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Funding announcement centre stage

 

 The St.  Lawrence Acoustic Stage was successful in its application to the Canada Arts Presentation Fund, local MP Guy Lauzon delivered the news at the beginning of the April 27th performance.

Lauzon announced that the St. Lawrence Stage will receive $20,000 government funding over the next two years.

“The Stage is a great opportunity for local residents and guests to experience how fortunate we are to have such a vibrant art and culture sector in our community,” said Lauzon. 

“It also provides a chance for new and emerging artists to hone their skills and gain important professional development opportunities.”

“This is the Stage’s fourth grant from Canadian Heritage and it is the first time we have received multi-year funding,”  said Sandra Whitworth, president of the board for the St. Lawrence Stage. “Knowing that we have two years of funding is enormously important in allowing us to plan our series well in advance and to continue to bring amazing musicians to Morrisburg and SD&G.”

Thanks to this funding, the Stage will be able to carry out its Music and Workshop Series project. 

St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage Performances is a specialized series presenter based in Morrisburg. 

The presenter’s programming focuses on acoustic guitar artists and singer songwriters performing in a variety of genres, including folk, fingerstyle, jazz, blues, roots and indie rock. 

The Stage usually presents nine to ten performances and two to three instrumental workshops per season. 

All activities take place at the Morrisburg Meeting Centre which has a 172 seats auditorium. 

About 1,000 people per year attend the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage.

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New Country Rehab will rock St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage

Country music lovers, come on down!

On Saturday, April 6, New Country Rehab, a dynamic four man band, is coming to the St. Lawrence Stage for one incredible concert, starting at 7 p.m.

“New Country Rehab is high octane alt,” said St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage board member, Sandra Whitworth. She has seen the group perform, and claims she was simply swept away by their concert. 

“Their roots are definitely country, yet they take their music in a direction that is completely surprising. I think our audience will be enthralled. New Country Rehab will be as much a hit with people who might say “I don’t like country,” as these musicians will be with the country music aficionados.”

Described by the Winnipeg Free Press as “Canada’s answer to Mumford & Sons” and a country band that has “bred something extraordinary and singular,” New Country Rehab hails from Toronto. 

The band is composed of lead singer and fiddle player, John Showman, Champagne James Robertson on guitar, Ben Whiteley on double bass and Roman Tome on drums and backing vocals. All are outstanding, seasoned musicians in their own right: all have performed with some of the biggest concert names in Canada.

New Country Rehab is a modern, high-voltage, alt-country band,  yet steeped in the traditional sounds of old time classic country: the band brings a unique, exciting and original edge to their music.

I caught up with lead vocalist John Showman as the band was en route to a concert tour in British Columbia and asked him where the name New Country Rehab came from.

“After I had found the guys I wanted, and who wanted to be in this band, and right before we were due at our first gig, my wife and I looked across the street and spotted a furniture store with a window display,” Showman explained. “She said we ought to use the word refurbish in our name. Refurbish became rehabilitate, then rehab. 

It seemed to work because we felt that we wanted to take the old country style of music, that traditional country sound, and somehow make it new again. We were determined to retain country themes, but to find a new approach,  to deliver a new twist on the traditional country sound. The name eventually evolved into New Country Rehab.”

The band’s roots really are firmly planted in country. When the musicians first got together in 2010, their plan was to revive country classics by artists like Hank Williams. 

Their well received, self titled, first album,  came out in 2011, and featured their take on other people’s music. But Ghost of Your Charms, just released in March, 2013, is mostly original work, and is quickly garnering critical and fan praise.

“In composing songs, I think our creativity is shared. (James, Ben, Roman and I) work together and share writing credits. If one person has an idea, we play with the potential song until we are comfortable with it. Do songs come easily? That depends. ‘Back in Time’ on our new album took a lot of work, but ‘Lost Highway’ came together very quickly.”

The term alt-country has been applied to the band’s sound. As John Showman pointed out, however, describing music is not the same as hearing it.

“I would say that we are people playing music with timeless themes, ideas which have been celebrated in folk music for centuries. 

There really are classic  themes tied to country – ballads about heroes and villains, spirituality and mortality, and of course, love songs. We want to continue to keep those traditional roots while appealing to a wide range of listeners.” 

He and the band are looking forward to their concert at the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage on April 6, where they will be playing both sets.

“On stage, we try to stay open to different audiences, to get a sense of them from the stage,” Showman said. “We want to develop warmth and finesse with our listeners. Actually,” he added, “it’s easy to relate to any audience when you really love what you are doing. We do.”

For an evening of country music to remember, don’t miss New Country Rehab in concert at the St. Lawrence Stage on April 6, beginning at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $15 in advance, or $18 at the door.

 Tickets are available at the Basket Case, Strung Out Guitars or Compact Music or by contacting www.st-lawrencestage.com

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Amelia Curran headlining at St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage

 

“Amelia Curran’s album, Spectators, has just been nominated for a Juno in the roots and traditional album of the year, solo category. And she’s coming here to Morrisburg to headline on our stage!” said board member Sandra Whitworth. Curran, (with artist, Jill Zmud, opening for her),  is performing at the St. Lawrence Stage Saturday, March 2, beginning at 7 p.m. 

Already the winner of a 2010 Juno, and first prize winner at the 15th Annual USA Songwriting competition, Amelia Curran has  gained national attention with  War Brides and the 2009 release of Hunter, Hunter.

Of her 2013 Juno nomination, Curran said, “It’s just over-whelming to be nominated again. I see Roots as more of an acoustic style of music. Actually, I still call myself a folk musician and I carry my guitar with me at all times. It’s just never far from my hands.”

Curran’s song writing in particular has deeply impressed critics and audiences alike. She once said of her music, “language is everything.” 

“I love to write in all sorts of forms,” Curran explained in an interview with The Leader. “Songs talk in metaphors, and feelings are hard to convey at the best of times. I obsess over words, searching for the ones that may not be the fanciest or the most pleasing, but still truly reflect what I need to say. You might call me a kind of ‘word snob,’” she laughed. “I love finding that right and perfect word.”

Curran described themes she explores in her music. “Any writer writes about love, of course, but lately I have also been reflecting on social and political responsibilities in my music. Are we doing enough for the world around us?”

Fresh from touring extensively in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Curran earned kudos for her concerts in theatres and folk clubs. She says that Europeans are enchanted by the “Canadian identity.” “They ask me if there is something in the water in Canada that produces such great musicians,” she joked. “Of course, being very Canadian, if someone compliments me on my music  my immediate tendency is to shrug off the compliment.”

However, Amelia Curran should be very used to compliments by now. Her musical accomplishments, her lyrical songs, her striking voice, have won her nothing but acclaim. She said she is looking forward to her Morrisburg debut March 2. “I love the Stage’s smaller venue. And I love to have an audience share my thoughts and music with me,” the Juno nominee said. 

Two years ago Jill Zmud performed at the St. Lawrence Stage: she is eagerly looking forward to her return here, and to opening for Amelia Curran.

“I’m a big fan of Amelia and of the St. Lawrence Stage. The board and the audiences are so welcoming and warm.”

Zmud laughingly described her music as “torch/folk. It makes people feel warm and cozy.” She came to vocal music a little later than some: the first years of her career were focused on dance. She switched to vocal music in her early 20’s, leading what she describes as a “double life” ever since. “I think I was steeped in music from a very early age. I wanted, in the end, to create music and not just move to it.”

She originally sang covers, but now writes her own highly original pieces. “My themes tend to rely on what is happening in my life at any particular moment. I lately explored loss with the unexpected death of my father. And as a westerner, I feel strongly connected to the earth. My song Westwinds reflects the huge sky, the wheeling of hawks, and a stretching prairie road.” She composes without an instrument, using just her own striking voice until the melody and words have written themselves.

Currently, Jill Zmud is in the process of creating a new album for release sometime in the next year. “I know that I won’t ever stop making music. I’ve been so lucky,” she said. “My work, my career, involve music in every way. Music is my passion.”

Tickets for Amelia Curran, with Jill Zmud, are $18 in advance or $20 at the door, available at The Basket Case, Strung Out Guitars, Compact Music or at www.st-lawrencestage.com

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Zukerman wins legion of new fans at St. Lawrence Stage Concert

 

There was a large audience gathered for the February 16 concert held by the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage at the Morrisburg Meeting Centre. 

That really wasn’t a surprise. With such outstanding performers as Natalia Zukerman and Awna Teixeira on the bill, people knew they were in for an exceptional evening.

And the two artists did not disappoint.

Opening for Natalia, Awna Teixeira, an original member of the group Po’Girl, built an informal, comfortable rapport with the audience. Awna is very new to the world of solo performance.

“I’ve been in Po’Girl for about nine years,” she laughed, “but when they went on hiatus for a while, I felt it was time for me to branch out. It’s really an adventure going solo. Suddenly there’s a lot of room up here on the stage.”

Blessed with a sweet, slightly husky voice (it really does have Dolly Parton overtones, a musical comparison she mentioned during an earlier interview with The Leader), Awna cannot be ‘defined’ by a single musical genre. She has honed her talent in a year of concert touring.

“Where Darkness Falls”, the title song of her 2012 album of the same name had a soft folk music flavour to it. Yet “Watch Over Us” was passionate and dramatic. This particular piece reflected her Portuguese heritage, and she sang some of it in that language. 

Awna plays several instruments, among them the banjo, guitar and harmonica, and has said that the type of instrument she is playing often determines the nature of the song she sings. Her favourite instrument, however, is the gut bucket bass, although she laughed that she just couldn’t squeeze something that big on to her plane from Utah. 

She told the audience that, as a song writer, she often revisits her compositions, not content to leave a song behind forever. “I just added a new verse to a 2005 Po’Girl song I wrote,” she said. “I don’t know how painters ever really finish anything because I have to keep working on my songs.”

Sometimes exuberant, at other times thoughtful, even a little plaintive, Awna Teixeira’s music is an unexpected delight. 

There is a gentle sense of humour underlying many of her pieces as well. (One piece was “inspired by two hamsters that I ‘freed’ from their cage in my old classroom.”)  By the end of her set, the audience knew that they were hearing a very gifted break out  artist.

Natalia Zukerman seemed slight, even fragile, when she stepped on to the Morrisburg concert stage to perform. It was an illusion.

She picked up her guitar and simply filled the hall with a voice that is compelling, rich, powerful. From the moment this artist sang a bluesy “little love song to the South”,  swept into the edgy Latin beat of a song about abuse,  invited the audience to join her in the whimsical “Valerie” (“Be very Edith Piaf about it!”), Natalia Zukerman was utterly engaging. She owned the Stage.

Accompanied on several songs by Toronto percussionist, Sly Juhas (himself a marked talent), Natalia held the audience in the palms of her hands throughout the evening.

Incidentally, those hands were formidable on guitar.  She plays as though the guitar is an extension of her own passionate personality,  and her skill is  outstanding.

A workshop she held in slide guitar earlier in the day allowed her to share that talent with some eager learners. “She worked with each of us,” said Sandra Whitworth, “and she was terrific and incredibly patient. What a great teacher.” 

Raised in New York City, member of the very musical Zukerman family, writing and performance have been part of Natalia’s life since she can remember. But she finds her inspiration in many places.

“I grew up in Manhattan, but wanted to live in a Morrisburg,” she laughed. “I’ve spent my life teetering between big places and little places.”

“It’s been a long day/A long year…We move too fast/We miss too much…We could have some good times/If we didn’t rush.”

A trained visual artist, Natalia makes strong cross over connections between her music and her art. “I begin to think that the same image can occur again and again in a song. Why not? Artists re-paint the same object or scene many times. Even a single image, say of a boat, can create different metaphoric trips in life when you are writing,” she explained in an earlier interview with The Leader.

She has just completed a double live album, an experience the singer/songwriter described as “exhilarating.” 

Frankly, Natalia's entire performance at the St. Lawrence Stage Saturday night was exhilarating.

What a grand show!

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Fantastic concerts, outstanding workshops

 

The second half of the 2012-13 St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage season will kick off next week; an outstanding roster of musicians is coming to South Dundas. 

“We have such a varied and exciting line-up coming to town starting this month,” said Sandra Whitworth, on the board of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage.

The extraordinary Natalia Zuckerman will open the spring series on February 16, with  Juno award winner, Amelia Curran, appearing on March 2. April 6, the incredible alt country band, New Country Rehab, takes to the stage. Grammy award winning fingerstyle guitarist, Laurence Juber, best known to many as lead guitarist in Paul McCartney’s Wings, will perform on April 27. 

The stellar St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage season will close out with a showcase for up and coming artists, Intimate Acoustics, on May 25.

Sandra Whitworth is also delighted to welcome some new additions to the St. Lawrence Stage “family” this spring. 

Now joining long time Stage supporter, Coffey’s Coffee, in sponsoring the spring musical series, are these local businesses: the law firm of Horner and Pietersma, Riley’s Valumart, Thom Realty Ltd., Seaway Valley Pharmacy, Morrisburg Home Hardware and the Bank of Montreal, Morrisburg branch.

“It’s been very heartening to have local businesses come on board and support us. It does feel like an acknowledgement from the Morrisburg community of the work we are doing,” Whitworth said. 

This spring, the Stage is also offering a number of workshops to the community.

First up, New Yorker Natalia Zuckerman (she is the daughter of the NAC Orchestra conductor, Pinchas Zuckerman) will hold two workshops. The first will take place on Saturday, February 16, at the Morrisburg Meeting Centre from 2-4 p.m., before Zuckerman’s evening concert.

Zuckerman is a virtuoso slide and blues guitarist, as well as a visual artist. In her local workshop, she will help students try out different slide guitar techniques and alternate tuning. She’ll get students using various materials such as glass, metal and lap style. Participants should have some familiarity with the guitar, but it is not necessary to have prior experience playing slide guitar.

Zuckerman is also presenting a  second workshop on Sunday, February 17, again from 2-4 p.m., in Cornwall, in partnership with the Art Gallery Cornwall (168 Pitt Street).  “Song Writing with a Painter’s Eye,” is for both musicians and artists. No prior visual or musical background is required, just interest. Natalia will be showing students how to create image-based songs, and song-based images. Each two hour workshop is $25 (funds for all workshops go directly to the artists). 

A minimum enrollment of eight participants is required for the Morrisburg workshop to run. Register for it by February 13, at the latest, at info@st-lawrencestag.com.  

On April 27, Laurence Juber will direct a workshop in Morrisburg entitled “Beatles, Wings and Six Strings,” before his evening concert. 

He will work with students on techniques for arranging songs such as building moving parts from basic harmony, voicing and articulating the melody and adding bass and groove to create a satisfying performance.

The cost of this workshop is also $25. A minimum of eight participants is needed for the workshop to run.

The St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage is an exceptional venue for the performing arts in South Dundas. 

“We are trying to build a ‘community’ as much as just an audience,” Whitworth said. “Community, as we see it, means a shared openness to music, the willingness to be a bit surprized perhaps by a performer or style. We offer an intimate setting for audiences to enjoy the talents of extraordinary musicians, often at half the price these same performers might command in say, Ottawa.” 

Reach the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage at http://www.st-lawrencestage.com/shows.html.

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Let There Be Music

 Now that’s entertainment.

The Intimate Acoustics show  December 15 at Morrisburg’s St. Lawrence Stage was highly eclectic, and musically, great fun.

One of the mandates of the Stage is to create a show case for up and coming young artists. The board invites young performers to audition, then offers them the chance to perform in a professional venue. 

As Sandra Whitworth, on the St. Lawrence board, told Saturday’s audience, “We’ve got six incredible performers for you tonight.”

Leading off the program were Alex Boyd and Ian Sabourin, two very young artists, who (in a different incarnation) are also members of the popular Ottawa-based group, Riot Police. 

They seemed genuinely at ease on this stage, although I suspect this may have been an ‘older’ audience than they are accustomed to.

Alex and Ian are already versatile vocal and instrumental musicians, who really have exceptional voices. Listening to them harmonize on original numbers like River Styx and The World Doesn’t Start to Turn, I began to think of them as balladeers with rocker souls. Or possibly vice versa. 

Christina Tracy, whose music board member Tony McCadden described as “a pleasure to listen to”, was joined on stage by accompanist Brian Flynn. 

Tracy’s voice is warm and sweet and strong, her lyrics simple sounding, but often with a wealth of meaning behind them. Saturday Night on the Town blended a touch of country with a touch of blues, conjuring up nostalgic memories.. “music was real/And we thrilled to its touch…lifting our spirits/As high as our hopes.” She drew a truly warm audience response.

The Douglas Poirier Trio from Cornwall is so new on the music scene, that, as Tony McCadden put it, “we’re making a little musical history here tonight. This is their first gig.” Poirier, a guitarist, was accompanied by Jamie McKiver and Mark Atchison. 

There are strong Celtic undertones to their work, very notable in numbers such as Galway Forever. It is these unique undertones that I hope will be  refined as their personal style develops. On stage, these young performers exhibit passion and infectious energy, qualities that I think they will continue to channel as their music matures.

Gen Lacroix seems shy, almost diffident when she first comes on stage. Then she begins to sing, and the extraordinary artist emerges.

Lacroix’s is a strong, carrying voice, rich and full, that immediately captures attention. She truly does let her lyrical poetry, and that voice, speak for her. With only a keyboard for accompaniment, every song “takes on new life of its own.” 

“Can I forget myself/Can I forget me/ Can I let go of this present moment?” 

There are touches of jazz and folk in her work, but I suspect Gen Lacroix will never let herself be limited to any one genre.

Nor will musician Binaeshee-Quae.

Winner of the Taylor Mitchell Award, Binaeshee simply takes over a stage, making it her own. 

Hers is unusual, intensely personal music, coloured perhaps by her First Nations heritage, and delivered in a powerful, confident, beautiful voice that fills a hall. Life anecdotes, flavoured by her strong sense of humour, strike one as the heart of Binaeshee’s lyrics. Saturday’s audience particularly loved her song of Hallowe’en in the deep Northern bush (“the beasts are loose/the ghouls are free/They are all coming after me…Uh, oh!”) 

With her first album due for release very soon, this young artist made it clear on Saturday that she is an up and coming musical powerhouse.

A powerhouse of a different type was the drumming group, Kunundrum, who literally exploded on to the stage in a flurry of sound and colour.

Made up (on Saturday) of seven very talented singers, drummers and dancers too, Kunundrum is based in Ottawa. Current board member, Tony McCadden, is a member, and so is former board member Jeanne Ward.

Exuberant and elated, the performers were clearly enjoying  creating music. And the audience was just as enchanted. (The beat of the percussion really does get into your head and soul.) 

Chanting, singing and often dancing Kunundrum put on a wonderful performance. With musical numbers distilled from the traditional rhythms and instruments of West Africa, Haiti and Cuba, the artists demonstrated their versatility and high energy to the obvious delight of the audience. 

As board member Derek Hunter expressed it at the end of the Intimate Acoustics concert, “We decided to end our fall season with a bang… or should I say, a ba-dum-dump!”  

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They’ve come a long way

They’ve certainly come a long way.

Seven years ago, a small group of music lovers had a dream that it  could bring musicians, both professional artists and amateur hopefuls, to perform in an intimate local setting, the stage at the Operating Engineers. The volunteers began this project with very little money and virtually no outside funding. What the members of the board of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage (as they decided to call themselves) did have, however, was a passion for music and the drive to do something about that passion.

The St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage is a remarkable phenomenon. From its somewhat rocky beginnings, often learning as it went, the board has contrived, in just a few years, to bring some extraordinary professional artists into this community (and to launch some talented amateurs into new careers). 

Serena Ryder has performed here. So has Lynn Miles and Graham Greer, Don Ross and Manitoba Hal. There have been many others: some of them have shared their knowledge and talent at special workshops for people in the community. To a person, these musicians have repeatedly praised the performance venue in Morrisburg, the dedication and professionalism of the board, and the warmth of the welcome they have received from audiences here.

The St. Lawrence Stage operates on a proverbial shoe string. 

While the Stage has received some provincial and federal grant money, and the Township of South Dundas has helped out, audiences are still developing and funds are tight. The SLAS remains dedicated to presenting musicians and shows that are the equal (except for much lower ticket prices) of anything in the city.

If you’ve never attended a concert at the SLAS, go to one. Any one. You’ll be impressed, entertained, thrilled, by what you can see and hear right in our own community. This is an organization worthy of support and an asset to South Dundas.

The St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage and its volunteer board have indeed come a long way. That journey needs to continue.  

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Spin at the St. Lawrence Stage

 

It’s a big month of ‘firsts’ for the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage. This will be one of the first times in their seven year history that they are presenting two shows only a week apart. 

“We’ve been taking our vitamins and getting ready,” board president Sandra Whitworth said with a small laugh. “We had already booked the fabulous Terra Hazelton for November, and then we had the opportunity to bring in Evalyn Parry’s SPIN on November 24th.”

 “This is a show we’d been keeping our eye on for a while, we were so excited to learn we might be able to bring SPIN to Morrisburg,  we decided to go for it.” 

The board members of the Acoustic Stage had been keeping their eye on SPIN because it is such an innovative show:  part musical performance, part spoken word, part documentary. The reviews describe it as “brilliant” and “a breath of fresh air.”

SPIN uses the bicycle as a metaphor for social change, but also as an actual musical instrument – the bicycle (along with percussionist Brad Hart) is Evalyn Parry’s co-star. 

In an interview Parry notes that this is one of the attractions of the show. 

“We’ve played the show in big fancy theatres and also in small community halls – it’s versatile that way, and seems to work in both intimate and larger settings.   Part of the unique thing about the show is the musical bicycle – and that always seems to go over really well wherever we play – Brad Hart is a talented drummer, and creates an amazing accompaniment with the bike.”

A musical bicycle? As Whitworth points out, that will be another first. “We’ve had a lot of musical instruments played at the Stage, but never a bicycle.” 

Describing her motivations in creating SPIN, Parry says that it brought together not only themes she wanted to explore, but also different parts of her creative life. 

“I had spent my artistic career with one foot in music and spoken word, and the other in theatre, and I felt I wanted to create a show that would bring my two worlds together into one show.”

“I am an avid cyclist, and thought it would be fun to create something about my passion for my bicycle.  Also, I’m a bit obsessed with advertising and the way things get “spun” – so I thought the theme of “spin” could encompass both the bicycling and the advertising, and maybe result in something interesting.   And finally, I had also heard somewhere that there was a connection between the bicycle and the early women’s emancipation movement in the 19th century, and I wanted to research that.   So I dove into the research – and discovered all these unexpected and amazing historical characters and information which connected all my chosen themes.”

SPIN has recently completed an eight-show run in Kingston, most of which were sold out. Some of Parry’s favourite venues are in smaller communities. 

“I love performing in small communities, where people seem to especially appreciate things that are different.   SPIN is a pretty ‘outside the box’ show, even in a big city context, but the show seems to be enjoying a pretty broad appeal. The themes and stories about the history of women and cycling, and consumerism, and advertising, and ‘freedom’ within the show are certainly not only relevant to city-dwellers – they are pretty universal. “

Whitworth commented that the show is drawing a lot of attention. 

 “I do hope the local crowd gets their tickets and has a chance to see this.  I can’t tell yet whether we will be sold out, but there’s been more interest than usual with a lot of online sales from Ottawa, and that’s wonderful of course. But we brought this to Morrisburg to make sure our community has a chance to see it.” 

 Make sure to get to the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage in the OETIO/Morrisburg Meeting Centre  to see this fabulous show. Tickets are $18 in advance at Basket Case or online www.st-lawrencestage.com. The door price is $20, show time is 7 p..m on Saturday November 24th!

 

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Terra Hazelton: hot jazz at St. Lawrence Stage

 

Stage actor. Genie nominated film star. Radio personality. Model. Composer. Singer.

Especially a singer.

Terra Hazelton, who will be coming to the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage on Saturday, November 17, with her band, Easy Answers, is a multi-talented Canadian artist who will be offering a stunning mixture of blues and jazz at her show. 

Sandra Whitworth, of the St. Lawrence Stage, described Hazelton as a “..powerhouse singer. And the band is just a whole lot of fun. This is just going to be a terrific show.”

When Hazelton was asked how someone just 33 could have already accomplished so much, she laughed. “My passion for the arts started at a very early age.” 

Hazelton first earned her acting chops with the Loose Moose Theatre Company of Calgary, an organization founded by Keith Johnstone. Artistic director, Dennis Cahill, has had a profound effect on some of Canada’s best performers, including members of the Kids in the Hall, and of course, Terra Hazelton.

At age 14, Hazelton was already learning improvisational comedy and taking part in children’s theatre productions.

She credits Cahill and  the company with infusing her with “a taste for the stage, for telling stories and for making people laugh. My theatre experiences really nurtured all my natural urges to perform. And,” she laughed, “I also found I had a strong affinity for singing.”

Time spent at the prestigious American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, really exposed Hazelton to the classic lyricists and composers, to Broadway legends like George Gershwin and Cole Porter. And her career soon took a new direction. “I discovered I loved that kind of music, loved singing it. I began veering away from my original Broadway stage ambitions” and instead found singing taking precedence. 

She returned to Toronto and started performing in cabarets and on stage. 

Then came the moment Hazelton calls “kismet.”

She had been performing around Toronto, particularly at the Brunswick House, when legendary singer/guitarist Jeff Healey heard her sing. His band, the Jazz Wizards, had been formed about a year earlier, and he was looking for a vocalist. 

“He sort of ‘musically courted’ me,” Hazelton laughed. “He came around to hear me at different clubs for a while, and then he offered me a wonderful job” as his band’s featured vocalist. 

It was a magical match: Hazelton toured with his band and Healey eventually produced the young performer’s debut record, “Anybody’s Baby” in 2004.

“The reaction to her (Hazelton) has been overwhelmingly positive to say the least,” Healey said. “I can say that I’ve rarely, if ever, seen a vocalist receive more of an outpouring of affection and adulation.”

Hazelton’s repertoire is grounded in her interpretations of classic jazz and the blues. 

“Jeff exposed me to some of the early great jazz musicians, singers from the 20’s and 30’s. I love Bessie Smith, for the blues and Connie Boswell is my favourite for jazz. Boswell was really the Brittany Spears of the 1930’s. Some of these artists are a little less known today, but I love singing them. Let’s just say my blues choices are earlier than my jazz choices.”

Hazelton is very much looking forward to her performance with Easy Answers at the St. Lawrence Stage. “It will be a great evening.”

Tickets for Terra Hazelton’s concert on November 17 are $18 in advance and $20 at the door. They are available at the Basket Case, Strung Out Guitars and Compact music or on line at the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage.

 

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Kevin Fox, David Simard headline at St. Lawrence Stage

 

 It promises to be a night of music that is both unexpected and exhilarating.

On Saturday, October 27, at 7 p.m., artist Kevin Fox will bring his fresh and delightful sound to the St. Lawrence Stage. David Simard, first introduced in an Emerging Artists showcase in 2010, to much praise, will open. 

Kevin Fox, whose extensive body of work has been described by the Halifax Chronicle as a “set of glowing acoustic pop gems” and by Cadence Magazine as “poetic and even romantic,” has  a unique background and an equally unique musical sound.

He has arranged music for Justin Bieber and Kathleen Edwards, recorded with Celine Dion and toured with Chantal Kreviazuk, Steven Page and Olivia Newton-John.  

“I think his (release) Songs for Voice and Cello” is stellar, and his live performance is incredible,” said board member Sandra Whitworth.

Unusually, Fox has made the cello, most often restricted to classical music, the unique focus of his pop/folk approach.

“I believe that a cello is actually a kindred spirit to the human voice,” Fox explained. “When I sing and bow or pluck the cello, the sound resonates with my voice. There is simply great beauty in this string instrument.”

Fox added, with a laugh, that his unusual choice of instrument should be blamed on the fantastic music program that used to exist in the Maritimes. “In every grade, students were introduced to a musical instrument. Every year there was a new classical instrument and a new sound. The cello became my musical voice.”

A graduate of McGill in classical composition, Fox says that “song writing and arranging have always been part of me. You could say that I speak both pop and classical music. I describe my career by saying there have been many cookie jars on the shelf that I’ve dipped my hand into. I love arranging for the stage. I love arranging for the studio. And I love singing. Music has been the focus of my life since I was 10.”

I asked him about his songs.

“I have this interest in beauty. I seek beauty through my music, seeking out the colours that make me feel good, or reflect my mood. Then I want to put this unique beauty I have found down on pages to share. I also tend to believe that artists look inward and find a wealth of things that they can share with others.”

Kevin Fox released Set Right in 2011, an album that audiences are loving. “I wanted this one to have a collaborative element,” he said, explaining he had used several instruments and musicians in this work. “ But I did add lots of cello parts too,” Fox laughed.

David Simard is looking forward to his return to the Stage. “It’s such a treat to perform in that setting filled with people genuinely enjoying the music.”

Simard has been touring, but he finds that he loves “the rhythm of life on the road. It lets me focus all my energy toward music, which is exactly what I want to do.”

Generally, Simard prefers to stay away from labels. “I just say I’m a folk singer, straight up.” But he has been given one label that he finds intriguing, that of “avant-garde folk singer.” 

“It comes from an album review in Italy. It said I was avant-garde because I was ‘a folksinger who’s rooted in the past, and looking to the future’. I do sing traditional folk music, but I am always trying to create something new and progressive in my music.”

The influence of cabaret has been part of that creative process.

“At one time, while I was living and working in Montreal and Victoria, I performed with aerialists, contortionists and dancers, with circus people: they were always looking for music and musicians. That experience led me to try and fit a kind of theatrical edge to my music. It is a style I would like to explore again.”

The theme of movement is a strong component of a lot of Simard’s compositions. “I’ve moved all my life. On tour I constantly move, crossing new geographic regions, always arriving, always leaving, maybe staying a short time in one spot. That theme appears in my music. I write about life, I guess. I love music. Music is my life.”

With upcoming artist David Simard opening for him, Kevin Fox will be in concert at the St. Lawrence Stage on Saturday, October 27. 

Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 at the door available at the Basket Case, Strung Out Guitars and Compact Music or at www.st-lawrencestage.com/shows.html

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