To say that the volunteer board of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage is excited about the Stage’s new home at Upper Canada Playhouse, and about the exceptional musical line up they have scheduled for the 2015-16 concert season, is to understate the case.
Board members Tony McCadden, Sandra Whitworth and Eric Pietersma (board member Derek Hunter was unable to attend) sat down on August 31, 2015, to talk about the presence of the Stage as a vital and growing part of this area. Their enthusiasm was contagious.
“The St. Lawrence Stage is becoming known within the community, and outside this area as well,” said Sandra Whitworth. “The artistic community, too, is becoming aware that this is a wonderful place to perform.” “I think the word is definitely out there that this is a great venue,” said Eric Pietersma.
The St. Lawrence Stage has experienced an 18-20 percent growth in audience numbers over the last year. Three of the concerts from last season were sold out. The Stage, which is a registered charitable organization, has been pulling in audiences from this area, from outside the province and from the United States. It currently receives funding from the municipality of South Dundas, the Five B Family Foundation (formerly the Eric Baker Family Foundation), the Ontario Arts Council and Canadian Heritage.
In early spring, the board was informed by the Operating Engineers that the Meeting Centre, where the concerts first began, and the Stage’s home for over seven years, would no longer be available after the end of June. “We were faced with immediately finding another suitable venue for our artists and audiences, or closing our whole organization down,” Sandra Whitworth said.
That’s when Donnie Bowes, artistic director of the Upper Canada Playhouse, and the Playhouse board of directors, stepped up to help.
The Playhouse offered its facilities to the Stage. Bowes and the SLAS board worked out the terms of the agreement, and in early summer, the board was able to announce that the concert series would be moving this fall to the Playhouse’s outstanding 275 seat theatre.
“The growing pains of running a concert series will exist forever and ever,” laughed Sandra Whitworth, “We faced a crisis this year, but we met the challenge and I think we came out even better on the other side. We are very hopeful about our new venue at the Playhouse. Donnie and his board have been supportive, positive and optimistic. They stepped up when we needed help.”
The Playhouse box office will not be selling tickets to the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage concerts – they will continue to be available at the Basket Case, Strung Out Guitars and on line. Ticket prices this year are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Intimate Acoustics concerts will remain $10.
And what a spectacular concert series the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage is offering in 2015-16.
First up, on October 10 is the phenomenal finger style guitarist Don Ross, who will be joined by acclaimed guitarist, Calum Graham. In a previous visit to the Stage, Ross’ performance literally had the audience on its feet cheering. He has twice won the US Fingerstyle guitar championship, while Graham has been named one of the top 30 guitarists in the world under 30. As a duo, they will put on a formidable concert.
In November, Kelly Lee Evans, a Juno nominated singer/songwriter will bring her unique jazz sound to the Stage. Accompanied by a full band, Evans will deliver an evening of improvisational jazz, soul, pop, and maybe even a fun hint of hip hop, that will thrill audiences.
January 9 will feature an evening of Intimate Acoustics, up and coming musicians. Also in January, on January 30, Jaron Freeman Fox and the Opposite of Everything will take the Stage by storm. “He’s a bit ‘out there,” said Tony McCadden, “but a great fiddle player, a great story teller and a fantastic performer. If you like Tom Waits, you are going to love Jaron.” Fox will be bringing a five piece multi instrumental band with him to the Stage.
On February 21, 2016, (the only show on a Sunday), audiences are going to be bowled over.
The great Bruce Cockburn, one of Canada’s premier artists, will be presenting a concert here in Morrisburg. Winner of 13 Juno awards, holder of six honourary doctorates, an inductee into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, recipient of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award and Officer of the Order of Canada, Cockburn has had an illustrious career shaped by politics, spirituality and musical diversity for over 40 years. Tickets for this SLAS concert are $40 in advance, $45 at the door.
In March, the Women’s Blues Revue will feature three fantastic artists, Suzie Vinnick (who dazzled audiences at a previous Stage appearance), Irish Mythen and Danielle Miraglia. These three renowned and extraordinary singer/musicians, will deliver a powerhouse concert. “They all have terrific voices,” said Sandra Whitworth. “Each will perform separately, and then,” she laughed, “we’re throwing them together: what a piece of music and song that will be.”
Jordie Lane opened for Old Man Luedecke two years ago, and by audience demand, is returning to the Stage April 9. A native of Australia, Lane has been described as one of “Australia’s brightest new roots music stars”. He is a powerful, young artist with a fan following that is building across North America. He is a witty, comedic story teller, whose music is nostalgic, “his voice simply otherworldly.”
Sweet Alibi, with special guest Mike Celia, will close out the St. Lawrence season on May 7. Sweet Alibi, a Winnipeg-based folk/pop band, is noted for its signature harmonies. The three women bring everything from folk to country to soul to their incredible sound. “They create beautiful harmonies, and their’s is a terrific soulful sound,” said Whitworth, “that shares personal experiences which are genuinely felt in song.” Mile Celia is also a soulful singer, although his sound “is a bit grittier” said Tony McCadden. His guitar work and unique vocal stylings will quickly win him new fans at this concert.
The St. Lawrence Accoustic Stage can be reached at www.st-lawrencestage.com.