Intimate Acoustics showcase six outstanding musical artists

Annual St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage show highlights new and upcoming talent.

MORRISBURG – Music lovers are in for a rare and exciting treat this weekend. On Saturday, January 13, at 7 pm., a one night only concert will showcase six wonderful and extraordinarily talented artists. This promises to be an evening brimming with musical adventures.

Intimate Acoustics, part of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage 2024 musical season, is bringing George Tierney, Landon A. R. Coleman, Irish Millie, Nyx and Lightsmith, Nicholas Campbell and Tracey Lalonde to the Upper Canada Playhouse stage. This concert will be an opportunity to hear and enjoy some very unique artists and to share in their musical journeys.

George Tierney is a passionate performer, and one who has played small venues, festivals large and small, and with his band HappyCrap (“a psuedo-Celtic garage band”) has delighted audiences everywhere. He is a local musician who has transferred his own love for live music into the support and encouragement of other artists. He is the founder of the Upper Canada Folkfest, which takes place in Prescott, Ontario, and sits on the board of the Canadian Music Awards. He is the creator of “One Guitar, One Hundred Hands” which paints a portrait of performers, their instruments and their music, and has won considerable renown. An outgoing and warm performer, he may even (according to Sandra Whitworth, chair of the SLAS) “serve you a drink at our bar where he volunteers during intermission.”

Landon A. R. Coleman, an Albertan, trained as a double bassist, and has worked with indie folk bands, and released two solo EPs. His music is timeless, elegant and stylized: he has also devoted himself to working as a music therapist in Ottawa. I asked him about the roots of his music. “My songs sort of emerge like water from a spring, and it’s hard to tell what’s going on underneath, but my best guess is this spring is fed by two sources.” He cites his work as a therapist, seeing “all sorts of people dealing with tough situations. I am honoured to play a role in their lives and bring music into them.” But he also finds inspiration for his music in the “feelings and struggles of family life, which are pretty interesting” and a source for creating. He loves music from the pre-rock and the jazz era but “I am a modern guy so that puts me somewhere in the ballpark of the 70s singer/songwriters. I write a lot on the piano, and I love a good melody.” Coleman is eager to make connections with his audiences. “I love how a song can really change the feel of a room, and how very different people can feel like they understand each other through music. It’s so good.”

‘Irish Millie,’ Millie Shadgett, is a Peterborough teenager looking at a bright musical future. Passionate about East Coast, Blue grass and Contemporary fiddle music, she has already been nominated for two Canadian Folk Music Awards and won the 2023 Emerging Artist of the Year Award at the Peterborough Folk Festival. I asked her about her devotion to the fiddle and Celtic music. “I love how easy it is to collaborate with people in this genre, and how fulfilling it is to make music of your own by adding elements which capture a different story. I love how Celtic and folk music, when instrumental, can speak so many words without a human voice. Folk music is its own language.” Really just at the very beginning of her career, Millie loves relating to her audiences, and is thrilled when they respond to the emotions in her music. “This connection generates such energy…” She often performs with her father, Murray, as part of her band The Receivers, “and the banter with my dad, and the story telling is important and fulfilling.” Music is her life, and she plans to continue on this path: a big tour of British Columbia lies just ahead. For Irish Millie, Celtic music is that “space of creativity and passion where the connection between people (has been) crucial to the survival of the music. I have been lucky enough to have fantastic support from my community. I want to continue to pour passion into my music.”

Nyx and Lightsmith are a folk duo from Ottawa, who also go by the names of Ethan Mitchell and Maddy O’Regan. Their work has been described as folk, country and alternative and has found deep connections in listeners as they explore life’s challenges through their music. However, as the artists themselves put it “I think we’re just folk musicians who like to try on different costumes when the fancy strikes us. Sometimes we hear something and just get swept up in thinking ‘ man, I want to write something like that,’ and so we do! Lately we’ve been on a big country kick – listening to Colter Wall, Nick Shoulders and Johnny Cash – but it always comes back to folk music…music for the folk.” I asked them about the inspirations that create their songs. As Ethan put it, “Our songs can come from anywhere really…More than a few have been about whatever’s going on in our day to day lives. Lately I’ve been a bit obsessed with the idea of the Hollywood cowboy, which has been bleeding through my writing. I’ll work out the music and lyrics and then bring them to Maddy for her feedback and of course to add her wonderful harmonies and violin playing.” Their songs eventually take on their own lives, and each song “begins to really feel like a living breathing thing, and that’s always a great feeling.” Performing live appears to be a love affair between Nyx and Lightsmith and their audiences. “A lot of our songs are trying to capture specific, personal emotions and it’s always a comfort to know that other people relate with that. Of course, a couple of our songs,” Ethan added, “are just because we think we’re funny, and it’s fun to share a laugh with the crowd!”

Nicholas Campbell got his first guitar at age ten, and was out performing barely a year later. He has never looked back. His style ranges from Rockabilly, through Western Swing to classic Honky Tonk. His CD ‘Livin and Other Western Ideas’ has received play across Canada and into Europe. He had performed at several Music Festivals and at The Horseshoe Tavern. I asked him about his affection for certain musical genres. “They all speak to me in one way or another. I love the rawness of those older genres: a full band standing around a condenser microphone and recording live is so peculiar to me, especially with all the technology we have today…Every feeling, every emotion is put into a few syllables in those records…Those songs were so sincere.” An appreciation of this passion has carried over into his own compositions. “I’ve only written a handful of love songs in my almost full catalogue of heartbreak songs. I also like using humour in my songs, even when singing about serious subjects. Satire I suppose would describe it. I draw from old country and western albums, as well as old hot-rod magazines for the rockabilly stuff – I’ve always had a love for old cars and my lyrics reflect that.” Campbell delights in performing live. “I absolutely love it. Without audiences I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.” He is equally comfortable with large or small crowds, although he admits, “I’d rather be able to chat with 50 people after a show and know them all by name at the end of the night than play for 5,000 strangers. As much as I love playing larger shows and being on the road for weeks at a time, there’s something special to be said about truly connecting with an audience.” Nicholas Campbell is looking forward to making that connection with the SLAS audience on Saturday night.

Tracy Lalonde, from Cornwall, released her first EP, ‘Little Letters.’ in 2014, and was a regional finalist in CBC Music’s Searchlight Competition. She has been on hiatus for a time, and is now returning to the live stage again. As she puts it, “Just me and my guitar, playing a few songs. Keeping things simple while growing more comfortable being back on the stage after a long time of being away.” She talked a little about inspiration and writing. “Writing is a very slow process and it takes me a while to get going – but I enjoy the creative process and seeing how ideas grow and evolve. Inspiration could come from anywhere at any time, from something I read or a story I heard, from something I experienced, or felt, from love…I like letting my mind wander, and sometimes it stumbles upon an idea that feels worth resting upon for a while.” She did not write during her time away from the music scene, but she is now focussing on new material and ideas. “I’m looking forward to experiencing the creative process over the coming months and seeing where and how inspiration strikes this time around.”

Saturday night, January 13, 7 p.m., Upper Canada Playhouse, is going to be the site of a great SLAS concert, a one-of-a-kind performance featuring six talented performers. Don’t miss George Tierney, Landon A.R. Coleman, Irish Millie, Nyx and Lightsmith, Nicholas Campbell and Tracy Lalonde, live on stage.

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