The Arts

I Feel it Coming: Upcoming Highlights on the Music Scene

Gerry Blackwell
Written by Gerry Blackwell

Spring is in the air! Okay, maybe we’re still buried in snow and icy winds still blow, but the end is definitely in sight. It will get lighter, and milder. It will. In the meantime, we have music to warm us.

Jeff Healey called him “the finest blues guitarist in Canada.” Bob Dylan said he’d be famous if he hailed from Chicago. They were talking about Jack de Keyzer. London Music Club has the Jack de Keyzer Duo on Thursday, March 21 (7:30 pm/8:30 pm). The man has two Junos, seven Maple Blues Awards and a 2018 album, CheckMate, to showcase. De Keyzer needs to be heard, you need to hear him.

Speaking of Junos, the Cana­dian music industry’s 2019 Juno Awards show is coming to Budweiser Gardens, March 17 (8 pm). CBC will televise it live, but you can be there. Sarah McLachlan hosts and scheduled performers include Loud Luxury and 2019 Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Corey Hart. There will be others.

TD Sunfest is bringing Rosie & The Riveters to the Cuckoo’s Nest Folk Club, aka Chaucer’s Pub, on Wednesday, March 20 (7:30 pm). The trio’s 2018 album, Ms. Behave, rode the U.S. Top Ten folk music charts for 17 weeks. Billboard called it “powerful and daring.” It’s music for the #MeToo era — “a collection of gritty, sultry, vintage-inspired folk anthems that paint a portrait of a woman’s voice in a man’s world.” 

Western Music’s lunchtime “Fridays 12:30” concert series winds up its season with Light of East Ensemble. The London-based septet plays von Kuster Hall (Music Building) on Friday, March 22 (12:30 pm). LoEE plays music of the Near and Middle East — Armenian, Greek, Sephardic, Arabic. Intrigued? Check out their latest album, Live at Aeolian Hall, at goo.gl/DD2yiN. 

Come for the concert, (12:00-12:30 pm), and stay for lunch ($8). Upcoming Friday Lenten Noon Recitals And Lunch at First-St. Andrew’s United Church: Alastair Smyth, Baritone on March 22. Laudamus Bells, Terry Head, Director on March 29. Lynda Kennedy and Terry Head Piano Duo on April 5. Admission is by free will donation.

Sticking with world music, Sunfest is bringing Canadian flamenco-etcetera guitarist and composer Jesse Cook to Aeolian Hall on Friday, March 22 (7 pm/8 pm). Juno-winner Cook, born and partly raised in France, studied both flamenco and classical guitar. His music builds on those and other traditions, including jazz and Latin. If you love guitar, check him out (goo.gl/KFH9e7). He’s a master. (If you can’t make the London date, Cook is playing Brantford’s Sanderson Centre on Tuesday, March 19, 8 pm.)

The last time multi-Juno-winning singer-songwriter Bahamas (Afie Jurvanen) came to town, his shows sold out quickly. London Music Hall has the popular troubadour, along with opener Ben Rogers, on Tuesday, March 26 (7 pm/8 pm). My guess: if you like Bahamas, you’ll like Rogers. The latter is a little more traditional Americana, but with similarly catchy, intelligent songs. Bahamas is touring his 2018 album, Earthtones. Rogers’ latest, Wildfire, drops in March. 

Hometown sweetheart Denise Pelley appears with The Ken Foster Quartet, part of the free Jazz for the People concert series at Wolf Performance Hall (Central Library). It goes Wednesday, March 27 (7:15 pm–8:45 pm). For more free concerts: goo.gl/F5ePKS. Did we mention they’re free?

London Symphonia, the reincarnation of Orchestra London, offers an intriguing program on Tuesday, April 2 at the Talbot Street Church (7:30 pm). Percussion soloist Beverley Johnston — vibraphone and cloud gongs! — joins the orchestra’s strings for Greek-Canadian composer Christos Hatzi’s piece, Mirage. Rounding out the program, concert master Joseph Lanza takes a solo turn on some much more familiar music by Vivaldi. (For more LS concerts: goo.gl/LEFZMA.) 

Jazz fans take note. There’s a new band in town — well, sort of new. The London Jazz Sextet, formed with members of London’s Prime Time Big Band, debuts at London Music Club on Thursday, April 4 (7 pm/8 pm). Expect the classics — Davis, Coltrane, Adderly, Monk, etc. — but in fresh new arrangements by the band.

The Jeffery Concerts, the long-running chamber music series, presents one of London’s own musical treasures. World-renowned violist Sharon Wei appears in “Sharon Wei & Friends” at Wolf Performance Hall, Friday, April 5 (8 pm). Wei, who has worked with great orchestras and conductors, is a professor at Western’s music school. The program includes music by Hummel, Mendelsshon and lesser known early-Romantic composer Bernhard Heinrich Romberg. (For more Jeffery concerts: goo.gl/ct9Hst.)

Canadian blues guitar mainstay Colin James comes to the Bud on Monday, April 8 (7:30 pm). James has been on a roll lately with two well-received and best-selling albums, 2016’s Blue Highways and 2018’s Miles To Go. Both spent time on roots/blues charts in Canada and the U.S. James has been at it a long time. Now, it seems, he’s an overnight sensation. 

The international success of her 2014 album, Compostela, took singer-songwriter Jenn Grant around the world. She’s back home now, touring with music from her 2017 follow-up, Paradise. Grant is at Aeolian Hall, Thursday, April 11 (7 pm/8 pm). Sometime collaborator Buck 65 (aka CBC Radio 2 DJ Rich Terfry) called her “one of the best singers in the world.” True? Come and find out. (If you miss her at Aeolian, Grant plays Dominion Telegraph in Paris on Thursday, April 18, 7 pm.)

I’ve asked the question before: how does little Brantford get premier acts that never make it to London? Brantford’s Sanderson Centre has jazz star Sonja Gustafson with the Jim Clayton Quartet on Monday, April 15 (8 pm). Two nights later, same time, it’s pop music legend Chubby Checker. The guy must be about 100, but apparently still twists the night away. Brantford is only an hour away.

American alt-rocker Neko Case, once and still occasionally lead singer of Canada’s New Pornographers, hits London Music Hall on Sunday, April 21 (7 pm). Case is touring her solo Hell-On album, released last year to strong reviews. It was recorded in Stockholm, Sweden. (We’re not sure why either.) Edgy, vaguely punk aesthetic.

The Grand Theatre closes out its season with a revival of Mamma Mia!, the hit movie with soundtrack by Abba that found new life as a stage musical. Harmless, slightly sappy fun, catchy tunes.

The Magisterra at the Museum chamber music series finishes up on Thursday, May 2 (7 pm) at Museum London with “Eight.” The concert features members of the London-based collective founded and directed by German-born violinist Annette-Barbara Vogel. It features octets and sextets by Brahms and Brahms protégé Ferdinand Theriot, and a new commissioned work by local composer Edgar Suski.

Never heard of Swingrowers (pronounced swing growers)? Me neither. But if the folks at TD Sunfest think they’re worth bringing to Aeolian Hall — which they are, on Saturday, May 4 (7 pm/8 pm) — then I’m willing to listen. The vocal quartet, based in Palermo, Italy and Brighton, England, “blends the freshness of electronic dance music with the warm influences of 1920s and ’30’s era jazz to create a unique vintage-inspired pop sound.” Okay. Preview here: swingrowers.com. They are kind of fun.

Wait, is that summer I see peaking over the horizon?   

About the author

Gerry Blackwell

Gerry Blackwell

Gerry Blackwell is a London-based freelance writer.