We begin this column with some sadness as we report that Mitch Podolak, the creator of so many folk/roots institutions in Manitoba and across Canada, died August 25. He left a tremendous legacy to everyone who listens to music in every format, but most especially to those among us who love live music, especially when it is played acoustically in a group.
Mitch was a colourful character. An avowed communist and general rabble-rouser, he was larger than life when he spoke and he loved to push the buttons of “the establishment” with some of his pronouncements, but to those who knew him he was so supportive and kind. He had ideas. Man, did he have ideas – and he shared them so generously. That’s how the Winnipeg Folk Festival, the Edmonton Folk Festival, the Vancouver Folk Festival, the Winnipeg Children’s Festival, the West End Cultural Centre and the Stan Rogers Folk Festival in Canso, NS came into being, Mitch had vision.
A major aspect of his work is Home Routes/Chemin Chez Nous, the cross-Canada series of house concerts of which Flin Flon is a major beneficiary. This series is entering its 11th season in Flin Flon and we are still the only place in the whole country with two nights of performances for each of the six acts that will make up the Home Routes tour in 2019-20. The season begins Oct. 20-21 with traditional French-Canadian chansonnier Guillaume Jabbour and Bill Gossage. On Nov. 14-15 we will see Jay Aymer, a singer-songwriter originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. Jan. 31 - Feb. 1 will see Rugged Little Thing, a duo who now make Saskatoon their home base, come here to play some old-timey and bluegrass stylings. For Feb. 29 (it’s a leap year!) and March 1, Ben and Anita, a duo from Cape Breton, will play traditional Scottish music on Lowland small pipes and fiddle; March 29 and 31 has James Gordon, a singer-songwriter from Guelph, Ont. gracing our homes and April 28-29, the incredible Annie Lou, from Toronto by way of Yukon. She plays new music, old-style - you gotta hear her to believe her.
Coming right up in our little city is a performance of classical piano brought to us by “Living Room Live” home concert tours. Though Mitch did not create this particular iteration, they must nod in his direction for their inspiration. Benjamin Bertin will play Tchaikovsky, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Medtner and Bach’s Fourth Partita for us on the Steinway in the R.H. Channing Auditorium on Sept. 15. The audience seating will be arranged on the stage, surrounding the piano. It’s the next best thing to a house concert and has the added bonus of a truly great piano. Tickets are $20 at the ramp door. Doors open at 7 p.m., music starts at 7:30 p.m. There will be two other concerts in this series in 2020.
On January 9, Gregory Lewis on violin and Paul Williamson on piano will be here and later. In May or June, soprano Sarah Jo Kirsch and pianist Madeleine Hildebrandt will perform in the same format. It’s a banner season for house concerts. Rest easy, Mitch - though you are gone too soon.
The NorVA Centre is still accepting works of art for the Square Foot Auction, registration for this event is open until Sept. 22. Those hidden artists in our region should take this opportunity to show their work in a more casual atmosphere and discover how much fun it is to meet and share with other artists. The actual show, which often has more than 100 pieces up for auction, will be mounted before Culture Days iIt’s baaa-ack!) and the Auction will be October 20 at the Gallery.