A trio of West Coast musical acts are coming together to wish Canada a happy 150th birthday.
Classically trained tenor Ken Lavigne, Yukon singer-songwriter Diyet and folk singers Tiller’s Folly have combed through the Canadian catalogue of the ’60s and ‘70s to show off the work of some of this country’s most renowned songwriters.
“We really wanted to put together a concert that celebrated Canadian songs drawing from a time when we feel that Canadian songwriters really came into their own,” Lavigne said, listing artists like Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Buffy Sainte-Marie.
“When we were looking at what we wanted to work towards for Canada’s 150th, it just seemed like the timing was right. And for me, I’m a classical singer so I’ve been humming these songs for a long time but I never really had an excuse to sink my teeth into them properly, so this has been awesome for me.”
The The Great Canadian Songbook November tour is taking the musicians across Vancouver Island and onto the mainland, and includes dates in Ontario. The show comes to Nanaimo’s Port Theatre on Wednesday, Nov. 8.
As he was researching music to include in the show, Lavigne said he was rediscovering some songs that he’s listened to only once or twice before. He said drew inspiration from other singers’ cover of Canadian classics.
“I really enjoyed listening other singers and other performers sort of reinvent some of these songs. Of course one the most famous would be k.d. lang’s interpretation of Hallelujah, which sort of really brought that back to mass audience appeal because of her incredible voice and what she brought to it,” he said.
“For me I have to sort of dial back the whole classical side because that wouldn’t fit so I’m exploring a new aspect and colour in my voice.”
Lavigne said it was a challenge making song selections, adding that some songwriters like Gordon Lightfoot are so prolific that the Canadian Songbook band may perform medley to fit more songs.
“We tried to be diplomatic and democratic about our choices. We each have our favourites … but there is so much great music to choose from. It is really, really difficult to say, ‘OK, well these are the ones that represent, in our view, the pinnacle of the great Canadian songbook,’” he said.
“I think that this is just like a thumbnail sketch of some of the great songs.”
WHAT’S ON…The Great Canadian Songbook featuring Ken Lavigne, Tiller’s Folly and Diyet is coming to the Port Theatre on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices vary. Visit porttheatre.com for details.