The St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage will end its spring season on a high, and beautiful musical note, when the trio Sweet Alibi headlines at the May 7 concert at Upper Canada Playhouse.
To add to the audience’s pleasure, opening for Sweet Alibi will be guitarist/singer Mike Celia.
“We’re closing out our season with some incredible musicians and some very soulful sounds,” said Sandra Whitworth, chair of the SLAS board.
“Mike Celia is melodic and ‘groovy’, and an innovative song writer. Sweet Alibi, with a long list of awards behind them, is a real mix of sounds, bluegrass and roots to a real soul and gospel sound. The glue that holds it all together is their stunning three part harmonies.”
Sweet Alibi, which hails from Winnipeg, but has achieved cross Canada critical kudos for their music, is Jessica Rae Ayre, Michelle Anderson and Amber Quesnel. I had a chance to talk to Jess about the group.
“How would we describe our music? I’d call us pop and roots, because we each bring our own special influences to the group,” Jess explained. “With us, every song has its own specific sound. Our music can be catchy; some of it has a folk instrumentation, and I think our harmonies suggest that gospel sound. We really don’t want to be tied to one genre.”
The group seeks “to have a full sound with our three voices. We make vibes that I guess you might say channel some of the great female groups of the past like the Supremes,” Jess laughed.
Together now for seven years, and on tour for five, the artists are close knit.
“Michelle is technically trained in classic guitar, her music degree and skills helping to create our harmonies. Amber’s voice and her lyrics are powerful: she’s been singing since she was six. I’m an alto who’s played a lot, written a great deal. We know where to go musically because we’ve been together a long time.”
Their original music, like the deeply emotional “Walking in the Dark”, can emerge out of personal experiences in life and on the road.
“Inspiration comes from a lot of directions,” Jess said. “When we rehearse together, a song might grow out of a single guitar riff. Our song “Bodacious” about a determined bull, was inspired by YouTube. I believe our music is natural and organic. There is no pressure on us to ever make our sound fit some pre-conceived ideas. There are always road blocks in writing, of course, but we win through and we find the music.”
Sweet Alibi will bring a key board player and a drummer to the SLAS. “We’re hoping for a lively and exciting show, with a strong audience appeal, plenty of audience energy,” said Jessica Ayre.
Mike Celia laughs when you ask him to talk about his “sound.”
“Folk music with a twist of soul and jazz. And the blues influences are definitely contextual with my music. I like to reach people on a personal level because nowadays situations are so often polarized. I believe music can find common ground when it’s working.”
Celia has a colourful musical background.
For some time, he sang with an a cappella group, Eh440. “I fell in love with that sound, that style, but the demands, the challenges of blending voices in this way, well I call it a kind of musical boot camp,” he laughed.
He eventually amicably left the group. “I’m back solo touring again, back working on original material, making music that I am passionate about. I need to become the strings of my guitar.”
He is fascinated by relationships, how openness develops. Celia calls himself an ‘observational person’, whose music reflects the nature of love and intimacy. “I guess that I explore my own ideas, thoughts and feelings in music.”
Mike Celia brings what he calls “a depth of humility to the stage. I sometimes fear how an audience will feel about my music, but I leave myself out there anyway, and embrace the moment with an audience. Let the music out and the words come out.”
The St. Lawerence Acoustic Stage is using its last concert of the season to collect for the Dundas Food Bank. The board invites donations of food and funds, all of which will go to the Food Bank.
Tickets for Sweet Alibi, with Mike Celia, Saturday, May 7, 7 p.m., at Upper Canada Playhouse, are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Contact www.st-lawrencestage.com