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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