Musical legend Judy Collins graces local stage

Musical legend Judy Collins. (The Leader/Gibb photo)

MORRISBURG – For many in the big audience gathered on the Winery lawns for this very special Harmony Concert, it was a chance to turn back the clock. A chance to return to the heady, free-spirited days of youth and to enjoy, once more, the music that was so much a part of that youth.

Judy Collins, legendary singer/song writer/musician, on stage at Stone Crop Acres on Tuesday, July 11, was, in a word, magnificent.

A double Platinum, quadruple Gold-winning artist, she first came on the music scene in the early 60s, and she’s never been away from that scene since.

Her music has ranged from folk, with the Grammy Award winning ‘Both Sides Now’ to the music of Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim, the platinum ‘Send In the Clowns.’

She has sung country, pop and rock and roll.

Artists whose music she celebrated (and in some cases brought to main stream attention) included Leonard Cohen, Ian Tyson, the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger.

As a performer, Judy Collins recognizes no boundaries or limitations. Her recording of ‘Amazing Grace’ was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2017.

The audience gathered at Stone Crop Acres was there to meet the singer, and to hear the legend.

Joining Judy for this special performance were two other noted singers.

Marleen Fawcett is considered a “hometown girl” by many in the crowd. Her concerts and her album releases are very popular. Marleen began the evening by performing a variety of songs in her rich and resonant voice. She did not limit her choices to any one genre, performing pieces from Bob Dylan to Blackberry Smoke’s ‘One Horse Town’, which she jokingly admitted reminded her very much of her home town of Mountain. She often encouraged the audience to join in on the choruses, or to clap along, making them feel that they, too, were part of the music. She closed her set with an unexpected, but truly touching rendition of the song, ‘Rainbow Connection.’

Taking the stage as the opening act for Judy’s show was a performer well-known and well-loved in this area and across Canada, the phenomenal folk singer, Garnet Rogers.

As Jan Fox, head of Harmony Concerts, said in her introduction, “Garnet is always true to the music, and always true to what he does.” Garnet has appeared at Harmony Concerts before, and was clearly a favourite with the audience.

An artist who sings of the real components of life – of the byways and roads not taken, the joys of love, the ache of loss, of hopes and shattered dreams, even of lies and hypocrisy – Rogers, who accompanied himself on the guitar reached out to the crowd through his music. His words are lyrical. “You take my hand and smile at me/ And I see tomorrow in your eyes.” His manner with the audience is open, friendly, with a gentle touch of sardonic humour. “The great thing about being a folk singer is you can write a song about your own misery. In the words of the late, great George Harrison, ‘I’ve suffered for my art. Now it’s your turn.’”

He was the perfect lead in to Judy Collins.

A tiny woman, whose energy and passion make her stand tall on stage, Judy Collins played guitar for all her numbers, joined on the keyboard and certain harmonies by the talented Russell Walden. She had the audience in the palm of her hand when she grinned and announced “I’m glad to see you all here. You’re looking at the American Idol – of 1956.”

The cheers that erupted for her opening song, Mitchell’s ‘ Both Sides Now’ made it clear that this was music the crowd had been eagerly anticipating. Along the way, she shared stories from her youth, particularly her father’s insistence that she practice classical piano and singing at least two hours every day. “This wreaked havoc with my social life,” Judy said straight-faced. “Don’t worry. I made up for it in the 60s.” She also shared hilarious stories of some of the artists she had worked with including Keith Richards and Mick Jagger.

For a singer who has been performing literally for several decades, Judy Collins’ vocal range and passion are incredible. She sang Dylan’s angry ‘Masters of War,’ based on the Viet Nam conflict, then reflected “We were both incredibly young.” She touched us with the Jimmy Webb lyrics “I’ll find a place to rest my spirit if I can…/ Or maybe I’ll just be a single drop of rain.” Her soaring delivery of ‘Suzanne’ had more than one listener misty-eyed.

In her career, Collins has been an advocate of social causes, a singer who leaps across boundaries and genres, and an artist who says, quite simply, “I think I was born touring.” Yet her passion for music, and the fire are still there.

At the very end of her concert, in what many in the crowd saw as a touching tribute to Canada, Judy Collins invited Garnet Rogers back to the stage, and together they performed his late brother Stan’s immortal classic ‘Northwest Passage.’ The crowd rose to its feet cheering.

This was a grand concert and performed by a truly grand lady of song – Judy Collins.

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