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Series on Calgary folk musicians enters second season

By Liam Harrison, November 13 2014 —

For many, Calgary’s art scene seems dwarfed by  cultural behemoths like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

In The Calgary Collection, local filmmaker Gillian McKercher and Calgary folk artist Mike Tod put Calgary’s culture on the map while showing off the city’s folk music scene.

“I wanted to show that Calgary has a voice and it’s worth listening to,” McKercher says. “Canada isn’t just its coasts, its innards have something worth saying too.”

The Calgary Collection’s first season was compiled as a documentary, Where The Sage Bush Grows, for the 2014 Calgary International Film Festival. With aid from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, its second season continues and expands on its honest presentation of Albertan folk.

McKercher says local folk musicians have been supportive of the project.

“Many were very positive. There was no shyness,” McKercher says. “People were quick to recommend other musicians to us. We quickly realized that Calgary’s niche, insular music scene was opening up to us as they shared what folk music meant to Calgary and we wanted to further explore that.”

For season two, McKercher and Tod decided to examine how Calgary’s growing and diverse population has affected the city’s folk scene.

“Calgary is changing so rapidly. We’re not just British and European anymore, playing Appalachian and British isles folk music,” McKercher says. “Calgary’s folk is still pretty homogenous, but now we have influences from Asia and Africa. All Calgarians want to be part of a cultural community, and they’re expressing Calgary’s voice.”

The Calgary Collection is also promoting interactions between previously unlinked parts of Calgary’s folk scene. To better view these collaborations, season two will feature a jam session hosted by Jim Grabensetter.

“Calgary’s culture can be scary, but when you take the plunge, it’s very warm and welcoming. Everything’s changing for the better,” McKercher says.

McKercher cites Welcome to the West — which organizes performance videos of musicians travelling through Calgary — Market Collective and Sled Island as local organizations whose work has paved the way for The Calgary Collection.

The second season features the Bitterweed Draw, Morley Redwood and Craig First Rider; Amy Nelson and Carter Felker, Rebecca Bruton; Tom Phillips, Tim Williams and Gillian Turnbull.

And if people want to label Calgary?

“We need to stand up and protest against it. We need to assume responsibility for our own destiny,” McKercher says.

The Calgary Collection premieres online on Nov. 14 at thecalgarycollection.ca

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