Sunday, December 15, 2013

'Tis the Season

Christmas is one of the busiest times to be a musician.

It is an endless string of concerts, rehearsals, gigs, and receptions. Cars are packed at the start of the day with all the necessities: water bottle, food, uniform, music, tuning fork, mechanical pencil, black music folder, fancy performance shoes, comfy performance shoes to change into after intermission because of uncomfortable fancy performance shoes. On top of this add -30 degrees Celsius weather, windchill, and oatmeal snow on the slick roads to add more obstacles on the commute to your next engagement. And, you still have to find parking when you get there.

While the holiday season has its highs and lows, one of my favorite parts is how the music community is just buzzing with activity. Last weekend I saw the Messiah in addition to Pro Coro Canada's ConSept debut, where they sang David Lang's Little Match Girl Passion. It was lovely to see a familiar face, bass-baritone Stephen Hegedus, singing with the Richard Eaton Singers and Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. It was also a treat to hear the haunting vocal beauty of ConSept as they invited the chill inside the church for their performance; a perfect compliment to their storytelling of the Little Match Girl story. The singers' faces were lit with the flickering candlelight and a foggy mist formed around the hot flames.

My most recent rehearsals have been focused around the annual Pro Coro Christmas Concert. This year we are sharing the stage with the Edmonton Youth Choir. I'm always excited to collaborate with singers, especially youth singers because really, it was not that long ago that I was singing in a very similar group. Following rehearsal, I walked past a nearby church and saw a reception glowing with warmth and activity following a Joyful Noise choir concert. Many familiar faces walked past me on the way out of the venue and we were able to exchange a few words before they headed home for the evening. Even though it is hard for musicians to attend all the concerts of those in their communities, it is nice to know that each of us, in our own way, is contributing to the richness of our local culture.

It is always beneficial to take a moment, breathe, and be grateful for the frenzy of the season since it signals that our artistic community is alive and well.

If you're free today, Pro Coro Canada shares the Winspear stage with the Strathcona String Quartet, Edmonton Youth Choir, Jeremy Spurgeon, and Kerri-Lynn Zwicker at 230 PM.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Laryngectomee Choir

This video came to my attention today:

I'm interested to see how unfamiliar listeners react to the sound of this choir.

Do they recoil in disgust or puzzle in interest over how these choristers voicing?

This choir is formed by laryngectomees (a.k.a those who have had their larynx removed). There are social stigmas against laryngectomees. As if they deserve the removal of their larynx (a.k.a. voice box) because they used to smoke. This is not always the case. In the hospital, I have seen some laryngectomees that have never smoked a cigarette a day in their life; however, they were exposed to second-hand smoke.

Laryngectomees produce voice by using a one-way valve that directs air from the trachea (a.k.a. wind pipe) into their esophagus (a.k.a food pipe). This one-way value is called a tracheoesophageal puncture (TEP). It's a plastic valve prosthesis that is inserted in the wall between the esophagus and trachea. It's a one way valve because air is only allowed to go from the trachea into the esophagus, not the other way around. If it was a two way valve, then any food or liquid going towards the stomach could be channeled through the valve and into the lungs. Food in your lungs? Never a good thing.

On the outside of your trachea is a stoma (aka. hole opening) so a laryngectomee can still breathe by essentially having an open channel to their lungs. When this hole is plugged with a finger from the outside, the air coming from the lungs is directed through the TEP valve and up through the esophagus to vibrate structures in the lower pharynx (a.k.a throat) and upper esophagus. Then using regular tongue, lips, and teeth articulatory patterns, users can then form speech.

In the video, you're probably able to hear a really rough voice source. Well, that's what it sounds like when you're vibrating the tissues in the lower back part of your throat. There is an impressive range of expression and pitch variation in the choir. This is coming from manipulating the resonance of the vocal tract (a.k.a the speaker moves their tongue, soft palate, lips and teeth to maximize resonance).

Regardless of the type of medical, social, or emotional barriers that can handicapp people, everyone has a voice that deserves to be heard. It's empowering to see choristers embrace this fact, even when they have no larynx.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Sense of Play

Every group has their own energy. The exciting thing is discovering what is at the core of each group. I've deduced what it is about the Edmonton Opera Chorus that makes it such a unique group for me: the sense of play.

It was something I began to notice throughout the rehearsal process, and it was confirmed during the Salute to 50 years Chorus Concert on Saturday. For me, the play aspect is hard to fully embrace. I find it hard to ease off and simply enjoy.

I love a musical challenge. I enjoy the stress and satisfaction cycle of learning hard works.  But on Saturday night, the energy of those around me was infectious. Humorous glances cast towards the male chorus as they sang about being sober men in Sir Joseph's Barge from HMS Pinafore and the seductive sways and tambourine hits during Carmen's Gypsy Chorus from the ladies. It just felt comfortable and organic to play up the song within a chorus full of characters.

It is always good to take a step back and reevaluate why you are singing in a particular group. For some, it may be increasing musicianship skills, for others, it may be the paycheck. For me, singing with the Opera Chorus is a personal reminder to not take myself so gosh darn seriously. It's like taking a massive handful of colourful characters and loading them into a confetti launcher. One cannot predict where certain colours will fall or when it will go off. Instead of worrying about the clean-up, which I would normally do, I just learned to enjoy the show.

(All photos from Christina O)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Heads Roll At Edmonton Opera's Salome

Edmonton Opera opens its 50th season with a striking offering: Salome. It is a one-act, no intermission, Opera that runs less than two hours. The story centers around Salome's lunacy as she wants the one thing she cannot have which, in this case, happens to be the affections of prophet, St. John the Baptist. She stares into the fragmented moon and mirror, trying to piece herself together throughout the Opera. While there is an array of supporting characters: Herod, Narraboth, Priests, and Slaves... the story is truly about Salome.

The stage is striking. Chains are suspended from the ceiling, creating the walls of the cage on stage that surrounds the characters. The hollow metallic rustle introduces an eeriness to the entire stage feel, and depending on the lighting, the chains were able to look like rain in the moonlight or the dripping blood from a severed head. The set design is minimalist but effective for completing the story. One of my favorite moments was when the suspension of red fabric was severed from the ceiling and Salome cloaks herself in red.

Salome is not an easy Opera to stage. The erotic Dance of the 7 Veils has a controversial history. While some sopranos have gone entirely nude for the dance, others Salome's have been replaced with a dancer in order to perform this scene. Edmonton Opera decided to document the process from young girl to womanhood using 6 dancers, as her stepfather, Herod, lusts on as he watches her. However, it is hard to know who has the power.  Herod for treating her like entertainment and property or Salome for manipulating Herod with her sexuality in order to obtain St. John's head.

Regardless, Salome is a brave choice for the Edmonton Opera to launch its 50th season and it is perfectly timed for the arrival of Halloween.

Purchase Tickets Here

Saturday, October 26, 2013 » 8:00pm
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 » 7:30pm
Thursday, October 31, 2013 » 7:30pm

Photography by Nanc Price

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Canadian Chamber Choir Brings Their Voice To BC

Every year, 18 professional choristers unite from across the country to form the Canadian Chamber Choir, under the leadership of conductor, Dr. Julia Davids. Their mandate is to foster choral music performance, perform works by Canadian composers as well as provide education opportunities for apprentice conductors and community workshops. Even though the CCC only assembles for a short time, their temporary presence has the ability to unite individualized pockets of the choral community wherever they visit.

The upcoming New Waters progam by the CCC will take them to Vancouver Island and the lower BC mainland. A feature work on the program revolves around the merging of two Icarus works. When I asked Davids about her inspiration behind pairing these two entities, she likens the design of the program to an artistic process, “sometimes you bump into something at the right time," she states with intuitive clarity. Erik Ross's Icarus in the Sea was initially a blind commission, which meant that Ross could write any piece for any choir and he decided to set poetry by Lorna Crozier to music for the CCC. The story of Icarus is a famous one:

Trapped on the Isle of Crete, Icarus dons wings made of wax in an attempt to escape. Consumed with the grandeur of flight, he ignores his father’s warning not to fly too close to the sun. The wings melt and Icarus falls into the sea ... 

Ross' Icarus in the Sea encapsulates the descent of Icarus and describes the hazy underwater images he sees. The CCC has toured with this piece before but Davids notes “works may completely evolve as we perform them throughout the tour.” The constant evolution and editing process is due in part to the close collaboration between the choir and composers. Sensing the audience focus required in Icarus in the Sea, the choir has since paired their performance with visual movement, choreographed by Claire Leger. Dancer, Matthew Peach, plays Icarus who has wings made out of bamboo and the choir participates in the movement of the performance as well.

Most recently, Davids was referred to work by Vancouver-based composer, Kristopher Fulton. She took a listen to Fulton's Icarus on his website and found it was the perfect compliment to Ross' Icarus in the Sea. Fulton's piece encapsulates a rhythmic excitement and describes the ascension of Icarus into the sky, finishing in D major. Ross' piece, chronicling Icarus' decent, begins in D minor. "I feel like these pieces were meant to be together," Davids says while revealing she has goose bumps just reminiscing about this realization.

The role of music education plays an important role with the CCC. “It’s so much a part of who we are,” Davids states with honesty. Davids custom designs every workshop that the CCC holds. This may include vocal technique discussions or perhaps providing support to male singers in a highschool choir by having the CCC singers modeling different types of tones that can be produced with male voices. “It depends on what the organization needs," for example, “the CCC will function as a lab choir [at UBC] and instead of just conducting a class of their peers, conducting students get to work with a top-level choir and really see what the nuances of their gesture can do and what sort of effect they’ll have on their music when people are really sensitive to what they’re doing.”

Conductors, teachers, composers, pianists, and many other professional comprise the fabric of the CCC. The diversity of the CCC highlights the ability to unite the love of choral music we have across this country. Davids reveals that she wishes to visit communities of all sizes across Canada in the future, citing hopeful tours to Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Manitoba. 

Until that time, I’d encourage BC audiences to take in performances by the CCC this week. It's always empowering to see local choral communities assemble to greet new voices in town. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 

School workshops in the Victoria Area.
In Concert with Victoria’s Vox Humana

Date & Time: October 16th @ 8pm
Venue: St. John the Divine, 1611 Quadra St, Victoria, BC
For tickets and info, visit

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Workshop with the Douglas College Chamber Choir
Date and Time: October 17th, 2013. @ TBA
Church Choir Workshop
Date and Time:
October 17th, 2013. @ 7pm
Venue: Holy Rosary Cathedral, 646 Richards St, Vancouver, BC
Click here for e-poster

Friday, October 18th, 2013

School workshops in the North Vancouver Area.
Workshop with Capilano University Cap Singers, North Vancouver

Saturday, October 19, 2013 


BC Choral Federation Community Workshop
Kerrisdale Presbyterian Church
2733 W 41st Ave, Vancouver, BC
10:00am – 12:00pm
Click here for e-poster

In Concert at St.Mary’s

Date & Time:
October 19th @ 7:30pm
Venue: St. Mary’s Kerrisdale, 2490 West 37 Ave., Vancouver, BC
Cost: $25
Tickets can be purchased here
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Date & Time: October 20th, @ 11am
VenueHoly Rosary Cathedral, 646 Richards St, Vancouver, BC

Thursday, October 10, 2013

It's All in the Community


The first production of the season with Pro Coro Canada was a special one. Instead of just blogging my whole rehearsal process, I decided to immerse myself in the experience and see what thoughts surfaced as a result. The one that has been lingering in my mind is the concept of artistic collaboration.

Pro Coro Canada paired with Booming Tree Taiko in order to incorporate taiko drumming within choral pieces. Tormis' "Curse Upon the Iron," R Murray Schafer's "Magic Songs," and Eric Whitacre's "Cloudburst" was infused with an array of varying taiko drums. Two seemingly unrelated artistic forms: choir and taiko drumming paired perfectly together. It was as if the pieces should have been written to incorporate the dramatic forms of taiko drumming expression. The sheer showmanship of power and grace demonstrated by Booming Tree Taiko duo, Greg and Twilla, elevated the performance.
Booming Tree Taiko
Pro Coro also commissioned a piece from Vancouver-based composer, Kristopher Fulton. Pro Coro's Artistic Director, Michael Zaugg, met with Kris to discuss the inspiration for the commission, which led Michael to introduce Kris to the Belgian Graphic Novel, Twilight Cities or Les Cités obscures. The visual images from this series inspired the five part soundscape series for this world.

It is amazing how bringing together two elements eager for artistic collaboration can synthesize such a compelling musical compound. There is a trust within the relationship in addition to the flexibility for exploration and discovery. I loved watching Greg and Twilla try out different percussion sounds they could generate for each of the movements of Schafer's "Magic Songs," each creating a different tone until the desired mood was isolated. I can only imagine the excitement when a unified chord was struck between Michael and Kris to discover their joint passion for artwork and stories.

There is also a sense of discovery that comes from commissioning a Canadian composer. In the last season alone Pro Coro premiered works by Canadian composers, Cy Giacomin, Jason Noble, and Peter Togni. I hadn't even heard of some of these composers prior to singing in Pro Coro. The first time I heard one of Kris' works was at the end of the Cantata Singers' "Sh*t Choristers Say" video. When Kris arrived to rehearsed Twilight Cities, it was a huge luxury to be able to turn to him and ask in an inquisitive tone: "What were you thinking while writing this passage? Did you want the tonality to be in A?"

Kris Fulton with his gifts from the University of Augustana Choir

I vividly remember Michael mentioning how musical collaboration was something he was planning in his Artistic Director role. At the time, it seemed like an excellent thought to me; however, I don't think I truly grasped what it would look like upon execution. Pro Coro's opening concert this season solidified for me what successful collaboration can look like.

The music community is a small one... and the choral one is even smaller. Sometimes it feels like we are pitted against each other, as if only one type of choir with a certain demographic can exist or only one composer's work will be accepted for a commission. Can't we all agree that there are enough external forces making it difficult to thrive as Artists that the last thing we need is animosity between Artists? I know it is not easy when the structure of our system is not always conducive to this thinking. There are only so many pools of audience members and limited grant dollars.

However, I have seen positive things result when we recruit the talents of other artistic community members. We work alongside each other with trust and respect and we are a stronger community because of it. I am not saying that our musical community fails to function in this way. In fact, I am delighted with the sheer frequency of collaborative overlap between groups, but I am also aware of those moments when it isn't so easy to maintain "the more the merrier" philosophy and survival instinct sets in.

We are all looking for a medium to share our music, voice, and culture with the world; it is a great feeling when we are unified in that goal and are able to do it together.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Lighting the Mood at Symphony Under the Sky

The Symphony Under the Sky Festival changes mood throughout an entire concert. It is due, in part, to the natural lighting cues at Hawrelak Park.


Mozart - Eine kleine Nachtmusik by Cristiano Ronaldo

Take, for example, the effervescent and joyous beginning of Mozart's Eine Kleine Natchmusik. It is paired perfectly with the warm glow of the late afternoon. Birds flying overhead cast shadows on the white tent canopy, a natural compliment to the music.

08 Hess Ladies In Lavender - Main Theme by Decca Records There is also that point where afternoon transitions into evening and the veil of night's intimacy emerges. New ESO concertmaster, Robert Uchida, played his soloistic lines with full lyrical extension, evident from the tip of his toes to his bow.

12 Blow, Gabriel, Blow by Tyler A. Boyle
As the evening completes it dark descent, it provides the perfect contrast for all the glitz and shine of Broadway. The Strathcona Theatre Company completed the show with mega-watt energy, tap dancing, and belted vocals with tunes from Cole Porter's Anything Goes.

Mother Nature serves as a skilled lighting technician when it comes to lighting the mood at Symphony Under the Sky.

Cross-posted on The Sound + Noise.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Symphony Under the Sky Returns

Symphony Under the Sky

Labour Day will always have a special place in my heart as it is intrinsically linked to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra's Symphony Under the Sky (SUTS) Festival. I was first introduced to the SUTS Festival by a fellow chorister who persuaded me to volunteer for their Teddy Bear Picnic. We would spend the Sunday afternoon together tending to the range of sicknesses impacting the Teddy Bears brought to us by the children. Pretend immunizations were delivered and a band-aid was adhered to serve as a visual reminder of the injection location.

Symphony Under the Sky

One of the best part of the SUTS festival is the atmospheric accessibility. The outdoor venue creates an intimate but casual energy that just can't be recreated indoors at a concert hall. There is something wonderful about being able to get up from your lawn chair at intermission to mingle with your friends in the mini donut line or snuggle underneath a blanket for warmth with your neighbor.

The festival runs from Aug 30-Sept 2, 2013. Here are some of my festival highlights:  

Classics on Friday Night

The ESO will play iconic themes by Tchaikovsky's Romeo & Juilet and Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Denise Djokic returns to perform Dvorák's cell concerto.


Celebrate love for the BBC Proms with soprano, Mela Dailey, singing in the afternoon and the popular Hollywood/Broadway in the evening. James Bond, Sound of Music, Wizard of Oz, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera are just some of the titles on the program for the evening.  


The Sunday Family matinee is free (admission on a first-come, first-served basis). There will be performances of familiar classical tunes. Ellis Hall will sing tunes by Ray Charles in the evening. You can bet this title will be played:



The festival closes with works by Mozart, Tchaikovksy, ESO Composer in Residence, Robert Rival, and ESO's Young Composer, Taran Plamondon. Although there will be no cannons this year for the 1812 Overture, I'm interested to hear the "special sonic effects" that will take its place. See you out in the park!

This entry is cross-posted on Sound + Noise


Call the Winspear Box Office for tickets 780-428-1414  

Reserved Seating $40 Adult / $20 Child Grass Seating $25 Adult / Children Free  

 *Ticket fees apply to single ticket purchases. Free grass seating applies to children under 12 accompanied by an adult.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What's in the Water in Winnipeg?

Before heading to Winnipeg, I contemplated why there is such a strong Folk Arts community there. While the Arts community is thriving and well in Edmonton, I was always curious as to why Winnipeg is such a strong breeding ground for Artists. Is there something in the water?

Sound + Noise creator, Michael MacDonald, discusses in his PhD thesis how Western Folk Music Festivals are like a "series of festival-garden plots. Like any garden plot it is a piece of land that has a variety of connections with the land that surrounds it. But gardens only exist where there are gardeners to tend to them." What is it about the gardeners in Winnipeg that make them different than the gardeners of other Folk Festivals in Western Canada?

After attending the Winnipeg Folk Festival (WFF), I have some hypotheses of my own on why there is such a strong Folk Arts Community in Winnipeg. I feel a large part of it is due to the creation of the WFF, which was made possible by the timing and presence of passionate individuals, Mitch Podolak, Colin Gorrie, and Ava Kobrinsky. In addition to becoming one of the premiere North American music festivals, there are Folk School education programs and Young Artist mentoring programs that help to educate and support up-and-coming local Folk Music Artists.

Another important factor is the environment and location of the festival itself. The process of going out in the "wilderness" has been reinforced by literature from "Hansel & Gretel" to Homer's "Odyssey". There is something about being in the metaphorical wild, whatever the wild may be, that promotes the process of self-discovery. Located in a Provincial Park, the WFF capitalizes on the isolation of the location to create a temporary community. There is a strong sense of inter-disciplinary artistic collaboration seen in the use of Art installations throughout the entire festival site. These are not static pieces of Art, but Art that is allowed to be touched and manipulated by its audience. This community energy does not dissipate once the Festival is over. The WFF serves as a retreat for the Winnipeg Arts community and they take this renewed sense of identity back to the city. The WFF also has The Folk Exchange where they host Open Mics, Concert Series, Workshops, Songwriting Circles etc. that run year-round. The summer festival is only one component of the organization.
I had a chat with Mitch Podolak, Co-Founder of WFF and Home Routes while at WFF. WFF is the Festival template of Western Canadian Folk Festivals like Edmonton Folk Music Festival (EFMF), Calgary Folk Music Festival, and Vancouver Folk Music Festival. He ventured a hypothesis at why the Winnipeg Arts scene is well and thriving:

"For the most part the population here is Eastern European. All those people brought their culture with them. In Winnipeg, there is an 80 year old Mandolin Orchestra. This is a blue collar working class culture here, combined with people holding onto a sense of tradition," he states. "There's something in the water I suppose. There's something about the fusion of the cultures. There's a certain sense of the fact that the working class people tend to hang onto that more than the middle class bourgeois...I believe in people's power. I want to teach people they can run things. You don't need politicians. You can just run them," states Podolak in an inspiring tone.

 The political fervour of Podolak is an important factor when considering the structure of the Western Canadian Folk Festivals. The Festivals are fueled by the volunteers, which symbolize the working class in order to promote a sense of individual ownership. There is a deconstruction of class divisions. The volunteers and artists eat in the same areas, socialize the the same backstage areas, and they are all invited to attend the same parties. Podolak believes "the festival is tied to the working class. The common peoples experience... all festivals, Edmonton, all of them, every one of them, they are going to have the next Bob Dylan's on their stages in the next 3-4 years."

However, Podolak realizes that music festivals are prone to mutation depending on the needs at the time:

"The songwriters will become the anthem writers. That's what this whole show is. And when this happens, [festivals] mutate because they have to. I think we're in store for a lot of fun over the next ten years. I'm kinda hoping I'll survive long enough to see it," he says with a laugh.

While I have only tapped the surface of the WFF culture after being an Edmonton folkie over the past years, I have a greater sense of the historical lineage and ideology underlining the Western Canadian Festival experience. The main thing is to evaluate what unifies all of us in the Folk Festival experience. As different as some of the things at the WFF were from the EFMF, there was a sense of familiarity at the festival site. The familiarity is due to the Festival structure from the volunteer-powered initiative and collaborative workshops. The WFF is like a new friend that I have just met, but it feels like we have known each other longer. It is a friendship I intend to sustain.


Memorable Moments from WFF 2013
Twila (T), Sable (S)  

Favorite Workshop Session

 T: 1974 "It was amazing to see the music I grew up with there: Stringband, Sylvia Tyson, and seeing them interacting with each other."

S: Songs I Wish I Wrote "I loved seeing artists like Lindi Ortega, Danny Michel, Bhi Bhiman, Robert Ellis, Sean Rowe covering songs by the Clash, Talking Heads, and Elvis Presley. It lets me hear their soloistic voice as they perform song covers."  

Favorite Concert

T: Nathan Rogers "It was such a beautiful venue at the Little Stage in the Forest, seeing his interaction with the audience and his daughter made you feel like you were a part of the performance. You weren't just watching the concert."

S: The Garifuna Collective with Danny Michel "I liked the workshop dynamic of this concert with both Artists taking turns to perform in each others songs. I am always a fan of hearing musical collaboration."  

Favorite Festival Moment

 T: The Mary Ellen Carter Finale on Mainstage "The Mary Ellen Carter is one of my favorite songs. It's was amazing."

 S: Lantern lighting at the Finale "Watching the first family of Folk Music, Nathan Rogers light the floating lantern at the end of the WFF finale with his daughter just reinforced the community strength of the Folk Fest community in Winnipeg."

This post is part of a series detailing the experiences of Edmonton folkies, Sable and Twila, heading to Winnipeg Folk Festival for the first time. See other posts here.

Cross-posted on Sound + Noise.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Danny Michel's Musical Collaboration with The Garifuna Collective

As the heavy humidity settles throughout the festival grounds at Birds Hill National Park, signalling the impending rain, Danny Michel enters the Media tent early for his interview. He sets down a black case on the table, shakes my hand with a smile and asks, "Is it alright if we do this now?" He has just come from the autograph session following his joint Winnipeg Folk Festival session with the Garifuna Collective.

"No problem," I reply, gathering my materials for the interview.

Michel is entering the third week of his joint Canada and US Tour with the Garifuna Collective from Belize, whom he collaborated with on his Juno-nominated album, Blackbirds are Dancing Over Me.

"What Colour Are You?" (Official CD Mix) by Danny Michel

Michel is often seen performing solo shows on festival circuits but, this time, he has brought an entire troupe of musicians with him. "I've decided to go from solo to ten people," he laughs while reflecting on this abrupt transition. Michel's current tour is filled with unique challenges, such as negotiating work visas and coordinating with the Department of Fisheries for customs clearance of percussion instruments like turtle shells. "Everything has been so stressful and so much work, but as soon as we get on stage... it's worth it," he states.

The dancing crowds and enrapt audience at Friday's sessions supported that fact. Both Michel and the Collective shared the stage, taking turns to perform each others songs. A trend which they will follow for the rest of their tour. As a result, all their performances generate a collaborative workshop energy.

Collaborative projects are challenging to execute because it requires a openness and trust from all participating musicians. There is an uncertainty in the fact that neither party is sure of the musical result. Yet, at the same time, that is the beauty of the process because there is an excitement at the prospect of musical genesis. Michel describes his first meeting with the Garifuna Collective in Belize for the album:

"I walked into the room of people I've never met being this little guy from Canada. "Hi, everyone. You should trust me and play on my record and play my songs," and [they were] looking at each other going, "mmm how is it gonna work?" Michel smiles, recalling memories of the situation.

"How did it work?" I inquire further.

"It just worked. I'd go in and show them a song idea, record the guitar part, I'd sing it, and then we'd have my guitar and vocal. Just like a good ol' singer songwriter song then we just started piling it on... It kinda just became itself," he replies.

Even when the record was finished, Michel wasn't sure of the result. "I was close to it. I was so in. So deep that I couldn't see it with any perspective anymore," he demonstrates for me while squinting to see the details on the side of his black case. However, Michel reveals that he never felt like it was a risky endeavour to record the Blackbirds album because he had a solid rationale for starting the project with the Garifuna Collective.

"I really did this for a musical adventure for myself. I wanted to learn about their music. I wanted to open my mind and get beyond Pop music. I wanted to become a better artist. So this was a little self project for myself. That was the intention," he says with genuine honesty in his voice.

When considering how Michel's lyrics from What Colour Are You? "Why can't we all just communicate", I wonder if his current album and tour with the Garifuna Collective symbolizes how open communication between cultures can be successful.

Michel delves into his thoughts, reflecting on the cascading effects of his collaboration, his gaze unfocused upon the surface grains of the wooden table. He remerges, maintaining his humble initial intent, "If I can be a part of inspiring anybody to try more things like [musical collaboration], that's an honour to me. I looked at this project like, well, I'm just gonna try it and see what happens. If it doesn't work, if it fails, then it's still going to be a great learning experience. And the exact opposite has happened. It has snowballed. All I wanted to do was make a record. Now it's a record, then a tour, now it got released in the US, now it's on the Polaris prize list." Michel elaborates further, "I think that maybe happened because it was really genuine. It wasn't a plan. We didn't have a marketing plan. All we did was put our heart into something and try. And so maybe that's the secret to its success - that it was honest."

Michel's travels to Belize and Garifuna collaboration is a definitive moment for him as an Artist, not only learning from the perseverance, vibe, energy, and heart of the Garifuna Collective performing on stage but, lyrically as well, contemplating the future topics he wishes to address as a musician.

"There was some point, probably around the time where I got tired of Pop music and where I wanted to go to Belize... there's gotta be more to say. There's gotta be something important to say. There's gotta be a way of saying it without it sounding preachy...where I'm bonking people over the head with it. So I've tried really hard to kinda say that without sounding preachy... It was a turning point in my life. I don't even know if I know what it was, I just thought I can't do this and not say something more. So I'm just trying to be more thoughtful."

There is no grand plan for Michel. No gleaming whiteboard with dry erase etchings detailing travel and song plans for his future. He prefers it this way. Guided by musical intuition, he does what he feels is right for him at the time. Michel does reveal a general philosophy he follows:

"My goal is to keep following the goal of writing more thoughtful music and just trying to get much better at it... I have something to say. So in 50 years, if I'm gone... one of my songs could still be important and still have something to say to somebody," he says thoughtfully before laughing at himself, amused at how deep his contemplations led him.

Regardless of topics, songs, or collaborations Michel chooses to address in the future, they will always originate from his humble intent to challenge himself as a musician.

"This Is What Is" Danny Michel with The Garifuna Collective - feat. Paul Nabor by Danny Michel

Listen to the whole interview here: Interview with Danny Michel at Winnipeg Folk Festival by misssable