The Arts

Change of Season: Upcoming Highlights on the Music Scene

Gerry Blackwell
Written by Gerry Blackwell

The season has begun. That’s what they used to call it, when all the cultural and social events in a city started again in the fall: the season. London this year has an exciting jam-packed music season, with something for everyone.

Kick it off with Montreal-based Juno-nominated singer-songwriter Roxanne Potvin at London Music Club Friday, September 14. Potvin is touring a new five-song EP, a follow-up to her 2016 album, For Dreaming. Know her name, but can’t place Potvin’s music? Check it out here: goo.gl/Zwnk7A.

Also on September 14, Stratford’s Revival House (revival.house) presents Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra from Montreal, a potent mix of Afro-Colombian music and dance, with the brass and violin melodies of Eastern Europe, combining live music, choreographed dance, circus, theatrical staging and dynamic audience interaction. Taking over dance floors wherever they go, the 16-piece Juno-nominated group formed three years ago and has won numerous awards. They will also participate in the TD Sunfest World Music & Jazz Series with an appearance at Aeolian Hall on Saturday, October 13, where they received an enthusiastic reception back in May. sunfest.on.ca

Then on Saturday, September 15, London Symphonia, the surviving core of the old Orchestra London, kicks off its season at Metropolitan United Church with “Revolutionary Tales.” The program features rising star Kerson Leong in Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 and Hector Berlioz’s great Symphonie Fantastique. CBC Radio host Tom Allen emcees the evening.

London’s venerable Jazz for the People series keeps trucking along. The fall season opens Wednesday, September 19 at Wolf Performance Hall with a show featuring vocalist Rick Kish and The Ken Foster Quartet. It’s always free, always fun.

Classical music seems to be undergoing a renaissance in London. Magisterra Soloists is a relatively new chamber music ensemble in town — based here but touring widely. The musicians kick off their season at Museum London on Thursday, September 20 with “Aimez-vous Brahms?” The concert features guest soloists Kyoko Hasimoto, a Montreal-based pianist, and world-renowned Dutch violist and composer Vladimir Mendelssohn. The program includes Brahms’ iconic G-minor piano quartet, and a less familiar work, the powerful piano quintet by Louis Victor Jules Vierne (1870-1937).

Aeolian Hall has a great season this fall. Dala, an award-winning folk duo with heavenly harmonies, is in Friday, September 28. Amanda Walther and Sheila Carabine have been singing together since high school, and writing insightful folk songs for almost as long. They always turn in a polished, entertaining performance.

If folk is your flavour, the Cuckoo’s Nest Folk Club is the (other) place to be. The long-running series is on at Chaucer’s Pub for another season. On Monday, October 1, direct from Scotland, it’s North Sea Gas! Don’t know the Gas? Check ‘em out here: goo.gl/a18hzm. Hint: it’s three Scottish blokes playing spirited Celtic folk music. You really can’t go wrong.

Speaking of Celtic, Jimmy Rankin of the Rankin Family is at Aeolian Hall on Wednesday, October 3. Rankin recently moved back to Nova Scotia from Nashville and is touring a new album, aptly named Moving East. It’s billed as a Cape Breton kitchen party on disc and features his trademark east-coast folk-rock sound. “I was trying to distill the fabric of Maritime culture into a musical collection replete with life’s highs and lows,” Rankin says of the album.

The music performance schedule at Western U’s Music Faculty gets into high gear when renowned American concert pianist Sara Davis Buechner appears Friday, October 5. She plays at the Paul Davenport Theatre in Talbot College. Buechner appears as part of the Parsons and Poole Legacy Concert series, created to honour pioneering Music Faculty members Margaret Parsons and Clifford Poole. For more about Western Music: goo.gl/YUs1vo.

Yet another memorial concert series, the Jeffery Concerts, is bringing in internationally praised Canadian concert violinist James Ehnes. The Guardian newspaper called Ehnes, “effusively lyrical … hair-raisingly virtuosic.” He appears with pianist and frequent recording and performing partner Andrew Armstrong. They’re at Wolf Performance Hall on Wednesday, October 10. The program includes works by Beethoven, Ravel, Brahms and 20th century American composer John Corigliano.

You see what we mean about a renaissance of classical music. But if classical isn’t your cup of tea, how about good ol’ Jann Arden. The much-loved Canadian singer-songwriter — and broadcaster, speaker, actor and author — is at Budweiser Gardens, also on Wednesday, October 10. Arden has a new album, These Are The Days. The London date kicks off a national tour for the disc.

The TD Sunfest World Music & Jazz Series 2018-19 is bringing multi-award-winning British folk trio The Young’uns to the Cuckoo’s Nest Folk Club (Chaucer’s Pub) on Monday, October 15. The Young’uns, a capella specialists, sing traditional English and modern folk songs, including their own compositions. They have a new-ish album, 2017’s Strangers. Check out their music here: goo.gl/uFk2PH.

Down the road in Chatham that same Wednesday, October 15, it’s another multi-award-winner, big-voiced home-grown indie-rock star Serena Ryder. She’s at the Capitol Theatre (238 King St. W.) Ryder scarcely needs an introduction. She’s been wowing audiences at home in Canada and abroad for 20 years. She now has 10 albums to her credit, including last year’s two-disc Utopia. Big star, big show.

London Symphonia is back on Tuesday, October 16, this time at Talbot Street Church, and with just the LS Winds. They’re playing an interesting program of works by modern composers with a London connection — Western U grad Jeff Smallman, former Music Faculty member Kenneth Bray and London-based jazz guitarist (and former UWO English prof) Oliver Whitehead. They’re also playing works by a couple of other guys called Brahms and Mozart.

Prog-rock pioneers The Strawbs are at Aeolian Hall, also on Tuesday, October 16. They’re billing it as their farewell electric tour, the last time featuring the full band. The lineup includes original members Dave Cousins, Dave Lambert, Chas Cronk and Tony Fernandez, who were all there for the band’s classic 1970s albums. The group started over 50 years ago, double-billing early on with another up-and-coming band, The Rolling Stones. They played bluegrass at first, then folk-rock, then evolved to a more layered, melotronic sound. Half a century on, the Strawbs still draw raves.

It’s a busy week of music in the city. There’s another Jazz for the People at Wolf Performance Hall on Wednesday, October 17, this time featuring The Four Trombones. We’re guessing it’s not the 1950s combo featuring Kai Winding, but it should still be fun if it really does feature four bones. Then it’s Australian roots music guitar prodigy Daniel Champagne at the London Music Club on Thursday, October 18. “He coaxes sounds and melodies out of his instrument that literally drop jaws,” says The Calgary Herald.

It gets even better on the weekend at Aeolian Hall. First, it’s two dates with jazz sweetheart Jill Barber — she of the smoky voice and retro arrangements — first on Friday, October 19, then again Saturday, October 20. Barber’s latest album, Metaphora, dropped in June. Legendary Canadian concert pianist André Laplante is in the next night, Sunday, October 21. Laplante has played all over Canada and around the world with great orchestras, and records prolifically. A rare opportunity to see a master play.

The next Parsons & Poole Legacy Concert goes Friday, October 27, 11 a.m. at the Paul Davenport Theatre in Talbot College. It features award-winning young Canadian concert pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin — who was a student of Laplante’s, and also records on the Quebec-based Analekta label where Laplante has long been a mainstay.

Remember Centennial Hall? It still gets the occasional name act, sometimes great big ones. On Friday, November 2, former Great Big Sea front man Alan Doyle and his band, along with special guest Whitney Rose, are in to play some Newfoundland Celtic rock. They’re also at the Imperial Theatre in Sarnia the next night, part of the summer leg of Doyle’s #ComeOutWithMe tour. Should be a rollicking good time.

The Jeffery Concerts has Quartetto di Cremona at Wolf Performance Hall on Friday, November 9. Founded in Cremona, Italy, the group plays historic instruments, including Stradivari, performs all over the world, records on the Audite label and routinely draws rave reviews. The all-Italian program includes works by Boccherini, Verdi, Puccini and Respighi. jefferyconcerts.com

Best for last? Liona Boyd is at Aeolian Hall on Tuesday, November 13. Boyd, a legendary cross-over figure in the classical world, has played everywhere and everything since her debut in 1975. She used to open for Gordon Lightfoot, and has performed with Chet Atkins, Eric Clapton and Yo Yo Ma, to name a few. Don’t miss an intimate evening with the first lady of guitar.

About the author

Gerry Blackwell

Gerry Blackwell

Gerry Blackwell is a London-based freelance writer.