Published in the Mountainview
The Knights of Columbus Hall on Merchants' Row in Middlebury filled on Saturday evening, February 8. People came from all over
to hear Canadian folk-singer
Connie Kaldor play as part of the After Dark Music Series. Kaldor, from Addison County Regina, Saskatchewan, is
an accomplished musician who has won, among other awards, the Juno Award, which
equivalent of the U.S. Grammy Award.
Kaldor and her bassist, Bill Gossage of
Montreal, were a bit stiff during the opening
few numbers, but loosened up before too long. A fast stress-filled narrative
about all sorts of things needing doing in this life led into a song called
"Relax," advice Kaldor could have taken at the outset. Her ad-libs
and song introductions seemed rehearsed and at times forced, until just before
She played keyboard, guitar, and sang a capella at different times, and Gossage provided backup vocals. As the two became more comfortable on the small stage in the silent room, Kaldor's "dry crop-failure" sense of humor opened up. Explaining that the broad, open Canadian prairie is very different from
Vermont's rolling hills
and forests, she contradicted herself and suggested that Vermonters might
appreciate the advice prairie-dwellers give each other: "The three main
routes out of Saskatchewan
are marriage, crop failure, and the arts."
Despite Kaldor's escape, she returns often and draws her inspiration from the people and the places of the
Saskatchewan landscape. She sang an old
Canadian favorite, "Saskatoon Moon," but had to teach it to the
Vermonter audience first, leading to come confusion on the part of the
audience. The audience did well, though, and Kaldor seemed pleased.
Her lyrics were indicative of the difficult landscape in which she was raised: "Mother's Prayer" was a touching song about how mothers view the world and their hopes for their children's future and safety. "For the First Time, I Don't Care" was a paradoxically-named love song drawn from a musical Kaldor wrote last summer.
Her musical range was impressive; not just the notes which she could reach - very high and very low - but moving from ballads to hymns, from blues and soul to country style songs. Gossage kept up ably, and played fiddle as well as appropriate. Kaldor's musical experience is broad: she taught songwriting at an arts school in northern
Saskatchewan, as well as writing musicals,
operas, songs, and performing on multiple instruments.
Her songs come from the heart and from the desperation of the lonely and the hardworking poor. "Coyote's Call" expressed a feeling many Vermonters have: "at least there's a roof overhead and the kids got a yard" to play in. She mixed a "cheap, trashy, and tasteless" song together with a wrenching song about a recently-deceased lifelong friend. The eclectic mix worked for her as it would for few others; she showcased her talent and held the mood and attention of the audience throughout the evening. Her long stories leading into songs gave a sense of perspective and an insight into Kaldor as an artist and a songwriter; the audience was able to understand some of what life is like on the prairie.
The universality of her songs is no doubt what has won her such acclaim in
it guaranteed her success in Middlebury as well. The prairie and its
inhabitants have as strong a sense of place, community and tradition as
Vermonters do; the trials of human existence come through in her songs with a
clarity and simplicity rare in even folk music today.
The After Dark Music Series brings prominent folk-influenced musicians to Middlebury each month during the winter. It is sponsored by many local businesses, including Otter Creek Brewing, the Middlebury Inn, and Main Street Stationery. The next performance will be by Lucy Kaplansky and Greg Greenway on Saturday, March 8, at 8 pm at the Knights of Columbus Hall. Doors open at 7 pm. Tickets ($13 in advance, $15 at the door) are expected to sell out, but are currently available at the Middlebury Inn or Main Street Stationery. Kaplansky and Greenway are sharing the show; they are not a duo, but will perform separately throughout the evening. Both are excellent musicians with national reputations; it, too, should be an excellent show!