originally published December 2008

CFMA logo

CFMA logo

With Edmonton and Ottawa among previous host cities the Canadian Folk Music Awards, created in 2005, will be brought east for the first time ever to St. John’s. The CFMA’s were created in response to the fact that there seemed to be a nation-wide void for recognition of folk and roots music. While the Juno’s and the East Coast Music Awards make considerations, the CFMA’s were designed to publicize the many achievements of the entire genre, across the country for the whole year. Pairing up the CFMA’s and St. John’s couldn’t make more sense, without even mentioning the phenomenally successful annual Folk Festival, the province has strongly developed it’s culture into a tourism charm, with the folk music scene and overall lifestyle playing a strong part.

This has already been a memorable year for many Newfoundland folkies, with the reunion of hall of famers Figgy Duff who returned to the stage for four performances in 2008. Kelly Russell said “all it took to say yes was a phone call from Pamela Morgan, ‘n we were all in,” and so a 9 year hiatus was broken. “She wanted to put out a live CD and do a release for it,” Russell shared. That took place at the Bella Vista but the highlight for Russell was at the Folk Festival the next day. “For the older crowd there was a sense of nostalgia and the chance to see us again but for the young people it was a chance to see us actually perform.” Figgy Duff did make a return to the stage in 1999 as well marking their silver anniversary and still 34 years later they have a strong fan base and will be one of the most anticipated highlights of the 2008 CFMA Gala.

The group’s reunion certainly won’t serve as the exclusive highlight though if the line up of performers is any indication. A recipient of the Order of Canada, Murray McLauchlan and two-time Juno winner AlexCuba will also take the stage. Enoch Kent, an acclaimed Scottish traditional music singer is set to perform as well as the Juno-nominated Aboriginal a cappella group Asani.

Another performance featuring Blue Rodeo accompanist and two-time CFMA winner Anne Lindsay alongside Smithers piano accompanist Emilyn Stam will get a little help from the fiddle students of St. John’s Suzuki Talent Education Program (STEP fiddlers) to pay tribute to Oliver Schroer, a renowned Toronto fiddler, died of leukemia in July at 52. He developed a teaching concept called Schroer’s Twisted String in which he made squads of colourfully-dressed young fiddlers and taught them music he’d written in a fun and interesting way. Stam is a graduate of the Smithers squad and for the tribute will pay it forward, teaching a Schroer number to the STEP fiddlers.

The spotlight is also on Schroer, who leads the pack of nominees with a total of four nods for his album Hymns and Hers, one of three albums recorded in his short year long battle with the disease. He’s up for Contemporary Album of the Year, Solo Instrumentalist of the Year, Producer of the Year and the Pushing the Boundaries award. Behind him with three nominations apiece are Vancouver roots singer/songwriter Wyckham Porteous and Nova Scotia fiddler Troy MacGillivray.

Award nominations for Newfoundland artists totals two – one for Daniel Payne up for Traditional Songwriter of the Year and one for Rik Barron nominated for Children’s Album of the Year. Within the National picture, Atlantic Canada has 5 nominations including the two for the host-province. The others all went to Nova Scotia’s Dave Carroll of Halifax for Contemporary Singer of the Year and Chrissy Crowly and Drumlin each nominated in the Young Performer of the Year category.

To suit the truly National scope that the awards promote, the gala will be presented en francais aussi. The gala’s hosting duo is made up of CBC radio-legend Shelagh Rogers and Quebec traditional dance expert and Juno award winning musician Benoit Bourque, who has been recognized by the United States government which provides him with funding to teach Quebecois traditions to Franco-Americans. Rogers has been getting noticed, or heard rather, since 1980 with the CBC becoming the youngest female on-air starting in Ottawa. She has been the host of many national CBC programs, most recently The Next Chapter – a weekly program devoted to Canadian writing of all kinds.

The two will host the gala event which will take place in St. John’s at the Arts and Culture Centre at 8:00pm and tickets are still available for $44.00 from the box office. WestJet’s notably kicked in a 10% discount for anyone flying to the Capital city for the fourth annual awards which will no doubt a cultural highlight early on in the winter season. A series of four workshops will also be offered to anyone interested on the days book ending gala itself which is on November 23, 2008. For more information about these, the complete list of nominees or more event details the CFMA website can be of service at www.folkawards.ca.