These Coast characters are certainly proud to be Canadian. The dynamic duo that brought you vaudeville shows in the past, Miss Berni G and Susie Francis, are at it again with a new group, the Coast Characters, who will present Made in Canada, a musical tribute to all the songs people love. The show will open on Canada Day, July 1, and continue on July 2 and 3 at Roberts Creek Hall.
The backing musicians are the best: Michelle Bruce on fiddle, John Locke, bass guitar, Gordon Beynon, guitar, Al Burns on percussion and the musical director herself, Berni G on keyboard. And the singing group is solid – about a dozen of them, not all seniors, and some with professional experience willing to sing their hearts out for Canada.
Who can listen to Farewell to Nova Scotia and not feel patriotic? And the depth of Canadiana is explored in a song popularized by the late Rita MacNeil, It’s a Working Man I Am, sung by a crew in hard hats with a touching solo by Joan Curry. The Good Old Hockey Game is the best game Anton Hendriks, Joe D’Souza and John Duff can name. You can practically smell the beer. And musician Charlotte Wrinch with Kumiko Watabe leads the women on an outstanding Inuit piece, Oh Siem, in which the women hold up drum skins with images of the north, painted by Michelle Saari.
So are we going to hear Alouette again, I hear you ask? This version of Alouette is somewhat different from what you learned in school. It doesn’t last that long, I can assure you.
The music continues with contemporary songs such as Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi and Ian Tyson’s Four Strong Winds. A highlight of the show is Wrinch’s own composition, Oh Canada – you can expect the audience to be singing along in no time. And no Coast performance is complete without fiddle music. At age 86, Doreen Savien is the elder of the group and she learned her fiddle tunes as a child from her New Brunswick father, who was of Irish descent. She’s been part of many musical groups ever since, and now she performs for the Canada show with the haunting melody of the Log Driver’s Waltz.
The wisecracking producer and director Susie Francis will preside, and no doubt she will give the show a touch of the old vaudeville jokes.
Made in Canada runs July 1 and 2 at 7 p.m. and July 3 at 1 p.m. at Roberts Creek Hall. Tickets are $15 in Sechelt at Pretty Natty Duds, at the Roberts Creek General Store, and in Gibsons at Laedeli Gifts.