Arden season brings back popular performers
Varied lineup also targets younger demographics
Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014 06:00 am
There’s a huge chunk of the population lapping up summer’s hot weather. But before you know it, we’ll be surrounded by grey skies and two feet of snow.
When the doldrums set in, Caitlin North prescribes a night at St. Albert’s Arden Theatre.
As the venue’s professional programming presenter, North just announced the 2014-15 season, and it’s shaping up to be a very invigorating roster, with 25-plus shows.
In the three years since her appointment, North’s main goal has been directed to attracting younger patrons.
“We wanted to start bringing in younger audiences, people that have not spent a lot of time in soft-seat theatre. We’ve seen a real increase in that the last year and we’d like to keep the momentum going,” North said.
While the bulk of the season is anchored in music, additional diversity is planned with offerings in film, comedy, theatre and a never before presented sing-along.
For the first time ever, the professional series hosts the interactive Sing-a-long-a Grease on March 6, 2015.
“We’ve never done a lot of film in the past. When this came across my desk, I thought with Grandin Theatres gone, there’s not a lot of places to show film in St. Albert. This brings together film, music and acting. It’s campy but everybody knows the songs and movements. It’s a fun opportunity to get dressed up in your favourite characters.”
Another youth-targeted attraction is Delhi 2 Dublin, a Vancouver band that’s generating a ton of buzz. Dubbed the United Nations of Rock ‘n Roll, they mix Bhangra, Celtic dub reggae and electronic into a mind-bending groove.
The band traditionally plays in clubs but North spotted them at the Edmonton Folk Festival and booked them for March 7.
“It’s going to be an energetic evening of music and it’s going to be hard keeping people in their seats.”
New and established
North’s season is shaped as a launch pad for newer artists and a comfortable home-away-from-home for returning industry veterans.
Galician artist Carlos Núñez, one of the world’s grandmasters of the bagpipes, opens the season on Sept. 17.
“He has an amazing amount of energy. He never sits still and is a wonder on the pipes.”
The following day on Sept. 18, travelling troubadour Eric Bibb winds his way to St. Albert. This time around, the blues, folk, gospel and roots balladeer sings a lottery of songs with Michael Jerome Browne from his new album Jericho Road.
“This is the second time in three years we’ve had Eric Bibb. We get more requests for him than anyone else. He’s such a charming and wonderful person.”
Radical Reels, an adrenalin-pumping two-hour film of action-packed extreme sports, is back for another instalment on Oct. 2. It is a synopsis of the Banff Mountain Film Festival bringing to the screen jaw-dropping bike jumps, nail-biting kayak drops and terrifying rock climbs that leaves viewers on the edge of their seat.
The Arden Theatre, partnering with St. Albert Chamber Music Recital Series co-presents The Dover Quartet on Oct. 3. The international top-tier ensemble swept away the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition and is on a world tour.
“They’re a really hot young group on the classical music scene and when we got the call, we were very happy to showcase them.”
The season’s formal launch takes place on Oct. 4 with the return of roots singer David Myles.
“In the last three years David’s star has really risen. He’s had a massive radio hit with Classified and I thought he was a good fit to open the season.”
Tireless to a fault, Fred Eaglesmith is a true road dog. One of North America’s great songwriters and a veteran of the music industry, he makes an appearance on Oct. 10 as the Fred Eaglesmith Traveling Show.
“It’s him and his band and it’s going to be a really fun show.”
Popular performers return
Double Juno nominee Jeremy Fisher heads to the Arden on Oct. 17 to present his sixth studio album The Lemon Squeeze.
“He’s another singer that is so charming. He writes supremely catchy songs. He’s goofy and funny and the girls love him.”
Lunch at Allen’s, composed of Murray McLauchlan, Cindy Church, Marc Jordan and Ian Thomas, have built up an incredibly loyal fan base, and the quartet reprises its song circle on Oct. 24.
“They’re the second-most requested act by the audience. They’re consummate singer-songwriters and they work so well together as a group.”
East Coast songstress and Juno recipient Jenn Grant introduces her jazzy-folk tinged grooves on Nov. 1.
“She has toured the world and she has such an amazing voice. It’s so soft and sweet. She’s another great storyteller. It’s almost airy, but there’s a lot of depth to what she does.”
Comedian Bruce McCulloch from Kids in the Hall returns to St. Albert on Nov. 2 with his highly successful Young Drunk Punk, a one-man show of personal anecdotes loaded with dark humour and wit.
“Last year he had a great time at the Arden and he wanted to come back. This was one of our most surprising shows since the audience was one we had never seen before.”
Torch singer Jill Barber’s last appearance at the Arden dates back to 2008, when her husky, unmistakable voice utterly captivated the audience. She returns Nov. 7 with the release of her sixth studio album, Fool’s Gold.
“She’s a great performer. She took a turn into the bilingual world and now released a new record that is quite jazzy.”
Out of this world
Canadian actor Charles Ross, who wowed audiences with his One-Man Lord of the Rings repeats his theatre magic with One-Man Star Wars on Nov. 13.
“It’s a bit of a strategic move with the new Star Wars coming out. It’s a strange, but exciting way to see the series and we’re very happy to have him back.”
Once again De Temps Antan hits the Arden stage on Nov. 14 with their infectious brand of francophone ballads.
“They have a new record out again and we’re happy to support a group honouring the traditions and heritage of their province.”
The Campbell Brothers, renowned for their blues-gospel vibe, present Sacred Steel on Nov. 15.
“They’re an amazing band and they’re really on the forefront of the sacred steel sound. They’re pretty exceptional.”
A Charlie Brown Christmas is the big holiday concert with the iconic drummer Jerry Granelli at the helm. Granelli was part of the Vince Guaraldi Trio in the mid-1960s, the trio that scored the legendary composition to the cartoon drawn by Peanuts creator Charles Schultz.
“It’s amazing to present someone who was a part of such iconic music. It was the third-best selling Christmas record of all times.”
The brilliant tunesmith Marc Cohn, known for his Grammy-winning hit Walking In Memphis, released Join the Parade after a 10-year absence from recording studios. He leads the 2015 roster on Jan. 27.
Following Cohn is the return of Canadian balladeer David Francey, a revered folk poet who unlocks the heart with his honesty and wit. He performs Feb. 6.
“I love his Scottish accent. When I hear his music, I feel connected, which is not always the case with other performers. There’s a certain community that celebrates his songs, but he needs to be celebrated by a wider audience.”
Once again the effervescent Royal Wood comes back for another two-nighter of romantic songs on Feb. 13 and 14.
“Last year, I wasn’t surprised he sold out. But I was surprised at how quickly he sold out. It showed what a voracious fan base he has. He’s so charming, so romantic and so sultry – if you can call a man that. He’s such a tease and puts on a great show.”
John McEuan, one of the founding members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and John Carter Cash, son of the late Johnny Cash, put some sparks on the stage with Will the Circle Be Unbroken: A Tribute to the Carter Family on Feb. 19.
“It’s exciting to have these two great artists do a retrospective of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and John, he’s kind of musical royalty.”
Les Yeux Noirs strides onto the deck with an unmatched combo of gypsy, Klezmer and jazz-rock influences on Feb. 27.
“It’s great world music, and though it may be cold outside, it will be warm inside.”
Direct from Ireland, the five-piece virtuosic ensemble Altan arrives just in time for St. Patrick’s Day on March 17.
“They’re one of the great groups at the forefront of traditional Irish music. They’re accomplished musicians and are proud to celebrate their heritage.”
Coming March 21 is cultural icon, comedienne and social activist Mary Walsh. Known to Canadians through Dancing With Rage, CODCO and the highly lionized This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Walsh returns for a night of stand-up with Sharron Matthews.
Closing the season on April 17 is MonkeyJunk, a high-octane blues-rock band that is electrifying audiences across North America.
“They’re definitely a group that has had incredible success. They’re the most celebrated Canadian blues band on the scene. They’ve won a number of awards including the Maple Blues and Juno Awards and they are really fun.”