Tag Archives: Arden Theatre

An Interview with Pharis and Jason Romero

Photo by Rick Magnel

Pharis and Jason Romero take time out of the tour to chat with Folk on the Road before their concert at the Arden Theatre this Friday October 19 at 7:30 PM. Tickets are available online.

What’s something you look forward to when touring as you’re packing things up at home in Horsefly, BC and preparing to head out on the road?

Exploring new parts of the country, finding moments to go for a hike or a delicious coffee/meal in a neighborhood, finding something that’s fun for the whole family (we’re going to Drumheller for a few days in the middle of this tour).

Since Sweet Old Religion has had the past few months to be out in the world since it’s release in May 2018, how is the response from audiences?

Really strong and enthusiastic as our most consistent feedback from audiences is that the songs feel like they’ve been around for a long time (even though they’ve all been written within the last two years).

Is there a particular track that you enjoy playing live?

We’ve been playing the title track, Sweet Old religion, the longest, but one of my (Pharis’) current favorites to play live is Leave the Garden Gate Open (it’s such a strange journey of a song), and we both love the dreamlike state we go into while singing Age Old Dream (plus I get a chance to do something that approximates a yodel).

Conversely, are there tracks which exist to be in recorded form only that you do not play live in concert?

No, with the music we play we always want to be able to play songs live – even if the studio version on the CD has guest musicians, we’ll always find a way to find the essence of the song and perform it live as a duo. The songs are also all written by us with just our two voices and two instruments, so they all start from our core essence as a duo. We don’t do a lot of pre-production before recording, with adding instruments, so the end result of a studio version is often a surprise for us.

There’s numerous roles within your lives as banjo makers, songwriters, music educators, and family members. What are some things you’ve learned from managing these many roles?

number 1 – We are fairly consistently going to be busy, as our passions and what we do for a living really integrated, so we need to make space for downtime (hiking, swimming, fly fishing, exploring).

number 2 – we are making it up as we go along (like most folks, right?).

number 3 – it’s more important to have a spacious tour, with time for exploring, than to book in every night with a show.

number 4 – it’s got to be fun.

Songwriting and instrument building are some examples of how there are roles of creation and expression in your lives but are there any other creative outputs you are involved in?

Yup, constantly.

Pharis is the Artistic Director for a singing camp called Voice Works, in Port Townsend, WA, and we both teach at a lot of music camps.
We make jewellery (earrings and necklaces, with plans to expand) from the leftover materials from banjo building (brass, copper, silver, woods, shell, stone).

We were actively involved in building our house, and are doing most of the finishing work on it, building furniture, wall art.
Everything feels like it has an element of creativity and expression to it – from the gardens (we built a half-submerged earthship style greenhouse a couple years ago), to putting a new roof on the barn, building a sauna – and that moves over into our relationships with our kids and each other.

Do you feel a sense of responsibility and heritage when you’re sharing songs through the oral traditional and also creating handmade, heirloom-quality banjos?

When playing music together the connection is intimate, even when you don’t know someone well (or at all). If you’ve spent time listening and feeling recordings from any tradition (our particular favorite is the 20’s – 40’s old time, ballads, bluegrass and early country) you speak a similar language right away and for us that transfers into feelings of respect and creativity both. I think the responsibility would come with wanting to not be replicating the older music, but to have spent enough time listening to have a feel for the spirit of the music, so that our own innovations come from a place that isn’t just wanting to immediately put our own stamp on it. The early musicians we so love were innovators, and we admire that very much. Far as the banjos are concerned, Jason’s woodworking is immaculate, and our goal is that if treated well these instruments should last hundreds of years. We draw from a lot of sources for inspiration and creation – early furniture makers, artists from the 1800s and early part of the 1900s and our natural world around us.

Where were you when you found out you had been nominated for three Canadian Folk Music Awards? (Awards will be announced in Calgary Nov 30 and Dec 1).

Working at home in the banjo workshop!

Anything else we missed that you would like to mention?

Thank you!!!! Can’t wait to play the Arden!

For more information and tickets please visit the Arden Theatre website.

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An Interview with Skerryvore

Catch Skerryvore at the Arden Theatre tonight at 7:30 PM

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Where has your latest touring taken you and what have been the highlights for you?

DANIEL – We have had such an incredible year that it is very difficult to pick the highlights! The weekend that had Tonder Festival and Shrewsbury Folk Festival in the space of 4 day was very special. We performed to over 30,000 in 4 days and the response to our new material was incredible. It is also a real highlight to be in Canada for the first time and it is hopefully the first of many visits for the band.

 

What does the songwriting process look like for Skerryvore?

FRASER – Generally Alec will come up with an idea, lyrics, maybe an instrumental section too. He puts down a demo at home and sends it to the rest of us. We then have a rehearsal process where work from the demos to create the finished product. Sometimes the songs can change quite a bit from the demo, other times it’s just a matter of everyone adding their own touch as essentially the whole song is there.

 

Skerryvore is often described as a fusion of rock and traditional Scottish music—how would you describe how you fit into the traditional side of that equation?

DANIEL – Obviously the traditional instruments in band have a huge part in that equation both in instrumental sets and songs. In the songs there are many riffs or hooks played on fiddle , box or bagpipes that could also be played on electric guitar.

 

How did growing up on Tiree influence your approach to trad Scottish music?

MARTIN – Myself and Daniel were immersed in traditional music from a young age on Tiree with an abundance of Ceilidhs, concerts and Dances. We were also lucky to be taught from a young age from dedicated tutors on the island and also tutors brought on to the island as part of the local Feis movement. Through this we not only got to hear great musicians and bands but also be taught by them.

 

What are some of your influences? What are you currently listening to?

MARTIN – Runrig have always been a massive influence of mine  and some of the other guys in the band as well. At the moment I am listening to a lot of Dance music, Calvin Harris, Arlissa & Jonas Blue, CamelPhat to name but a few.

 

What are the challenges in forming your voice as an ensemble when you are inspired by different musical genres?

FRASER – Sometimes we have to find a place for the traditional instruments in a song. There are a few songs that would sound great as guitar, drums, bass, keys and vocal but it wouldn’t necessarily sound like Skerryvore. So, we have to adapt the songs to fit with our sound.

Skerryvore’s newest album is EVO—what is your favourite song to play off it?

 MARTIN – I would say ‘At The End Of The Line’ is my favourite song to play. Very emotional song and the tune part is mighty on the box!

What are your plans for the coming year?

FRASER – We have plans to release some more videos and will also be working on some new material. We also have our first tour of Australia coming up. Watch this space.

For tickets call the Arden Theatre Box Office at 780-459-1542 or order online. 

An Interview with Michael Bernard Fitzgerald

Photo Credit: Cameron Postforoosh

How goes life on the road so far this December?

It’s been great so far. Lucky to travel with such a good group of guys.

Last year you spoke about how it was a therapeutic process and there was a palpable sense of hope with your album, I Wanna Make it With You. As 2017 draws to a close, did that feeling of hope linger on or change?

Hope never dies – that current is my favourite part of “I wanna make it with you”. The new songs all have that hope as well, it’s something I can easily get behind.

I have always gotten your adventurous and open spirit in your previous shows whether it’s having a gospel choir up on stage with you, playing house concerts, or having dancers join you on stage, what can Arden Theatre audiences look forward to your live show this time around?

The show this year is harmony rich – there are some wide driving moments with the band with some acoustic moments laden with harmony.

Why is it important for you to include local musicians and support local music when you visit a community?

I think it is important to me to meet locals of all kinds. It has been an incredible experience meeting local musicians over the years.

Since it is getting close to the holidays, do you have any favourite tunes or traditions?

I’m not great with the holiday tunes, but I promise to be holiday social in the lobby after the show

Is there anything else you would like to mention that I’ve missed?

Thank you for the wonderful questions. Looking forward to the Arden and a nice pre-holiday visit with the great people in Edmonton/St Albert!

MBF performs at the Arden Theatre Friday, December 15, 2017 at 7:30 PM. See this link for ticket details.

Interview: Holiday Tunes with The Ennis Sisters

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In anticipation of their upcoming sold-out concert at the Arden Theatre, Teresa Ennis, speaks with Folk on the Road about their Holiday Tour.
How does it feel hitting the road again with your Christmas Tour for the eighth time?
Our Christmas show is so much fun!  It’s hard to believe that this is our 8th Annual Christmas tour. Each year, we add new songs, stories and dances to keep the show fresh and exciting for us and the audience. There’s so much excitement and magic in the air at Christmastime and it’s great fun to share that with large groups of people all over the country.
What is one of your favourite moments or songs from the Christmas set list?
One of my favourite moments is when we sing a medley of Christmas classics and the audience sings along with us. It’s like singing with a giant choir. Sometimes audience members will even throw in a few harmonies. It’s fun to get the crowd to participate in the music and I think they enjoy it too.
What is one of your initial Christmas memories singing together?
As far back as I can remember, music has always been a big part of our Christmas tradition. We grew up in a very musical household where singing and dancing was always a given for any special occasion, especially at Christmastime. I remember my grandfather and father playing tunes on the button accordion (traditional NL instrument) on Christmas Day and dancing along with my sisters when we were little girls. As we got older, we naturally learned how to play and sing that music for ourselves.  I’m so thankful to be able to share that gift today!
Do you have any Ennis family holidays traditions from Newfoundland that you can share with us?
Like so many others, family, food and music are a big part of our Christmas traditions. Each year on Christmas Eve, our mother cooks a traditional Newfoundland meal- salt fish n brewis, toutons and baked beans- and we sit at the table and take some time to enjoy each other’s company. On Christmas Day, we gather with close, extended family members for a traditional NL jiggs dinner with music to follow. I love it!
You really get to have a comprehensive east to west survey of Canada from Cornerbrook to Nanaimo leading up to Christmas, is there anything that stands out to you as a performer when you meet audiences from coast to coast during the holiday season?
We started this tour 8 years ago and toured it across Newfoundland. Then we began getting requests to bring it to the mainland.  Three years ago, we started our cross Canada Christmas tour! We are always amazed at how audiences from coast to coast respond to our music. People love the energy of our show and hearing about the traditions and songs we have in NL. Everyone leaves feeling as if they just had a little glimpse into what Christmas is like back home.
What else would you like to mention?
We have released three Christmas albums and 9 non-holidays albums over our 20 year career. Our upcoming non-holiday album will be released in the spring of 2018 and was produced by famed musician, best selling author, actor and fellow Newfoundlander, Alan Doyle.
Visit www.TheEnnisSisters.com for more info!

Review: Vishtèn at the Arden Theatre

Although I love the foot-stomping, fiddle wielding power of French-Canadian musicians, I’m always a little hesitant to go to a show of solely Francophone music. Perhaps its my lack of French skills (cereal-box French isn’t real French) that intimidates me. Or my suspicious nature causing me always to wonder if I’ve missed a joke, or exactly what the words the musicians want the audience to sing mean. Vishtèn‘s concert at St. Albert’s Arden Theatre helped me put those fears in their place.

FullSizeRenderVishtèn wasted no time with half-hearted pleasantries, simply coming out onto the stage and playing. The concert began with an instrumental tune that featured a configuration of the LeBlanc twins (Emmanuelle & Pastelle) flanking Pascal Miousse’s central space on the stage. This arrangement that remained constant only switching when one of the LeBlancs would move to the keyboard.

Almost immediately we (the audience) were called on to participate—cue fear #1—with “Tobie Lapierre”. My uncertainty was almost instantaneously quashed by a quick explanation of the story: Tobie LaPierre, who loves dancing, women & whisky, loses his wife in the woods and uses a bell to try to locate her. The audience was going to be singing the bell part—this, I thought, I can do.


Apparently many others in the audience either did not share my fear of singing something silly in French (as they spoke the language) or they too were calmed by Vishtèn’s patient duo-lingo explanations, because the audience chorus was substantial. The concert continued that way, with Vishtèn slipping seamlessly between French and English, explaining the histories of their tunes—from a flat tire on the Massachusetts turnpike to a magical bus trip in the Shetlands. This kept me happy as I never felt like I was missing out on something because my French isn’t much more developed than flocons de maïs.

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Vishtèn shared not just the stories of their own tunes, but also brought out elements of their Acadian culture while simultaneously drawing us into the performance. Periodically Pascal would ask us if we were enjoying ourselves, reminding us that it was important to have a good time. Every iteration of this question (always met with a resounding “Yeah/Oui”) reminded me of the kitchen parties in PEI and the Magdalens that they had told us about. Emmanuelle also told us a tale about the subversive development of foot stomping percussion—something about being able to hide the dancing under the table, so anyone walking by would just see people in the house sitting at a table (not people dancing and having fun). When the LeBlanc twins pulled their chairs to the front of the stage and performed a complex dance-song (how can I even describe the pounding polyrhythmes their feet made?) and included us with snapping and clapping instructions, Vishtèn made us part of the performance.

The members of Vishtèn have a genius for making you feel like you are taking part in a centuries old Acadian culture, rather than just watching or hearing it. This is the start of their Western dates, and more details about their tour can be found on their website, try and catch a show, especially if you—like me—have always been a little uncertain about attending shows where you don’t speak the main language of the performers.

Review: from Newfoundland to the North

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.

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New North Collective & Augustana Choir at The Arden Theatre

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.

100 Mile House

During 100 Mile House‘s packed Saturday afternoon at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, Peter Stone and Denise MacKay, settle down to chat, glowing with enthusiasm and showing minimal signs of fatigue. They are playing their hometown festival as hometown musicians. As a result, the dichotomy of domesticity and art is interesting. “We’re staying at home. So we woke up this morning and thought, ‘we’re playing Folk Fest today!’ And then we’re feeding the cat and washing dishes,” says MacKay before Pete adds, “it’s weird because when we normally do folk festivals like this you’re immersed and your whole weekend is just based around the festival.” However, balancing dual roles did not affect their performances throughout the weekend. There was a momentary glimpse of warm sunshine on a rainy and chill Friday evening during their piece, Better, Still during the Hereos workshop session with Elephant Revival, John Mann, and Gregory Alan Isakov.

While 100 Mile House began in Stone’s hometown of London, it was really the community that lured them back to MacKay’s hometown of Edmonton. “We’ve felt really welcome to come back and play to a room full of people who just listen. That was something that was pretty shocking after playing so many pubs in London where we never really had much of a captive audience,” says MacKay. Stone also mentions that there is a sense of competition amongst the London music scene: “A lot of time people to move to the big cities to get their big break. When we were in a London all we wanted to do was make music and meet people. Everybody was just waiting for their big moment.” Stone and MacKay have been back in Edmonton for the last five and a half years and they humbly attribute their success to the support from the community. “The only reason we are where are is because we have the support of the community around us. The reason we’re playing the Edmonton Folk Fest is the support of the fans that have got us here, ” MacKay says before Stone summarizes with a smirk, “it takes a community to raise a musician.”

The sense of homeland and identity is pervasive in 100 Mile House’s two albums of Hollow Ponds (2011) and Wait with Me (2013). Even though they are now more settled into Edmonton, MacKay notes “that sense of home and what means” is an influential aspect of their work. In discussing their duo songwriting approach, they note that there are multiple entry points.  “Every song has a different life to it,” states Stone, “the second last song we did on our set today, we’ve never practiced it. I just started playing it and Denise started singing. Every song is different. I don’t know where they come from. It’s a little terrifying. It sounds a bit wanky,” he states making fun of himself in that hallmark self-deprecating Brit humor. MacKay chimes in at this point to support Stone’s statement: “Sometimes he’ll just write an entire song on the bus. It’ll just be in his head. Whereas, when I write, I can’t write a song without an instrument in front of me.” Stone wishes he had more control over his inspirational flow. “I wish I could turn it off. Like there was a dial to turn it down and turn it up when I want to use it,” he says before MacKay adds, “sometimes it comes really quickly, all at once. And sometimes you take your time with it. There is no right or wrong way.” Oftentimes the songwriting process consists of Stone getting a musical idea and then his first test round is playing it to MacKay. “It’s part of the process. I get excited to play her the song. I’m excited for her to come home to play it to her. If I didn’t, all I have are cats,” he says, jokingly alluding to a life as a male spinster. If MacKay deems the song to be a keeper, they play the song live to see if it gets a reaction.

The origins of 100 Mile House have the characteristics of a good folk love story since they sang together before they even spoke. MacKay was touring an EP she had produced as a solo singer/songwriter and saw an advertisement for an open mic night at a Toronto cafe. Unbeknownst to her, when she arrived at the cafe, guitar in hand, Stone was already playing.  “Pete was on stage and he kinda looked at me funny. When he finished his song, he said, ‘oh, they totally said it was an open stage but it’s not,'” she says. “But I let her play anyway,” he states with a comedic lightness demonstrating his generosity. After performing a cover of Damien Rice’s Volcano together, Stone happily let her play for most of the night. “She was better than me and my friend. We were rubbish,” he says with a gentle smile. At this point in the interview, Stone realized that he never officially proposed to MacKay if they should be in a group together. “We always just did it. There was no question in it,” he says with a sense of clarity and confidence. “Denise is my muse,” says Stone. MacKay notes that he didn’t really write a lot of songs when they met, he just played mostly covers. “There was one song that was mine,” Stone reveals, “but I didn’t tell anybody it was mine. And played it as a cover. I hated it.” Their budding musical as well as personal relationship was complementary in every sense. MacKay reveals: “I never really liked being a solo singer/songwriter. I love singing harmonies and being up on stage by myself is terrifying. So I’m glad that worked out. So now I always have someone with me,” she says looking at Stone with a glance that would melt any romantics heart.

In moving forward as a group, they are booking shows into 2016 and details for a future album release are percolating in their minds. While there is a lot of hard work behind-the-scenes to keep the flow of musical work, Stone notes it’s important to “enjoy the fun bits!” when it comes to soaking in the experiences of the festival weekend. “Sometimes it’s overwhelming but just to remember how great it is to be here. To have fun and not let the nerves get the best of you. A lot of artists that we really admire and love and to be on the same stage as them, it can be pretty crazy,” says MacKay.

In terms of providing teaser details for a future album release. Stone notes that he likes the concept of a prevailing sense of hope in a future album. The melancholy tone on Wait with Me (2013) was influenced by the hurdles they faced together as a couple; however, they both note it is easier when there is companionship in overcoming those obstacles. “It’s pretty much impossible to keep your person out of your songwriting. And I think the one thing that I think about is sometimes there are songs that are really personal, as somebody listening to our music, they’re not listening to us as people, they’re listening to how that song relates to them. That’s really comforting when somebody is listening to our music and they are hopefully finding themselves relating to the song or pieces of themselves in that song. Something that they can hold onto and make them feel like they’re not alone,” says MacKay about her aspirations for their music to connect with other. Stone notes that they have received personal e-mails where people have shared how their music have gotten them through difficult times. “If we that’s what we can offer people, if that’s our job, then that’s a great job,” says MacKay. At this point, Stone takes a reflective moment to reveal another perspective. “I just think of growing up. People constantly find comfort, that’s what I do. If that’s what we can do for other people, then, it’s like pretty much a dream come true,” he states with a quiet wisdom.

Until then, 100 Mile House, united in love and music, continue to share their message of hope with others.

Upcoming performances

Opening for David Myles at the Arden Theatre on October 4, 2014

Performing at the Folk Exchange in Winnipeg on October 24, 2014

Performing at Foothills Folk Club in High River on November 20, 2014

Performance at the Ontario Folk Alliance Conference October 16-19, 2014