I left my fledgling garden, flew high over the Great Lakes and landed in a late spring snowstorm in Calgary, Alberta. It was an unexpected turn of events and when I met up with the Olympic Symphonium, with whom I was about to spend the next 12 days, we were told the road was closed to Edmonton and there would be no show. Ominous beginnings?
Well, we packed the rental van and headed out anyway. Our change of fortune began when the road from Calgary to Red Deer was reopened, despite there being at least 25 cars strewn about the ditches and roadsides.
Being a mom and a musician has always held it’s challenges, but the greatest hardship is having to spend chunks of time away from my little girl. Because of this, I had never toured by car the western parts of Canada any further than Calgary. It just takes too long, too much time away from home. So I was long overdue to play in some of these towns that dot the western landscape, scattered among the Rockies and along the islands and inlets of the Pacific.
Traveling with the Fredericton, N.B. based Olympic Symphonium was a perfect way to explore these parts, each of the guys having friends in every nook and cranny we visited. They also happen to have friends with connections to luxury hotels and resorts like the Jasper Park Lodge and the Empress Hotel in Victoria. It felt a little like cheating. I only slept on a couple of couches, no floors, and every where we travelled looked like a fairy tale. Mountains as far as the eye can see, glaciers, elk, bears, gorgeous little islands, ghost towns, century-old haunted hotels, and on and on.
Our show in the tiny and remote town of Powell River on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast was doubled up with the local Cinco de Mayo feast and festivities. A rowdy room full of delicious Mexican food and lively conversation was converted (while we hit a pinata outside) into a quiet, attentive, seated audience and changed yet again into a raging dance party to end the night.
In Vancouver we played in the most unpretentious little spot, Little Mountain Gallery, and joined forces with the amazing Petunia. After we finished our portion of the show, Petunia got onstage with his new west coast band, the Vipers, and blew the room away. He had people dancing, laughing and singing along to his haunting old-time songs. With his music in the air, the room transformed into a magical space that felt like a 1930’s speak-easy, or what I imagine that to be like.
There were so many highlights to this tour. Night after night of full houses, interesting little venues, and welcoming arms in every town. The odd strange sound person, the rare little kink in our plans… all these bumps in the road were erased by the beauty of our surroundings, the amazing food we found to eat, and the lovely friends who joined us on our way. From a Calgary roadhouse to a cafe in Canmore, from artist-run galleries to a Unitarian Hall, this was a trip to remember.
On the final morning before heading back onto a plane for home, my eyes opened onto the sight of a snowcapped, rocky mountain bathed in the light of the sunrise. I lay there for a while just soaking it in, knowing I wouldn’t be back to the mountains for a while. I pondered the size of our country and how much warmth it holds. And all the while, my garden waited.
(Originally published in the June edition of PEI’s entertainment monthly, The Buzz.)