Celebrating the accolades of the nation’s top folk artist set for the long weekend

GuitarA collection of the Canada’s finest folk musicians will gather in Calgary from Nov. 8-10 to celebrate the Canadian Folk Music Awards. This is the ninth year for the event and its first time being held in Calgary.

With events taking place throughout the city during the three-day celebration of folk music, local committee chair-person, Suze Casey, says that Calgary playing host makes sense as it boasts the strongest folk scene of all major Canadian cities.

“Calgary is the world’s capital for folk clubs,” says Casey, who is also on the national board for the Canadian Folk Music Awards. “There’s nowhere else that has the scene that we do. Not even close. So I’m really excited to have people see what we’ve got here.”

For the first time in the award show’s history, there will be three nights of nominee showcases over the course of the weekend, as well as workshops and National Music Centre collection tours. The weekend will conclude with a gala on Sunday night where winners will be announced.

Some of the nominees include:

• Toronto born singer-songwriter Justin Rutledge — whose most recent album Valleyheart, was mixed by Grammy nominated and Juno Award winning producer Dan Burns.

• Stephen Fearing – a multiple Juno Award winner

• John Wort Hannam – a past Canadian Folk Music Awards winner

Sora – a Calgary native whose third album Heartwood received international praise as far away as Ireland. Sora has recently released her fourth studio album, Scorpion Moon.

The showcases will feature performances from a number of nominees at the Calgary Folk Club, Saturday Night Special, the Ironwood Stage & Grill and the Nickelodeon Music Club. A full three-day schedule can be found at the Canadian Folk Music Festivals’ website.

“Four years ago, we started with these showcases,” Casey says. “But I thought, ‘there are 95 nominees and we’re showcasing only 10 of them. We need two nights.’ So last year, in Saint John, we did two nights, and I realized, ‘we need two venues.’ And it just kept going, so this year we’re showcasing in four different venues over three different days.”

One such showcase at the Nickelodeon Music Club will feature Sora, a Calgary native better known as Andrea Hunt to friends and family. She is one of only four nominees from Alberta, the irony being that she is nominated for world solo artist of the year. Her website lists “poetry of the celts” and the “melodiousness of neo-classical” as heavy influences on her music.

Speaking by phone from Toronto, Sora says that as a Calgarian, she feels that folk music is the city’s history and that it is important for the city to acknowledge the artists who exist within the genre, while exploring sounds many might classify as being outside the traditional notion of “folk.”

“The Calgary Folk Club has a really established tradition of bringing in good musicians,” says Sora, with regards to her musical style being included as a category. “I think the world category at a folk event is a really good fit for me.”

Sora says that coming home to her turf and not having to fly somewhere and immediately worry about sound check or squeezing in interviews will be a refreshing experience.

Suze-CaseyNational board member for the Canadian Folk Music Awards, Suze Casey, has been with the Calgary Folk Club for more than 35 years. Casey says her vision for the awards is that they push other Canadian cities to replicate Calgary’s strong folk community and support for the genre.

Photo by Justin WilsonThe process of bringing the awards to Calgary began two years ago in the Toronto bar, Hugh’s Room, as Casey, the only folk awards board member from Western Canada took in the nominee showcase.

There is a rotation moving from west, to central, to east with regard to host city selection. In Toronto, with the 2012 awards set for Saint. John, N.B., Casey, on a hunch she’d be asked about Calgary playing host, began brainstorming right at her table.

“On my napkin, I just sort of drew it out, ” Casey says. “I wrote down peoples names that I would be contacting, who could take care of what, and basically just everybody in the scene and Calgary’s strengths.”

Part of bringing the awards to the city meant finding sponsorship and support from national and local companies, something Casey and her team have done more successfully than any year prior. This year, for the first time, every award has its own sponsor.

A major issue that came up during the planning of the awards was the Calgary flood. Hotel Alma, on the University of Calgary campus where many of the nominees and organizers were to stay, was converted into student housing for many who were displaced by flood damage.

Casey says that what the flood proved about Calgary – noting the clean up of Prince’s Island Park for this years Calgary Folk Music Festival – is that the city’s dedication to the celebration of music is immeasurable.

“I certainly felt, when I was on the island for the festival this year, that when the music started, the heartbeat of the city started again. We needed that,” Casey says.

Calgary Folk Fest general manager Les Siemieniuk says that the awards will bring awareness to a genre many pigeonhole into one category, when in reality the genre encompasses an array of musical styles those unfamiliar with the music wouldn’t expect.

“Most people make comments when they come to the festival, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that was folk music,’” Siemieniuk says. “They have their own little picture of the PBS fundraising specials, where they’d trot out acts from the ’60s, but things have changed.”

Siemieniuk says he hopes the awards will encourage Calgarians to get out and see some of the world class acts that regularly pass through Calgary at any one of its functioning folk clubs, or venues like the Ironwood Stage & Grill, Mikey’s Juke Joint & Eatery and The Blues Can.Ironwood-SignLocated in one of Calgary’s oldest and most history laden community’s, Inglewood, The Ironwood Stage and Grill plays host to both songwriting workshops and nominee showcases featuring Canadian Folk Music Award nominees over the course of the November long weekend.

Photo by Justin Wilson

“There are two folk clubs in Toronto, there are two in Edmonton, there are eight here,” says Casey. “There is one in Cochrane, there is one in Bragg Creek and one in Lethbridge. Someone could come and get 10 packed gigs all right here.”

Siemieniuk says he hopes that people getting out and seeing what folk music has to offer will spark Calgarians to open up to the music on a regular basis.

“Come out. Come out of your comfort zone. Go see things. If you don’t like music, take a chance, go and see some music. Those are the things that in the end you’ll be talking about to your friends a lot more than the next deadline at work.”

While the workshops and nominee showcases take place in a variety of different venues, the Sunday night awards gala takes place at the University of Calgary Theatre. Tickets for the gala are priced at $40 and can be purchased online, by phone at 403-220-7202 or in person.


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