The stars were certainly out in force at the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage Saturday, January 21.
Renowned guitarist Don Ross, with Graham Greer opening for him, performed to a packed and cheering house.
“What a great night,” said Sandra Whitworth, a member of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage board of directors. “We had a sold-out audience, our second this year. Don and Graham were just terrific.”
Don Ross’ diffidence and self-effacing sense of humour won Saturday’s audience over before he even picked up his guitar.
“Morrisburg at last! Yes!” He laughed. “I’ve arrived! Now that my family and I are relocating to Montreal from Halifax, why I’ll be able to come here by car instead of flying into the Morrisburg International Airport!”
When Ross picked up one of his on-stage guitars and started to play, the Morrisburg audience was thunderstruck.
Don Ross is simply that good.
Two time winner of the prestigious U.S. National Finger-style Guitar Competition (he is still the only player to have ever won the competition twice), Ross literally created magic on the St. Lawrence stage.
His music is fluid, complex and often wonderfully exuberant. Though he performs alone on the stage, his seemingly effortless artistry makes you believe that a whole group of musicians is backing him.
Although he would describe himself as primarily a composer, Ross (who laughingly suggested that his voice “isn’t much”) is actually a very talented singer and song-writer as well. He sang a love song, “If I Could” (included in his album Any Colour), that he wrote when he was just 19.
“All I ever needed was just a glance/If I could only see inside you/If I could only be beside you…”
Later he also delivered a powerful arrangement of an old John Martyn song “Head and Heart”.
During the concert Ross used three different guitars on stage, as well as a digital effects processor. One of his more unusual instruments is a specially designed baritone guitar, tuned somewhere between a regular pitched and a bass guitar. Ross, who loves the instrument’s “throaty, feet planted sound,” employed it for many of his numbers.
Performing compositions ranging from a new, still untitled piece with strong blues undertones, to the jaunty “Dracula and Friends, Part 1” and the romantic and exotic “From France to India,” Ross gave ample proof that he is a true Canadian virtuoso.
His incredible artistic talent, his humour and grace on stage, and his strong connection with the audience won Ross deserved ovations Saturday evening.
Graham Greer is also an artist who makes a powerful connection with his audience.
“Graham is a phenomenon in this area,” said board member Bill Carriere. “He’s an accomplished, award-winning artist whose music speaks for itself.”
Like Don Ross, Greer is a natural on stage, easily sharing anecdotes about his songs and his life as a performer.
A musician to whom intelligent lyrics matter, Greer’s work is thoughtful, humourous, and, occasionally, pointed, as in “May You Never Know” which describes the “sharks” that constantly circle young artists trying to break into the industry.
Greer’s “I Know a Pigeon Toed Girl,” written for and about his wife, Laurie, (“the constant good thing in my life”) was both gently teasing and loving. “I found out the things that she dislikes about herself are often the things about her I love the most.”
His voice warm and strong and clear, Greer points out the upside of life in his music.
“I’m on a lucky streak/To hell with the blues/ I’m rolling out sevens now/when it used to be twos…”
Much of his material on Saturday came from songs he has been developing. The Cornwall performer clearly struck a chord with the audience.
In fact, as he laughed from the stage, “I’m going to have to do another record now. You’re making me feel good about my new songs.”
Passionate about his music, and just as passionate in his support of the arts in this area, Greer was a delight to hear again in concert.
The St. Lawrence Stage will welcome the multi-talented Lynn Miles to the Morrisburg Meeting Centre on February 25 for a performance. Check www.st-lawrencestage.com for information.