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Blyth Festival Singers concert a fitting tribute to the end of WWII

13 Apr
Artist Director Sharon Poelstra invites the audience to join Blyth Festival Singers in singing The Maple Leaf Forever.

Artist Director Sharon Poelstra invites the audience to join Blyth Festival Singers in singing The Maple Leaf Forever.

heather boaBy Diva Heather Boa

BLYTH – The advertising poster promised a tribute to the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II by the Blyth Festival Singers, with special guests The Howlin’ Dog Vintage Jazz Band.

But that poster couldn’t possibly capture just how fantastic the carefully crafted two-hour performance of Songs of Wartime and Peace at the Blyth Memorial Hall would be. It wasn’t just a playbill of popular songs like Sentimental Journey, The Maple Leaf Forever and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, or uncovered gems like In Flanders Fields and Distant Land. Instead, it strung together music, solos, sing-alongs, readings and commentary that invited the audience into one big parlour party.

Under direction of Artistic Director Sharon Poelstra, The Blyth Festival Singers brings together a

Cara Stephenson performs Don't Get Around Much Anymore.

Cara Stephenson performs Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.

talented collection of 38 voices accompanied by Lori Millian. At the same time, the arrangements highlighted numerous singers, through no less than five solos, a fun and energetic dance performance of Don’t Get Around Much Anymore by Cara Stephenson, and a poignant reading from his memoirs by Tom Hennessey.

The audience was invited to join in singing The Maple Leaf Forever and It’s A Long Way to Tipperary, and a few voices floated up from the audience during other popular tunes.

The Howlin’ Dog Vintage Jazz Band, known to many because they play local venues like Goderich’s

The Howlin' Dog Vintage Jazz Band.

The Howlin’ Dog Vintage Jazz Band.

The Park House, subscribed to one of the great jazz cornerstones – improvisation – by winging much of its sets. The musicians held their first practice with the day’s replacement trombone player Paul Dearlove just hours before they were set to take the stage. They strayed from the program, dropping some songs and picking up others. They debated who would lead them into a song, with trumpet player Al Mullin telling the audience, “This is jazz. We gotta figure it out as we go.” And in the end, it all came together beautifully.

Blyth Festival’s artistic director, Gil Garrett, performed two readings from this season’s premiere

Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garrett reads from Mary's Wedding, which premieres in the 2015 season at The Blyth Festival.

Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garrett reads from Mary’s Wedding, which premieres in the 2015 season at The Blyth Festival.

performance of Mary’s Wedding. He read from a letter written to Mary from her love, Charlie, a young soldier who describes the battle scene at France’s Moreuil Wood, jumping his mare over his fallen sergeant and feeling his saber pierce through another man’s body. He also did a reading from Mary’s wedding day, when she weds someone else. The readings gave time for the choir to quietly file in after the jazz band’s sets.

How fitting too that the event should take place in the Blyth Memorial Community Hall, which is home to the Blyth Festival, the Blyth Festival Singers, the Blyth Festival Orchestra and the Blyth Festival Art Gallery. The hall was originally built to commemorate the lost soldiers of World War I.

Coming Up: The Next Generation- Cabaret Concert

When: Saturday, May 30 at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Varna Complex, Varna

What: Blyth Festival Singers’ cabaret dinner and concert featuring young up-and-coming soloists from Huron and Perth, which will be the next generation of musicians to perform alongside Blyth Festival Singers. Music at this concert will be more light-hearted and popular in style and theme, to bring its season to a close in true celebratory fashion.

How: Tickets, $25, available at the Blyth Festival Box Office or from Choir Members.


Kruger Brothers: Like being at a kitchen party

13 Mar
The Kruger Brothers concert at The Livery in Goderich was presented by the Celtic Roots Festival.

The Kruger Brothers concert at The Livery was presented by the Goderich Celtic Roots Festival.

By Diva Claire Carter

GODERICH – I am always amazed by the quality of entertainment in Huron County.  I had the pleasure of attending a Kruger Brothers concert at the Livery in Goderich on Wednesday night.  This event was presented by the Goderich Celtic Roots Festival, a group that has a history of bringing fantastic talent to the area every August.

I brought my dad along, as we have a tradition of attending the Celtic Festival together.  This was the third time we’d heard the Kruger Brothers preform. The group, born in Europe and now based in North Carolina, has a very loyal following.  The group’s sound is described as bluegrass-acoustic-roots.  Their sounds make me feel like I’m at a kitchen party on the east coast or in Ireland.

Jens Kruger was recently awarded with the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo, and it is easy

The Livery, Goderich.

The Livery, Goderich.

to understand why.  The show featured both instrumental songs (many from Appalachan Concerto) and vocals.  There was a good mix of original and cover music.   It seemed the group really knew the audience, as I heard many times at intermission and after the show that they’d played someone’s favourite song.  The song I liked the best was Carolina in the Fall.  The band interacted with the audience after the show, autographing CDs and talking about their love of Huron County.

The Kruger Brothers won’t be attending the Goderich Celtic Roots Festival this year.  The band flies to Switzerland next week, and will be performing and delivering workshops throughout Europe and the United States for the next few months.  The festival attracts different performers each year from around the world.  The lineup for this year has just been released, and it is fantastic!  The full lineup can be found here.

I’m most excited to see the Great Lakes Swimmers and Dave Gunning.  As usual, there is a great balance of North American and European musicians.  There are four different stages, and a fantastic food area.  I’m really looking forward to discovering new music while enjoying a delicious ice cream cone in Lions Harbour Park.  After things wind down on stage, I’d suggest heading to the Park House, where the live entertainment continues.

Tickets can be purchased for the full three days of the festival ($70 for adults, $65 for seniors), or for single days ($25-$35 for adults, $20-$30 for seniors).  Concerts begin at 11 a.m., and end at midnight on Friday and Saturday, and at 10:30 p.m. on Sunday.

For more information on the 2015 Celtic Roots Festival, visit online, or call (519) 524-8221.

Indie folk duo perform in Brussels

7 Mar

North Country Towers, March 6, 2015 from Heather Boa on Vimeo.

By Diva Heather Boa

BRUSSELS – It would be easy to walk past the unremarkable door beside the entrance to the Brussels’ laundromat without a second glance. But the more observant passersby will notice a sign in the transom window above the door that reads: The Upper Deck. And on this Friday evening, groups of one and two and five are passing through the door and climbing the steep steps to a small concert hall to hear North Country Towers, acoustic duo Thomas Beard and Caleb Smith.

The low-ceiling hall is arranged with a series of cabaret tables and folding chairs. The front window overlooking the village’s main street is covered with black floor-length curtains. A piano is set at one side of a stage, a series of drums at the other side, proof that the space is a regular venue for musicians. The place is packed with family, friends and music lovers. Many have come to hear Thomas, who is from Wingham. He and Caleb, from North Bay, now attend university in Montreal.

Acoustic duo Thomas Beard and Caleb Smith perform at The Upper Deck in Brussels.

Acoustic duo Thomas Beard and Caleb Smith perform at The Upper Deck in Brussels.

Then Thomas settles the cello into his lap and Caleb pulls his guitar into his hip, and something quite magical happens. The guy in the sports coat and scuffed black dress shoes playing an instrument often found in an orchestra and the fellow in the black vest and red socks playing an instrument at home in country bars and rock bands find the perfect pitch. The instruments take their turns in the spotlight, sometimes upbeat and playful, other times slow and mournful. Then Caleb’s strong vocals cut in. You give in and let it consume you.

The mostly original playbill speaks of saving princesses and slaying dragons, a bride and groom finding love in their differences, losing binds with the right person at your side, and finding it funny how the smell of dead things and rain can make you feel so great.

Their enthusiasm is a pleasure to watch. It’s fresh and invigorating. They laugh at each other at each song’s end, but look like they’d rather give each other a high five. In fact, high fives all round.

“They’re so adorable I wanna pinch their cheeks,” said a woman sitting nearby.

Before the duo began, the hall’s owner, Jim Lee, took to the stage, holding up an empty fish bowl for the audience to see.

“This is how they’re going to get paid tonight,” he said, reminding folks the fish bowl would be set up at the back of the hall when they’re ready to make donations.

“ We have a little saying at Cinnamon Jim’s: ‘Keeping live music alive’ and this is what it’s all about,” he said.

Live music can be found at venues across Huron County. Check Ontario’s West Coast events calendar for more information.

Music takes centre stage at Queen’s Bakery in Blyth

1 Mar
Tim Craig and Julie-Anne Lizewski play to a toe-tapping crowd at Queen's Bakery in Blyth.

Tim Craig and Julie-Anne Lizewski play to a toe-tapping crowd at Queen’s Bakery in Blyth.

By Diva Heather Boa

heather boaBLYTH – Leather soles of many boots slap the wooden floorboards in unison in this village coffee shop on a Saturday night, Feb. 28. The rhythmic, dull thuds accompany harmonica, acoustic guitar and harmonized vocals from local musicians Julie-Anne Lizewski and Tim Craig.

It’s the second appearance at Queen’s Bakery in Blyth for these two, who are relatively new to the local music scene, and tonight there’s a good crowd of about 20 who’ve settled in for an evening of music, coffee, drinks and desserts. The atmosphere is cozy in this bakery, with its exposed brick, high tin ceilings, full-length front windows with a view of white Christmas lights on trees and a set of blinking blue string lights in the Blyth Festival’s courtyard across the street.

Finola McGuinty and Mike Crocker throw some Dixie Chicks into their set.

Finola McGuinty and Mike Crocker throw some Dixie Chicks into their set.

We ease in with Canadian band Tragically Hip’s Bobcaygeon, then move through some gems I’ve never heard before, like Kathleen Edwards’ Alicia Ross, a song written from the perspective of a 25-year-old Markham woman who was killed by her next door neighbour, and Shawn Colvin’s Polaroids, an upbeat number with all sorts of vocal twists and turns. Then there’s the angry, cathartic song with a title I can’t print here because it’s chock full of potty mouth language.

Along the way, the duo perform Bob Dylan’s Shelter From the Storm, a song request from a woman in the audience. Like most of the playbill for the evening, the lyrics are rich and poetic. The tempo flirts with upbeat – toes are tapping – but remains somehow constrained.

Owners Les Cook and Anne Elliott waltz in the kitchen.

Owners Les Cook and Anne Elliott waltz in the kitchen.

There are other familiar songs, and yet they’re just a little bit different. I discover there’s far more to the 20th century American standard Irene than the abbreviated version sung at the end of many nights at a pub. As Tim plays the lap steel guitar, owners Anne Elliott and Les Cook take up a waltz behind the counter, then gracefully twirl through the restaurant.

The couple enjoys hosting local musicians from time to time.

“It’s something we wanted to do from the get-go. Because we dance we kind of have a thing for live music,” said Les, who is a dance instructor at Blyth East Side Dance.

Each of the two sets are opened by well-known Goderich musicians Finola McGuinty and Mike Crocker, a great pairing for Julie-Anne and Tim. Perhaps their most endearing piece is Nancy Griffith’s Trouble in the Fields, a song Finola first heard in Belfast but says can easily apply to the farming community that is Huron County. In fact, most hands shoot into the air when she asks who in the audience has a connection to farming. It’s to those farmers she dedicates the song.

Huron County pubs and restaurants are great supporters of live music. Friday, March 6, North Country Towers will play at Cinnamon Jim’s in Brussels. Check Ontario’s West Coast events calendar for more information on this and other events.

Queen’s Bakery, Blyth

Address: 430 Queen St. S., Blyth

Phone: 226-523-9720

Follow them on Facebook or Twitter @QueensBakery4

Lunchtime organ concert runs Fridays through Lent

21 Feb

By Diva Heather Boa

EXETER – Close your eyes and you can hear the organist tease resonating notes from cool air on the finicky pipe organ or feel the sound vibrate through your seat and into your bones from the digital organ during a lunchtime concert in the sanctuary of Trivitt Memorial Anglican Church in Exeter.

Open your eyes and let the hymns by great composers such as Brahms, Handel and Bach become background music

Dr. Richard Heinzle, organist and music director of Trivitt Memorial Anglican Church, hosts a lunchtime concert every Friday through Lent.

Dr. Richard Heinzle, organist and music director of Trivitt Memorial Anglican Church, hosts a lunchtime concert every Friday through Lent.

to the sights in this magnificent church, built in 1888 and funded by Thomas Trivitt, Justice of the Peace in Huron County – the sun shining through stained glass scenes from the bible, Neo-Gothic architecture of tall narrow windows with pointed arches at the top and arched ceilings accentuated by wooden beams, the majestic bells that represent a full octave, which have temporarily been removed from the five-storey bell tower and line the church aisle.

It’s your choice how to best appreciate 40 minutes of organ music in the church sanctuary.

Every Friday until the end of Lent (the end of March), Trivitt’s organist and music director Dr. Richard Heinzle will present a lunchtime concert, inviting any and all to take a seat in pews usually reserved for the choir and enjoy their own brown bag lunch while he plays the pipe organ and the digital organ. (Just a note based on my own experience: A crunchy apple is probably not the best choice for lunch.)

Since early 2014, Richard has been music director and organist at Trivitt Memorial Anglican Church in Exeter and music director of the South Huron Community Choirs, part of outreach efforts by the church. He is also a board member of the Bach Music Festival of Canada, which will take place in Exeter this summer.

Richard introduces each hymn, telling us, for example, before he plays Bach’s Jesus, My Joy that most works were playbillimprovisational but the composer put together this piece in order to teach students how to improvise and to explore the different ways pieces could be put together.

There are just two visitors to this first concert, but Richard was undaunted and hopes word will spread and more cushions will be filled in the coming weeks.

He also wants people to know about the upcoming Hymn Sing Marathon planned for Saturday, Feb. 28 at the church. People are invited to drop anytime from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. to make a cash or food donation to the Exeter and Area Community Food Bank and sing along as he plays through one verse of each song in the hymn book. He says many of the hymns in the Anglican hymn book are the same as in other hymn books, so you’ll be able to sing some familiar hymns as well as some new ones.

For more information on Trivitt Memorial Anglican Church, visit this website.


2015022020organ4trivittLunchtime Organ Concert: If you go

What: Organ Concert At Lunch, a brown bag concert series

When: Every Friday through Lent, until March 27, starting at 12:15 p.m. and ending at 12:55 p.m.

Where: Trivitt Memorial Anglican Church’s sanctuary, 264 Main St. S., Exeter

How much: Goodwill offering. Suggested $5

What else: Dress warmly




Loving I HATE TODD and the Fermented Oranges at the Livery

29 Jun
Headliners I HATE TODD. Pictured are Nelson Sobral on guitar, Troy Larabie on percussion, Kev Carney on bass and local musician Capucine Onn on violin.

Headliners I HATE TODD. Pictured are Nelson Sobral on guitar, Troy Larabie on percussion, Kev Carney on bass and local musician Capucine Onn on violin.

By Diva Calista Powell
Since I have moved back to the county in March, I have been absolutely amazed at the talent that this area has to offer. I have always been a local music fan and enjoy checking out new artists so I was pretty excited to see I HATE TODD perform live at the Livery with special guests the Fermented Oranges.

The fellas from Fermented Oranges (whom I have had the pleasure of working with before with Blyth 14/19’s HuronSound Festival) rocked the house with their original songs and never cease to amaze the crowds they play for. Their punchy rock/funk riffs were striking, and that carefree beachy vibe was captured especially as they jammed out barefoot and in board shorts. It’s never a let down to see these guys play.

Cappy Onn’s violin school kicking off their set.

Cappy Onn’s violin school kicking off their set.

Next up was the headliner, I HATE TODD, the indie-alternative rock band out of Toronto. It intrigues me to see how a variety of instruments and musical styles can collaborate to make a unique sound-and they nailed it. Capucine Onn, local violin virtuoso had her Suzuki violin school start their performance with a beautiful symphonic rock piece and it was great to see kids of all ages showcase their talent. Then the party started as eccentric frontman Todd Preston came out with the rest of the band members to play their popular hit, “Zombie Love”. Their performance was theatrical and captivating to say the least, and their genuine good-time attitude was contagious. After watching their set, I came to the obvious conclusion that there are very few things cooler than a zombie-loving, violin-shredding, pop-rock band. It’s basically a scientific fact.

Thank you Cappy for setting up this unforgettable show!

To check out I HATE TODD’s tunes and lineup check out their website at For Fermented Oranges

The guys of Fermented Oranges. Aaron Voskamp on lead guitar, Dylan Bellinger on drums, Adam Wendler on lead vocals/guitar and Dean Reynolds on bass.

The guys of Fermented Oranges. Aaron Voskamp on lead guitar, Dylan Bellinger on drums, Adam Wendler on lead vocals/guitar and Dean Reynolds on bass.

House Concerts intimate live music experience

27 Sep
photo submitted

photo submitted

by Diva Susan Pye

Debbie Carroll is a very generous woman.  She and her husband Bill open their home several times a year on Sunday evenings, to share the performances of local and visiting musicians with Goderich and area residents (please refer to Debbie’s web site Riverview House Concerts for additional details).Debbie and Bill live in a lovely home overlooking the Maitland River, and on select Sunday evenings, invite  fellow music lovers to join them in appreciating performances in their living room overlooking the river.  It is an intimate setting ideally suited to enjoying musicians make music, a rare opportunity to enjoy this personal experience rather than view it on a screen as we so often do these days.Last Sunday evening my husband and I enjoyed Debbie and Bill’s hospitality and listened with great enjoyment to MIL, a trio from Joliette PQ.  Claude Methe (fiddle, vocals and guitar), Dana Whittle (guitar, vocals, feet yes feet and cajon) and Denise Levac (flute and vocals) usually play with the Quebec band  Dentdelion, but are presently touring small venues as a trio. The trio performed traditional French Canadian songs and tunes as well as  a few written by Dana.  They performed in French, but thanks to the introductions by Claude and Dana and of course, the universal language of music, no translation was required.  It was great fun!
We also had the pleasure of hearing talented local musicians David Walker and Paul Howe.  David sang show tunes, and including a lovely rendition of “With One Look” from the Andrew Lloyd Weber show Sunset Boulevard, with Paul accompanying on piano.So, bring some finger foods if you wish, and for a suggested donation of $20.00 you will enjoy listening to talented musicians and singers perform live in a comfortable venue, within minutes of your own home!
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From the website:  Owner, Debbie Carroll’s specialty is teaching early childhood music classes which involve the partnership of a child with a parent or caregiver.   She also has experience teaching and supervising classes up to the SK level.  Custom-designed mentoring may include private discussion, observation, feedback and/or repertoire. Also, anyone who wishes to simply expand on his or her selection and use of songs, rhymes and dances for young children will enjoy spending a few one-on-one hours with Debbie!
For more about Debbie’s mentoring programs, or her Children’s CDs visit her website.