ST. MARYS — Classic Canadian folk song Canadian Railroad Trilogy will be performed by well-respected troubadour James Keelaghan on the stage of the St. Marys Town Hall auditorium on Saturday, June 7, as part of a benefit concert for the committee lobbying for the maintenance and enhancement of VIA Rail passenger service in the St. Marys and Stratford area.
St. Marys resident Emm Gryner, a supporter of the Save VIA committee who last year recorded a music video overlooking the Stonetown’s iconic London Bridge train trestle, headlines the show. But she and concert organizers have also attracted some other big-name talent — including some who aren’t yet being announced and will appear as “surprise guests.”
Contacted last week about plans for the concert, Gryner confirmed that “folk legend James Keelaghan has promised to do (Gordon) Lightfoot’s Canadian Railway Trilogy.” The song was commissioned from Lightfoot — then at the height of his fame in both the US and his home of Canada — by the publicly funded CBC broadcaster for a special airing on Jan. 1, 1967, to start Canada’s centennial.
Keelaghan is a skilled storyteller, who has set his tales of tragedy, war and personal conquest — almost always based on true events — to song for over 25 years, and told them on stages across the country in a rich, baritone voice. Once word gets out that he plans to perform Lightfoot’s classic of Canadiana, it’s quite possible folk music lovers from across the country will take note of the Save VIA event.
“We expect (the concert) will probably sell out fairly quickly,” committee chair Chris West told the Journal Argus last week, after tickets — creatively printed in the style of a VIA Rail travel ticket — went on sale at The Flower Shop and More, The World’s Coolest Music Store, and Little Red’s Pub and Eatery. All three businesses are located on Queen Street in downtown St. Marys.
The “Save VIA” concert at St. Marys Town Hall on Saturday, June 7 will be the second of two upcoming performances in St. Marys for the award-winning hometown singer/songwriter Gryner.
Along with her folk/pop/Canadiana trio Trent Severn, Gryner is also booked for a show Thursday, May 22 at Westover Inn. Tickets for that 8 p.m. show are available by calling Westover at 519-284-2977.
The Save VIA show, however, represents the most high-profile opportunity for area music lovers to experience Gryner close to home, since the Sarnia-area native relocated to St. Marys over a decade ago.
Gryner’s good friend Danny Michel, a Kitchener-based musician who joined Gryner in co-hosting a summer fill-in national radio show on CBC a couple of years ago, will join her at the Town Hall Theatre for the Save VIA concert.
“Danny has never said yes to any of my offers but this one he did,” Gryner said. “He is a really talented solo artist and people will be blown away by him. I’m walking on thin ice putting myself after him in the show order.”
Both Gryner and Michel have unique ties to international superstar David Bowie — Gryner because she toured with Bowie as a back-up singer early in her career, and much later co-performed his Space Oddity song in unprecedented manner, joining Canadian astronaut/musician Chris Hadfield while Hadfield was commanding the International Space Station; and Michel because he once recorded, to significant acclaim, an entire album of David Bowie cover songs.
General admission tickets are $45, and the Town Hall’s recently-refurbished balcony will be open so the stylish auditorium will be able to accommodate its full audience capacity of over 150. Also available are $80 tickets that include dinner at Little Red’s Pub and Eatery, the new restaurant operated by the former owners of the much-loved Woolfy’s at Wildwood, located a short walk from the theatre.
Anyone who can’t come to St. Marys to purchase or pick up tickets prior to the event also has the option of contacting the Downtown Pontiac automobile dealership. Tickets for both the concert and dinner/concert combo can be purchased by credit card over the phone through the dealership. Simply call toll-free, 1-866-862-5632.
All proceeds from the June 7 concert will benefit the Save VIA committee.
Event sponsors, so far, are the Rotary Club of St. Marys and Toronto’s Steam Whistle brewery.