Varying styles blend at musical fundraiser

Concert shows what you get when you mix a folk-pop-singer-songwriter with about a dozen members from the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra

Jeffery Straker, a folk-pop singer-songwriter-pianist from Saskatchewan, performs with 11 members of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra for a crowd of about 100 people at the Norman Ritchie Community Centre on April 6. The Kindersley & District Arts Council presented the concert as a fundraiser for a future new community centre in town.

Kenneth Brown
of The Clarion

An audience in Kindersley now knows what you get when you mix a folk-pop-singer-songwriter with about a dozen members from the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra.

Jeffery Straker, a singer-songwriter-pianist from Punnichy, Sask., performed with 11 members of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (SSO) at a fundraiser on April 6 at the Norman Ritchie Community Centre. The concert was presented by the Kindersley & District Arts Council.

The 11-person ensemble from the SSO is referred to as the orchestra’s chamber players. The musicians took their seats before Straker had been introduced to the more than 100 people in attendance. Several of the chamber players sat in a semi-circle around where Straker’s piano was set up at centre stage.

Delee DeCap, the arts council’s president, welcomed people to the show and thanked everyone for getting out to support the cause. DeCap thanked all of the event sponsors including the ones that sponsored four special raffle prizes.

The arts council brings several performers to the community and DeCap encouraged people to check out the performers on YouTube or on their websites if they are not familiar with them. She told people about future and current events as part of the arts council’s various annual programs.

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DeCap said Straker is a singer, a songwriter, a player and a performer with a long list of accomplishments and awards. She noted that he worked with someone who is the descendent of a person who was taught by Ludwig Van Beethoven.

The audience welcomed the Saskatchewan-born performer to the stage with a warm round of applause. Straker spent a lot of time telling stories in between songs, and he told the stories behind the music. He was full of compliments for the chamber players.

Straker and the SSO performed his song “Walk Away” and he told people the song was written about leaving a small town to live in the city as he had done. He said living in Toronto and other places has made him even more fond of his home province. The singer-songwriter also showed a good sense of humour.

At intermission, DeCap said she could recall that Straker was a polished musician, but she forgot how funny he could be. One of his funnier stories came after the intermission when he spoke about a performance in Hazlet, Sask.

He said he was pumped to hear he was playing after a fall supper in the small village. He referred to the venue as a quonset with a nice floor, but it was an older building with all of its outlets being used for crock-pots and food warmers. The live entertainment also required electricity.

Just as Straker began to play, a breaker tripped and the power went off. He said the concert resumed after someone reset the breaker, but the power kept going off during the show and a woman had to stand by the breaker box for the entire performance.
The performer asked the audience to show its appreciation to the arts council for making the concert possible. He said venues come in all shapes and sizes, and the community had a good venue. He noted that the concert was a fundraiser for a new community centre, and a new venue will only help audiences to enjoy shows.

Straker gave an inspiring performance and after his final song with the SSO chamber players, he performed a traditional Irish song a cappella to end the show. Straker studied music in Ireland when he was going to university.

After the concert, he said the evening was a joy and the crowd was excellent. His other performances with orchestra members have felt like pop orchestra events, but the show just felt better in Kindersley because of his connection with the chamber players and audience. He added, “it was a real treat for me.”

Mark Turner, the executive director for the SSO, said the orchestra’s members had not performed outside of Saskatoon in eight years. Straker and the SSO were playing in Lloydminster a night later and Turner said the SSO is going to do more touring in 2019.

DeCap said in an interview on Monday that she believes the show went well. The arts council is raising money to help with a new community centre and she said the fundraising component worked out nicely. It was an excellent show.

“I thought he was tons of fun,” she said of Straker, adding the overall quality of the performance could not have been any better. “The orchestra was fantastic. I mean, who would have thought that we would get the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra in Kindersley?”

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