REVIEW: NIGHT OF MUSIC MEMORIES FRED PENNER ROYAL WOOD


NIGHT OF MUSIC AND MEMORIES hosted by 2 time JUNO winner Fred Penner
review by Deb Draper

Canadian Music Therapy Trust that formed in 1993 has funded over 450 music therapy projects coast to coast in Canada and has raised $4.8 million.  Their music therapists have helped improve health, realize goals, and positively change the lives of thousands of Canadians every year.  The Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund is a dynamic organization integrating, educating, celebrating and promoting all facets of music therapy with a mission to promote, develop, and support music therapy services and research in order to improve the quality of life for Canadians, who’s vision it to create a better life for Canadians through music therapy.  This tremendous event, was run by the fabulous Drink Inc ( www.drinkinc.ca ) who’s events is owned & operated, and has been a part of many major events across Canada, just like this event with Canadian Music Therapy Trust.  Drink Inc. has a broad spectrum of event experience built from Concerts and Music Events, Consumer Shows and Festivals, Sporting Events, Charitable Events, and Corporate Events, and the staff is not short of amazing. Their company’s industry contacts, built and run catering to thousands of people, while also executing smaller events focused on a more intimate crowd. Much of Drink Inc.’s success is built on knowing the consumer market and understanding our partners’ needs. As founder of the Toronto Wine & Spirit Festival and co-founder of Toronto’s Festival of Beer, they have operated consumer shows, festivals in markets across Canada in Alcohol category for almost two decades. Whether it be a corporate function or a city wide festival, regardless of size, they have the skills, expertise and industry contacts to make your event a success.  I am proud to announce that this Music Memories concert was the 1st Drink Inc. has done with Canadian Music Therapy and Drink Inc. presented CMTTF with a cheque for a grand total of $5,742.26   Please visit www.musictherapytrust.ca and make a difference.  The location of the venue was simply a magical musical match. Built in 1871, The Berkeley Church, hall was transformed into Toronto’s most original event venue. The age and preservation of this masterpiece building of originality, added character to this one of a kid event. Just visiting this historical building of ambiance and modern d├ęcor, gave me goosebumps and anticipation with its 17-foot stained glass windows, hard wood floors and Victorian Inspired bar with the magnificent stage and domed ceiling.  You just knew that this was a special place which added to the rich sounds throughout the hall, hard to believe that a senior building still standing in magnificent stature could propel such deep rich musical sounds.  The Berkeley Church a stunning escape from the ordinary and is a landmark historic building that includes 4 versatile spaces: visit today and check out the Grand Ballroom, The Mezzanine, The Wine Cellar, and Circa 1871 Lounge.

The fantastic evening of entertainment in honour of Music Therapy, produced songs and musical memories, which was led by 2 time JUNO Award winner and Gemini Award Nominee, childhood educator, critically acclaimed family entertainer, singer/songwriter, composer, actor, writer, author, TV host and keynote speaker Fred Penner.  A very moving and emotional night of Memories, Fred always said, “Never underestimate your ability to make a difference in the life of a child,” That is exactly what Fred did for me then and now.  Growing up in a troubled home environment, the show Fred Penner’s Place was a grace and saviour in my life and was so thrilled to meet Fred and have a photo taken with my IDOL.    The choice of fantastic talent on stage, moved the full house audience of Fred Heads, those very children Fred first entertained, now adults, were singing loud and proud especially to the hit and signature song The Cat Came Back.  The lineup was filled with A listers,  Justin Rutledge, Spencer Burton, Tomi Swick, Matthew Barber, Peter Katz, Emma-Lee, The Bellwoods, Sam Cash and Canadian singer-songwriter, record producer, arranger and The Wire Megazine’s 2015 BIG TIME Awarded, 2 time Juno Nominee, Royal Wood from Peterborough.   Royal has been very successful throughout his career that has produced two EPs, five albums and one companion album. His second album A Good Enough Day received an international release and his current album Ghost Light is going strong!  I was so thrilled with the performance of BROTHER, one of my favorite songs that was co-written and performed with Peter Katz, setting this night over the top for me.   It was a moving evening, with performances bringing some to tears but, everyone in that hall sported a smile throughout the 2 set show, running just short of 3 hours.  Undeniably one of the best shows I have attended, first class treatment from the Church and Drink Inc. staff.  The music provided had the ability to make one feel good about themselves, remembering good times with the depth and power those songs resonating in your heart.  Without a doubt, the 19-90 year old crowd was wishing the night would rock on and on.  Congratulations and job well done, another Musical Historical moment in time sponsored by Slaight Family Foundation, Frontier Sound & Lighting, Beck Taxi, Mill St Brewing, Muskoka Brewery, Steam Whistle Brewing and Brickworks Ciderhouse.

Interview: Fred Penner



STAYING IN TUNE WITH FRED PENNER 
by Deb Draper


The Cat Came Back: What an honor and pleasure it was to be speaking to internationally acclaimed family entertainer, singer, song-writer, composer, actor, writer, author, TV Host, public speaker, Mr. Multi-Media, Fred Penner.

You are a North American Veteran Folk artist with over 30 years in the business with 12 Children’s Albums, to which you received 2 Junos for Children’s Album of The Year and adding to your list of numerous accolades, The Order of Canada.

1)      Has The Order of Canada award further enhanced your life and in what way?
Not really, it is a badge of honor I wear regularly.  Occasionally I will meet others sporting the pin and we share a knowing look.  Am very proud of this award, major achievement in Canada!

2)      Has your song writing and performance styles changed since your entertainment career began in 1979?
Like any muscle, the more you use it the better you get.  The creative process is challenging always….What is it I want to share?  I like to think my style has been consistent.  I believe in the power of music to communicate with an audience.

Your caring nature makes positive differences in children’s lives starting with your then 12 year old sister Susan.  She was a huge influence in your career change from wanting to be an economist to an entertainer.
3)      Who would you say are your influences today?
I never wanted to be an economist, I  just followed the path of least resistance.  Today I respect the teachers who are trying desperately to raise and educate the children.  Unpaid and overworked, but so dedicated!  Musically the influences of Joni, Gordon, Neil, James continues.  The up and coming generation of young players is inspiring! Working hard in their craft.

4)      You are The Canadian Minister of Positivity, successfully transforming children’s entertainment into a family affair. Those 1st children followers, now adults

(myself included) a.k.a Fred Heads, would like to know how Mr. Fred Penner copes with a bad day, as you are always so upbeat and positive?
I breathe, meditate, focus, love, eat well, breathe, exercise, walk, share the feeling, play guitar, breathe.  Believe in myself.

5)      Your fans may not know that the crawling out of the log concept on your CBC TV series Fred Penner ’s Place, stemmed from your childhood living in Hull, Quebec in the 50s.
Can you tell us more on this concept?
I had a pet chicken in Hull in the 50s.  Our neighbors cat killed it.  I took the responsibility of burying her.  Back yard had a bush with low branches.  I had to crawl under to get to my quiet spot.  This is where she is buried.  As the TV series was evolving I remembered this story.  I believe children need quiet places in their lives.  Chill spots.  This is mine! So how do I bring that concept to a TV show …Hollow log!  Virtually the audience crawled thru with me to the safety of Fred Penner’s Place.
6)      What are your goals in mind when you perform?
Recognizing the audience.  We are in this (performance world) together. The songs we share hopefully connect and form a memory.  My shows are purposeful dialogues.  Communication with a child, with a caregiver and between child and caregiver during and after the show.

7)      What is next for Fred Penner, film or theatre?
The mighty unknown.  Hopefully all of the above.  I am open to the world of creative challenges, always.

When you are not writing or performing you are always passionately involved with children’s charities and organizations like UNICEF, World Vision and The Canadian Music Therapy Trust Foundation to which you are a host at this Music Therapy Fundraiser Event this FRIDAY MARCH 11th at Berkeley Church at 315 Queen Street East in Toronto at 7pm.  This foundation has seen benefits to music healing depression, dementia and brain injuries and so on.  Expect a fantastic line-up of Canadian stars featuring Royal Wood (our Peterborough connection for The Peterborough based Wire Megazine), Matthew Barber, Peter Katz, Emma Lee, Justin Rutledge (just to name a few).

Thank you so much for your time today Fred.  I am thrilled to be in attendance March 11th, to capture this Night of Musical Memories.

Folks, hurray don’t delay get your $45 tickets today thru

www.drinkinc.ca or www.musictherapytrust.ca to help raise money for The Canadian Music Therapy Trust Foundation  event sponsored by Slaight Family Foundation, Beck Taxi, Frontier Sound and Lighting, Mill Street Brewery, Muskoka Brewery and  Steam Whistle Brewery.

Interview: Anthony Gomes


Staying Tuned with Anthony Gomes

By The Wire Megazine Volunteer Contributor and Photojournalist Deb Draper


TALKING MUSIC, HIS LATEST ALBUM, CHARITY AND HUGH’S ROOM MARCH 19TH

Good afternoon Anthony, what a thrill it is for this volunteer photojournalist, of The Wire Megazine to sit down with Billboards #1 Blues Guitarist, Anthony Gomes.

“A very talented guitarist…..where did that voice come from”  BB King

1. Q)      What does it feel like to be acknowledged by the King of the Blues?

A)           “It’s pretty surreal.  BB gave me my start in so many ways.  Interestingly enough I went to college at University of Toronto, downtown.  On Thursday nights on Queen Street West, there was a bar called Chicago’s, it’s not there anymore, sort of near the Black Bull in that area but, on the other side  of the street and there was a Thursday night jam.  Chicago’s  was a small room maybe you could get 60 people upstairs and it was filled, you know this was 20-25 years ago, so Queen Street was maybe even less hip then it is now and a lot more colorful.  There was a bunch in there and I would play and they would give me a beer for playing and sometimes they would give me 2 free beers and that was like a million dollars when you were in college, so I would go and sit in and I would play. This gentlemen came up to me and said, “It is great that a young man is into the Blues, who’s your favorite guitar player? “ I (Anthony) said, “oh that is easy, BB King”.   Gentlemen said, “ I thought so, I want you to know that I am BB King’s bus driver, and he’s performing tomorrow in Kitchener, and I want you to come to the show and meet BB King”.   Now, you have to realize that when I arrived, BB was sitting next to the Pope and next to President of the United States.  I had no idea if this gentleman was actually lying or off his rocker, but, he was telling the truth and low and behold, I met BB and he was a wonderful mentor.  I had a lot of opportunities to play with him and he wasn’t just kind to me, he was kind to everybody and he was a wonderful ambassador for the Blues.  He said a lot of great things about a lot of beautiful people, and I am just happy to be included in that list.

You were born in Toronto on May 14, 1970.  

2. Q)      What is it like to perform in your hometown with a sea of familiar faces in the audience?

A)           “Oh man, it’s great, and not only familiar faces but, faces that were there in the formative years.  Some of my teachers from high school and primary school still come out. It’s unlike any gig I play you know.  I live in St. Louis now so I don’t get to see these people all the time and they were very important folks in my life and still I stay in touch thru social media.  It’s just so great to look out there and wow, this person taught me English and they are coming to a show 25 years later, it’s so surreal.  It’s great and always wonderful to have family, some of my friends that I made since school, that I am still friends with some of these folks.  You get all sorts of friends in life but, there’s no friends like your friends that were there while growing up and cutting your teeth.  It’s such a wonderful thing.  So, there’s a lot of love in the room, a lot of great feeling and a lot of anticipation, it’s exciting.


3. Q)      With residing in the “Home of The Blues”, St. Louis Missouri, is there a different feel to your creative process when writing in Ontario versus the USA?

A)           “No because, I would say that you are connected.  The only thing is, experiences can impact you but, thus, influencing your art, but, I think that I am a Canadian in St. Louis, or I’m a Canadian in Toronto, or I’m a Canadian in Rome, no matter where I am, I’m Canadian and I write with that perspective.  I think Canada is such an advanced and civilized country and in terms of healthcare and tolerance, inclusion and celebrating diversity and finding unity, all these things have been a corner stone of my music.  I think that being Canadian is what has set me apart from my contemporaries in a positive way.  So I am Canadian no matter where I go.

4. Q)      Have you seen or felt a major shift or change in music today compared to 1998 when your career rocketed forward?

A)           “There were significant changes since 1998.  Artists used to essentially make half their revenue from album sales and the other half from touring revenue.  You used to tour in support of an album, now it’s the exact opposite, you put an album out to support a tour and very little revenue is generated from album sales, maybe 10%.  Some bands like U2 have to tour a lot more frequently.  I read an article where Metallica said, they have to tour every year in order to keep up their standard of living.  Where before in the 90s they wouldn’t have to do that.  So it affects everybody from the top grossing artists to the up and coming acts and all points in between, that is a big difference.

5. Q)      With numerous nominations, awards, accolades and 12 albums, can you tell your fans what your song “The Blues Ain’t The Blues No More” refers to?

A)           “In a lot of ways, in the blues world, in the little tiny blues box, I am not talking about being a blues artists in a big box of music.  In the little blues box there is a group of people called the “Blues Police” and sometime they are referred to as the “Blues Nazis” in reference to Jerry Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi.  (we laughed).  The Blues Police, are very resistant to change and they like to think of themselves as the taste makers of what actual blues is.  In this box, artists like myself are seen as destroying the Blues.  In a lot of ways people look at me as a villain in this little blues box and they look at me that way because I’m bringing in rock influences and I am bringing in a Canadian perspective and I don’t fit the stereotype of the blues.  I started off as a young man, I’m in my 40’s now, I am white and I am Canadian.  Being Canadian and white, as I joke saying, it’s like being white twice.  Then you see posters of the blues festivals and it’s usually and African American or an older gentlemen playing a beat up raggedy acoustic guitar and I may look a little more like Jeff Beck then I may look like Muddy Waters.  So, for these Blues Police, they have a real hard time with that.  The songs are 2 sided in some ways and I am preaching what they are preaching, “The Blues Ain’t The Blues No More”.  I really miss Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, I miss BB King.  When these artists played their music, even well into their senior years, and they played it with fire and passion, that was incredible because they were the architects of that sound.  Even though time had passed and there was maybe a new generation of musicians, they attacked their style like it was fresh and new.  But, when you get new artists trying to imitate that sound, I sort of refer to them as war rein-actors, where they all dress up, they know all the battles, but, it’s not real or it is like a Star Wars convention, as they can pretend they are Chewbacca or Darth Vader and it’s great but, it’s not based on reality or in the here and now.  To me, music has to be based on the here and now, and the blues that some people perceive is not what the blues is.  It is what it is in 2016 and BB King said it best, “the blues are like the law of the land, they need to be amended to fit the times we live in” and HERACLITUS said, “no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.“  You see, one instant later, its constantly changing, so I’m embracing the change.  I’m being unapologetic in my approach to saying yes, I love Muddy Waters and yes, I love Deep Purple and the DNA of the blues is in Rock n Roll and the 2 can coexist and we can blur the lines.

6. Q)      Who are your influences and does your performance style model anyone specific?

A)           “You know, it’s funny.  When we opened up for BB it was strange as I started off in awe of BB and the more I got to hang out with him, he felt more like my African American Grandfather.  We would just talk about everyday life, how are you doing? Great. How are things going?  We would be talking food or something and I would have to remind myself, in middle of conversation, (Anthony WHISPERS),    “This is BB King!”  I try to play styles from many people,  for the guitar like BB King, Albert King, Freddy King, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Archie Blackmore, just so many guitar wise.  Vocal wise, I listen to a lot of R & B like Wilson Pickett, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, and of course BB King.  Also, I listen to Rock guys, Paul Rogers from Bad Company and Rod Stewart etc.

7. Q)      Music Is the Medicine Foundation www.musicisthemedicine.org formed by you in 2010, and is a non-profit organization that has made a positive impact on the lives of others thru the healing power of music.  Music is the Medicine Foundation has helped children with cancer, young adults with Autism, War Veterans with PTSD.  Please tell your fans what other awesome things your foundation has done?

A)           “We have teamed up with Apple and created the 1st IPOD library at St Jude’s mid-west to help kids cope when they are undergoing treatment.  100% of the money raised goes directly to these programs, it’s a humble foundation, small and an effective “Agent of Change. “

8. Q)      Electric Field Holler is your 12th album, take us on a tour of this album?

A)           “EFH is celebrating its one year anniversary with lots of accolades and is the strongest release of the dozen albums, a feeling like you hit the mark. “TURN IT UP” is the mission statement of the album and for a bunch of albums were going to make from here on in.  The idea is we are blues rock unapologetic, you don’t like it there’s the door. Turn it up to 11 and ask for forgiveness later.  Proud of the direction, feels like we are head spearing a revolution it’s ok to be a blues rocker, it’s ok to love Muddy Waters and Deep Purple it’s all good. “

“Back Door Scratchin”  We’re always being too serious about our lyrics, in ways I tried to be too serious and ignore some of the funnier  songs and BDS is one of those songs and same with Red Handed Blues, another on the funnier side so I’ve allowed myself the luxury of not being serous all the time.

“Whiskey Train” and we tried to do the song on albums “Up to Zero” and tried to do it on “Before the Beginning” and the song was just hanging out there and we stumbled on that riff that is now on the version you here.  It all came together real fast. Really excited about that.

“Blues Child” was an idea of being a bluesman, you could be a blues child.  You are born to play the blues, I wrote that song with a young man, Tallan Noble Latz, who’s a very talented blues guitar player and singer.  He was 11 when we wrote it, in many ways it’s AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL for myself and it just felt natural to do this song on this record.  The idea is that blues had a baby and called it rock n roll.  So to me, rock n roll is a blues child and you still have the DNA of the blues in ya, so really blues and rock we’re trying to blur the lines and I think like that in many ways when you look at the title in that way it makes a lot of sense. 

Nowhere Is Home”, that song means a lot , it’s a plight of homeless children as there are a million homeless kids in America, they are going to bed hungry, and we are not talking about Africa, not talking about 3rd world countries, we are talking about in our own backyard.  Maybe this song will inspire us to make a change.

“Love Crazy” is one of those poppy songs, the thing I really dig about it is, we tried a little left of center with the groove and the drum fills.  I really think it takes it home on this song. 

“Listen to the Universe” is my favorite lyric on this album, it’s about life and death and all the points in between.  It’s soul searching and I don’t know what he answers are, well I think I do, but, I don’t want to share them, as I feel this song is open to everyone’s own interpretation.    Just because I may have written it, doesn’t mean that subconsciously there are things I don’t realize about what the song really means.  I intuitively feel it and we all feel it, if it really resins in the right way, so your interpretation is equally as valid as mine.  “Art is greater than the artist” or greater then maybe the artists intention, but art is only true art if it has intention and it certainly does, both consciously and unconsciously.

9. Q)      What can we expect from your March 19th 830pm hometown Toronto performance at Hugh’s Room at 2261 Dundas Street West?

A)           March 19 Hugh’s Room is almost a sold out blues rock extravaganza.  An honest music exchange between 2 parties that are there to celebrate music. A celebration of life high energy show.

10. Q)   I heard you have titled your next album, Peace Love and Guitars, that has not been released as of yet.  When are you to release?

A)           It is actually, “Peace Love and Loud Guitars”.  We are aiming for early next year 2017, as my 12th album Electric Field Holler is still doing well, and still charting on the radio in the USA, few weeks ago, it was #2 on the Blues Rock charts in U.S., so we can’t very well put out another album, while this one still has legs. “

Visit www.hughsroom.com for tickets and reservations for the March 19th Anthony Gomes magical musical show, starting at 830pm at 2261 Dundas Street West Toronto.