The simply awful weather virtually all across Canada on the day the Folk Alliance International conference began in Montreal proved a challenge. Many of the delegates’ flights were delayed or cancelled entirely. A lot of conference delegates arrived way late on Wednesday or were even delayed to Thursday and so missed the kickoff International Folk Music Awards. We were lucky to catch the last half hour of the show, having driven through light snow most of the day on our route from Toronto.
We arrived at the awards show just in time to hear The Good Lovelies perform “I See Gold” from their latest album Shape Shifters. Ever beautiful, always gorgeous harmonies, this performance did not disappoint. Rose Cousins presented Matt Smith, recipient of the with a Spirit of Folk award. Emcee Tom Power of CBC’s q, the flagship arts and entertainment radio program, lamented how so many of the award presenters AND recipients were not present, having been delayed in their arrival by the weather conditions. What a challenge for the host, having to fill empty air.
The Song of the Year award was presented by Lisa Schwartz. Zoe Mulford won that award for her song “The President Sang Amazing Grace,” which was very ably recorded by the legendary Joan Baez. Ms. Mulford accepted the award with immense humility and grace and thanked the folk music community for its part in the song coming to the attention of Ms. Baez, who had heard it on folk radio and then chose to record it herself.
The finale, the People’s Voice Award, was presented to Buffy Sainte-Marie. This legendary Indigenous Canadian singer and songwriter, dressed in highly decorated black leather and with brightly coloured highlights in her raven hair, graciously accepted the award, which recognized her lifelong international contribution to roots music.
The closer to the awards was a short but spectacular performance by Mélisande Electrotrad, a Québecois trio that is bringing Québec traditional music into the 21st century with electronic music combined with traditional flute, fiddle and voice. The audience was gobsmacked when the band’s lithe breakdancer somersaulted onto the stage, gyrating to the beats, dancing upside down.
And so began our four days of Folk Alliance International in Montreal.