As the first storm of the winter months blanked the streets of the capital with a fine layer of ice, Ottawa’s downtown radiated with the warmth of Canada’s folk finest; as the city played host to the 2017 Canadian Folk Music Awards.
Hosted by Quebecois musician and dancer, Benoit Bourque, and Newfoundland singer and arranger, Jean Hewson, the gala was held Saturday and Sunday at the city’s Bronson Centre.
Saturday night’s gala kicked off with a spirited performance from electro-Quebecois ensemble, MAZ, and the awards for Children’s Album of the Year and Contemporary Singer of the Year presented to Fred Penner and Stephen Fearing respectively. Ottawa-based Twin Flames gave a spirited performance moments before accepting the award for Aboriginal Songwriters of the Year.
The award World Group of the Year would go to performers, Kobo Town; who excited the audience with their Caribbean blend of calypso, ska and reggae. Fellow World Group nominees, Beyond the Pale, brought their jaunty blend of klezmer and roots folk to the receptive Ottawa crowd, while the soulful Beyries brought an emotional set.
Danny Michel, back from his adventures in the high Arctic recording his latest album, Khlebnikov, was the big winner of the night; taking home both Producer of the Year (alongside Rob Carli), and the Oliver Schroer Pushing the Boundaries Award. He capped off the night with a fun solo performance.
Also honoured Saturday night was Gerry Strong of the seminal band, Tickle Harbour. Awarded the Unsung Hero Award, Strong was recognized for his efforts in mentoring musicians and supporting countless folk music series in and around his home in Freshwater-Carbonear, Newfoundland.
Sunday night’s gala belonged to the young up-and-coming stars of the folk community. Featuring performances by Edmonton’s Braden Gates, Traditional Album of the Year winners, Cassie and Maggie and Vocal Group of the Year winners, Coco Méliès, the mood was jubilant and the crowd was welcoming. The award for Young Performer of the Year went to Toronto’s Moscow Apartment, while New/Emerging Artist of the Year went to London’s Ken Yates.
Additional performances during Sunday’s gala included Cape Breton duo, Scott MacMillan and Colin Grant, (who also took home the award for Instrumental Group of the Year), a duet featuring hosts Benoit Bourque and Jean Hewson, and singer-songwriter, Oh Susanna. Stephen Fearing closed out the night with a short set featuring songs from his latest, Every Soul’s a Sailor.
Capping of each night was the National Strum, featuring all-encompassing sing-a-long involving both the audience and several nominees on video singing and strumming along to “Time Wanders On,” by Bella Hardy and Cara Luft.
The 2018 Canadian Folk Music Awards are scheduled to be handed in out Calgary.
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Born and raised with thoughts and aspirations of becoming a famous bassist in Sarnia, ON; Emily Plunkett now lives in Gatineau, QC, and considers National Capital Region home sweet home. A product of the Beatles, MuchMusic and the Southwestern Ontario summer festival circuit (circa 2000), her interest and love in concert photography came almost completely by accident when her journalism program at Algonquin College required courses in photojournalism (and she quickly realized that photos taken at concerts using a DSLR are enormously better than ones she was taking on a point-and-shoot she bought for a trip to England). She is extremely proud of the fact she has seen Sloan in some form or another 25 times.