Tag Archives: Oliver Schroer

Sharlene Wallace Brings The Harp to Harp and Holly Christmas Concerts

Sharlene Wallace, one of Canada’s most prolific and influential harpists, winner of several international awards, is making room in her busy schedule this Christmas season to play a number of “Harp and Holly” concerts in our area.

 

“I love the Harp and Holly show,” she says, “I have been sincerely looking forward to this all year.”

Harp and Holly is a special musical journey created by Terry Young and Sandra Swannell several years ago.  In what has become a Christmas tradition, it will include a number of concerts starting this Sunday in Sauble Beach and including stops in Guelph, Colpoy’s Bay, Wasaga Beach and finally Owen Sound just a few days before Christmas.    With Harp & Holly this world-class trio blends Celtic, New Age and Baroque sounds to immerse audiences in the magic of the Christmas season.

 “It’s all beautiful music, a really beautiful uplifting show,” says Sharlene, “The arrangements are very interesting and a nice combination of tunes.  I absolutely love this show a lot.”

Learn About Balfolk Dancing With Fiddlefern

Dancing is still and will always be the best way to enjoy live music.  Proof that this has been case for more than a century awaits your pleasure at St. George’s Church Hall in Owen Sound on November 4th.  It’s your chance to learn Balfolk Dancing.

Balfolk is a tradition from Western Europe (Belgium, France, Germany and The Netherlands) where everyone dances to a live folk band a mish-mash of dances that can include anything from mazurkas to  bourrées or snakey chain dances.  They are the type of dances where partners continually change as everyone forms patterns together on the dance floor.  A caller calls out the moves.

One of the characteristics of Balfolk is that the dancers can range from the very young to the very old.

 

Following the simple steps is easy. To find yourself in the swirl of dancers following the same patterns is a sensual experience, undeniably heightened by the live music.

It is part of the Balfolk tradition to begin by teaching the steps to the newcomers so that it’s easy to join the dance.

You don’t need a partner.  That’s how Fiddlefern’s evening will start at 7:30 on Saturday, November 4th.

Uplifting Peter Katz Evening at Meaford Hall

Review by Bill Monahan of Peter Katz at Meaford Hall, Sat., Feb. 4, 2016

“I’m sure Al didn’t expect such an elaborate setup from  a solo singer-songwriter,” said Peter Katz on Saturday night near the end of his concert in the Meaford Hall Gallery.  It may have been elaborate but none of it was superfluous.  A string of white lights framing the small stage and spiraling up the microphone stand, with a few clear light bulbs, their filaments glowing, created a sense of intimacy even before the concert began.  There was a guitar, a keyboard and a board full of guitar pedals.  The way he used those pedals, mostly loopers, was more than impressive, it was moving.  Peter Katz has such a clear concept of how he sounds, and such precise control over the looping pedals, which he used to layer both his guitar and voice, he creates a sonic palette that immediately draws the audience in.  On top of that he made effective use of the reverb on his voice to create an emotional ambience that enchanted listeners from the first “Ooooh…”

It’s true that he performed as a solo, but in reality he was part of a duo, the other part being our resident soundman Al Burnham.  Visiting artists invariably express their appreciation from the stage for Meaford Hall’s sound crew, but an artist like Peter Katz, with his strong reliance on the quality of his sound, could be completely undermined by an incompetent sound engineer and the opposite happened on Saturday night.  In essence, a live sound engineer is as much a musician as the performers are.  It’s all about the ears, and our Meaford Hall crew have great ears.  The result for the audience in the gallery on Saturday night was magic.

This venue is so much more intimate than the Opera House and it was a perfect fit for the type of performance that Peter Katz has perfected.  The carefully crafted sonic setting would have been impressive on its own terms but it was applied to songs that were heartfelt and sincere.  As the evening progressed a change in the audience was palpable.  Everyone was drawn into the emotional veracity of the songs and there was a sense that we all shared what he was feeling.  Clearly, he could sense it too, as he became more open with every song.  I don’t know if every Peter Katz concert is like this, but it sure was a special experience for the people lucky enough to be there on Saturday.

We needed it.  You can’t turn on the TV or the Internet these days without hearing something about the new U.S. presidency, and it can be terribly disturbing.  The level of cynicism and disrespect for all people that is demonstrated by Trump and his supporters (whether or not you believe that he will actually make America great again) wounds the souls of people who care about people.  Peter Katz provided a bit of healing.

He is hopeful and he believes in the power of the human spirit.  In his introduction to “We Are The Reckoning” the title song from his latest album, he said “We know the world is complicated but we still are going to walk toward the light.”  For those few hours, he was our pied piper on that journey.

It was fun.  Part way through he felt comfortable enough to risk a little ribald humour that had everyone giggling, including himself, breaking up halfway through the next song when a lyric seemed to expand on his joke.  By the end of the concert the audience was boisterously teasing him.  Each of us was feeling happy to be alive, with our hearts opened up and breathing fresh air.

The concert culminated on an emotional and inspirational high with his tribute to the singularly talented violinist, Oliver Schroer.  He stepped in front of the microphones to share his song “Oliver’s Tune” in a very personal way, without the electronics that had so greatly enhanced his performance to that point.  “You can take a break on this on, Al,” he said.

He told us how he had played the violin for years and thought he knew what it was about until he heard an Oliver Schroer recording.  He became an instant fan and followed everything that the violinist did after that, always praising his abilities to anyone who would listen.  And then Schroer was stricken with leukemia, with a very brief time left to him before the disease would take his life.  What Peter found so inspiring was that, instead of being angry, scared or saddened by the news, Oliver was comforted by the knowledge that he had spent his entire life doing exactly what he wanted to do.  Just a few weeks before his death he played a final concert before a thousand people who had come from all around the world to hear him one more time in the beautiful Trinity Church in Toronto (where the Cowboy Junkies had recorded their breakthrough album in 1988), a concert that went on for three hours.  Peter explained that as he goes through the ups and downs of daily life, he uses this song not only to remind himself that he too is living the life he wants to live, but that he is lucky enough to share it here and now with people who spent their hard-earned money and gave up their Saturday night to listen to him.

When it ended the audience leapt to their feet, stomped and whistled.  This was no obligatory call for an encore; it was an outpouring of emotion and gratitude for what he had brought us.

So he came back with his second cover song of the night (the first was an impressive version of Beyonce’s “Halo”), which he feels is the most perfect song ever written: “What a Wonderful World”, performed in a way that brought out the promise of the lyrics almost equal to Satchmo.  Then he “rocked the house” with a final tune, jumping around, up on a chair and down again, in a celebration of being alive.

And at the end we all felt that we had experienced an effective antidote to the malaise of our times.

This was the second in the Meaford Hall Gallery Concert Series.  The next one will be Franny Wisp and her Washboard on Feb. 25th.

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Peter Katz Benefits From Hard Work and The Help of Friends

This Saturday, singer-songwriter Peter Katz will come to Meaford Hall for the second in the Gallery Concert Series.  The six-event series, which has been arranged to allow the hall to continue to provide good quality entertainment while the balcony is under renovation, is proving to be a great success, selling out fast.

Peter Katz has performed with a number of the artists who have graced the stage at the Opera House this year, including Dan Mangan, Joel Plaskett and Bahamas.  He has collaborated on projects with Royal Wood and academy award winner Glen Hansard.  His 2010 studio record First of the Last to Know debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes singer-songwriter charts and he tours constantly in Canada, Europe and the U.S.

In 2012 a Juno nomination for Music DVD of The Year took him completely by surprise.  It was for a video called Peter Katz and Friends Live At The Music Gallery of a live CD release concert for that same album.

Both the DVD and the CD represented a classic case of getting by “with a little help from my friends”. Tim Martin and his production company Frameblender filmed the show and edited the whole concert for free while his friend Scott Cooper mixed the album, and sister-in-law Gabrielle Raill did the graphic design also for free.  Among the musical community there are many people who are willing to help out when they see an artist who not only has the talent but the work ethic to become successful and this is an excellent example of that kind of peer support.

In 2015 his collaboration with Royal Wood resulted in a song called “Brother”, another great success that climbed to the top of the weekly CBC Radio’s 2 Top 20 Countdown.  As he told Ryerson’s Eye Opener, this success also took him by surprise:  “We just locked ourselves in a room and wrote ‘Brother’ in an afternoon. There were no release plans for that song at the time. It was just a little track that we were putting together for the tour. We did this live video of it where people really reacted positively. They began to request it at our tours and we also became really great friends.”

Katz credits his time at Ryerson as being instrumental in his pursuit of a career in music.  While a student there he regularly performed at open mic nights at the campus pub Ram in the Rye.   He composed a song called The Fence for a theatre school production.  It was a song that imagined the experience of Matthew Sheppard, a student in Laramie, Wyoming who was tied to a fence and left to die because he was gay.   The song and his performance were so well received that his professor encouraged him to pursue a career in music.  That was all the impetus he needed, after regularly investing up to eighty hours a week honing his craft.  One of his proudest career moments was when he was able to play the song at York University before Matthew Sheppard’s mother spoke there.

The telling of powerful stories is an important element in his success.  His song “Oliver’s Tune” pays tribute to the late Oliver Schroer, the highly respected Canadian violinist who, diagnosed with leukemia, decided to play one final concert a month before he died.

A quote from one of his press releases provides an inspirational bit of advice to any aspiring creative artist:

“If you want to make something that’s like nothing you’ve made before, then you have to shake yourself up, go beyond what’s comfortable and known and let yourself feel disoriented, overwhelmed, even intimidated. Those moments, where you lose your bearings, where you’re forced to sink or swim, are the moments where you have an opportunity to rise to the occasion, to surprise yourself, to do the things you didn’t know you could do”.

The show on Saturday night begins at 8:00 in the Gallery of Meaford Hall, with caberet style seating.  Tickets, if you can still get them, are $25.

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