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Review: The Canadian Folk Music Awards – April 6-7 at the Majestic Theatre, St. John’s

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Aleksi Campagne

The 19th annual Canadian Folk Music Awards (CFMAs) took place over the weekend of April 6-7 at the Majestic Theatre in St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador, which I was very pleased to attend.

We posted the winners at Roots Music Canada as soon as they became available; you can see the complete list here.

Among the winners, William Prince stood out with three CFMA wins for his fourth studio album Stand in the Joy in the categories of Contemporary Album of the Year, Solo Artist of the Year, and Single of the Year for “When You Miss Someone.”

Mia Kelly came away with two CFMAs for Emerging Artists of the Year and Young Performer of the Year.

The full range of categories is rather lengthy, as you will see at the link above.

Compliments to the organizers

In general, awards were handed out for singing, songwriting, global roots music, instrumental music, children’s music, producing, vocal group, single of the year, and solo artist.

Add to that a category for Pushing the Boundaries, and a CFMA Unsung Hero Award for John Clarke, an important part of St. John’s music scene.

Beside a hardy congratulations to all nominees and winners I thought I would use this space to congratulate the organizers on an absolutely wonderful event and note what made it such an enjoyable experience.

The venue was spectacular. The newly renovated Majestic Theatre, originally opened in 1918 as a movie theatre before deteriorating badly, is now, after reopening in 2023, a delight.

Capacity of the new site is 350 people. The sightlines are terrific, and the sound excellent.

Kaeley Jade and band. Photo by Richard Barry.

While there were a few empty seats on both nights of the CFMAs, everything was very well-attended.

The next observation is that the CFMAs now takes place over two evenings. This provides for an immense value for the ticket-buying public, who are now treated to six acts each evening performing three songs each.

Beside the fact that all performers are CFMA nominees meaning the quality is outstanding, it’s a lot of music and so clearly well appreciated by those in attendance.

On the first night performers were Julian Taylor (ON), La Deferlance (ON), Barbara Lica (ON), Aaron Collis (NL), and Queen Kong (ON). On the second night performers were Al Qahwa (ON), Aleksi Campagne (QC), Jill Barber (BC), Kaeley Jade (AB), and Youngtree and the Blooms (NL).

The pace of each evening’s show was notably brisk which was remarkable given that it was a full three hours of programming with just a short intermission each night.

Compliments to the hosts

As awards and acceptance speeches were nicely interspersed between musical performances, the energy was kept high and, this was key, the hosts for the evening did a marvelous job.

Tom Power, musician and broadcaster, best known as the host of Q on CBC Radio One was co-host along with Emilia Bartellas, who is considered by many to be the finest fiddle player of her generation in Newfoundland and Labrador.

It’s difficult to know what makes hosts of awards shows shine, but
Tom and Emilia did a fine job – as they created a very comfortable, warm and engaging atmosphere. And the few times they moved over to the performance area to play a few tunes on fiddle and guitar, it was magic, which shouldn’t surprise as they have both for many years been members of the folk music group The Dardanelles.

Another innovation at the CFMAs, though I don’t know how long this has been in use, is to pre-record and announce the names of the nominees before each award is given. Not only does this spare the various presenters, many of whom may not be a part of the folk music community, from potentially tripping over names unknown to them, but it speeds things along brilliantly.

As always, the stage and sound crew and volunteers should be mentioned when they do a great job, and they did.

As you can tell, I had a great time, which is almost always the case when I visit St. John’s, something I have been doing on a regular basis for past 25 years.

The city was a splendid host and set a very high bar for the next host, announced at the end of Sunday night’s show to be Ottawa-Gatineau.

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