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Artists and artisans at upcoming St. Lawrence Stage concert

 

 It will be a gala night in more ways than one when the St. Lawrence Stage holds the third in its concert series on Saturday, November 19. Not only can the audience expect to enjoy performances by some outstanding musicians, but they can also see, and purchase, the works of noted local visual artists before the concert and during intermission. 

Bev Murphy a glass artist, Sandra Taylor-Hedges, a painter,  and painter/illustrator MiSun Hunter will be among the many different artisans whose works will be on display at the St. Lawrence Stage. 

“This is going to be an incredible evening,” said Sandra Whitworth of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage. “We will be featuring six singer/song writers in our November 19 concert. Some of these artists are just emerging, some fully emerged,” she said, laughing, “but all of them great.”

Returning to the St. Lawrence Stage will be Morrisburg favourite Gene Ward. Ward is noted for his country-infused original music, revolving as it does around themes of love, loss and the joys of living life to the fullest. His promises to be a memorable performance.

Mélanie Brulée, also a returning   St. Lawrence favourite, will again light up the Morrisburg stage with catchy new songs and her powerful real life lyrics. Brulée has lately been weaving her unique musical magic as a solo artist.

New to the St. Lawrence Stage, with an ever-growing area fan base, will be artist Tracy Lalone of Cornwall. She has recently opened for Graham Greer and Melanie Brulée: in October, she appeared in Cornwall’s Artsfest. Lalonde is hard at work on her  much anticipated debut album, due out some time in early 2012.

Making their first appearances at the St. Lawrence Stage will be musical newcomers Chris Thompson and Samantha Martin, as well as established  singer/songwriter, Kevin Head. 

“As a solo performer, I’m a little bluesy, more in the style of, say, Lyle Lovett,” said transplanted Maritimer, Kevin Head, who has shared the stage with the Rankins, Valdy and Chris deBurgh.

Head, funny and outspoken, says artists can find inspiration for their music in anything. “Snow falling on the roof, a child laughing, can all lead to a story. The best songs, I think, are often love songs, but love songs about a place or a home. I want to avoid getting all twisted up inside and then writing dreary songs about it,” he laughed. 

A versatile musician, Head is looking forward to the November 19 concert. “Maybe I’ll be the curve ball on the program,” he joked. “I’m not always predictable. But it will be fun.”

Music is definitely the focus of her life and her career for Toronto-based singer-songwriter Samantha Martin.

“As a soloist, I would say I am roots blues, country blues, a sound that I describe as more mellow,” the 28-year-old said. She has performed extensively with The Haggards, and is in the process of creating a new album for release in March of 2012. “I am more secure, more polished, more confident with this album,” Martin said. 

Proud daughter of a trucker, Martin says of her writing: “Mine are, I guess you’d say, ‘road-worthy’ themes, the relationships in a family, the effects of distance on those relationships.” She has recently found herself exploring new and challenging themes. “I love the imagery of religion. My love songs, I guess, are a little grittier,” she said. Her music, says Sandra Whitworth, is going to “blow audiences away, with lyrics that tug at the heart.”

Just 20 years old, musician Chris Thompson is already building a sterling reputation as a “finger style wizard” in the performance footsteps of Don Ross and Andy McKee. 

“Finger style is a mesmerizing style to me, a style that gives listeners the impression that there are a number of instruments at play on stage. There can be a rhythmic beat to the performance, and an approach that creates energy and drive in the music.”

Performing his own music, Thompson attracted a lot of attention at the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals in October where he was matched with guitarist Jason Fowler and show cased at the Festival. 

“You find the riffs you like in writing and build from them,” Thompson explained. “There are no limits to where your music can go. It’s important to convey a message, yes, but you also have to be yourself, be a bit of a showman. I look forward to the St. Lawrence Stage.”

Tickets for this showcase of outstanding  musical artists and gifted artisans at the St. Lawrence Stage, Morrisburg, on Saturday, November 19, are available at the Basket Case and Strung Out Guitars or by calling 613-543-2514. Tickets are $10.  Doors open at 6 p.m. for this concert.

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Del Barber coming to St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage

 

The St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage is presenting the second concert in its stellar 2011-12 musical series on Saturday, October 29, 7 p.m., at the Morrisburg Meeting Centre. 

Outstanding artist Del Barber, fresh from winning two Western Canada Music Awards just this week for his latest album Love Songs of the Last Twenty, will be performing one concert only at the St. Lawrence Stage. Audiences won’t want to miss this talented, critically acclaimed performer.

Although his music has been described as folk, folk rock, Americana, country and alt, Barber isn’t really interested in being ‘defined’. 

“I think I am first and foremost a song-writer,” Barber told The Leader. “My goal is to let people describe me in a lot of ways, not to be placed into one genre. Some days, I’m more county, some days more folk. I like audiences to decide for themselves.”

Born in Winnipeg (and a proud Westerner), Del Barber began writing and singing from a very early age. With a growing critical reputation and fan base, he has turned to music full time. “I find now that I have to keep up to my work load,” he laughed. “Last year I did 200 concerts. But I love it. Music is the focus of my life.”

His Western roots keep him anchored and flavour his approach to song writing. 

“I like to write about places,” he said, “about how we are all connected to history, about how history affects us. Home, places, the prairies themselves are strong themes for me. There is also, I think, a strong narrative in my writing because I want my songs to be accessible, understandable to people, familiar to them.

It bothers me when some writers are vague in what they are saying. I believe that musical stories are more moving, and in the end, a better way to make my points. And oh yes,” Barber added, laughing. “I write about hockey too. What Canadian doesn’t write about hockey?” 

The Winnipeg Free Press described Barber as “sincere and heartfelt as the day is long” and wrote that his presence on stage is “electric.” 

There is also an underlying humour to Barber’s music, maybe a little touch of cynicism.

“I think that people often leave my shows laughing. There is a light-heartedness, a bit of nostalgia to my songs,” he said, then added with a laugh, “I don’t want to be a whiner.”

Just turned 28, Barber describes his guitar as “his voice” and is looking forward to the intimacy of the St. Lawrence stage. “As a performer, I like to get a strong sense of my audience and Morrisburg will offer that.”

His reputation as an outstanding artist is steadily growing. In 2010, he was nominated for a Western Canada Music Award. In 2011, he was nominated for a Juno. This October, 2011, Barber won  West Coast Music Awards for roots recording of the year, and independent recording of the year. 

“All my chips are in. Music is my life. There’s risk in that, of course, but I like to be challenged,” Del Barber said.

No stranger to challenge herself, and an artist for whom music and performance is a “life direction”, Carleton Place singer Brea Lawrenson will open for Del Barber on the St. Lawrence Stage on October 29.

“I was so excited to be asked to open for Del,” Lawrenson told The Leader. “He’s an incredible writer and story teller, just a great performer. It is a very significant move for me to meet and work and share with an artist who is really succeeding.”

However, Brea Lawrenson seems on the brink of ‘breaking out’ herself. 

A trained singer with a rich soprano voice, she has performed on the St. Lawrence Stage before in Intimate Acoustics, and has become an audience favourite. She finds her musical home in country, and has recently returned from Nashville where she was able to focus on writing and performing.

“I write from my own experiences,” Lawrenson said. “My music reflects my feelings. I felt unaccepted in high school,  and had to find my own place.” The Red Cross eventually asked her and writing partner Braiden Turner to become  official spokespersons for their anti-bullying campaign, RespectEd, and she was eager to help.

“Music is a strong venue for reaching out to people of all ages,” Lawrenson said. “It really is a universal language. I write about goals, and about pursing dreams, about the ups and downs of finding your way as an artist. On stage,” she added laughing, “I am a full body singer, very passionate, with lots of energy.”

With a new album, Somewhere to Go, produced by Keith Glass of Prairie Oysters, just out, Brea Lawrenson promises to be a memorable opening act for the upcoming concert.

Tickets for the Del Barber concert, October 29, at the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage, with opening act Brea Lawrenson, are $15 in advance, $18 at the door. They are available at Strung Out Guitars, The Basket Case, at 613-543-2514 or at www.st-lawrencestage.com

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New funding, exciting new season at St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage

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.” 

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Serena Ryder concert sold out at St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage

“We are thrilled to get such a popular performer, Serena Ryder, to our venue,” said Jeanne Ward, a member of board of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage. “I think it is because of the reputation of the St. Lawrence Stage and its terrific audiences that we have been successful in getting this line up. Artists really want to play here.”

The St. Lawrence Stage is welcoming 2008 Juno Award winning Canadian singer-songwriter Serena Ryder to the Morrisburg stage on Saturday, September 24.

Ryder has taken the Canadian and international music scene by storm since her second album, If Memory Serves you Well, came out on the EMI label in November 2006. She opened for Aerosmith during their 2007 tour, jammed with Tim Hus and his Rocky Mountain Two in 2008 and recorded the duet, “You Can Always Come Home” with former American Idol contestant Jason Castro, for his first solo album, Jason Castro, in 2009.

Along the way she won the 2008 Juno for New Artist of the Year and her album Is It O.K. won the Juno for Adult Alternative Album of the Year. In 2010, Ryder won the Juno Award for Video of the Year with “Little Bit of Red.”

Ranging musically between folk, roots, country and adult contemporary music, Serena Ryder possesses a five octave vocal range and has toured in Australia and throughout North America. Reviewers have compared her voice to a “teenaged Aretha Franklin” (Elle) and noted her “impressive fearlessness” (Boston Globe).

“We are truly looking forward to her powerhouse vocals and musical energy,” Jeanne Ward said. “Fans are coming from all over, Montreal, Kingston, Ottawa to catch Serena in this intimate St. Lawrence Stage venue.”

Opening for Serena Ryder at the September 24 concert is newcomer to Canada, Matt Longo, a native of New York city, whose new album Lowlife is due to come out soon.

“Matt Longo’s music is honest and true,” said Ward. “His mix of New York folk pop is fresh and impressive. It’s no wonder Serena Ryder has chosen him to support her tour as the opening act.”

Longo told The Leader that he grew up with classic country, but there are other influences in his music as well. “I try not to think about genres,” Longo said. “I have no pre-conceived notions when I compose. However, I don’t get offended when anyone else describes my work a particular way,” he laughed. “I’m just flattered they’re listening.”

Longo finds inspiration for his music among those people who are or have been very close to him. “I’m sort of a people watcher, and people intrigue me. I write about pain or love, whatever is affecting me, and I think this focus on people resonates with audiences.

When I was younger, I went through a period of writing dark and brooding music, but who really wants to listen to that?” he laughed. “I see humour now in my songs. I find I can step back and see things differently.”

Lowlife was lovingly made in an old studio beneath the school in Harlem where Matt Longo teaches. “Every song went through revisions as my drummer and I got the sound we ultimately wanted. I’m excited about the release.”

He is also excited about sharing the acoustic stage with Serena Ryder.

“I haven’t worked with her before in actuality, but in my mind, many times. I’m a very big fan. I’m also looking forward to the St. Lawrence stage, to a concert where the audience is specifically coming to really listen and to enjoy the music. I will be performing numbers from my new album. I hope people enjoy the experience.”

While the Serena Ryder concert on September 24 is completely sold out, upcoming concerts at the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage promise to be dynamic, exciting and popular.

For information or to book future shows contact www.st-lawrencestage.com.

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