CKUA Spring Campaign & East Coulee Spring Festival
Ah yes, the CKUA Spring Fundraising Campaign
, and the East Coulee Spring Festival
The word is Spring but here comes the snow, not exactly the kind of frosting on the cake that we were hoping for as we head into the middle of April.
I have promised myself I will not use this platform to whine about the weather, at least out loud when pitching or announcing on Dead Ends
or Points North
, or in print. So there we have it. May all of you heading to East Coulee this weekend have fun during the snowshoe races that are now slated for the community hall grounds mid-afternoon on Saturday April 16.
Just kidding, of course. There will be far too many acts worth catching inside the venues at the annual event that brings a fine cross-section of Alberta talent together for a worthy cause.
Located just west of Drumheller, East Coulee should be experienced by Alberta roots music fans at least once. It was Bill Werthmann of the Northern Light Folk Club in Edmonton that kept telling many of his friends that this was a gem of an event, and I'm glad I was listening and acted on his suggestion a few years ago.
Visually, the place is as appealing and unique as it gets in this part of the world. Where else do you suddenly descend into a terrain, in the midst of the bald prairie, that was once staked out by dinosaurs?
Once you reach go through Drumheller, which still has its share of aesthetically pleasing buildings from years gone by, and motor towards the town of East Coulee, you end up in a place that looks like it could be a prime spot for a movie location scout, perhaps one representing a producer looking to make a Canadian version of the Robert Duval movie Tender Mercies. It's as funky as it is inviting.
You’ve got the old hotel and adjoining beer parlour complete with stage, and there’s an antique store a couple of lots over that reminds one of days gone by in the community that thrived as a coal mining centre so many decades ago.
The Red Deer River meanders through the south section of the quaint town, just a stone’s throw from the mining museum that was built as a school back in the twenties. That museum, along with the hotel pub and a community centre act as the three venues where Alberta artists dispense their tunes, all for the cause of keeping the coal mining museum in the black, financially speaking.
Three years ago during the East Coulee festivities, the weather really cooperated and temperatures soared to the mid-twenties. Everyone who made the pilgrimage to the valley couldn’t have asked for a finer spring day.
Friends and associates talk about finding these wonderful rural gatherings that mix culture and hospitality down in Texas, California, or Washington State, on their travels.
I’ve been to a few out of the way festivals’ myself, but unlike any other, East Coulee has a unique Alberta feel to it.
The gathering draws on a portion of the music community that makes this province tick 365 days a year. Acts from as far north as Edmonton and as far south as Medicine Hat have made the trek to pitch in, and most participants will tell you that the festival also acts as a terrific place to network with, and showcase for associates. Then there’s the time when the artists can really catch up with friends in a very relaxed setting.
Some of the more memorable performances I have witnessed came from Heather Blush, Tim Hus, jazz violinist Karl Roth, John Rutherford with Crawdad Cantera, The Sadlier-Brown Band, Bob Jahrig, Steve Pineo and the Dana Wylie Band.John Rutherford
This year, some of the musicians who have agreed to be part of the 12-hour affair, are Joe Nolan, The Kirby Sewell Band, The Ian Porteous Stringband, the gypsy jazz band Caravana, The Lovebullies, Magnolia Buckskin, and bluegrass outfit Woodbend.
John Rutherford, who will be presenting tunes from his fine Echo Broadcast recording and the Sadlier-Brown Band, are two acts making return appearances at East Coulee.
There is no shortage of reasonably priced motels just up the road in Drumheller, if you desire to stay for the entire festival run that ends at midnight. Complete ticket info is available at escmuseum.ca
If you can’t make the trip this year, put a reminder to attend East Coulee 2012 in your calendar or day timer now. There really is nothing like this event in our province, and how can you lose when it is set in one of the more visually spectacular places on the prairies.
Music and theatre fans in Red Deer will have one less option to consider when it comes to attending live performances as of early June.
The Matchbox Theatre
, which was billed as Central Alberta’s Hottest Performance Centre, will be closing its doors. The announcement was made two weeks ago by Steve Ridge, who has been the artistic guru of the venue since it opened four years ago.
The Matchbox hosted a full slate of artistic and performance endeavours ranging from roots and jazz music to spoken word and film. Live theatre has been an important component of the black box space since it’s birth, much of it produced by Ignition Theatre.
Artists such as The Good Lovelies, Bill Bourne and Madagascar Slim, James Keelaghan, and the CKUA trio of Lionel Rault, Jan Randall and Andy Donnelly were just a few of the musicians who performed in the space, to very appreciative audiences.
Ridge sent out an e-mail that cut to the chase. It stated, “while we have seen tremendous growth in audiences and the number of quality, professional productions – operating a performing arts facility as a non-profit organization is virtually impossible (as we’ve discovered) without support from government granting agencies. Despite some hard fought battles and mountains of paper work, The Matchbox Theatre Foundation has been unable to secure municipal, provincial or federal funding. While we have made every effort over the past season to remain cost effective and to solicit funding from the corporate and local business community, it has not been enough to make it feasible to keep our doors open.”
It’s a tough blow to the scene, but particularly to Ridge, his wife Cindy and the dedicated staff and volunteers of the Matchbox, all of who are dedicated to keeping culture alive in Red Deer.
Show your support for the venue and the gatekeepers of the Matchbox over the next few weeks if you can.
Ignition Theatre presents Adam Pascal: In Concert April 14-16 and presents the production “title of show” from May 19-27.
The final concerts at the Matchbox find Alpha Yaya Diallo taking the stage on Monday April 18 and Ben Sures will be performing songs from his brand new recording Gone To Bolivia on Friday May 6.
While there is no bright side to the impending locking of the doors to the Matchbox, Ridge and company do have plans to present shows in Red Deer in other venues starting next fall.