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Warm and funny, The Cemetery Club opens at UCP

 

 Ida, Doris and Lucille share one strong bond.

They are all widows who visit the graves of their late husbands once a month.

However, do not let that rather melancholy fact keep you from attending the wonderful Ivan Menchell play, The Cemetery Club, which opens at Upper Canada Playhouse on Thursday, September 5. To do so would result in your failing to meet three of the most colourful, funny and lovable characters ever to grace the Playhouse stage.

Director Donnie Bowes has said that The Cemetery Club will be an evening of “pure pleasure that will make you glad that you went to the theatre.” 

He likens the women in this production a little to The Golden Girls, an enormously popular television show of the 1980s and early 1990s. This is not surprising in that the author of the play, Ivan Menchell, wrote for situation comedies, and uses the almost episodic approach common to sitcoms with The Cemetery Club.

“The play develops over a series of events,” Bowes said, at a recent press conference. “There is a strong story line which draws audiences in as they share the widows’ journey toward life changes during the play. There are plot surprizes, some touching, some hilarious, and certainly the punchy lines and dialogue very common to the best sitcoms.” 

Audiences can be assured that this will be an outstanding production simply on the basis of the talented and distinguished cast Bowes has brought together for this show.

Returning to the Playhouse Stage are Linda Goranson, Patti Kazner and AnnaMarie Lea (with a special appearance by Brenda Quesnel). 

Joining these veteran stage actors is Doug Tangney, well known to Playhouse audiences.  Tangney’s widowed Sam, according to Bowes, “stirs the pot a bit,” when he makes the acquaintance of Ida, Lucille and Doris.

AnnaMarie Lea, who now hales from Alberta, has impressed and entertained Playhouse audiences in several past productions. Her Lucille is “very shy – NOT! Lucille lost her husband 18 months earlier, but she is determined to get out there, to move on,” Lea laughed, hinting that her rather flamboyant character has “money, so she’s had some work done. She’s gives the impression of a ‘merry widow’, but perhaps, in the end, that is something of a facade.”

Linda Goranson, as Ida, has just completed the enormously successful run of No Sex Please, We’re British. “Ida is two years a widow,” Goranson explains. “She has only recently begun to toy with the idea of moving on in her life, not simply closing herself off. Ida, Lucille and Doris have been friends, oh forever, despite being in this slightly horrible ‘club.’ 

We laugh a lot, we do things together, we actually all love each other a lot despite our differences.”

As Doris, Patti Kazner, known to UCP audiences for her performances in On Golden Pond and Maggie’s Getting Married, among others, “lost her husband, Abe, nearly four years ago. Probably Doris is the one who is ‘most addicted’ to these graveside visits, to the idea that by going to his grave she can still somehow be with Abe. Their late husbands still remain part of each woman’s life.” 

“Sam is a catalyst,” Doug Tangney said. “The play is about the journey of the ladies, but meeting Sam changes the direction of that journey. The group balance is upset by this widower of two years.”

Sean Free has designed the very versatile, very unique set for this production. Because it is such a key part of the play, Free has developed a set where the cemetery can “be incorporated as a surrounding element to the main living room set. Lighting (also designed by Free) is very important in this show,”  he explained, “to contrast between the inside and the outside scenes.” 

“Yes,” added Bowes, laughing, “Sean and I have been negotiating lighting and set placements. Friendly negotiations mostly.”

The cast of The Cemetery Club clearly love the characters they portray in this classic production. 

Audiences will soon share that love.

For tickets to the final production of the Playhouse summer season, contact the UCP box office at 613-543-3713 or toll free at 1-877-550-365

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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 www.st-lawrencestage.com to learn of exciting ticket options, and to book concert passes. 

It will be a great series.

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UCP Junior Theatre

Patricia met a Wolf. Stella Luna, the fruit bat, made new friends. A busy Bee disrupted a picnic. Some bad sportsmanship spoiled a hockey game. A Lizard helped decide a talent contest. And Mister Man, Mother Nature and Happy dropped in to visit.

The Junior Theatre drama class, held at Upper Canada Playhouse during the week of July 15 to July 19, demonstrated many new drama skills to a very appreciative audience Friday afternoon, July 19. Under the guidance of actor/teacher Kate Veinotte, the 18 children, ages 5-9, took family and friends on a magical journey into the world of stories. 

“Every story needs characters,” Veinotte said. “We made masks to explore new people we might want to get to know. The students learned the techniques for putting on masks on stage, and for adopting a character.”

Each young performer proudly showed off the mask he/she had made and introduced the audience to this “new” person, sometimes quite an unusual person.

Then the class pointed out that every story needs a “beginning, a middle and an end” and of course a “story needs a problem.”

Showing some wonderful creativity, the small performers proved that a story could grow out of even four completely mismatched objects like a hat, a puppet, a piece of clothing and a single hand prop. The audience thoroughly enjoyed the mini plays that the children put together using only these items for inspiration.

Then it was on to two exciting and often hilarious tales, finales to the performance, and tributes  to the lessons learned at theatre school over a very busy week.

Conor Veinotte, a volunteer for the week, explained to the audience that when Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev wrote Peter and the Wolf, he used instruments like the oboe and the flute to introduce his characters.

“Unfortunately,” Conor said, deadpan, “none of your kids can play those instruments, so we call our version, Patricia and the Wolf.

With their own voices providing the “music” of the story, the children enacted a very unique telling of the classic tale that had the audience thoroughly entertained.

Then the little fruit bat, Stella Luna, fluttered on stage to tell her tale of becoming lost and finding herself in a nest with three fledglings, who definitely thought hanging upside down by your toes was “wierd.” 

However, as Stella Luna and the birds (and quite possibly all the children who enjoyed a wonderful week at Upper Canada Playhouse in junior theatre) learned, “the same or different, we are all friends.”

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Senior Drama At UCP Presents Louder Than Words

 

“We have the whole theatre to rehearse!”

“Better than your basement!”

Three young narrators, Justin Whittam Geskes, Fiona Peets and Christina Stellmacher introduced the culminating performance of the Upper Canada Playhouse two week senior theatre school. 

The 24 members of the class presented the original show to parents, friends and family on Saturday, July 13. I may have been an audience of one at the Friday afternoon dress rehearsal, but the young performers put their hearts into the production, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

The students, ages 9-16, were taught by Mary Ellen Viau, who has an extensive background in drama. During the two weeks course, she was also assisted by Justine Erdellyi, who works professionally in production at the Playhouse.

Louder Than Words grew out of their experiences with theatre techniques, with vocal and physical training, drama exercises and interpretations. 

“Our goal with this year’s session was to work on communications skills, particularly non-verbal ones,” said Viau. “With many young people, texting and technology have really taken over: many do not realize that such technology has its limitations. It’s important to show how non-verbal communication is necessary on stage and in real life. It’s nice to open this special window to kids: there are limitations to electronics.”

“I think the students are taking some new ideas away from their time in drama camp,” said Erdellyi.

Judging by the enthusiasm the young performers demonstrated in their play, the possibilities existing in  non-verbal communication are exciting and often comic.

With just flat, bare bones words beginning, “You’re late.” “What kept you?” “I thought you’d understand..” the cast showed how actions, different expressions, costumes and lighting can totally change the meaning of words on a page, or a screen. A hospital operating room, burglars meeting up to “do a job”, the skits performed couldn’t have been more different. Yet each skit used the exact same words. (Two rather hilarious set dressers, the ‘Long and Short’ of it, as I dubbed them, dashed about the stage silently changing all the scenes and demonstrating comically how they could also communicate with an audience – non-verbally.)

The actors show cased musical talents, dance and piano, proving that communication can take many forms, not just words. And what is spoken aloud (a mother/ daughter phone call) may reveal emotions at odds with words through body language. The play ended with an exhilarating musical number developed out of everything from sink strainers to sandwich boxes. “Actors know all about communication,” said Viau. “Texting isn’t bad. It just doesn’t tell a complete story.”

The junior theatre school will be presenting their play on Friday, July 19, at 2 p.m. at UCP.

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Death take a holiday as UCP stages debut of Murder at the Howard Johnsons

 

 The iconic Howard Johnsons motel chain is just as much a symbol of the 1970’s as disco fever and polyester bell bottoms.

In their classic, and hilarious comedy, Murder at the Howard Johnsons, authors Sam Bobrick and Ron Clark have set up a wickedly funny 70s love triangle, contained in one of that venerable motel chain’s rooms, and let it play out with a gentle hint of homicide. Consequently audiences can look forward to a laughter-filled event as they discover whether ‘all’s fair in love..” for the play’s tangled romantic trio.

Murder at the Howard Johnsons is the second production of Upper Canada Playhouse’s summer, which is already off to a record breaking start: the show opens at the theatre on Saturday, July 4. 

Firmly set in the 1970s, the time period in which the play was originally written, this is the 70s “as my parents would have experienced them,” explained veteran director and Emmy award winner, Jesse Collins, who is staging Murder

“This is a 70s that was a lot more Engelbert Humperdinck than the BeeGees as far as these characters are concerned. It’s a time when themes like self help, self realization, and the “Me” generation were born. And it is fascinating to see, a couple of decades later, how this satirical commentary is still relevant. There was more to the 70s than big cars, disco balls and wide collars,” Collins said.

“This play is hilarious,” added Playhouse artistic director, Donnie Bowes. “The authors have this great sense of the bizarre: everything in the play is slightly off beat, and very, very funny. It has elements of farce, but it’s not a door slammer. Audiences have simply loved this play.”

The UCP cast is made up of Playhouse veterans. Susan Greenfield, who plays Arlene, “struggling to find herself,” has appeared in the hits Bedtime Stories (also directed by Jesse Collins), Chapter Two and Perfect Wedding at the Playhouse.

Jamie Williams, will be a welcome and familiar face to audiences. He has appeared at the Playhouse in such hits as Run For Your Wife and It Runs in the Family. He will play the ultra conservative husband, Paul, who finds himself at the wrong end of a murder plot.

Rounding out the cast is Timm Hughes, who wowed audiences in Hotbed Hotel and Dear Santa, and plays dentist and man about town, Mitchell, the third side of a romantic triangle. “Mitchell is kind of self-indulgent, and he believes he has a chance to be a little larger than life.” 

“Paul Miller is married to Arlene,” Jesse Collins said. “But she’s having an affair with their dentist. She and the dentist somehow decide that to pursue the life of fun and leisure they envision, they will have to get rid of the husband.” 

“All the scenes are set on national high holidays,” Collins explained. “These holidays are central to the heightened situations, and give the play a kind of episodic feeling, a little like sitcoms. 

All sorts of people are repeatedly trying to kill each other in various ways. These attempted murders get more and more elaborate and more and more poorly executed – no pun intended!”

“Sitcoms are one of my favourite forms,” Bowes added. “You can literally do anything in them, move from comedy to pathos and back again.”

The 1970’s set for Murder at the Howard Johnstons was designed by John Thompson, who has created some of the Playhouse’s most memorable sets over the last few years. He “had a lot of fun working with colours and designs,” said Bowes.

“And the costumes in this show are fantastic,” Susan Greenfield added. “Big bell bottoms, bomber jackets, polyester and corduroy. Alex Amini, who found them for us, is wonderful.” 

Jesse Collins directed a production of this particular play for the Harbour Lights theatre, and jumped at the opportunity to stage the show at Upper Canada Playhouse. 

“It’s one of those plays, that when you put it on its feet, it just runs away with itself. Audiences simply love it.”

Bobrick and Clarke’s writing is “economical and crisp” according to Collins and Bowes. Bobrick, wrote for such varied television shows as Get Smart, The Andy Griffith Show and the Smothers Brothers. 

“For my part, my plays are comedies,” wrote Sam Bobrick. “There is nothing more satisfying to me than to sit in the audience and listen to people laugh. My main goal has always been to entertain, to have people leaving the theatre feeling good.”

Murder at the Howard Johnsons runs at UCP July 4-28. Contact the box office at 613-543-3713 or 1-877-550-3650.

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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 www.st-lawrencestage.com.

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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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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 www.st-lawrencestage.com

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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 www.st-lawrencestage.com

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