For me this weekend began with Newfoundland’s The Once at Festival Place in Sherwood Park. It was the trio’s first show of 2017 and they played to a packed auditorium, book ending the evening with the words of two of Canada’s most beloved songwriters — Leonard Cohen & Ron Hynes. The first time I heard The Once was at the Edmonton Folk Fest in 2011 (I distinctly remember Garnet Rogers calling them up to sing “Northwest Passage” with him on Stage 7), and every time I hear them live I am struck again by the huge sound and carefully woven harmonies of the trio.
As always The Once shared hilarious, haunting and sometimes heartbreaking stories but on Friday they sang a song “Warmest Friends (Warm Like Me)”that isn’t found on any of their records.
The song was written for Claudia Melendy focuses on how the 11-year old, despite living with Dravet syndrome, communicates her warmth through music. “Warm Like Me” is only available online (iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and Amazon) and all proceeds from the song go to Easter Seals for the building of an accessible playground in St. John’s.
On Saturday the New North Collective (NNC) was at The Arden Theatre in St. Albert and they weren’t alone on stage as they brought along the University of Alberta’s Augustana Choir to perform “Add Your Voice” (choral arrangement by Carmen Braden). “Add Your Voice” was commissioned by the University of Alberta North and Augustana Campus to the NNC and was written in the spirit of reconciliation and premiered in Camrose only the day before it was heard at The Arden. The message of “Add Your Voice” is one of encouragement, urging the listener to join the collective story of Canada and take positive action.
This weekend in the Edmonton area groups from as far away as Newfoundland and Canada’s north both asked more of their audiences than simply sitting quietly in a theatre. It wasn’t only an evening of entertainment, it was about changing the landscape in which we live.