The Arts

Seasonal Sounds

Gerry Blackwell
Written by Gerry Blackwell

Upcoming Highlights on the Music Scene

The season of cheer is nigh, friends. You can tell by the premature jingle of Yule muzak everywhere. May we suggest an antidote? Music played by actual humans, in the flesh, right in front of you. There’s plenty of it about.

Hawksley Workman (credit Dustin Rabin Photography)

Hawksley Workman, Juno-winning singer-songwriter and all-round Renaissance man, kicks it off at Revival House in Stratford on November 8 (8 pm, $35). The show isn’t officially part of Workman’s Almost A Full Moon tour, featuring songs from his beloved 2002 Christmas album. But we’re betting he’ll play some. Definitely not muzak. (goo.gl/B5sYiD)

Sass Jordan

The sass is back. Canadian rock diva Sass Jordan brings her Racine Revisited tour to Aeolian Hall on November 15 (7/8 pm, $35/$40). Racine was the 1992 album that made Jordan’s career, producing hits like Make You A Believer. This is Sass playing the old songs in new ways. A must for Jordan fans.

It’s a busy few days of music hereabouts. The following two nights, Aeolian has folk troubadour Murray McLauchlan (6:30/7:30 pm, $47.50). The man has 40 years, 18 albums, 11 Junos and an Order of Canada under his belt. He’s penned classics — Whispering Rain, The Farmer’s Song — and he’s still adding to his oeuvre. A warm, engaging performer, McLauchlan never disappoints.

Something completely different? Opera at Western presents Bizet’s Carmen at the Paul Davenport Theatre (Talbot College). It runs November 16–18 (8 pm), and November 19 (2 pm, $30/$20). One of the best-loved and most accessible of romantic operas, Carmen is filled with ravishing melodies and rousing choruses. In French (with English surtitles), featuring students of Western’s highly-regarded Opera program.

Steve Strongman (credit Matthew Barnes)

Canadian blues guitar hero Steve Strongman is at the London Music Club on November 16 (7:30/8:30 pm, $25/$30). A multiple Maple Blues winner, Strongman is a scintillating guitarist and powerful vocalist. He raises the bar on the club’s Thursday Night Blues series. Don’t miss.

Then it’s off to Stratford on November 17 for Canada’s Queen of R&B and Soul, Jully Black. Black is playing an acoustic set at Revival House (8 pm, $35). Known for powerhouse vocals — she’s one of the 25 greatest Canadian singers ever, according to CBC Music — and slick, choreographed videos, Black unplugged is intriguing. Our guess: she’ll rock. (goo.gl/uhTZgm)

Jully Black

Free is good, right? Western University’s Jazz Ensemble is at the Wolf Performance Hall (Central Library) on November 21 (7:30 pm, free) with a program of stage band favourites. Might be the odd Christmas number. Just guessing.

Don’t expect festive ditties, but Hamilton-based alt-rockers The Trews are at London Music Hall on November 24 (7 pm, $40) — reason in itself to celebrate. Go for the great music (goo.gl/47nz6k), and be aware this is a Red Scarf Benefit Concert supporting Regional HIV/AIDS Connection. Good for The Trews and LMH.

The Jeffery Concerts (goo.gl/xrUjgk) brings exciting Canadian violinist Andréa Tyniec and pianist Arthur Rowe to Wolf Performance Hall on November 25 (8 pm, $40, students $15). Event title: The Strad Sings, a program of Beethoven and Schumann sonatas, with Ms. Tyniec playing the ‘Baumgartner’ Stradivarius violin. Special.

The Cuckoo’s Nest Folk Club has rootsy singer-songwriter Jenny Whiteley at Chaucer’s Pub on November 26 (7:30 pm, $25/$20). Whiteley has been compared to Emmy Lou Harris and Lucinda Williams — high praise indeed — and her first two albums (2000, 2002) won Junos. Why don’t we know her better? Here’s our chance. (goo.gl/gwbnde)

Hallelujah! Remember Orchestra London? They live on as London Symphonia, and they’re doing Handel’s Messiah at First St. Andrew’s Church on Wednesday, November 29 (7:30 pm, $15-$55), along with London Pro Musica Choir and a great cast of soloists including local soprano Leslie Fagan. All we, like sheep, must go.

Sultans of String

World music fusionists Sultans of String kick off Christmas month at Aeolian on December 3 (7/8 pm, $30/$25). Expect a dizzying variety of styles, from ska to gypsy jazz, applied to seasonal favourites. The Sultans are touring their new album, Christmas Caravan. (For a preview: goo.gl/LHnYTS.)

 

 

Serena Ryder (credit Olivia Malone)

Alt-country singer-songwriter Serena Ryder, she of the five-octave vocal range, hits town December 12, playing London Music Hall (7 pm, $40). Another multiple Juno winner, Ryder is touring her latest album, Utopia, out earlier this year. She doesn’t get to London often, so take advantage.

Then it’s a full-on seasonal celebration with angelic-voiced folk trio The Good Lovelies at Aeolian on December 13 and 14 (7/8 pm, $35/$40). This is the Lovelies’ annual Christmas show, promising “classic holiday and winter selections … polished to a warm and welcoming glow.” Sounds pretty good to us. If you’re lucky, you might even get a wee preview of the upcoming new album, Shapeshifters.

Centennial Hall offers another holiday classic with Ballet Jörgen’s production of The Nutcracker — one performance only, December 23 (3 pm, $43-$97). Set in Canada’s near north in the early 20th century, this is not your grandmother’s Nutcracker. I don’t remember racoons in the original. The great thing about this production: it always showcases local young dance talent along with Jörgen’s pros.

Gryphon Trio

Whew! Holiday over. Time for more contemplative fare. The Jeffery Concerts has just the ticket: Love Triangle, featuring Canada’s great Gryphon Trio at the Wolf Performance Hall, January 13 (8 pm, $40, students $15). The program includes Haydn and Beethoven (Archduke Trio) staples, but also Canadian-based, Sri Lankan-born composer Dinuk Wijeratne’s piano quartet rhapsody Love Triangle. Very cool. (Preview here: bit.ly/2fX0Ing.)

About the author

Gerry Blackwell

Gerry Blackwell

Gerry Blackwell is a London-based freelance writer.