The Registry Theatre’s fourth annual Roots Weekend on March 17 and 18 has a Celtic theme in keeping with St. Patrick’s Day. The weekend’s musical festivities boast a Celtic concert, debut concert featuring Lennie Gallant and a pair of workshops.
Gallant is a common name on Prince Edward Island, but the musical prowess of Lennie Gallant is unmistakeable. The award-winning singer/songwriter has not performed in Kitchener or Waterloo for many years. No wonder his Folk Night at the Registry/Registry Theatre debut has been sold out for months — not to mention a long, anxious waiting list.
Hard to believe it’s been a quarter century since I last talked to Gallant. I conducted the off-camera interview when he appeared on Listen Up, a 39-part television show on Canadian singer/songwriters that first aired over three seasons on VisionTV.
At the time Gallant had released three of his 11 albums (nine predominantly in English and two in French) that draw on his Celtic and Acadian roots. Born and raised in the Acadian village of Rustico, Gallant’s music reflects a blue-collar aesthetic with a strong sense of community. In this regard, he writes out of a working-class Maritime tradition that encompasses poets Milton Acorn and Alden Nowlan and songwriters Ron Hynes and Dave Gunning.
Discussing his fine ballad Peter’s Dream, Gallant agreed he wrote about the trials of working class people ‘from the inside.’ Before he found success as a recording artist, he had worked on farms and on boats; he was a housepainter, a truck driver and a stevedore.
Before performing Which Way Does the River Run, he acknowledged that, while many working people maintain a spiritual connection with the land and the sea, few are able to articulate that connectedness. ‘It’s the job of the songwriter to give voice to that sacred connection.’
Gallant has won a host of awards and nominations encompassing Junos, East Coast Music awards, Les Prix Eloizes and a 2015 Canadian Folk Music Award for Live Acoustic at The Carleton. More than 30 artists have recorded his songs, which have appeared in feature films, television series and theatrical productions. Gallant recently completed the 3rd season of his multimedia hit musical Searching for Abegweit: The Island Songs & Stories of Lennie Gallant.
A recipient of the Order of Canada, Gallant has represented Canada at songwriter events in Nashville, London and Texas, entertained Canadian troops in Kandahar, performed at Canada Day events in Washington and London and at the Winter Olympics.
He is a gifted songwriter with a strong tenor voice. In addition to guitar, he plays harmonica and bodhran.
Lennie Gallant in Concert
8 pm March 18
Ireland’s patron saint is celebrated Friday with The Real St. Patrick’s Day, featuring The Celts, a folk ensemble anchored by Nonie Thompson.
Thompson is a contemporary singer/songwriter equally at home in the folk, acoustic blues and Celtic traditions. She performs solo, as a duo with longtime collaborator Eugene Rea and in band settings. She also fronts varied acoustic ensembles, usually with the same musicians playing music from different traditions.
The configuration known as The Celts features acclaimed Canadian folk fiddler Anne Lederman, Paul Gribbon (uillean pipes/low whistles), Tom Leighton (accordion/keyboards) and Rea (guitar/penny whistle/banjo/bouzouki/mandolin/vocals), in addition to Thompson (vocals/guitar/harmonica). Internationally renown Highland dancer Daniel Carr is a special guest.
Thompson returns to the Registry with a musical bag brimming with traditional songs, blazing instrumentals and spirited dance against a backdrop of more than 400 beautiful images of Ireland.
THE REAL ST. PATRICK with The Celts
8 pm March 17
Tickets ($20 advance/$25 at the door) available via folknight.ca and at Centre In The Square.
Saturday Roots Weekend Music Workshops
Anne Lederman – 10 am
Irish-Canadian fiddle music workshop
Irish music has been a part of the Canadian tradition since the first Irish immigrants stepped off the boat in Newfoundland in the early 1600s. From the Maritimes, through Quebec, Ontario and into the west, the jigs, hornpipes and reels found a home here in lumber camps, kitchens and dance halls. These old Canadian favourites may surprise you, appearing under different names and in different disguises. We will start in Newfoundland and work our way westwards, learning tunes as we go, and seeing them morph into others. Celebrate St. Patrick’s with a bit of the Irish-Canadian fiddle tradition. For intermediate players, but beginners are welcome to come, listen and play grooves with us.
Tom Leighton – 1 pm
Sing along with Tom Leighton who will provide his own chorale arrangements for some Canadian folk songs that will quickly get everyone singing together and in harmony. No choir or music reading experience is necessary, though it helps to move things along easier. Learn some vocal techniques and exercises along the way, but not at the expense of fun.
Workshop Tickets: www.folknight.ca – 519-578-1570 – www.registrytheatre.com
Watch Lennie performing Peter’s Dream, posted on YouTube in the fall of 2014