Story and Photos by Margaret Evans
City folk and country folk came together on April 21st for a celebration of Earth Day, and the Italian Cultural Centre was at capacity with the diverse audience. Hosted by Elizabeth May and Bruce Hyer, the event was a fundraiser for Environment North, New Directions Speakers School and the Prosvita Youth Centre with TBIFC.
The opening artist Rodney Brown was eagerly welcomed and did not disappoint his many friends and fans. After his last song, crowd-favourite “The Freight Train Lost Its Cargo,” he introduced his old friend Valdy.
When Valdy took the stage, he took the warmth of the people and paid it back threefold. There is just something about him that can delight every age. There was crowd participation in the familiar songs with harmonies and even a bit of rapping—Valdy brings out the inner child/singer in all his audience. There was the “Rock ‘N’ Roll” song that is the everyday staple of Valdy folk, and then a new song written for Stompin’ Tom which was performed in Stompin’ Tom style.
After a short break where everyone wandered the different booths and topped up their beverages, it was time for Sarah Harmer. Her evocative vocals garnered many levels of appreciation. With multiple JUNO Awards, Harmer has become one of Canada’s most adored singer-songwriters and activists. She finished her set with “Escarpment Blues” from her documentary of the same name.
All three artists received enthusiastic standing ovations after their sets, and brought the evening to a resounding end when they returned to the stage to perform a few songs together. Their beautiful rendition of “Mercy” by the late Marvin Gaye was a great song to wind down the performance, and the final song was “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle,” co-written by Rodney Brown and known word-for-word by almost every kid in Thunder Bay. It’s hard to say what gave Brown more pleasure—that everyone knew the words and sang along, or that he was backed up by his friends Valdy and Sarah Harmer. The earthy rhythm was a perfect end to an inspiring evening of awareness through song.