Tag Archives: music

Halifax Urban Folk Festival, Tapping my Toes

5 Sep

This city can be known to  grab you and pull you into all sort of events. That’s why I like it. You never know what is going to come next, or what sort of wonderful thing is going to be going on.

I recently got to put my left leg in the circle of the  Halifax Urban Folk Festival (http://www.thecarleton.ca/huff-festival). This was the 3rd year for the festival, created by Mike Campbell, owner of the Carelton, as a way to bring some folk music and great artists into the downtown area.

I was lucky enough to get to volunteer the first night, when Bry Webb and Daniel Romano and The Trilliums played. Jesus, I love these two men. Their voices cut chills right through my neck, into my heart. I have probably listened to the new Daniel Romano record 700 times, because the lyrics are so approachable, and he sounded just as wonderful and heart wrenching in person.

One thing that struck me about all of this was that everyone was so damn nice. Bry Webb was nice, Daniel Romano and his whole band were nice, the staff were nice, Mike Campbell was nice. It was just all so damn nice!

I got to go back on Tuesday to work the door for the Ana Egge and  Breagh MacKinnon show. Damn! Oh ! How these ladies can sing. I did not know much about Breagh before arriving, other than she was a Cape Breton singer songwriter who came highly acclaimed. The acclaims held up.  Her voice is striking, and I was not the  only one who thought so. Numerous people coming in remarked to me, “what a voice” “she reminds me of Norah Jones” and she sold out of CDs at the merch table by the end of the night.

Ana Egge was also amazing. Her voice kind of breaks your heart a little bit. She has lots of friends in Nova Scotia, so it was a nice treat to hear some of her favourite friends on stage with her, Rose Cousins and Joel Plaskett. The other thing about Ana, is she is really sweet. She was super appreciative of our help, and even gave me a copy of her new album, produced by Steve Earle, “Bad Blood”.  It’s amazing.
I leave you with love for HUFF, for this city, for people coming together for the love of music, and with Ana Egge’s new song, “Hole in your Halo”.



I am sappy for Sappy

10 Aug

As someone who grew up in New Brunswick, and who is crazy as coco pops for local music, it surprised even myself that I have never been to Sappy Fest, Sackville, N.B’s annual long weekend in August, 3 day music love fest.
Needless to say, I went this year and I enjoyed every damn minute of that thing. It was the music festival I have been searching for.

I am someone who loves music, but I also get anxious in big crowds, pee often and am always thirsty. This sometimes makes going to big music festival a bit of a catch 22 for me. Oh but Sappy was like a cool breath of fresh air on a hot day. Just what I needed! There is plenty of grass to chill on, and plenty of positive vibes everywhere.

photo: Pam Crouse

The whole town of Sackville is pretty lovely, and seeing as how it is so small, everyone can walk everywhere they want to go. You can skip from the main tent to the other venues easily and carefree, and really you did not have to worry too much about lineups.

And the music! Oh the music! It is so nice to find all kinds of new bands you did not know before. On Friday night I was blown away by Metz http://metz.bandcamp.com/ who are friggen tight man!
They make me want to be in a hardcore fun rock band. They have excellent showmanship and just look like they are having an amazing time.

On Saturday we went to this cute little picnic at the President of Mount A’s house, and saw Cold Warps and Endless Summer and that was wonderful. I was also super impressed later by Bruce Penisula, who with their four female vocalist made peeling your eyes away from the stage impossible. http://www.bruce-peninsula.com/

Later on in the evening at the main stage I was given shivers (even though it was hot as sin) by both Timber Timbre and Silver Mt. Zion.

Photo by Pam Crouse

Photo: Pam Crouse

Sunday brought sweet little church shows, highlight being the soulful voices of Fred Squire, his partner Kate Maki and their little baby boy. Sunday evening I was suprised by Lights Fire, a drag Queen from Toronto who had me coveting her sweet dance moves.

All in all, Sappy was the best. And you can damn well believe that I will be back next year.



Picnic Tables and Trees, Music Sounds Better Outside

10 Jul

As I have emphasized before, one of the greatest things about Halifax is all the wonderful talent that comes out of this damn place. Sometimes it doesn’t seem possible that all the talent can live within these city limits. But, laser beam mind trick, they can.

I felt like I had hit the musical jackpot when I was invited to a backyard show in Halifax’s North End last Friday night. The sun was shining, the breeze was just right, the grass was green and it all just seemed really perfect. Everything just fit right. The suggested donation of 5 bucks for the lineup was mind-blowing

Backyard Show
Photo: Scott Munn

and I think an amazing time was had by all.

We started the night with Mike O’Neill which was a super treat. He is the nicest guy ever, and his lyrics obviously get to everyone, as you could see from everyone around me (and me) mouthing the words along with him.

Next up was the wonderful Ruth  Minnikin , who blows me away every time I see her. Between a mix of her own songs and some classic folk songs we all swayed.

The surprise of the night was Levon, who I had never seen live before. He was touching and moving and the sun was starting to go down as his voice scratched over the night air. He played the piano and pierced my soul with his, “love dies folks” ending line.

Finally we rounded the night out with Jon McKiel , who is always a dreamboat. Jon’s voice, lyrics, and shining eyes get to me every time. I have been a fan of this guy for like 10 years, and I will never stop.

This kind of event makes you feel like you live in a place where community and magic come together to create a special evening. I just felt so privileged to be there and to be surrounded by so much talent.

Love might die folks, (I am still on the fence about that one) but music always lives.


Acclaimed Choral Theatre Duo Christina Murray and Claire Leger Launch Girls Youth Ensemble

31 May


Christina Murray and Claire Leger, the exciting artistic duo behind Camerata Xara Young Women’s Choir announce a new choral theatre project for female youth, ages 14-18. The Xara Youth Ensemble (XYE) is atraining and performance ensemble beginning its pilot project in September, 2012. Auditions will be held June 18-21 and August 27-31. Registration for auditions can be found online at http://murraymusic.ca/studio/xye/.

Art educators, performers, adjudicators, administrators, directors and creators, Murray and Leger are excited to continue their pioneering of choral theatre in Canada. The Xara Youth Ensemble will give teens the rare opportunity to be involved with this innovative art form. The youth involved will learn and collaborate with two multi-faceted talents, Leger and Murray, in an open and creative environment.

“Girls with an interest in the performing arts blossom through training in choral theatre,” said Murray. “It engages their whole selves – voice, intellect, body and spirit. I’ve watched countless young women transform from unsure singers into committed, powerful, all-round performers. On top of that, Xara seems to build confidence that spills over into the rest of their lives. It’s so rewarding for Claire and I to have a role in facilitating this.”

Choral theatre is stunning storytelling through choral singing, theatre, and movement. Beautiful spaces, lighting, and spoken word are also integral parts of telling these original stories. The result is a unique and beautiful feast for the senses and a rich, all-encompassing stage experience for performers.

The Xara Youth Ensemble will provide pre-professional preparation in music, movement and theatre. This training will be showcased in an original production Daughters of Fire, to be performed in November. Training will be multi-faceted: music, theory and writing music; yoga, dance and choreography; scene work and character development.

“I couldn’t have gotten this training anywhere else. I wish that when I was in high school I had the opportunity to be involved with Xara,” said Kallie White of Dartmouth. “Xara has given me confidence on and off the stage. Performers will learn so much, make amazing connections and have a blast!”

The group will rehearse on Tuesday evenings from 6:00 – 8:30pm. Tuition for the term (September to December) is $250. To arrange an audition between June 18-21 and August 27-31, visit http://murraymusic.ca/studio/xye-registration/.

Xara Youth Ensemble is training and performance ensemble in the art of choral theatre for female youth ages 14-18. Christina Murray and Claire Leger, the exciting artistic duo behind Xara Young Women’s Choir, have expanded their pioneering choral theatre practices with this new creation, commencing in September 2012.

Ryan Cook: A Hard Working Country Boy; or the Tale of a Musician Making it.

28 May

Ryan Cook and me (Laurie) I went to help out Ryan Cook at his show yesterday at Acadia Hall, in Lower Sackville. The place was packed with all kinds of people, young and old, clapping along to the beauty of his guitar playing and the way his voice beautifully can sound like Willie Nelson one minute, Johnny Cash the next, or just wonderful him.

The thing about Ryan Cook is, he is making it. He is out there touring, performing and keeping his audiences and growing new ones. Last year he opened for both Dwight Yoakam, and Travis Tritt on some Canadian dates.

At one point in the show he made a comment about how in today’s music industry that best you can be doing is making it. That is making a career in music, if you are traveling, playing to crowds, and retaining and making fans, then you are “making it”. It has never been harder to have a career in the music industry and it takes some serious time, effort and love of what you are doing.

Nobody ever said that being a musician is easy, and nobody knows that better than a musician who is working full-time at their career. I think Ryan Cook serves as an inspiration to others, and he does it all gratefully; always being sure to genuinely thank his fans; and with a killer smile that makes the ladies swoon.

Check him out here: Ryan Cook’s website.



WAIL: Songs of the Brier Island Siren

12 May

 It was our first choral theatre experience and it won’t be our last! Camerata Xara Young Women’s Choir presented WAIL: Songs of the Brier Island Siren last night at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. (It’s on again this evening. Probably sold out. You snooze, you lose.) Where to begin? Choral theatre is an emerging art form being practiced by only a handful of ensembles worldwide. Inspired by a theme or idea, the artistic duo behind Xara (the stupendously talented Christina Murray & Claire Leger) create an original performance piece using existing choral music and songs from a variety of periods and styles. Music is the text in these beautifully crafted plays. Movement, visual and sound effects are woven in effortlessly.

As for WAIL, wow. WAIL is a full-length piece of choral theatre that imagines the life of the mythical sirens who live on the shores of Nova Scotia’s Brier Island. Christina and Claire devised the show by combining ancient cross-cultural lore about Sirens with the true story of Joshua Slocum, native Brier Islander and first man to circumnavigate the world alone.

“It was amazing to us that Nova Scotia, or even coastal North America, didn’t have a siren myth since almost all cultures have a version of this story,” says Murray. “When we read about Joshua Slocum and the ship-wreck history of Brier Island, we knew we had the ingredients for a fascinating tale.”

WAIL tells the story of a group of Sirens and their relationship with young Joshua as he dealt with his difficult childhood and prepared for a life as a sailor.  In Xara’s imagination of this story, Joshua’s years playing with the sirens on Brier Island made him immune to their lure elsewhere as he sailed around the world.  “Most siren myths paint these creatures as evil seductresses without any story of their own,” says Murray.  “As a performance group of women, we wanted to explore what might have made the sirens sad or angry enough to spend their lives luring sailors to their death with their songs.”

With WAIL, Xara has added a new story to Nova Scotia’s folklore cannon. It was 120 minutes of beauty, passion, imagination – art that truly brings chills down your spine, thoughts to your mind and hope to your heart. The 20 young women of Xara have mind-blowing talent, and their voices together in harmony was magic. Their grace – in voice and movement – in telling this rich story seemed effortless. The music chosen to tell this new and vibrant story was eclectic, yet seemed destined to be sung together. Simple yet effective costuming and stunning make up really complemented the performances.

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic proved to be an excellent venue for such a performance. The acoustics were ideal. The use of two levels, the lights dancing across the sails of the boats in the Museum, the windows overlooking the water…..all we can say is site specific productions really work.

Choral theatre is an exciting new art form and we encourage all to engage. Drop any pre-conceived notions of what it may be or what you may or may not like and go see some choral theatre. (Preferably tonight, if you can still get tickets.) Keep an eye out for Xara, as they have already performed internationally and are no-doubt headed for a bigger spotlight. Follow them on twitter and like them on facebook to stay in the loop, as you don’t want to miss what they got going on! Awaken your soul with beautiful music and amazing storytelling.

SheMachine Performance Footage

4 May

SheMachine was fortunate enough to have the skills of many talented artists in Halifax for their debut show, including videographer Darcy Fraser (yep, brother of wicked photographer Aaron McKenzie Fraser). He shot some great footage of SheMachine’s performance  at the Company House.  It makes us impatient for more live fun with them – can’t wait!