Monday, December 15, 2008

The Tour So Far

The Winter Harp tour to date has been very well received, and we have all had a wonderful time playing for so many different audiences.

Playing at the Pantages Theatre in Winnipeg is always a treat, and combined with the warm hospitality and wonderful friendship of Janelle's amazing parents, the trip goes off without a hitch. The flight was wonderful and WestJet was as always reasonable and accommodating to our merry gang of musicians. Transporting gear by air is always a challenge, but the happy team at WestJet made the whole experience very low stress. We were met at the airport by Janelle and her family, and we were all whisked away by stretch limo to the delightful hotel, (Inn at the Forks)which is more of a resort/spa than merely accommodation.

After checking in and depositing our luggage, we were invited to dinner at Janelle's parent's farm, a short drive outside of Winnipeg. Janelle's father Brian gave us a quick tour of the whole operation which was really fascinating and informative. We saw first hand how seeds are cleaned, packaged and warehoused.

The whole operation is really very interesting and I always feel like I would love to come back in the fall during harvest and see the whole thing actively working.

Janelle had a chance to show Lauri one of the machines she drives around during harvest.

The next day we set up the show at the theatre. The Pantages Theatre is a magnificent ornate Edwardian theatre, and the staff and technicians are very professional and first rate. The sound check went well and the concert was well attended.

Afterwards, Janelle's mother Rachelle had arranged for a reception with drinks and cookies, and we all had the opportunity to mingle with the audience and get their feedback.

The second concert on Saturday was very well attended, virtually sold out, and we had another Winter Harp first, a very brave gentleman proposed on stage during intermission, accompanied by the strains of Pachebel's Cannon played by Janelle.

Though it was intermission, enough people caught the proposal that after they hugged, the whole audience broke into spontaneous applause.

The reception the second night was wonderful as well. Here we are in a slightly silly mood showing off our socks!
Back at the hotel, Lori had asked me to stock up on the toiletries in the room. Last time she was here she was so pleased with the quality of the soaps and lotions that she longed to come back just for that reason. As it turns out, the products which the Inn at the Forks uses are made by a local BC company, Deserving Thyme, so you don't have to go to Winnipeg and save up your hotel soaps - the company has a great mail order website.

The next day after the final concert in Winnipeg, we had to get up early to catch the first flight home because we had a concert at the Massey Theatre with the Vancouver Welsh Men's Choir. The choir is a very friendly and jovial crew directed by the very talented Jonathan Quick, and everyone in Winter Harp looks forward to playing together with them every year. After rehearsing and playing the same pieces in concert, it is really quite a treat to play the exact same piece accompanied by a 100 male voices in harmony. On the quieter pieces, the lovely multi part harmony blends beautifully with the harps and ancient instruments. On the more lively melodies, having that much power behind us really blows our hair forward. It is amazing how loud the human voice can get.

The next two concerts at Courtney started our five concert tour of Vancouver Island. The staff at the Sid Williams Theatre always does a bang-up job of set decoration, and this year was no exception. The lighting was magical, and the effects on the back drop behind us as we played were enchanting.

After the sound check, we went out for dinner. We decided on a very nice restaurant called "Fluid Bar and Grill." We told Janelle to save us a table. She took this job very seriously.
The concert went very well, the sound and lights were spot on, and a good time was had by all. Since we were already set up from the day before, the concert the next day was very easy, and we had the luxury of the whole morning and afternoon to do relax and enjoy the sights of Courtney. For dinner that night we went to a very fine Mexican restaurant called Tita's, which served us up a great dinner including a lovely corn tortilla chicken soup, very welcome on this frosty evening, and enormous portions.
We played the second concert and were very pleased to discover that the bar at theatre had created and named a drink after us: hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps, whipped cream and multi-coloured chocolate sprinkles. I think that is a fair representation of the Winter Harp experience if it were distilled into a festive beverage.

The next day we drove to Victoria which was a bit challenging since it started to snow, quite heavily at times, and made driving pretty challenging. At times there were snowflakes the size of baseballs and it was building up quite impressively on the roads. Despite this, we arrived in town in good time and Colin, our manager for Victoria did a bang up job as always of getting everything set up. Also wonderful is the growing trend in Victoria of having audience members dress up in Medieval garb. Needless to say, we encourage this whole-heartedly.

The next day we drove to Nanaimo to do the last of the two Island concerts. The Port Theatre in Nanaimo is such an amazing facility and the staff, as always, are wonderfully professional and helpful. We did our sound check, I did the pre-concert talk which I do every year, though this year Scott helped me out with a short talk about the pedal harp.

Because we do two shows back to back on the same day at the Port Theatre, our meals are brought to us back stage, and this gives us a bit more time to play around on stage. We were in a funny mood that day, and we toyed with the idea of doing a Bizarro-world Winter Harp, where every member would switch around and do another job. Janelle tried out what it would be like to be the percussionist, Lauri checked out the pedal harp, and Mark thought he'd take a stab at narration.

Just as we were leaving the theatre, the first flakes of snow began to fall, and when we woke up the next day we found Nanaimo covered in a fluffy white blanket of Winter Wonderland snow.
It was magical and the perfect end to an enchanting tour.

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