Thu, Nov 15, 2012.
The 2012 Canadian Folk Music Awards is now underway in Saint John, with dozens of top names arriving in town to perform. Thursday night sees action at the Sanctuary Theatre with a concert filled with nominees for this year's awards: Michael Jerome Browne, Sneezy Waters, Three Little Birds, Rik Barron, and New Brunswick's own Shaun Ferguson. The guitar player is nominated for Instrumental Solo Artist of the Year, joining fellow NB'ers Lisa LeBlanc and Matt Andersen who are also up for awards.
It will be the first time performing in Saint John for many of these national-calibre artists. Ironically, that includes Ferguson, who is from Caraquet. He says it's a big deal to get the nomination: "For something, a local product to be recognised on a national scale is, for me it's, I can't describe the feeling."
One of the main goals of bringing the awards to Saint John is to give that kind of exposure to the province's music scene. The co-founder and President of the Canadian Folk Music Awards is Grit Laskin, the man who came up with the idea to hold them in the first place. The Toronto-based luthier is one of the most honoured and respected guitar makers in the world, and also co-founded folk label Borealis Records. Next week he'll be inducted into the Order of Canada, but for now he's enjoying his stay in Saint John. Laskin says the city won the right to hold the awards through its great pitch: "We wanted to head east again, and (were) debating between Nova Scotia or New Brunswick, when we were contacted by Dave Ryan, of Go Fundy Events in Saint John. Dave was charming and persuasive, convinced us that he could marshall a lot of attention for us in Saint John. He's been doing just that, not to mention bringing some key sponsorship to the table. We found him and the arguments for Saint John irresistable, and it's all falling beautifully into place. All venues, hotels, people in Saint John that we've been working with have been as supportive and keen as Dave predicted."
The awards were in Toronto last year, and Laskin says it's actually getting a better buzz in Saint John. "We've been getting a lot of attention from the local and regional media, print and radio most specifically, and that's been gratifying. It's certainly not the struggle on that front that it was in Toronto (although to be fair to us, we did have a sell out success in Toronto). What it feels like, from our perspective, is that more of the greater community - the venues and hotels, a local committee, festivals and presenters from the region - have all jumped on board and are doing what they can to participate. In addition, The City of Saint John itself contributed to some of the marketing costs. As my grandmother would've said: "What's not to like!"
That's a strong endorsement for the city and region to host more national-scale events. There's lots of music coming up Friday at the festival. It starts at 5 PM at Market Square, with sets by Mike Biggar, Jimmy Lingley, Clinton Charlton and Caroline Savoie.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).