The Gallery Concert Series At Meaford Hall Dispels The Winter Blues

The long anticipated balcony renovation at Meaford Hall is about to begin.  While they are underway, Meaford Hall is forced to shut down the Opera House.  This Saturday’s performance by the Slocan Ramblers will be the last show there until the blues duo The Harpoonist and The Axe Murderer plays there on April 11th.  The official grand opening will happen on the first weekend in May.

Live music fans in Meaford and the surrounding area have come to depend on Meaford Hall to present a continuous stream of great Canadian performers and a three month privation without The Opera House won’t be easy, either for the fans or for the hall.  That’s why manager Susan Lake and staff have arranged the Gallery Concert Series to run from the end of January to the end of March.

“We looked for talented performers that would be a thrill to see in an intimate venue,” Susan says.  They’ve succeeded in putting together a series that will be a real treat for the 75 people lucky enough to get tickets for the Saturday night events.

The series starts off on Jan. 28th with ten times Maple Blues Award winner Suzie Vinnick.  She recorded her first solo acoustic blues album Me ‘n Mabel in 2011.  It was very well received and led to international touring as well as a 2012 Juno nomination.

Peter Katz, a singer-songwriter originally from Montreal, plays the second Gallery concert on Feb. 4th.  He was a 2012 Juno nominee, voted Best Male Vocalist in the annual Readers’ Poll from Toronto’s Now Magazine.  Constantly touring, he has sold over 25,000 copies of his recordings.  In 2011 he released a live CD/DVD which received a Juno nomination for Music CD of the year.

Franny Wisp is a popular local performer who sings and plays washboard.  Her live show is known for its fun and humour.  This is not her first appearance in the Gallery at Meaford Hall.  A few months ago, as artist Fran Bouwman, she mounted an eye-catching evocative show of her sculptures at Meaford Hall.  She plays the third show of the series on Feb. 25th.

Mark Reeves, on Mar. 4th, is a prodigy turned blues guy who went from a scholarship at Boston’s Berklee College of Music to a couple of decades playing clubs and stages around the world.  It’s been said that if Bonnie Raitt and Lyle Lovett had a love child, Mark Reeves would be it.  The gallery setting shoud be ideal for him.

March 11th brings Wendell Ferguson.   Inducted into the Canadian Country Hall of Fame in 2014, he has developed his song writing from listening to the many great country artists he’s toured with through a few decades.  He’s won many awards for his guitar picking and since releasing his own CD, I Pick Therefore I Jam, he’s been celebrated as a great wit as well.

The final concert of the series is Rob Lutes on Mar. 25th. Widely recognized as a gifted songwriter, he’s won several songwriting competitions throughout North America.  Based in Montreal, Rob has garnered nominations for Album of the Year, Performance of the Year and Folk-Blues Artist of the Year from Le Net Blues in Quebec. The Toronto Blues Society nominated him as Songwriter of the Year in 2003.  Critics characterize his songs as literate blues-based Americana with a keen sense of melody.

With an emphasis on blues and original songwriting, this two month series turns out to be a blessing rather than a privation for fans of live music at Meaford Hall.

When the balcony work is completed the Opera House will re-open with enhanced sound.

The Opera House audio system will be fully digital (from analog),” says Susan Lake, “This technology has become more prevalent in the past 11 years and it is a good time/opportunity to upgrade to newer technology.  We are improving the speakers in the theatre as well for improved audio.

“Obviously the balcony seating will be comfortable with the same seats as on the main floor. Our seating capacity will go from 300 to 330.  As well those patrons wishing the best experience will be able to purchase premium seats in the first five rows of the main floor and first 3 rows of the balcony.”

When the Opera House reopens in April we’ll be treated to another blast of the blues to break in the new system.  If you call it a “blues harp” instead of a harmonica and an “axe” rather than a guitar then you have a sense of where The Harpoonist and The Axe Murderer are coming from.

It will be a long dreamed of improvement when the Opera House re-opens with the new balcony but in the meantime, the Gallery Concert Series is a winter treat that is bound to sell out fast.

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