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Concert Review: The PGSO Presents Lord of the Dance, With Special Guests Out of Alba and the Old Time Fiddlers!

27 Jan

I had the immense pleasure of attending last night’s Lord of the Dance performance, a very special presentation by the Prince George Symphony Orchestra (PGSO), the Old Time Fiddlers and local Celtic group Out of Alba.

Lord of the Dance

Wow!

As a notorious fan of Celtic music and the PGSO, picking up a ticket to this show was an absolute no-brainer for me.  Without introduction, as soon as Conductor Kevin Zakresky strode onto the stage, the Symphony launched into a stunning rendition of beloved English folk tune Greensleeves, the perfect way to begin the evening.  At the conclusion of the piece, Zakresky took the mic and reminded me why, beyond his incredible musical talent, he is a perfect fit to the PGSO as he introduced the next composition.  Prairie Dawn, a piece from Canadian composer Stephen Chatman, promised to pull the audience further into thrall.  It was Zakresky’s charming excitement that did it for me – that, and his advising that the audience pay special attention during “the fast bit” so as not to miss the bird calls played by clarinet and violin.  His enthusiasm was not misplaced, this piece was amazing and the PGSO executed it with the passion and skill they are so known for.  Prairie Dawn was spot on, sounding exactly like the sonic sunrise it promised.  A brilliant addition to the show.

Few PGSO events are complete without the introduction of a special guest musician, or two.  The first of our contributing acts last night was a small group of Old Time Fiddlers.  These were not just any fiddlers, these were young fiddlers and their talent was absolutely outstanding.  In each of their collection of toe-tapping ditties, these musicians shone.  Murmurs of awe erupted all around my seat during their performance and culminated in hand-throbbing applause at its conclusion.

It was in the second half of the show that Out of Alba took the stage.  To begin, they were unaccompanied by the PGSO.  Alan O’Reilly, Jim Sayle, Carolyn Kelly, Jim and Margaret Coyle and Ross Williams – of Prince George metal band Axis Disrupt, a special guest of Out of Alba for the evening.  I am sad to admit that this is the first time I had seen Out of Alba perform, but thrilled to be a new, eager, loyal fan!  These folks are exceptional musicians with a glowing repertoire.  They have been playing together for years and it shows – not only do they complement each other beautifully and seem to play with an almost supernatural connection, they have a lot of fun doing it!  Out of Alba embodies the reason I love Celtic music: it feels like home.  We could just as easily have been sitting in their living room rather than Vanier Hall, last night.

After a short, amazing set, Out of Alba called Zakresky and the PGSO back onto the stage to play with them.  Thanks to Trevor Hoffman, the PGSO had the orchestrations needed to flawlessly accompany Out of Alba in their next set.  Then, just when I thought the evening couldn’t get any better, the Old Time Fiddlers were back on the stage, adding another layer to the performance.  This show was so well received that the evening’s musicians were called back for not one, but two encores.  Wow!

This was one of my favourite PSGO events.  The combination of Prince George Symphony Orchestra and the tunes of the Celts was perfect.  Thank you, so much, PGSO, Out of Alba, Ross Williams and the Old Time Fiddlers – you absolutely made my night!  Please consider a repeat performance.

 Chatman – Prairie Dawn

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Concert Review: Nadina Mackie Jackson and the PGSO

4 Nov

I had the incredible privilege and pleasure of attending last night’s Prince George Symphony Orchestra (PGSO) concert, featuring a homecoming appearance by bassoon Master Nadina Mackie Jackson.

I am a pretty big fan of the PGSO and have attended more than my fair share of exquisite performances.  Each and every time, despite my keen knowledge of their incredible talent and professionalism, these musicians blow me away.  Last night’s event was no exception.

With recently inducted conductor Kevin Zakresky at the helm for his inaugural main stage performance, the PGSO wowed its fans.  We were warmed up with a selection from Handel’s The Water Music, which was brilliantly introduced by Zakresky, who set the stage perfectly with a bit of scandalous Handel history and a lively description of the scene we could have expected had we joined King George I for his concert on the Thames.  Once the King’s barge movement had ended, Zakresky had the fortune of introducing our bassoonist for the evening, the gal with the blue hair, Nadina Mackie Jackson.  With this introduction, my world changed.

Allow me to deviate from the music for a moment.  Before she began playing, Nadina borrowed the mic from Zakresky and humbly thanked the PGSO and her audience for the opportunity to play in her home town again.  She reminded us of the incredible talent housed in Prince George and she, and her prodigious tale of hard work and consequential monstrous personal accomplishments, inspired the heck out of me.

You need only to gaze upon Nadina a moment to know that you’re in for quite a show.  Sporting a shock of Smurf-blue hair, a breathtaking and outstandingly out of the ordinary pair of Canadian-designed gowns and an eye twinkle I could spot from the twenty-first row back, Nadina isn’t exactly what first comes to mind when you think of symphony soloist.  As soon as she puts lip to reed though, all preconceptions ebb.  Nadina Mackie Jackson is a testament not only to Prince George, British Columbia, Canada or the world, she is a testament to the spirit and soul of music.  Through her Grand Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra (Hummel) and Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra in C minor RV 480 (Vivaldi), Nadina so clearly demonstrates the beautiful, joyful passion with which she plays.  I know technical musicians and I know musical musicians; Nadina Mackie Jackson is a perfect marriage between a keen technical understanding and a truly musical, creative and artistic soul.

To conclude this show, Nadina bowed gracefully and allowed the PGSO the opportunity to continue to do what it does best.  Zakresky made a final introduction, just as lively as the last, nudging his audience into a parlour filled with Viennese aristocrats, before luring his symphony into Mozart’s Symphony #29 in A major.  Spell-binding.  The Prince George audience was held in thrall until allowed to burst into applause to show amazed appreciation for the evening’s spectacle.

To see Nadina Mackie Jackson accompanied by our remarkable PGSO was a special treat.  Thank you, and congratulations, to the PGSO, Kevin Zakresky and Nadina Mackie Jackson for the outstanding evening and for continuing to entertain and inspire through the art of music.

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Concert Review: John Mellencamp in Prince George, BC

18 Jun

Oh Prince George, you have outdone yourself once again!

I was fortunate enough to take in the John(ny Cougar) Mellencamp show in Prince George’s CN Centre this evening!

What a show!

It began with the Cowboy Junkies.  Now I was privy to the thoughts of the people around me who quoted the opening act as boring and just plain not all that great.  I completely disagree. The band may not have brought the upbeat danceable melodies Mellencamp was sure to carry, but they were outstanding!  Cowboy Junkies did not disappoint as a countrified blues rock band – I foresee buying in to their sound and predict a few summer nights around the campfire with Cowboy Junkies providing some pretty fabulous background tuneage.

And then there was John Mellencamp.

When the tickets to this show went on sale a few months back, I was stoked!  I grew up listening to classic rock and I married into a huge (new) appreciation of (and undying affection for) blues rock.  Mellencamp was no stranger to my dancing around the living room days (which are actually still pretty alive and well) – seeing him (and his amazing band) live and in concert was amazing!  His brand of “heartland rock” (a musical inclination which “emphasizes traditional instrumentation” (Wikipedia)) caters to my love of blues rock, folk music and the addition of traditionally not-rock instruments in a purely rock environment.  It’s stunningly musical – a testament to the art.

I’m serious folks, anyone who can rock (the fuck) out with a double bass, fiddle and accordion deserves nothing but my utmost respect.

From the acoustic version of Jack and Diane to the rocking house-party atmosphere of the Cherry Bomb finale – Mr. Cougar asked that the house lights be turned on for this number so that we could very easily rock with him – this will go down as one of my favourite concerts.  Of all time!  Our fair city has been mocked for its “rock retirement tour” events.  Again, I disagree.  Mellencamp, like KISS before him and Sir Elton John before them, proved that he can still rock as hard as ever and time has only refined his skills.

Rock on Prince George!  Thank you, Cowboy Junkies and John Mellencamp, for the amazing show.  And thank you, Prince George and all of your fantastic concert supporters and organizers, for being juggernauts of win!  You are so much fun to party with!

John Mellencamp – Hurt So Good

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KISS in Prince George! Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven.

1 Jul

I wanted the best and I got the best!

THE Hottest Band in the World. . . .

KISS!

That’s right folks, I was lucky enough to experience my Holy Grail of rock concerts again on Friday night!  When mephy and I saw the fellahs in Vancouver in the Fall of ’09 I thought I had died and gone to Rock ‘N’ Roll Heaven – I had never expected to see KISS in concert.

I had certainly never expected to see KISS in concert in Our Northern Capital.

There were those who said it wasn’t going to be any good, that Prince George’s CN Centre wouldn’t be able to handle a show of epic proportions, that the sound would be terrible, and there were those who said that Gene and Paul were skipping out and sending a cover band in their stead.

Well?

Not surprisingly, they were wrong.  The show was outstanding!  KISS brought their A-game and treated the small(ish) Canadian city like they would any other venue.  Of course, the Prince George audience WOWed the band.  We always do.  We don’t always get to see the musical elite; when we do, we’re very thankful, very appreciative and very excited!

The show was intimate.  It was comfortable.  It was like a house-party (with 4998 of my closest personal friends in attendance).  Well, it was like a house-party if you have confetti cannons, flame-throwers, fireworks and invite a blood-spewing creature of the night who wears seven-inch leather heels.  The Starchild touched on this when he mentioned that the farther North the band goes, the shorter the buildings get and the more sky you can see, the more comfortable the experience.  It’s like playing for friends and family.  Again I say, Prince George really appreciates a good show and we’re very welcoming.

In fact.  We’re so welcoming that we encouraged Mr. PG to get into the action!

Before:

KISSified!

What I’m trying to say is: KISS is freaking amazing and the show they put on in Prince George did not disappoint!  So.  To the outstandingly talented and gracious men of KISS – thank you.  We appreciated the visit and hope we made you feel at home during your visit.  We’d love to have you again – give us a call any time!  And to the phenoms of 94X – thank you for keeping the enthusiasm up, for being so stoked about the show and for being completely unafraid of calling BS on the naysayers.  Rock radio rules!  Perhaps most importantly, to my fellow concert attendees – thank you for rocking hardYou made the show.

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KISS – God of Thunder (Country Version)

Before I sign off, I’m going to share something with you.  Those of you connected with me via Facebook are very familiar with this now, but to the rest of you I present The Twenty Days of KISS!  (From June 9th until the 29th I edited KISS song lyrics to fit my Facebook status.  It was a blast and I feel it should be shared!)

vyxen…

…is hot. She has rock ‘n’ roll pneumonia. If someone could please call Dr. Love that would be great. (Calling Dr. Love)

…will let you walk the street beside her, but when she wants she’ll pass you by. (Strutter)

…likes your seven inch leather heels and going to all of the shows. And yes, she loves you. She really loves you. (Do You Love Me?)

…thinks she’s high fashion. She thinks she looks divine. (It helps that that’s what you keep telling her. You tell her all the time.) (Two Timer)

…says “go baby, you make me feel ah, ah, ah, ah yeah! Oh, baby, you make me feel ah, ah, ah, ah yeah!” (Take Me)

…wants the same thing every day. Teach her love a different way. She’ll learn to love you and your sweet pain. (Though she’s sure your love will drive her insane.) (Sweet Pain)

…has been waiting here to be your guide. So come, reveal the secrets that you keep inside. (Psycho Circus)

…is hot, hot, hotter than hell. You know she’s gonna leave you well done. Hot, hot, hotter than hell. She’ll burn you like the midday sun. (Hotter Than Hell)

…will adore you and she’ll floor you with her wisdom and her vision, and you’ll love it and think of it ‘til you lose all intuition. (Firehouse)

…is feelin’ low, no place to go, and she’s a-thinking that she’s gonna scream! (Room Service)

…has got to get up! Everybody’s gonna move their feet. Get down! Everybody’s gonna leave their seat! You gotta lose your mind in Prince George Rock City! (Detroit Rock City)

…looks at you and her blood boils hot, she feels her temperature rise. She wants it all, give her what you got, there’s hunger in your eyes. (Heaven’s On Fire)

…will take you anywhere you want just as fast as she can. (Let Me Know)

…has been broken down, but not defeated. She kept on punching back ‘til she succeeded. (We all need to be somebody, now.) (Raise Your Glasses)

…will always be there trying to grab a hold. She thought she knew you, but she didn’t know that you were sad and wanted her to go. (Parasite)

…doesn’t want to wait ‘til you know her better. Let’s just be glad for the time together. Life’s such a treat and it’s time you taste it, there ain’t a reason on earth to waste it. It ain’t a crime to be good to yourself. (Lick It Up)

…is a dancer, a romancer. You’re a Capricorn and she’s a Cancer. She saw your picture in a music magazine; when she met you, she said she’d get you. (C’mon and Love Me)

…is sorry to have taken so long. It must have been a bitch while she was gone. You mind if she sits down for a while? You’ll reacquaint yourself with her style. (100,000 Years)

…won’t let ‘em tell her that there’s too much noise, they’re too old to really understand! She’ll still get rowdy with the girls and boys, ‘cause it’s time for her to take a stand . . . and SHOUT IT OUT LOUD! (Shout It Out Loud)

…wants to give it all to you. In the darkness there’s so much she wants to do and to(morrow) night she wants to lay it at your feet ‘cause boy, she was made for lovin’ you and boy, you were made for lovin’ her. (I Was Made For Loving You)

…wanted the best and she got the best! THE hottest band in the world . . . KISS!

Prince George Roller Derby: The Rated PG Roller Girls!

15 Mar

What do you get when you take a group of even-tempered well-mannered ladies, slip them into fishnet stockings, booty shorts, roller skates, fall protection and let them choose names for themselves like Cruely Sue, Malice May, Sistah Viberosis, Mutt Diver, Portia De Saucy or Mortu Mary?

(Flat Track) Roller Derby.

(Image © Richard Krueger.  Used with permission.)

The game is played on an oval circuit track.  Two teams send five members each onto the track for the jam (a two-minute shift during which points are scored).  The two players at the front of the pack are the “pivots” (they sport stripes on their helmets) and set the pace for the pack.  The next six members are the “blockers” and provide defence for their team.  It is the job of the blocker to do everything (legal) in her power not to allow the “jammer” to pass her.  The jammers are the final two players in the pack (who wear stars on their helmets) and are the designated point scorers.  The “first jammer to legally pass all pivots and blockers once the jam begins wins the status of lead jammer for the remainder of the jam. The lead jammer can decide to end the jam at any time before the 2 minutes are up. She does this by placing her hands on her hips repeatedly, which signals the referee to officially call off the jam” (Wikipedia).  The goal of the pivots and blockers is to prevent opposing jammers to pass them and to create opportunities for their jammers to attain lead jammer status.

More succinctly:

My roller derby cherry was popped on Saturday, March 12th.  (This is not to say that I participated in any way other than cheering – I’m a sidelines kind of gal.)  Our Rated PG Roller Girls hosted the Red Deer Belladonnas in a battle royal at the Prince George Roll-A-Dome.  Though our girls did not come out victorious over the opposition, the night was not a loss.  At all.  The two teams played their hearts out, bashing each other left, right and (dead) centre.  The Belladonnas brought their A-game and took home the well-deserved win.  PG’s belles of the track were gracious (well, as gracious as you can be when you hip check someone out of bounds, of course) and encouraged frenzied cheering for the success of their opposition.

Roller derby has struck me in almost exactly the same way that burlesque struck me (this time) last year.  The crowd was there, buzzingly excited to cheer on their favourite girls.  The ladies were there, decked out in hot-pants and fishnets.  Size doesn’t matter at derby.  Shape doesn’t matter.   And the after-party was hosted by GALA North.  It’s all about acceptance . . . and really chic violence.  Come out, have a great time, and leave bullshit social constraints at the door.  I can dig that.

Roller derby.  An amazing time!  The Rated PG Roller Girls.  Amazing women!  I am thrilled to have been able to attend Saturday’s bout and will be there on April 9th!  See you folks there!

Trooper – Raise a Little Hell

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Out hob-knobbin’!

16 Oct

I signed myself up for a few extra hours of work, last night.  Don’t despair, I am not that dedicated to peddling books.  I worked a few hours because The Boss asked that I cover the desk for an author event he thought I might be interested in.  Turns out?  He was right.

Fantasy author Nathalie Mallet and Sci-Fi ink slinger Lynda Williams hosted their Sci-Fi/Fantasy creativity evening at Café V (where they make a mean London Fog, lemme tell you).  I admit, having virtually no knowledge of the population of writers, let alone genre writers, in the area, I was heartily impressed by the turn out.  I am very interested to see what each of these players brings to the table.

It may not be a writing group, so to speak, but I’m hoping this meeting of the minds will help me slay the dread dragon Procrastination and, perhaps, be a key to getting to know some fab new people who seem to dig their craft.  If nothing else, it’s an opportunity to get out of the house and sink into creativity.

Apocalyptica (Featuring Linda Sundblad) – Faraway Vol. 2

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