|Two strong winds of yore|
Ian & Sylvia harmonize again
for tribute show
and The Band's Last Waltz replayed after 30 years
QUILL - ENTERTAINMENT COLUMNIST Nov. 23, 2006
Few names stir more profound
musical memories for Canadians than Ian & Sylvia and The Band. So it's no
surprise two live shows happening this week, in honour of each, sold out within
hours of being announced.
We Shall Be Released, encoring at the Glenn Gould
Studio tonight, will have a host of musicians celebrating The Band's 1976 farewell
concert in San Francisco, as immortalized in the Martin Scorsese film The Last
Then, tomorrow night at Hugh's Room, both Tysons will be onstage
at the concert honouring the induction of Ian & Sylvia into the Mariposa folk
festival's Hall of Fame.
Another Mariposa inductee this year is Don Cullen,
Toronto impresario and founder of the 1960s renegade artists' hangout The Bohemian
Performers paying tribute at Hugh's Room include Nancy White, The
Good Brothers, Marie-Lynn Hammond, Aengus Finnan and David Celia.
suggested they might consider a larger venue," Sylvia Tyson said earlier
this week, after organizers had managed to book the ex-partners to perform both
as individuals and as a duo in a "three or four song revival" of their
earliest material at the 300-seat Dundas St. W. concert club/restaurant.
for a CBC-TV special shot at Canada's Wonderland in the mid-1980s, the two have
rarely performed together since their marriage ended in 1975 and Ian headed out
to Alberta to run a horse and cattle ranch.
"When I was first approached,
I said, `No problem, provided Ian's okay with it,'" said Sylvia, who played
the very first Mariposa festival with Ian in 1961.
"Much to my surprise,
he agreed, even though it's such a long distance to come for no money."
it turns out, Ian will perform solo concerts at Hugh's Room on Monday and Tuesday.
appearance could easily have filled Massey Hall, Sylvia agreed, but she said that
might have fuelled speculation about a professional reunion, and that just isn't
in the cards.
"The past is prologue," she quipped. "We're
both too involved in our own solo careers to even think of going back there. I
doubt we'll ever be doing this again."
On her part, Sylvia is gearing
up for another six-city Christmas tour including shows Dec. 20 and 21 at
Hugh's Room, and a benefit concert Dec. 1 for the Children's Wish Foundation at
the Jane Mallett Theatre with Cindy Church, Gwen Swick and Caitlin Hanford
of the roots ensemble Quartette.
They're putting finishing touches on the
group's seventh CD, produced by Colin Linden, for release early next year.
the meantime, she's been working on retuning the autoharp that used to be an Ian
& Sylvia performance staple.
"It's the older material that comes
together easily for us, the stuff neither of us has played or updated since the
early days," Sylvia said. "I haven't touched the autoharp in 20 years."
Tyson and Sylvia Fricker first performed together in the late 1950s, and they
had two particularly influential songs to their credit, Ian's "Four Strong
Winds" and Sylvia's "You Were on My Mind," when they wrapped up
That was too early for them to impact on CBC Radio 3 concert recording
specialist Ron Skinner producer of the We Shall Be Released concerts last
night and tonight at the Glenn Gould.
Skinner says his appreciation for
Canadian roots music was triggered by The Band's heralded 1976 exit.
Last Waltz had a huge impact on my life," he said of the Scorsese documentary
that featured The Band at the centre of the rock/folk cosmos, surrounded by Bob
Dylan and others at their last hurrah at San Francisco's Fillmore. Skinner saw
the movie at age 9 with his father, when it was released in 1978.
had the feeling that it was a really important movie and we should see it together."
the movie was re-released with a refreshed edit and soundtrack on its 25th anniversary,
Skinner became convinced Canada's public network should observe this cultural
touchstone by staging a 30th-anniversary concert recreation.
paved the way for so many Canadian musicians in the years that followed, and their
legacy is immeasurable. I wanted to acknowledge them in some way."
notion of a literal recreation was ditched once Blackie & the Rodeo Kings
singers, songwriters and guitarists Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing and Tom
Wilson, and musical sidekicks Richard Bell on keyboards, drummer Gary Craig and
bassist John Dymond were brought on board as house band. Linden was appointed
musical director, in charge of aligning the talents of Kathleen Edwards, Jason
Collett, Oh Susanna, Tony Dekker, Dione Taylor, Luke Doucet and Paul Reddick.
spirit of The Band and their circle of musical friends has a lot more to do with
spontaneity, improvisation and self-expression," said Linden, who, like Bell,
was a member of The Band's inner sanctum in Woodstock post-1976.
that's the spirit we want to celebrate. We're not restaging The Last Waltz as
much as drawing on The Band's body of work, and the work of other musicians they
"It's a daunting and exciting challenge something
I'm really looking forward to."
The Band's demise signalled the end
of what had been a long and venerated Canadian institution, the union-regulated
"six-nighter" contract that made it possible for bands to hone their
chops in one venue Monday through Saturday while earning "just enough to
survive without a day job and make it to the next town for the next six-nighter,"
It was a rigorous routine that could make or break a band,
and which Linden credits with producing some of the most compelling music in the
world, especially The Band's.
"Since the mid-1980s, young musicians
just haven't had the opportunity to play together regularly in front of an audience
every night. I want this concert to celebrate a level of intense camaraderie and
ensemble playing that we rarely get to see any more."