By Mariah Wilson, April 11 2019 —
Calgary-born musician Lindsay Kay graced the Central Public Library stage on March 30 in an evening that explored femininity through music, dance and spoken word performances from female-identifying artists. Even though Kay was the headlining artist, she made sure to highlight the contributions from the accompanying musicians and set designers, as well as the interpretive dancer and special guests. The evening was a celebration of women and the “goddess-like power of feminine beings.”
As the audience filled the theatre, the ethereal stage design caught everyone’s attention. It was set up to look like a living room but highlighted different elements of the female being — Greek-style statues represented the goddess-like power within all female-identifying persons, lace tablecloths were for the delicateness of womanhood and darkened areas represented the issues women experience but are unable to discuss openly. The care taken towards the set design further illustrates the importance of allowing female-identifying artists to represent their own lived experiences.
Opening act Amy Nelson, a Calgary singer-songwriter, commented on the stage design, calling it “the most interesting stage that I’ve ever performed on,” adding that it showed why more women should be in set design. Nelson had a very different musical style than Kay, but still conveyed her experiences of being a woman through her music. She offered witty banter between each song that had the crowd laughing but was still able to talk about barriers that women face in their day-to-day lives. Before performing the song “Educated Woman,” she discussed how “an educated woman lives how they want, but if only we lived in a world that allowed that.” The crowd reflected on this sentiment during the short intermission before Kay’s performance.
Before Kay entered the stage, Sabrina Naz-Comanescu, an interpretive dancer, solemnly walked onto a darkened stage with a white veil draped over her face while holding a white silk cloth. A hushed silence, akin to that of being in a sacred space, spread through the crowd as she made her way across the stage. Once Naz-Comanescu laid out the white silk cloth across the stage and knelt down, Kay entered the stage along with her upright bass player, Brittany Karlson. Before beginning her set, Kay simply said that this show was “For the Feminine, By the Feminine” — also the title of her newest album.
Kay’s performance was moving, thought-provoking and visually beautiful. As her enchanting voice carried through the theatre, it felt as though you were transcending the physical here and now. While Kay sang about the experiences of women — both the good and the bad — Naz-Comanescu moved around the stage expressing emotions that reflected those in the songs. During parts of the set, Kay and Naz-Comanescu would interact with one another, identifying the bond that women share that needs to be strengthened to support one another — an overarching theme throughout Kay’s concert and her work. Kay also wanted to shine light on the women that encouraged, mentored and guided her throughout her life by inviting Lorna MacLachlan, a former mentor and teacher, onstage to play piano during one of her songs.
During the breaks between Kay’s songs, she would take time to comment on relevant social issues and the framing of gender within society. Before singing “I Would Love To,” Kay posed a series of questions women get asked on a daily basis that imply their expression of femininity doesn’t fit with societal expectations. Adding to this discourse, her song “How Much” reflects on what characteristics define masculinity and how, when looking for partners, these inhibited her from finding what she really needed in a person. Kay finished her performance by thanking the audience for investing in female-made art and hosted a meet-and-greet afterwards.
Performances like Kay’s are essential in our current political climate. When marginalized voices are unable to express their views using their own voice, it creates a disjointed and uneducated society that favours the viewpoints of its loudest members. Kay’s concert taking place in the Central Public Library, a forum for learning, emphasizes the need for stepping outside of our comfort zones to learn more about the other members of our community.