Continuing our coverage of some of the Muskoka Music Festival workshops that we attended, today we focus on a Friday afternoon workshop that brought together Toronto artists Tania Joy and Shawna Caspi, and emerging Hamilton artist Roslyn Witter (accompanied by Jim Witter). Once again, we have summarized each of the performances from this talented trio.
With our previous workshop feature, we name-dropped James Gray as one of the performers who we did not want to miss. The same rule applied to Tania Joy, whose music had been featured several times on our pages, and whose name was also circled with a bold sharpie on our list when the line-up was announced. “I love this theme. My recent record that I put out has a lot to do with home. It touches on a lot of subjects about myself and my family, it’s a very personal album,” Tania shared, leading up to her performance of “Who I Am.” “I think this song could possibly relate to my fellow songwriters up here. It’s autobiographical [and] takes me through different phases of my life – performing, discovering, evolving my stories and my voice, and taking up space in a world that doesn’t always allow you to do that. I think, as artists, it’s all about pushing that envelope.”
Following her hiatus from the music scene, Tania returned in early 2021 with a song titled “Planks and Marietta” – and what an inspirational message it sought to share. “This song is about racism. During the pandemic, I wrote this song as a reaction to the murder of George Floyd. It was my way of speaking out. It was not a personal protest only to that incident, but to a very personal incident that happened in the town that I live in, and it wasn’t until that happened that I found my voice,” Tania explained. “Obviously, racism is a topic that touched my family and friends, and the people I love, for years, but I’ve never found a way to talk about it. But when something happens really close to home, and in light of what was going on in the world, I found a way to address it.” Leading her stage friends in a final collaborative number, Tania would share her hit single “The Drought,” with full accompaniment and harmonies from those on stage.
Tracks: “Who I Am” – “Stay Here” – “Planks And Marietta” – “The Drought”
Having performed a solo set just prior to this workshop, both Shawna and the audience were warmed up, and ready for more. “This is my first music festival since Covid. Music festivals are my favourite thing in the world, [and] being a folk singer is an excuse to get to as many of these festivals as I can, because there is something amazing and magical that happens,” Shawna stated. “I love the idea of taking up space. I’m really into that these days. I’ve struggled with self confidence … and even as a performer, I’m really interested in my voice these days. Not only as an instrument, but as a powerful thing. And as a female powerful thing too.” She would go on to introduce “Running Start,” a song about believing you deserve good things and that your heart deserves good things too.
Just like James Gray earlier that day, Shawna is comfortable injecting a little humor into her songs and her banter. “I went down to Nashville a number of years ago … and I played this song there, and this guy came up to me and said, ‘I think that’s a country song because the first line has a truck in it’,” she recalled, reveling in the audience response. “I live in Toronto, and have been there for almost 20 years now, and as someone who hauls musician gear around a lot, I figured I could be of some use to my friends when they are moving. So, I helped some friends of mine move into the apartment, and then a few years later out of their apartment, and they were a couple who had been together for a really long time. And to watch two people in a committed relationship interact with each other on the most stressful day of their life is really fascinating.” Shawna would add that this was the impetus for her tune, “Love In A Moving Van,” which she happily performed.
Tracks: “Running Start” – “Love In A Moving Van” – “Hold The Light”
When these workshops were originally announced, this emerging Hamilton-based singer-songwriter’s name was unfamiliar to us, but we soon learned that back in 2014, Roslyn won a local radio station contest and earned the chance to perform on stage with country superstar Keith Urban in her home town. As a second-generation artist in her own right, Roslyn was accompanied on stage by her father (country singer Jim Witter), who added acoustic guitar and harmonies. “This is my very first time doing anything like this, so I’m a bit nervous. I will be honest, I’m nervous, and Tania’s line, ‘I’m scared of my guitar’ really resonated with me,” Roslyn admitted. “I don’t have a ton or material to categorize with Home Is Where The Heart Is, but I guess home could be a person, and I’m sure we’ve all had a person who’s consumed your mind so much that they are all you think about, every minute of every day.”
Roslyn used her second spot to share a tale about a friend who was in an abusive relationship, which inspired her song “Letting Her Go,” and showed a different side of her musical identity compared to her light-hearted opener. She also acknowledged her constant appreciation for her father on-stage beside her, and the guidance and support he provides. And together they would close with a pandemic-themed song. “I’m sure that many of you have experienced the same over the last two years. I’ve come to realize that life is a lot like a Ferris wheel. A lot of ups and a lot of downs,” Roslyn offered. “But as long as you keep that wheel in motion, you’re going to be okay. Especially if you have someone to share that ride with you.”
Tracks: “Twenty Four Seven Three Sixty Five” – “Letting Her Go” – “Ferris Wheel”