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Shane Koyczan explodes on to St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage


…“Canada is the ‘what’ in ‘what’s new’/We are the true North strong and free/ And what’s more/ We didn’t just say it…We made it be…”

Shane Koyczan exploded on to a world stage before 3.8 billion viewers when his poem, We Are More, brought audiences to their feet during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics’ opening ceremonies. His poem, laying raw the spirit of a nation, caught the public imagination, and fired Canadian pride.

“He is a phenomenal artist,” said Sandra Whitworth of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage. “He has the audience moving from laughter to tears in a few words. His pieces are very emotional and incredibly moving.”

Shane Koyczan will be in Morrisburg, at the Morrisburg Meeting Centre, on Saturday, September 14, at 7 p.m., to open the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage 2013-14 season. 

I had the opportunity to talk to Shane about his poetry and his upcoming show in Morrisburg. At the outset, I asked Shane about his inspiration for We Are More.

He had originally hesitated about participating with the poem,  which had been commissioned by the Canadian Tourism Commission, but then he recalled what his grandmother once told him. “Once you say no to an opportunity, it’s gone, and so are all the opportunities that could have come with it.”

“I’d been away travelling for a long time,” Koyczan said. “I grew a bit reflective about Canada on the road. There are political aspects of this country I don’t feel so great about, sure, but I think deep down most Canadians take pride in this nation. The Olympics were kind of Canada’s house party, sort of ‘come on in and turn up the music!’”

Has life changed for him since 2010?

“Life really hasn’t changed for me. This was not a sudden earth-shaking event. But I think what the experience did do, was it shone a light on the spoken word, gave people a reference point.”

Shining a light on life, even its harsher aspects, is very much part of Shane Koyczan’s poetic philosophy. Words are a passion, an outlet, a force in his life. “I love language.”

Born in Yellowknife, moving to Penticton, British Columbia, he grew up facing the brutality and soul ache of bullying. 

“I was not a social creature. Words became for me a way of dealing with people. Paper and ink don’t judge me. If you grow up being told that nothing you do or say is good or right, this affects you. A lot of times, you can be consumed by your feelings. They can be like a storm cloud following you around. Writing was a way to let me let go of what was weighing me down.”

“…and if you don’t see anything beautiful about yourself/get a better mirror/ look a little closer/stare a little longer…”

Shane was featured at TED Talks, a forum that deals with anti-bullying. His video containing the piece, To This Day, literally went viral, its impact strongly praised.

“I don’t really know the appeal of poetry,” Koyczan said. “I can’t explain it. But I believe that it’s an outlet for many, that poetry connects people. Poetry, I think, reminds people that it is okay to be emotional.  Pet a puppy, or just cry if you want to.”

Clearly, his poetry has touched, and continues to touch, an extraordinary range of people. 

“I am actually always really surprized at the age range at my shows. Kids will bring their grandparents.”

His Morrisburg show September 14?

“It will be a Shane Koyczan performance,” he laughed. “Lots of variation, an emotional roller coaster of highs and lows, emotional places, happy places,” despite some occasional rough language.

He has headlined in venues as large as the Vogue Theatre (1,100 seats) but, “I’m a small town kid, looking forward to coming to a small town to perform. Backstage, I disconnect with myself. I go back in time to remember why I wrote a poem, the moments, the feelings, so I can connect with an audience.” 

Is poetry the centre of his life?

“I like to laugh, love film, reading and exploring water. I can’t restrict my interests and passions to just poetry. I believe that is too limiting. Don’t make your life around just one thing…you could end up hating the very thing you love.”

Opening for Shane Koyczan, with two songs, will be Tone Cluster, an exciting, talented Ottawa-based choir. “They recently did an entire show on bullying and acceptance and they seemed the perfect way to get things started for this show,” said Whitworth.

Tickets for the dynamic and passionate spoken virtuoso, Shane Koyczan,  appearing  for one evening only at the Morrisburg Meeting Centre September 7, 7 p.m.,  are available by contacting 


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St.Lawrence Acoustic Stage introduces sparkling new concert season.


 The volunteer board of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage is eager to present its outstanding 2013-14 season.

“This is the first year that we have been able to have our entire concert year planned from the outset,” said board member Derek Hunter. “The financial support we gained this year has allowed us to set up and publicize the full series of 10 performances.”

“I think people are going to leap to their feet cheering for the line-up at the Stage this year,” added board member, Bill Carriere.

The St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage is now an officially registered charity (able to issue tax receipts). Board members are both excited and grateful to have earned the on-going financial support of the municipality of South Dundas, as well as two years funding from Heritage Canada. “Fingers crossed, we should hear any day now from the provincial funding people as well,” said board member Sandra Whitworth. “We have also been utterly flabbergasted at the financial response we have had from our local business community. The sponsorship of area businesses has been priceless.”

 In the 2012-13 concert season, the board saw a dramatic turn around in audience attendance after December. Audiences built to around 65-70 per cent capacity for each show, “very good news for us and for our funders, and for the future,” board members said.

Audiences are coming from the broader SD&G region, as well as from Cornwall, Ottawa and even from as far away as southern Ontario. Family groups are putting the Stage on their schedules: once introduced to the quality of the performers at the Stage, many young people are returning to other concerts, a trend the board is pleased to see. “We have an incredible mixture of shows scheduled, shows which will appeal to a wide range of tastes and ages,” said Whitworth.  “The St. Lawrence Stage is for everyone.”

“I think there is a confidence in us now,” Carriere said, “a confidence from the public that we are going to put on good shows. We have a predictability in the level of talent we present: the performers are outstanding. People really know that they will be attending first class shows.”

There can be little doubt that a first class line up of artists is coming to the Stage.

Opening the season on September 14,  is the phenomenal Shane Koyczan, who literally electrified all of North America and the world with his stunning piece in the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Winter Olympics.  “We have funding from the Eric Baker Family Foundation to thank for our ability to bring Shane here to Morrisburg,” Whitworth said. 

Singer/songwriters Ian Sherwood and Coco Love Alcorn are bringing their exciting show to the Stage in October. “They play multiple instruments, including horns,” said Carriere. “They have a great, great sound!” 

Artist Garnet Rogers will light up the stage in November. Rogers is regarded as one of the major folk talents of our time. He will be joined later in November by the big blues sound of the 24th Street Wailers, an explosive force on the North American festival scene, and recently featured, August 2, in the Ottawa Citizen’s Arts & Life section. In January look for the outstanding fingerstyle guitarist, Antoine Dufour, the Juno Award winning banjo playing of Old Man Luedecke in February and Chic Gamine out of Manitoba in March. With their Motown sound, and incredible four part harmonies, Chic Gamine was among the closing acts of the Vancouver Olympics. In April the band, Digging Roots, will bring the joyful energy of their hip hop, folk, reggae and blues sound to the Stage.

In keeping with their philosophy of giving up-and-coming artists a professional venue in which to perform, the St. Lawrence Stage will also present two Intimate Acoustics concerts in December and May, featuring future stars. 

As they continue to bring extraordinary music and talent to South Dundas, the board is going through a bit of a re-orientation itself. Whitworth, Hunter, Carriere and Tony McCadden have been in conference with Peter MacDonald, manager of Chamberfest in Ottawa, “who worked with us on thinking through issues and ideas to ensure that we continue to exist and to grow. Even though we remain made up of volunteers, we are putting together a more professional approach to the Stage. We hope to attract more people to the board who may have different kinds of expertise.”

Currently, the sale of season’s passes for the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage’s 2013-14 season has been extended to August 17. Check at to learn of exciting ticket options, and to book concert passes. 

It will be a great series.


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Don’t miss St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage emerging artists concert


There will be a stellar line up of new and emerging stars coming to the St. Lawrence Stage on Saturday, May 25, for the Stage’s final concert of the season.

“We’ve got a really nice mix of musical genres scheduled for this concert,” said Sandra Whitworth, on the board of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage. “We are presenting local musicians Don Tuttle from Iroquois, Ewen McIntosh from Lyn, just west of Brockville and Roxanne Delage from Cornwall. From a little farther afield are the Musettes, a trio from Ottawa, Donna Drifter, coming in from Bancroft accompanied by Patricia Liverseed and Jim Eadie, and Jenny Berkel, who is coming to us from Winnipeg, by way of France and Switzerland.”

It promises to be night of musical excitement since the performers will run the gamut from country, celtic and blues to rock and folk. Along the way, audiences can enjoy extraordinary voices, outstanding harmonies and first rate musicians. 

The Musettes told me that they “don’t like to limit ourselves to one particular genre. We just let the music go where it wants!” The trio performs an “eclectic blend of folk, rock and pop. Our music is infused with vocal harmonies and instrumentation…that complements the genuine, heartfelt nature of our songs.”

Don Tuttle of Iroquois feels that he “was drawn to country music because I felt it was in my heart. I learned a lot in Nashville, and I met a lot of people that helped me along the way. As far as my writing goes, God writes my songs. (I think) people will be refreshed and full of hope and light after I sing my songs.”

Jenny Berkel, who has an album, Here on a Wire, out, revealed that “poetry has always been very important to me both as a reader and a writer…I eventually realized that I could try shaping poetry into songs. My musical style has been characterized as ‘haunt folk’, dark, sad and often hushed…yet how there is always a shimmer of light somewhere. I (try) to step outside of myself and write what I see instead of just what I feel.”

Donna (Drifter) Leclair, described to me as terrific blues singer, revealed that she preferred to talk about blues “as an influence. I am also heavily influenced by Appalachian Folk and Bluegrass.” However, she added that “Blues speaks to common people and gives a voice to oppressed people…It gives a place for people to tell each other about their lives, joys, loves and hardships. It can be polished and sophisticated or gritty and raw. It’s all about feeling for me, the mood you create with the Blues.”

Roxanne Delage, who is returning to the St. Lawrence Stage, has recently released her first CD, The Way I Am. Her music has sometimes been described as ‘cross over.’

“I grew up in a country loving home, but was exposed to a wealth of styles…rock, celtic, pop, jazz, classical and Broadway. As a result, my original music seems to be quite impossible to categorize. One reviewer wrote that my ‘music is contemporary folk, with eclectic elements of blues, country and jazz, creating a fusion of sound that could easily have been on FM radio in the ‘70’s. I’ll take that.’

Thrilled to be returning to the Stage, she will perform (accompanied by three back up musicians) numbers from her new CD.

Ewen McIntosh, according to Sandra Whitworth, is a very seasoned performer. His sound is a mix of Celtic, folk and rock and he has played for years with bands like Glengharry Boys and the Crofters. He will performing as a solo artist at the Stage on May 25.

Audiences can look forward to variety, excitement, and an evening of really wonderful music as the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage welcomes its final artists of the 2012-13 concert season. 

The concert on Saturday. May 25, begins at 7 p.m. at the Morrisburg Meeting Centre. 

All tickets are $10, and can be purchased at the Basket Case, Morrisburg, Strung Out Guitars, Cornwall, or on line at


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Charitable Status for St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage


Sandra Whitworth, on the board of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage, was definitely calling it “wonderful news” when she spoke to the Leader on Monday, May 13.

The St. Lawrence Stage, which is building a reputation as one of the finest venues for both established and up and coming musicians in Eastern Ontario, has just received word that it has been granted charitable status by the federal government.

“We applied for charitable status for the Stage, but the applications are very extensive,” Whitworth explained. “There are a lot of criteria to meet, and the format is particularly challenging. Still, we worked hard on the application, and we were thrilled to hear that we had secured the status.” 

Gaining charitable status means that the St. Lawrence Stage will now be able to issue tax receipts to those individuals and companies that support it. The new status also makes the Stage eligible for arts foundations which only support charitable institutions.

In April, MP Guy Lauzon announced that the Heritage Grant from the Canada Arts Presentation Fund was guaranteeing the Stage $10,000 in each of the next two years.

“This is $2,000 more than we received in 2012-13, and now we have a guarantee of support until 2015,” Whitworth said. 

“We know we now have a level of funding that lets us plan and promote a new season, and hopefully draw in new audiences. The Heritage grant allows us the resources, even if audience numbers declined a little, to get our next season together. We no longer have to sit and wait to see how things go. The support of the federal government for the arts also allows us to keep our ticket prices affordable.”

The St. Lawrence Stage also received a $1,000 grant from the South Dundas Council for next year.

Talents as diverse as Serena Ryder and New Country Rehab have performed at the St. Lawrence Stage. The Stage also gives support and professional performance opportunities to up and coming musicians in their emerging artists showcases. Whitworth reports that audiences have been coming from Ottawa and Kingston as well as locally, and they have been building. 

The Stage had a strong spring concert series this year. “We feel that word of mouth, and the support of business sponsors have really spread the news about the great shows we have at the St. Lawrence Stage, right here in Morrisburg,” Whitworth explained. 

“Every year we hope to try for one “name” show to draw in audiences and to introduce people to the stage. We don’t compromise on our artistic vision, but we want to give people a chance to see and hear a well known artist as part of our series.”

Whitworth laughed that a patron wrote and said that she felt the Stage “had turned a corner this spring.”

“I wrote her back that I hoped so, but the arts are always a bit of a roller coaster. We just hope for a roller coaster with gently rolling hills.”

The final concert of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage season will take place on May 25, featuring six outstanding new talents. 

“We’re already booking next season,” Whitworth said, “and we plan a stellar line-up.” 


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Spring Cleaning Gibberish style


Do you know what actually proves spring is here? It’s not the robins, or the dandelions, or the leaves on the trees. 

It’s all those ambitious people, inside and outside of their homes, up to their elbows in that ritual known as “spring cleaning.”   

Actually to my mind, that’s really a misleading description. It seems to imply that people only scrub out their homesteads four times in an entire year: spring, summer, winter and fall. 

Oh, wait a minute. 

That is how I do it. And I may have inadvertently overlooked winter this year.

However, like everyone else, I do have my cleaning rituals. 

First, I line up all the magazines I have purchased and carefully pull out those cardboard “subscription” inserts either stapled or tucked into them. Then I throw them all out. Task done.

Second, I go through the refrigerator and decide what needs to be cleaned out. I always try to toss those products which have a “best before” date prior to the First Gulf War. I move from those to  containers filled with whatever I was trying to cook last week and also dump those into the garbage. Generally, I can’t identify the remains anyway. Task done.

I do dust. However, I must admit that the messages visitors regularly write on my tables and chairs are usually really amusing, and it seems a shame to use furniture polish to remove them. 

I tried cleaning the oven once. It was not a particularly successful undertaking. I won’t go into a lot of details, but that smell like charred tortoise lingered in the house for days. 

And really, I don’t cook that much anyway. Tasks done.

I painted the spare bedroom one spring in a poorly conceived plan to brighten up the walls. I dropped the gallon of paint, which wouldn’t have been that much of an issue had the can not been open at the time. I also had a little trouble with the ceiling. Seems that paint will splatter if you are using a long handled brush and I soon found myself trying to work through a confetti screen of paint dripping on my face and glasses. Consequently, I may have missed a few spots here and there. But if you put furniture or pictures over them, hardly anyone notices. Task done.

Yes, I think the Canadian ritual of spring cleaning is a wonderful one. 

When I see people scrubbing barbecues and patios, staining decks, beating rugs, painting walls, washing windows,  emptying the garage, weeding and hoeing and planting, I find it truly inspirational.

I go straight to my front porch.  

I find that after two hours in my deck chair, and maybe a drink, that urge to roll up my sleeves and get busy always passes. 


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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


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Gibberish – Spring Brake!


Canadians really love driving the open road in the spring.

We want to forget clutching the wheel in white outs, spinning through freezing rain, and snarling in frustration trapped behind a lumbering snow plow. But do we drive well? How does Canadian driving compare to other nations?

Now in Italy, car drivers know the general location of the accelerator and the horn. (Everything else appears irrelevant!) Cars routinely stop by simply running into each other’s rear ends. 

Traffic cops in Italy are regarded as rather entertaining street mimes, while ordinary pedestrians take on the aggressive traits of gladiators.

I watched an elderly gentleman, carrying a neatly rolled up umbrella, step off the curb directly into eight lines of traffic on a main street in Rome. Brakes squealed. Horns blared. Lines of cars slammed to a halt as the man strolled (strolled!) across the road. When he got to the other curb, he turned, gracefully raised his umbrella, then smacked it down on the hood of the vehicle nearest him. No warrior could have signalled victory better.

Cairo also approaches  driving in a unique way. 

I was racing along in a rather rusty cab (unnervingly, every light on its dashboard was lit up!) in the heart of the Egyptian capital. On all sides, ancient WWII trucks packed with camels jockeyed for road space against tiny motor scooters (each loaded with six passengers and a cage of chickens) and oil burning old busses. My driver suddenly took both hands off the wheel without slowing down for even a second. Then he folded them and bowed deeply out his open window. Turns out he saluted all the major mosques along our route in this fashion. 

I got fairly religious myself on that particular taxi ride!

I’m not saying we Canadians don’t have our own little traffic quirks, especially in spring.

You had to watch the expression on the face of a police officer as he listened to one local lady indignantly explain that, of course, she hadn’t bothered to signal because “everybody in town knows I always turn left here at 4:30 on Tuesdays!” 

Then there was the large Irish setter spotted driving a Kia down Hwy 2. Well, it seems a small human was actually somewhere underneath the setter, but as the gentleman expressed it, “Dog really loves to sit on my knee when we go driving in nice weather, so I like to let him.”

Now that it’s spring time again in Canada, it might be a good idea to review a driving fact or two. 

Yield signs on our major access ramps are not just amusing suggestions. Solid double yellow lines on the road seldom indicate street art. Signal lights are generally more effective when actually turned on.

We brake for spring around here.


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Gibberish – School Plays! Part Un!


There are certain inescapable theatre rules actors must learn early in order to survive. Rule One: all the technical elements in a play never, ever work quite the way you expect. Rule Two: an audience never, ever works quite the way you expect.

My grade 11 drama class was invited to stage a children’s production of The Three Little Pigs. Among the hockey playing actors there were immediate mutinous rumblings about having to appear in public in pink pig suits until I stressed that the company sponsoring the play was providing free all-you-can-eat pizza.  Happy “grunts” all around.

Actually, the large forward playing the Big Bad Wolf really got into his role. Behind his fake fur cardboard mask and construction paper fangs, he was doing a credible job of roaring and chasing. (Several small audience members openly panicked every time he appeared.) At the precise moment where the BBW had the three Pigs trapped, theatre Rule Two effectively kicked in.

A little boy, no more than five, jumped to his feet, and clambered on stage. The Wolf, Pigs (and all of us backstage) froze. Finally the Wolf leaned down inquiringly. The boy, in a voice that carried nicely to the rafters, exclaimed “Don’t you touch them pigs!” hauled off and belted the Wolf smack in his pointy nose so hard his entire mask flipped sideways.

The audience was treated, as the curtain mercifully dropped, to the sight of three large Pigs piled on top of a struggling Wolf, who later assured me he wouldn’t have murdered the boy, “just damaged him a little.”

The senior class was staging a docudrama about the Mounties’ heroic 1880’s seizure of the American Fort Whoop-Up. The big scene was to feature a cannon blasting through the papier-maché gates with the ‘mounties’ bravely firing their (prop) carbines while the stalwart defenders furiously fought back. Sadly, Rule One then reared its inevitable head. 

Instead of a loud cannon roar, the audience was decidedly startled to hear, instead, a deep Fog Horn pealing out. By the time the sweating sound student could get the tangled tape silenced, it was only to reveal all the attacking Mounties haplessly clicking their prop guns: not a single, solitary gun had actually fired! As epic battles scenes go, a bit of a dud.

The next show, an enterprising actress and her father wheeled in a very small brass canon from off their sail boat. The little gun could not be loaded, fired no objects, and would, they said, only “make a nice bang during the fight.” 

The audience was breathlessly thrilling to the exciting attack on Whoop-Up. The red-coated colonel shouted “Fire!” The parent pushed the button on his little sailboat gun.

The stage crew hit the floor. All the ‘mounties’ hit the floor. In fact, several rows of the audience hit the floor. Apparently, no one had considered that our ‘little gun’ had been specifically designed to be heard over very large expanses of open water.

Our brave mounties were still cowering on the floor as a ragged, quivering, white handkerchief slowly appeared over the card-board battlements of Fort Whoop-Up.


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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