MORRISBURG – “This is a really impressive line-up,” said Sandra Whitworth, chair of the board of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage. On Saturday, February 8, at 7 p.m., the SLAS will welcome six exciting new voices to the upcoming Intimate Acoustics Showcase. “It’s going to be quite a show, I think!”
February 8 promises to be an eclectic musical evening, featuring several talented, established performers, and some exceptional up-and-coming artists.
Award winner Nigel Wearne is coming all the way from Australia. Both Pat Johnson of Prescott and Fiddlehead Soup of Kemptville have “performed for years and have a large fan base in this area,” Sandra explained. Mia Kelly is still a teenager, but she has already played Ottawa’s Bluesfest. Christine Jakel and Teagan McLaren are both “wonderful songwriters and stunning singers.”
Nigel Wearne is a rising Australian artist with a unique personal style and a unique brand of music. He “melds finger-style guitar with up hammer banjo’ and paints “raw and compelling” pictures. Nigel often draws his songs from stories of social justice and from historical tales. His 2012 album Black Crow won both critical and popular praise.
Teagan McLaren is fast becoming a seasoned veteran of the music scene, since she first began playing the guitar at age of 12.
She won first prize at the Voice of the Rideau Competition, opened for icon Fred Penner, took part in a Johnny Cash and June Carter Tribute and still found time to earn a Bachelor of Music degree in saxophone. She released a full length album in 2019.
“The diversity of writing styles in country music appeals to me,” she explained, “with the thought and cleverness that are often put into the lyrics.” While she laughs that her own music might not be country “top 40,” (maybe “alternative country/folk,”) she always seeks to strike a chord in her audiences.
Her songs are “reflective of my own experiences, with these feelings I try to evoke when performing.” After all, as the young artist points out, “we have all gone through instances in our lives where we have experienced love, loss, pain and personal growth.”
Pat Johnson of Prescott is an outstanding finger-style guitarist, swiftly becoming one of the best-known performers in Eastern Ontario, with a love of funky blues. He has released three albums, the latest 2018’s Stumps.
A noted, sought after guitar teacher as well as a dynamic performer, Pat feels that in a world where sometimes little value is assigned to the arts, he wants to communicate that music “binds humanity together.”
He is a full time artist who seeks to “cut through the crap and get to the heart of the matter.”
“If I am going to sing something in my songs, I’m going to say something,” Pat said. “I’d like to think that my music is created and delivered with the intent to do more than just be heard in the background or on the random play set-list.”
He once commented to a fellow musician that he wasn’t sure that audiences wanted to hear some of the things he explored through his songs. “My friend said, ‘they need to hear it’, and we laughed. I appreciated his confidence in me.”
The three performers who make up Fiddlehead Soup have sometimes been called musical gypsies who explore songs ranging from love and loss to the struggle of refugees.
They are also fiddle-playing, toe-tapping artists, (who occasionally toss viola, cello and piano into the mix), who can make instant, joyous connections with audiences.
“Most of us have an innate love of rhythm and music,” explained Fiddlehead Soup’s Doug Hendry. “We see it in children. We believe that feeling is always there, and we love to connect to it. We ourselves often dance on stage: we just can’t help it because we are feeling the music. We leave space (in a performance) for people to get up and dance to the music that moves them. (Music) should be a focal point for people to connect with each other.”
The artists of Fiddlehead Soup do not restrict themselves to one genre or one style. They let audiences decide.
“We play a fairly wide variety of music, spanning four centuries, three continents and 12 languages. We love to explore songs and tunes from different traditions that have strange time signatures and uneven structures. We (with Glenna Hunter and Ursa Meyer) come from different musical backgrounds, but we create a sound that is somehow bigger than the sum of its parts. We love to share our joy with an audience, and to carry them along.”
Mia Kelly of Ottawa has already played some big stages, including RBC Bluesfest. She melds folk, rock and “a twist of soulful blues.”
“I like to say that if you threw folk, blues, rock and roll and soul into a blender, you’d have my music,” Mia laughed.
“I bring on stage a spark of genuine joy as well as youthful emotional honesty. I love to communicate with people. It’s a magical thing, filling spaces with love, hope and also with sing-alongs and stomping feet.”
Although still a teenager, this young artist has already explored some fascinating ideas in her songs. “I dive into many topics from politics to relationships, mental health to alien abductions. In my songs, I try to put myself into other people’s shoes and write from their perspective, sharing my own emotions and opinions. My songs tell stories that hopefully people can relate to and appreciate.”
Christine Jakel, who now performs under the single name, Jakel, is a classically trained singer-songwriter, already begin-ning to take the Ottawa music scene by storm. She remains utterly passionate about music and about performing, although stepping out on to a stage was initially difficult for her.
“Ever since I was young I loved playing piano and singing in my living room, for my own enjoyment. I taught myself guitar in my teens. I’ve always strived to break through the barriers of my introverted nature, which is why I decided to pursue music for a living, sharing my music with others. (This was a career path) that was terrifying and exhilarating to me,” Christine explained. “Music played such an important role in helping me face my demons and grow as a person. I just wouldn’t be the same without it.”
When she writes, Christine often focusses on shared human experiences and story-telling, working to connect with audiences.
“In my upcoming single ‘Freak Show,’” she laughed, “I invite listeners to embrace their inner wierdo and to love their quirks.” This up-and-coming young artist is looking forward to appearing in the Intimate Acoustics Showcase.
All tickets for this SLAS concert are $10.