitcase and it becomes a Parisian cafe in a suitcase, and there’s little surprises all the way through it. That’s one of my favourites.”
Simmons first entertained professionally 42 years ago as a baggy-pants vaudeville-style comic. It didn’t take long to see how little demand there was, so he started a rock band, which quickly incorporated humour.
At an agent’s suggestion, he started clowning for kids parties on weekends.
“I was developing that as well as the band thing and slowly they morphed and became the same act,” he said.
He left the band behind by the late 1970s.