One thing that we continue to love about this particular festival are the afternoon workshops – where musicians share a stage to perform tunes in the round, often based around a specific theme that adds some competitive spirit and builds some on-stage camaraderie. The Home County team do a fantastic job matching artists to workshops, making it fun to witness local and/or emerging artists having an opportunity to perform alongside their more established peers.
Kicking off the Saturday afternoon, the “Over The Moon” workshop taking place on the East Stage was quickly circled as one we did not want to miss. Boasting a stellar lineup of Lucy Morgan, Talia Hannah Schlanger, Ciara O’Neill, and popular local band The Pairs, the stage would also welcome Friday night’s headlining artist Terra Lightfoot (who brought bandmates Eli Abrams and Glenn Milchem along too) – how could we miss that? Over the course of 75 minutes, each artist would share three tunes, with several collaborating on others when invited – and often accompanied by the two guys at the rear of the stage who could not resist adding some bass and percussion.
Port Stanley, ON-born, and currently Toronto-based folk singer-songwriter Lucy Morgan would take the lead duties, opening the workshop with a song written for a friend, stating that “it’s about just looking back and things, and not really feeling the weight of the world.” Following the first round of tunes from all of her stage companions, Lucy would introduce us to another new tune titled “Lost,” offering that the song is about having someone close to you, and always being there for you, no matter what – before wrapping up her final slot with another new tune based around the theme of not wanting something to end.
Terra Lightfoot would take the second spot, commencing with “You Don’t Get Me Now,” a new composition that she and Eli were seen rehearsing behind the stage just moments before their sound check. “I think you guys must be true music fans to be sitting here in the rain just smiling at us,” Terra would acknowledge, before encouraging all of the artists seated alongside her to stand and cry out the catching chorus. “Let me tell you a story about this song,” Terra would add. “It’s about people who in the past you may have given yourself to in way you wish you didn’t. And so, now, we can all say now, with that knowledge, you don’t get me now.”
Having sat through the first round of tunes, Terra would pre-empt her second number with a disclaimer. “My favorite thing about a workshop is listening to other people playing, and having them inspire your song choice,” she shared. “Because you never really know what you’re gonna do.” Looking at her bandmates behind her, she would smile and add, “and neither do you guys.” Performing another new tune, “The Only One Of Your Kind,” Terra would comment about how great it was to see all of these musicians up front, the implication being that gender terms are not necessary. Each and every artist would join Terra for her final number, the popular single “Paradise,” leaving Eli amused each and every time a reference was made to Glenn playing the cajón.
As the only non-Canadian on stage, Belfast-based singer-songwriter Ciara O’Neill was in London as part of a cultural music exchange between Belfast City Council and London Music Office, and endeared herself to everybody she interacted with all weekend long. “Thanks for coming out, thank you Mother Nature,” she offered, referencing a brief shower at the beginning of this workshop. “I’m from Ireland. In Northern Ireland, all days are normally like this but cold. But this is preferable. It’s wet but it’s warm.” Ciara would share “Mother” and “Women,” both taken from her upcoming EP. “My last EP was themed on songs made of stars, and I do like a good theme,” she disclosed. “I’m recording a new EP which is themed on women, and this is about my experience, the experience of the women of my family, and about being a female in todays’ society and the expectations of it.”
With her final moment under the spotlight, Ciara opted to perform one of her earlier compositions which suited the workshop theme perfectly. “Considered this is Over The Moon, I’m going to do my moon song now,” she stated, adding a little background about the origins of “La Lune” – a song that includes some French language in the lyrics. “I used Google Translate to get some of the lyrics, whatever it takes to get you there,” she joked. “I want you to picture some little old lady on the moon, looking down at the world, and giving everybody life. The kind your grandma would give you.”
Following their full band performance on the Friday night main stage, The Pairs would be represented at this workshop by original founders and vocalists Noelle Coughlin, Renee Coughlin, and Hillary Watson – itself a perfect vessel for once again demonstrating their stunning three-part vocal harmonies. “How are you all doing out there,” Noelle asked, before offering some insights to the first song they would perform. “So, this song is called Find Our Way, which is really just about deconstructing the things that we think we know, the things that systems were teaching us, and maybe we didn’t realize that, and then living our lives in false ways.”
With their second song, Renee would take the lead discussing the history of “Hand In Hand,” and how it was written about some unwanted romantic attention directed to her sister. “We grew up singing in musical theaters and choirs, so this is kind of a quirky one,” Renee added. Those familiar with this particular cut from their debut “Noise” album, knew exactly what to expect as far as those vocal harmonies are concerned. And prior to their final number, Hillary would acknowledge each and every artist on stage at that moment: “You all have such beautiful voices and some spectacular songs,” before wrapping up their selection with a new song written about “children that don’t like to stand in line, and stuff like that,” and closed out with a glorious vocal chant of ‘keep talking out, keep talking out, keep talking out.”
Rounding out the workshop, former actress and CBC radio host Talia Hannah Schlanger is currently pursuing a new creative venture – music – and was excited to share of selection of tunes set to appear on her future debut album. Opening with “Attention,” Talia was happy to acknowledge her peers on stage. “This is a song from my first record … and I’m so excited, it takes so much, so much, and I’m astounded that people do it all the time do it so well, and I’m very honoured to be here,” she commenced. “This song is about when somebody’s favourite thing about you is that you make them feel really good about themselves. If anybody wants to join in … particularly on maybe the cajón.” [cue Eli’s laughter].
Talia would also share a wonderful tale about a 2016 article found in the Guardian newspaper. “The headline of the article, ‘Frog Goes Extinct, Media Yawns’ was about a frog called Toughie, a Rabbs’ fringe-limbed tree frog which was native to Panama, and he died in a nature facility,” she recalled. “And a big part of his demise had to do with our climate crisis, and the article introduced me to the word endling, which means the last creature of a species before extinction.”