Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ottawa Folk Festival – Saturday, September 7

We had limited time – essentially the afternoon – to spend at the Ottawa Folk Festival on Saturday and spent the time enjoying the community-oriented free side of the festival with its workshop and small concert stages.

Tift Merritt
A folk-rock concert by Ottawa singer-songwriter John Allaire was already about halfway through on the Hill Stage when we arrived at Hog’s Back Park and we sat down and enjoyed several songs before moving over to the Slackwater Stage at 3:00 pm for a workshop called “Femme Fatale” featuring young Ottawa-based singer-songwriters Shannon Rose and Catriona Sturton, and South Carolina’s Tift Merritt.

While Shannon and Catriona did well in introducing themselves to a wider audience, the workshop clearly belonged to Tift, one of the most accomplished alt-country singer-songwriters of the past decade. Playing solo in the workshop setting, Tift showed she was just as effective by herself as she is with her concert band turning in compellingly powerful versions of several songs.

If there was a heart and soul to this year’s Ottawa Folk Festival, it could surely be found at the Hill Arthur McGregor, Terry Gillespie, Lynn Miles, Doug McArthur, Arthur II & Tish Parker – and, for a story and song, Chris White – paid tribute to the late Chopper McKinnon, the beloved host of CKCU’s Canadian Spaces for 33 years, a main-stage MC at the Ottawa Folk Festival for most of its existence, and the personification of Ottawa’s folk music scene for so many years.
Lynn Miles, Terry Gillespie & Arthur McGregor
Stage from 4:30 to 6:00 pm when veteran performers

The artists told Chopper stories and sang some of his favourite songs and songs that reminded them – and us – of Chopper. Lynn’s singing Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young, Arthur McGregor’s reading of a poem about Chopper written by Wendy Moore, and Chris’ performance of a seasonal song about Chopper in his Santa-hat were among the most poignant moments of the tribute.

Chris White & Doug McArthur
Unfortunately, sound bleed from other stages, particularly it seems from the very loud Belle Game playing on the CUPE stage, hampered the concentration of both the artists and many in the audience, for much of the tribute.
The timing of the tribute to Chopper was an example of having to choose which stage to be at as there were a couple of other worthy events going on at the same time – a workshop performance and interview with singer-songwriter-astronaut Chris Hadfield and a full band concert by Tift Merritt – that I would have liked to have been at. Both, I'm told, were very good.

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--Mike Regenstreif

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