The opening September 24th concert, which featured Juno-award winning, outstanding Canadian talent, Serena Ryder, was completely sold out.
The St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage has started off its 2011-12 performance series on a very high note.
The all volunteer board of the not-for-profit St. Lawrence Stage feels this may herald a new era for the company now entering its sixth year in the South Dundas community.
“When we began, in 2007, to run a full concert season, we were drawing smaller crowds,” said board member, Sandra Whitworth, during an interview with The Leader.
“But the core of a dedicated audience also began building. Since then, we’ve seen a 30-35 per cent overall growth in our audience size. The more people are exposed to our concert series and to the stage, the more energy builds and the more people come out. We still need our dedicated core of enthusiasts, but we’re also working to attract new audience members.”
This year the St. Lawrence Stage has also received significant funding from a number of sources.
The Stage has received funding from the Canadian Arts Presentation Fund, through Heritage Canada, for the last two years in the development category. This year, however, the company has qualified for the federal government’s established grant.
“Essentially, the government studies a company like ours for two years to determine if we are viable and working, and if we are following our mandate,” Whitworth explained. “They look for an artistic vision, and examine our governance and management practices in detail.
By moving the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage from development to more mainstream, established funding, the government is essentially saying, I hope, that we are here to stay.
We ensure our visiting artists have a positive experience of us as a venue, and of Morrisburg as a welcoming community.”
The Stage has received its third Ontario Trillium grant. These provincial funds are restricted to capital purchases in areas like sound and lighting, and cannot be used for operations. This year, a new, professional digital sound board was purchased.
The South Dundas council has also continued to help fund the St. Lawrence Stage.
However, two new and key sources of funding have brightened plans for the future.
“We have our very first Platinum sponsor,” Whitworth said. “ We are delighted that Coffey’s Coffee of Ingleside has signed on with us.”
Also new in 2011 is a grant from the Eric Baker Family Foundation in Long Sault.
“The Eric Baker Foundation is a private foundation which supports the arts, education and health,” Whitworth explained. “I found them when I was researching funding opportunities and the St. Lawrence Stage contacted them. We put together a package about the Stage, and their directors responded favourably. That support really allowed us to put on the Serena Ryder show.
Bringing in the Ryder show was a bit of a calculated risk on the board’s part. We wanted to test the waters, to bring in someone with definite name recognition, to see if new people would come to our venue.”
A growing audience base is essential for the Stage’s hope of one day becoming self sustaining.
Whitworth stressed that grants, especially from the government, will only continue to support an organization if it can prove that other sources of revenue like ticket sales and donations are in place.
However, if the incredible line up of artists coming to Morrisburg’s St. Lawrence Stage this 2011-12 season is any indication, then the future should be a bright one.
Appearing in October is renowned artist Del Barber, a critically acclaimed, Juno nominated singer/songwriter. Opening for him will be Brea Lawrenson, who is building a name in country music.
Coming in December is the Ben Henriques Jazz Quartet, whose fusion style is delighting fans across Canada.
2012 starts off with a bang with the appearance of two time US Finger Style guitar champion, musician Don Ross. Opening for him will be Cornwall’s own Graham Greer.
February will see the return to Morrisburg of noted award winning artist Lynn Miles.
New and emerging talents will also find a showcase at the St. Lawrence Stage.
“The St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage is becoming a vital part of South Dundas,” Whitworth said. “Our mandate is to expose audiences to different talents and different styles of music. I think our volunteer board and supporters are creating something amazing here. It’s exciting to bring this level of talent to our community.”