Whenever the Arden Theatre rolls out a season, it promises its audience eclectic entertainment, shared stores and new memories.
Professional programming presenter Elliott Garnier discussed the diverse and exciting 2024 winter and spring lineup of theatrical and musical performances.
Former professional programming presenter Caitlin North programmed the season with the goal of enticing audiences with new faces and familiar favourites. And North successfully pulled all the stops with 14 shows that cover theatre, dance, music, magic and comedy.
Garnier arrived at the Arden on July 10, 2023, as North’s replacement and said he is grateful to North for programming such an incredible lineup.
“It’s been a whirl-wind season,” Garnier said.
Garnier enjoyed a 15-year plus career in media and broadcasting first as a writer for the David Letterman Show before moving to CBC and finally working as a senior producer at CKUA.
At the provincial radio station, his role was to plan, schedule, coordinate, and produce sessions, interviews, features, and many types of special programming. During the summer festival months, he would travel to up to 16 events across Canada recording, interviewing and inviting artists to the radio station.
Although Garnier did not program the upcoming current lineup, he met many artists in previous years and has enjoyed their creative achievements through the years.
Kicking off the lineup on Jan. 19 and 20 is Le Théâtre des Confettis family show Waves, all that Glows. A tent is set up on the stage and the audience is invited to enter. Inside a gentle seaside scene is created with shells and stones. Two men make music and spin stories using sand shaping, shadow puppetry and inventive sound effects that take the audience on an underwater adventure.
“The capacity is 60 people per show. It’s nice to take the little ones and watch them experience storytelling. This is also a pay-what-you-can show,” said Garnier.
Self-taught multi-instrumentalist Jake Vaadeland & The Sturgeon River Boys follow on Jan. 27. The Saskatchewan-raised recording artist has been performing since he was four years old. In 2022, Vaadeland released his latest album titled Everybody but Me.
“He has a classic rockabilly sound that reminds you of Carl Perkins and Elvis. He has that Sun Studio foot-thumping country and Americana sound. He’s a rising star that crosses so many genres. His music is timeless. It’s cross-generational," sad Garnier.
The award-winning country music trio, Doc Walker, Michelle Wright and Jason McCoy, have teamed up for The Great Canadian Roadtrip, stopping at the Arden on Jan. 28.
“All three are Canadian country hitmakers and they’ll be performing individual sets. They’re so popular we’re close to selling out. If you have tickets, you’ll be in for a treat.”
Instead, Songs My Mother Never Sung Me by Dave Clarke comes straight out of our own backyard. Originally developed by Edmonton’s Concrete Theatre, this heartfelt show is about playwright-composer Dave Clarke’s relationship with growing up as a hearing child to deaf parents.
“It will be in both English and sign language and shows the way people communicate in diverse ways. This is an all-ages show and it’s pay-what-you-choose.”
On Valentine’s Day, Dominique Fils-Aimé presents her new album, Our Roots Run Deep, released in September 2023. The fast-rising singer-songwriter hails from Montreal where she won a 2019 Felix for Jazz Album of the Year, a 2020 Juno for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year and was twice nominated for a Polaris in 2019 and 2020.
“I first saw her at the Calgary Folk Festival. Her presence and her powerful vocals gave me chills. Her album, Our Roots Run Deep, is her exploration of blues to jazz. She’ll be part of a four-piece band. This is the perfect show for date night. We’ll be serving Prosecco and sweet treats,” Garnier said.
The highly anticipated Le Vent du North returns for one of their lively kitchen party performances on Feb. 16.
“These guys are a must-see, toe-tapping Canadian band. They’ve scored several Junos, and their Quebec-Celtic style music is so much fun.”
James Keelaghan, one of Canada’s finest folk singer-songwriters, returns to the Arden Theatre on March 1 accompanied by Jez Lowe, one of the United Kingdom’s busiest acoustic performers.
“Jez Lowe is a celebrated songwriter with a gentle voice. His songs are about the struggles of the English working class, and James is one of the great folk storytellers in Canadian music.”
After nearly an absence of a decade, Ballet Jörgen returns with its latest presentation, Anne of Green Gables – The Ballet on March 5.
“They filmed a documentary about making the ballet. This was the first time anyone had interpreted a ballet from the Anne of Green Gables story even though it’s one of the most Canadian stories ever told. The audience will be swept up in Ballet Jörgen's ballet for bringing this story alive in a whole new way.”
Magic meets music in Chris Funk’s Redefining Wonder on March 7. The multi-media experience is a mind mangler that will leave audiences scratching their head and asking, ‘how did he do that?”
“It’s a dose of comedic storytelling. Chris grew up thinking he’d make music his life’s work, but he liked magic too. He ended up blending both his passions.”
The Irish Descendants are a lively, dynamic part of the Arden family and they’re returning March 15. The Newfoundland Celtic folk group have popularized East Coast music across Canada since the 1990s.
“I’m hesitant to push too hard because we’re nearly sold out. Audiences love them. They’re a Canadian institution. When you see their concerts, you just want to get up and dance.”
Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Royal Wood has established himself as a genuine musical talent. In his next show at the Arden on March 27, he teams up with Jeffrey Straker, a musician who grew up in small-town Saskatchewan and now performs hundreds of concerts annually across Canada, Europe and South America.
“Royal is on tour performing Just Another Day and Jeffrey just dropped a new single Brand New Day.”
The Juno Award-winning band, The Fretless, is a Canadian quartet that creates genre-bending instrumentals.
“I’m so stoked about this band. They’re such a good folk-string quartet.”
Pianist Sarah Hagen is back playing Bach's The Goldberg Variations on April 7. An expressive performer, Hagen is challenged with a Bach score layered with a multitude of variations and different harmonies.
Twin Flames, a husband-wife duo merging indie rock, synth rock and folk-pop, make their debut performance at the Arden on April 12. Originally from Nunavik, the duo blends a western soundscape with Indigenous spirit flutes.
“There’s such a diverse array of genres. There’s a mix of new discoveries as well as familiar favourites, and a host of talented award-winning artists. There’s so much talent out there and we’re happy to bring it to our audiences.
Tickets can be purchased at 780-459-1542 or online at www.stalbert.ca.