By John Swartz
Sunday’s Mariposa continued the path established Friday, with many memorable moments generated and great weather. This time most of the royalty of Canadian music was on hand. Today’s descriptive word is stirring.
The biggest highlight of many for the evening was the induction of Gordon Lightfoot into the Mariposa Hall of Fame.
Tom Wilson and Pam Carter, the Mariposa Folk Foundation president and festival organizing chair, handled the presentation.
When the moment arrived, Gord walked onto the stage, guitar ready and launched into If You Could read My Mind. Then the presentation was made.
Tom, eloquent as ever, had a few stirring words to say about what Gord’s work has meant to countless musicians who followed behind Gord and to fans of Gord’s music.
“Gordon Lightfoot has filled our lives with joy, poetry and identity. His voice has brought comfort to us through storms, it’s made us feel independent, proud and Canadian. Years ago, my mother used to come to Hamilton and visit me from time to time. I was young, maybe 6-years-old. She showed up one time with an old portable record player and a copy of a record from a guy she used to see at Steele’s Tavern. Across the top of the record was Lightfoot and a guy leaning back in a studio chair with a guitar. The photo alone captured my young imagination and when I dropped the needle on the record my life changed in so many ways as a kid. That record was responsible for igniting the devil in me and stirring the sludge at the bottom of my lake. There are so many wonderful artists on this stage, opening up the doors of possibilities and capturing our imagination, but Gordon Lightfoot lives in our blood. He’s a soundtrack on memories, he raises our ghosts up and reunites us with a joy that we all hold in our hearts right in this minute. The man who lives in our blood, Gordon Lightfoot.”
With that, Tom presented Gord with a sculptural plaque suitable for display on a mantle. Gord basked in the adulation of the crowd, but had few words to say.
“Thanks for coming out. This has been going on for 60 years now. I played on the second one (Mariposa). They wouldn’t put us on the first one because when Terry Whalen and I played together they said we sounded too much like the Everly Brothers, which couldn’t be all bad,” Gord said just before a video of congratulatory messages from many other famous artists was played for the audience.
Then his backup band went on stage to accompany Gord with one more tune.
“Is there anybody here from Alberta? Larry Good said. “Well welcome to Canada,” The assembled cast (Jim Cuddy, Greg Keelor, Bazil Donovan, Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing, Tom Wilson, Anne Lindsay, James Keelaghan, Larry Bruce and Brian Good and Serena Ryder) did a rendition of Alberta Bound. Larry sang lead most of the way through, but Gord sang the middle verse.
I remember Serena’s first appearance at Mariposa 20 years ago, and like many was amazed at how powerful her voice is. It still is. As an example, she sang a counter melody to the repeat ending of Alberta Bound and her voice cut through everyone else’s on stage – the mic was about a foot away from her mouth too. Her set later on was just a ball of energy.
When the presentation concluded, one could not help feeling moved, stirred, by the outpouring of love from the audience, and respect from the musicians.
Oh, and there was a warmup to the presentation. The winner of the 50/50 draw was announced. Like 2019, the prize was $10,000, which is the maximum amount there could have been.
Yesterday I told the story of Irish Mythen’s delay getting to the festival. She arrived after the show was over Saturday. Her guitar was not broken by the Samsonite apes in baggage handling. It never made it to her gig in Copenhagen. Then she had three flights cancelled, got on a flight to London. Couldn’t get a flight over the pond until 5 p.m. Saturday – and arrived in Orillia still without her guitar and without her luggage.
Long and McQuade sent a guitar for her to use, and she took a turn on the side stage. When I spoke with her I was struck she was able to maintain a bit of a sense of humour about the whole ordeal. Of course if you’ve seen her perform before she channels some of her ire about the state of things into her performance – with a sense of humour. And she always seems to be so glad to talk with people, which is why she’s one of my favourite people.
She didn’t take any prisoners on stage, launching right into Jesus, for her opening salvo. This is a very critical song and like many of George Carlin’s bits, sprinkled with humour on top of the sharp criticism.
Her stage introduction by James Keelaghan included a story about a friend of his who made The Auld Triangle famous saying he’d heard many others do the song, but they missed the mark equalling the original. Then he heard Irish do it. “It’s her song now,” Keelaghan said.
So, what’s a performer to do with that kind of story.? For Irish, about to do her second last tune, it was – with that kind of fanfare, I guess I’ll have to do it – and then launched into one of the most stirring and powerful a capella renditions of any song anyone could imagine. The Auld Triangle is her song. She closed out with a crowd favourite Tullamore Road. Clearly the audience was glad she made it to Orillia.
The program listed Kellie Loder as the first side stage performer and I thought she was bumped in favour of Irish making up her missed opportunity Saturday. Not so. They just made room for Irish and Kellie. When I was speaking with Kellie before her gig. I said it was good she didn’t get bumped like I thought, and I found out she’s from Newfoundland.
“They flew me all the way out just to open for Gordon Lightfoot,” Loder joked.
Blue Rodeo took the stage at 10:30 p.m. The thing I like about this band, other than the great music, is they have such a strong work ethic, when they take a stage it looks like just a bunch of guys who punched in and are walking to their machines to start another shift.
They have such a calm, straight forward approach to performing; they make what they do look easy. There was no fanfare, just – Ok, let’s do this – and they performed It Could Happen to You – just like that, for maybe the 10,789th time.
And then it was all over.
There are some general thoughts to close out telling the story of this year’s festival. For years I’ve looked forward to the weekend, my summer vacation in Orillia. In some sense that’s what it is. Go to the park, meet people (many haven’t been seen since the last festival), enjoy the music, have some laughs, drink some beer, forget about the troubles of the world, go home, sleep more soundly from exhaustion than most nights, get up, write, run through the shower, repeat. No cares, no worries.
I’ve been to a lot of festivals and all day concert affairs and none of them come close to the stellar job the Mariposa people do. Every year the line up turns out to be better than expected – and this year, I think the best and most fortuitous on several counts. All the people in the park and back stage are awesome.
This year more than most I found it rejuvenating, stirring even. It always is, but in light of the past two years, I find right now my energy has returned, my usual cheery optimism is back and I’m ready to get on with the day – even though it’s Monday. More than other years Mariposa has decluttered my mind and left room for imagining better things ahead. That’s all because of every single person I encountered at the Mariposa Folk Festival.
Heh, I just realized, I never made to the pub Sunday.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Main: Star Studded Tribute At Gordon Lightfoot’s Induction To The Mariposa Hall Of Fame At Sunday’s Mariposa Folk Festival.