St. Albert singer-songwriter Penny Malmberg has a big voice and an even bigger heart.
The female lead for Back Porch Swing is the primary organizer for McDougall United Church’s fifth annual New Year’s Eve Benefit Concert for the Edmonton Food Bank.
Although she has a small cadre of volunteers, Malmberg remains the driving force and jokingly calls herself “a one-man wrecking crew.”
“For me it’s so much work, but I appreciate that we can provide for the food bank. Last year it was amazing the amount of food that flowed in the aisles. It’s important for me that people are not hungry. This concert is a blessing for everyone, myself included. I get blown away every year,” says Malmberg.
Once again she has gathered eight of the region’s most prominent musical acts to entertain at the family concert.
In addition to Back Porch Swing’s opening, Gateway Festival City Fiddlers, Cam & Caitlin Boyce, Dale Ladouceur & The Broke Ensemble, Breezy Brian Gregg, Dana Wylie and the Two Bob Orchestra, Jay Gilday, and Cam Neufeld & The Road to Django Collective are on the bill.
It was John Henry, pastor of McDougall church, who initiated the event, said Malmberg. A progressive pastor and strongly supportive of the arts, Henry had an empty slot on New Year’s Eve and wanted to fill it. Malmberg had performed at the church and he invited her to organize a concert.
“At the time I thought it was a one-shot one-off. But we slowly got the ball rolling. I don’t know if we’ll have the same success as last year, but everyone enjoys it and we keep going.”
Last year, about 800 people attended the concert and donated $3,000 in addition to two tons of food.
Malmberg attributes part of the success to the rotating lineup of artists who are only too willing to donate their time to this worthy cause.
“Everybody is willing to jump on board because it’s the Edmonton Food Bank. That’s the thing about Edmonton. There’s a very caring group of musicians.”
The Gateway Festival City Fiddlers, a group of 12 young musicians organized by former St. Albert resident Rod Olmsted, will entertain the crowds when the doors open at 6:45 p.m.
Back Porch Swing kicks off the concert with their special blend of old-time swing, folk, bluegrass and jazz followed by Cam & Caitlin Boyce, a husband-wife duo that sings ukulele driven folk tunes.
“They sing sweet harmonies and sing songs everyone will enjoy.”
Dale Ladouceur brings both The Broke Ensemble and her Chapman Stick, an electric musical stick with 10 or 12 strings.
“It’s like playing lead and bass at the same time,” notes Malmberg.
Many are also familiar with Breezy Brian Gregg, an electronic musician that busks in front of city hall throughout the summer months.
“He’s in touch with the downtown inner core and I would like to attract them. I’d like them to come to a nice quiet, warm evening of music. Brian can connect with them. He’s a good draw for people who know him and have nowhere to go on New Year’s Eve.”
Dana Wylie entertained the arriving crowds last year and this time around the singer-songwriter has a feature spot with The Two Bob Orchestra – that’s jazz trumpeter Bob Tildesley, slide guitarist Bob Blair and flautist Kirsten Elliott.
Also on the program is folk artist Jay Gilday, a folk singer with an original upbeat take on music.
“He’s a great songwriter and he just put out a CD.”
Closing the evening is Cam Neufeld & The Road to Django Collective, an eight-piece band that introduces gypsy jazz Balkan style dance music.
“Every year I try to change the lineup. Not everybody will like everything, but there is something for everybody.
In the tradition of a family-friendly concert, a child centre is set up in the church basement with free face painting, crafts, hoola hooping and clowning with Nettie Spaghetti.
The concert is alcohol free, however refreshments are served.
“Since the concert goes from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m., it’s a nice lead-up to the downtown celebrations. After the concert, you can catch a few events before the midnight fireworks.”
Admission is a non-perishable food item or a monetary donation to Edmonton’s Food Bank. McDougall Church is at 10025 – 101 St.
New Year’s Eve Benefit Concert
Tuesday, Dec. 31 Doors at 6:45, Concert 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
McDougall United Church
10025 – 101 St.
Admission: Donation to the Edmonton Food Bank