Three renowned West Coast folk singers from three different islands in the Strait of Georgia are coming together to tell some stories and sing some songs.
Gabriola Island’s Gary Fjellgaard, Pender Island resident Lester Quitzau and Shari Ulrich of Bowen Island are all performing at this year’s Gabriola Cultivate Festival, and on Sept. 1 they will share a common stage for Songs in the Round.
Ulrich, who released her latest record Back to Shore earlier this summer and performs with her bandmate/co-producer/daughter Julia Graff the preceding night, is the common denominator. She’s played with Fjellgaard and Quitzau in the past, but she said this is the first time all three will onstage together. She said musicians enjoy playing in new combinations.
“We love that because there are things that happen that wouldn’t happen otherwise when you’re just onstage by yourself or with your usual players,” Ulrich said. “And I think the trading of stories is always really entertaining and I know a lot of people who feel like their favourite part is when people are sharing a stage who haven’t before. It’s always unique.”
Fjellgaard said he’s looking forward to the show, noting that he’s played with Shari several times over the years and has heard “great things” about Quitzau. He expects a pretty informal performance.
“We just swap songs back and forth, describe a bit about how the song came about and then perform it. So it’s a pretty simple format…” he said. “It’s just a wonderful thing to share your songs, which are so different. There are three different writers up there and the writing is so wide. It’s neat to share those songs with each other.”
Quitzau, who later that evening will perform with his drummer Damian Graham, said joint workshop-style shows are unique to Canadian festivals.
“We just did a whole bunch of festivals and it’s really only in Canadian festivals where they put musicians together with a theme and just let them work it out and see what happens,” he said.
Quitzau is comfortable going into uncertain musical situations. He and Graham’s performances are improvisational and he said they have barely rehearsed in the four years they’ve played together.
“The first gig we ran over a few things just to get some feels, but he needs like half a second to pick up on what I’m doing and he’s just on it. It’s just amazing,” he said. “You might see it as telepathic or something but really it’s just listening to the music and knowing and trusting where it’s going.”
Ulrich said she shares that sense of trust with Fjellgaard and Quitzau and while she’s not sure how the show will turn out, that’s the beauty of it.
“I like them both and I trust them both, but as far as how it will actually fit, that’s the thing that we love about the mystery of it is we don’t know until we’re there and making it fit,” she said.
WHAT’S ON … Songs in the Round takes place at the Cultivate Festival Garden Mainstage, 675 North Rd., on Sept. 1 at 2:30 p.m. They also perform individually; Shari Ulrich on Aug. 31 at 7 p.m., Gary Fjellgaard on Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. and Lester Quitzau on Sept. 1 at 8:15 p.m. Ticket options available online.