By Maggie M, Editor, the wedge.LIVE
It’s rare to witness the prowess of great, internationally renown talent in a tiny hamlet like Morton; but, thanks to the ingenuity of the team behind The Festival of Small Halls, it happened last September 17th.
It was perhaps the last sweltering Sunday of the summer. Everyone stayed still to remain dry for the arrival of Fred Penner. This writer fought perspiration to no avail. Penner quipped, “Thank God there’s air conditioning.”
Penner’s repertoire included skilled bird calling, a kazoo, a hilarious jaw-harp and performances in multiple languages. He regaled all with seldom heard folk song, “O! give me a home where the buffalo roam,” and, “Yippie-yi-yo-yippie-yi-yea…” He closed with iconic, “The cat came back.”
Penner’s mind is visibly working on multiple tracks. He stopped and asked the audience, “What planet are you from?” Like sheep we all answered, “EARTH!,” to which he replied, “Are you sure?” His unique banter framed each set. His entire performance has a rhythm: hear, see, participate, laugh, repeat. All our senses are engaged. The connection this performer has with his audience, young and old, is self-evident. He calls it, “primal therapy.”
A little girl named, Lilly, requested a song for her stuffed pet and without missing a beat, Penner delivered a ‘one-of’ with a comical finish. At one point he picked a toddler from the front row and asked, “What’s your name?” The father (Seamus Cowan) replied, “Fred.” Penner’s facial response drew howls from the crowd. It’s all in his rhythm.
On the topic of therapy, a quartet opened for Penner, Barbershop Therapy. These young men, ranging from 19 to 20 years of age, are surely on their way to greater heights. All four are students at U. of Ottawa; three are studying music and one, bio-chemistry.
This quartet is bringing back a genre that delights the ears. You can enjoy them live (below) as they gave the wedge permission to film them. On closing their last set, the audience jumped to their feet with a big round of applause.
Experience Barbershop Therapy in the wedge video below.
The Festival of Small Halls continues until October 1st. Many halls are sold out but have look at their site here and see what is still offered.