Click for complete list of CFMA 2011 award winners

It was a dark and stormy night, with large drops of heavy blown glass falling steadily into the hands of worthy Canadians all night long. The Common Thread Community Chorus gusted out the songs of our multi-lingual communities in the lobby as Toronto’s Isabel Bader Theatre filled up with folk, roots and world luminaries and lunatics for last Sunday night’s Canadian Folk Music Awards.

The audience came dressed eclectically, in jeans and jackets, luminous textiles, and boots as high up as they could afford. Host Shelagh Rogers was draped in black velvet; bon homme Benoit Bourque co-hosted in comfortable linen with a steady rapport, in a truly bilingual ceremony. And the sight of the minty Goa Chic on Tannis Slimmon, the bejeweled rosy cloud enveloping Kiran Ahluwalia, silvery Jaron Freeman-Fox, back yesterday from an extraordinary gig in India, and elegant vocalist Ozgu Boz of Minor Empire limping in, sabotaged by her new boots on the slippery steps, all lent a luster of exotic style to the evening.

As the first awards were presented to The Good Lovelies and The Creaking Tree String Quartet, a current of approval for the tastes of the panel of eighty-odd jurors rushed through the crowd on waves of applause and hoots. Jim Byrnes and awesome Steve Dawson somehow reversed gravity with a performance of high-carb blues, and then The Wailin’ Jennys and Jayme Stone received their just rewards via shared producer David Travers-Smith.

Bruce Cockburn, absent with a new ten-day-old baby girl, named Iona, had his first award of the evening accepted by his manager, Bernie Finkelstein. “I know Bruce would begin by thanking his manager”, he said.

Rose Cousins enraptured the audience next with her easy-going repartee,“Am I being too casual?”, and two starkly moving portents from her new album, due early next year. Genticorum received an ensemble award from Lynn Miles, who amusingly cautioned the nominees, “No matter who wins, don’t forget, we’re all losers here.” It was left to World Solo Artist winner Kiran Ahluwalia to evoke the theme of the evening, a Tribute to the Folk Festivals; “I learned to play music in India, but I learned to collaborate musically at the festivals in Canada, and to not be afraid of different styles and genres, to know that I had something to offer.”

Sparkly Suzie Vinnick collected her Contemporary Singer trophy; Steve Bell accepted his brother-in-law Vince Fontaine’s Aboriginal Songwriter award for Songs for Turtle Island, and then a startled Lynn Miles accepted a major prize from her “songwriting hero… and hair hero”, Sylvia Tyson for English Songwriter of the Year. Just before the barnstorming bravura of Quebecois supergroup De Temps Antan (featuring the most musical footwear heard since the glory years of Stompin’ Tom), Molly Thomason pulled out in front of a strong field to take the Young Performer honour, declaring that her next goal in life would be to get her drivers’ license.

The a capella Afri-Canadian quartet, Soul Influence,  brought their commitment to “the African continent, humanity and GOD” to the musical attention of a breathless audience with two deeply swinging gospel tunes.

And Unsung Hero, “Riverboat” Jane Harbury, finally received  a few of the verses and choruses of praise due to her since she came to Canada to stay ”for about a year”, followed by decades of planning and improving our musical infrastructure.

Dave Gunning, who had wowed live and internet aficionados the night before with an endearing set at Hugh’s Room, accomplished an ironic, but not unprecedented sweep of both Traditional and Emerging Artist categories for his tribute album to beloved east coast icon John Allen Cameron.

The members of Turkish- Canadian jazz/psychtronica ensemble Minor Empire fulfilled the promise of their unique first record, Second Nature, and won in the bulk department by claiming seven statuettes in the World Group division.

It was left to Genticorum and Bruce Cockburn to solidify their nomination domination by securing Traditional and Contemporary Album of the Year, respectively. Genticorum’s Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand gave the most moving endorsement of the night’s efforts by explaining the effect that folk music festivals have on uniting disparate parts of the country, and giving artists the motivation to heal regional prejudices by providing special opportunities for accord, “especially at 3 or 4 in the morning”.

Then Loreena McKennitt played, everyone went to Victoria College to party, Richard Flohil spilled a little white wine on the carpet, and whatever else happened at the C.F.M.A. afterparty stayed at the C.F.M.A. afterparty. It was an important and exciting night of justification for, and rededication to all the hard work of creating, publicizing and maintaining Canada’s pre-eminent, world-renowned musical values, even if it was just amongst us folk.

Paul Corby is the host of Corby’s Orbit, CKLN.FM, Toronto’s Global Community Internet Station.

If you are enjoying this content, please take a second to support Roots Music Canada on Patreon!


  1. avatar
    Helen Shapiro 5 December, 2011 at 12:28

    Dave Gunning has been around since at least sometime in the 1990’s. How can he be considered a new/emerging artist?

  2. avatar
    Beverly Kreller 5 December, 2011 at 14:12

    Wonderfully written piece Paul!
    Congratulation from SPEAK MUSIC Publicity Co. to all of the recipients and a very special thanks to RMC team for their great work and support in helping us get the word out …and for working tirelessly to get the events seamlessly streaming into the homes of all those unable to attend!
    Congrats again Jane, you looked stunning last night btw 🙂

  3. avatar
    Richard Flohil 5 December, 2011 at 14:32

    I spilled wine on the carpet? A terrible exaggeration, Mr. Corby; I did no such thing. I did hug a number of young women a third my age, had my picture taken with Jane Harbury and Beverley Kreller, and I ate a lot of sausage rolls. I missed some of the awards because I was backstage talking to a friend in her dressing room, and I understand that one or two people said nice things abut m in their acceptance speeches — for which I thank them. But it was a grand evening, the theatre was lovely, and the company wonderful. Love and hugs and congratulations to ALL the winners and nominees….

  4. avatar
    David Newland 5 December, 2011 at 14:45

    Hello Helen,

    A quick look at the CFMA categories answers this question.

    New/Emerging Artist of the Year
    : This award recognizes an up-and-coming artist, group or duo not nominated for any other major (national or international) music award in any prior year. Instrumental or vocal music from all folk genres, traditional and contemporary, is eligible.

    Presuming that Dave has missed out on Juno and Grammy nominations to date (the ECMAs are of course not national), he is eligible.

    It can take a long time to emerge in this country.

  5. avatar
    David Newland 5 December, 2011 at 14:46

    Richard, as Tom Stoppard once said of Leonard Cohen, “The apocryphal has its own kind of truth.”

    That said, we note that your preference is typically for white, not red wine.

    And that you’re seldom disappointed to be mentioned, however exaggeratedly.

  6. avatar
    Andy Frank 5 December, 2011 at 15:05

    Well I have to add that the broadcast team which I was proud to lead did an incredible job. Kate Adach, Rob Howard and Brian Crosby were terrific on camera, especially during the 3.5 non-stop hour marathon at Hugh’s Room, Shawna Caspi and Meghan Sheffield were superb as chat hosts and production-assistants, bag packers and general angelic spirits, and most of all, Rick Scicluna’s calling of every single camera shot, with passion, care and precision was world class. He sounded like a NYC taxi dispatcher over his multi-camera screen, at once telling the next camera to go live what framing to use, how to move, etc., all while directing what was live on screen, etc. His throat is raw today 🙂

    Finally, the two biggest improvements this year were the specially remixed broadcast audio feeds by Jason LaPrade and Marty Smyth (Sat and Sun respectively) and the hosting of David Newland, who was also the most articulate presenter of a Gala-evening award. Proud to know and work with all of you.

    (trivia note: 20% of our live-stream viewers were American, and 6% South American – who knew?)

  7. avatar
    Michael "A Man Called" Wrycraft 5 December, 2011 at 16:41

    a hearty congratulations to everyone involved in this weekend’s festivities

    i was very sad this weekend as it was impossible for me to attend either saturday or sunday but it felt like i was there due to the amazing efforts of the wonderful folks at rmc

    great show, great broadcast… um… er frankcast

    hopefully i’ll be there next year

    keep up the fantastic job folks

    sincerely, michael

  8. avatar
    Heather Kitching 5 December, 2011 at 19:57

    A highly entertaining synopsis, Paul. Thanks! I too was extremely sad to have to miss attending the awards in person. …all the more so after I watched the ceremony on RMC and saw how incredible it was. The best yet, I believe. Bravo to everyone involved and thank you so much, RMC, for bringing it into our homes.

  9. avatar
    John Morrow 6 December, 2011 at 09:29

    I am, of course, shocked to learn of Richard’s self-confessed lady-hugging. Who would have anticipated that? 😉

    My only gripe is with the Bruce Cockburn awards – not because of any complaint about Bruce’s talents but rather my appreciation/preference for all the great younger and equally worthy talent. In short, *grumble* get off my lawn *grumble*.

    Kudos to the whole Roots Music crew for the great coverage.

  10. avatar
    Beverly Kreller 6 December, 2011 at 12:16

    Andy, re 20% American viewers…SPEAK Music informs many U.S. radio and other media outlets plus niche communities including South American, about the CFMAs through our distribution of the CFMAs press releases, so that may have contributed to the US and South American viewership.

  11. avatar
    Phil Weir 7 December, 2011 at 15:03

    Excellent prose, written by one who knows – as always by Paul Corby, astute DJ and the writing Dean of the Canadian music scene. There ought to be an award in there for you too Paul. You make me wish I’d been there, that I know all this music, or at least took the time to watch the awards show on TV. Lots to learn about and enjoy out there – I need to listen more. – Congrats to all.

  12. avatar
    Paul Cullen 7 December, 2011 at 21:24

    From the Department of Redundancy Department, a great column by the incomparable Corby! Wish I’d been able to attend; a great night and a great time had by all, and a terrific venue. I spent the entire TIFF festival as a Bader volunteer, my home away from home. Hopefully, next year’s CFMA’s…..

  13. avatar
    Mae Moore 7 December, 2011 at 22:45

    Paul Corby! was lovely to be introduced to you by Michael Occipinnti…oh lord, I’m sure I’ve just misspelled his name. I had a great time at the awards and reception….thanks everyone for pulling off a great event!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *