She’s barely into her 20s, but Ellen Froese-Kooijenga is already a seasoned veteran of the Canadian music scene.
A founding member of “In With the Old”, Froese-Kooijenga has two albums with that band (Rollin’ down the plains and My Mother’s Couch) under her belt as well as a solo album (Get On With the Blues). She’s played in coffee houses, concert theatres, folk and bluegrass festivals across the country, and even a few in the US. Her songs reflect the influence of folk, blues, country, bluegrass, rockabilly and modern alt-rock; and she delivers them in a captivating voice with a distinctive quaver reminiscent of Joan Baez.
Her roots run deep, and she finds her greatest satisfaction in writing songs at home on her parents’ farm north of Martensville, where she grew up.
Her latest album, entitled simply ‘Ellen Froese,’ is a mix of original material and cover songs. Continue reading “Singer-songwriter’s prairie roots are front and centre in new album”→
They’re not calling it a movement, but it might be. Increasingly, bluegrass musicians are banding together to fan the flames of their love for the genre, and of course, produce more music.
A Sunday matinee concert at the Barn Playhouse, featured local bluegrass band, “In With the Old” and the Slocan Ramblers from Toronto.
The Northern Lights Bluegrass & Old Tyme Music Society (NLBOTMS) hosted the concert. The society runs a bluegrass camp and festival at Ness Creek in August each year.
“We had a really good crowd out,” said Tracy Lalonde, a coordinator with NLBOTMS. “We wanted to offer some folks who would typically have to drive into the city for a concert, something local.” SaskTel Max, which runs local programming on demand chose to record the show.
Having the Slocan Ramblers was “phenomenal” Lalonde said. “In With the Old” has already met and been mentored by these Slocan Ramblers over the last year and here they are coming together as friends and playing a concert together which is just fantastic.”
In With the Old’s Ellen Froese-Kooijenga grew up in the Osler area and has a long-standing connection to the Barn Playhouse. The group opened for the Slocan Ramblers. The Ramblers have been together for several years. “They are all very proficient with their instruments and have been touring together all over North America,” Lalonde said.
Musicianship is fairly complex in bluegrass music and interpretive solos are typical. Listener appreciation is high as it is in a genre like jazz.
One of the mandates of the NLBOTMS is education so they arranged for the Slocan Ramblers to go into some Saskatoon and area schools to teach students about bluegrass music. The group played at Valley Manor School (VMS) in Martensville on Monday. They discussed their instruments and what they can do and explained why their band doesn’t really need a drummer and how they compensate by adding their own percussion.
Heather Mann, a music teacher at VMS said the students really enjoy having the group there.
“We wanted the Slocan Ramblers to play for us so that our students could experience Bluegrass music live – which they may have never had the opportunity to do before. Also, it was great for the students to see professional musicians play instruments such as the banjo, mandolin and bass that they probably haven’t seen or heard before. It was a wonderful experience!”
The NLBOTMS also teaches music and dance at their summer music camps. “We teach old tyme dancing and it’s quite surprising how some young people have never had the opportunity to learn it. Once they do they absolutely love it,” Lalonde said. They have no preconceived notions about it and don’t see it as an exclusive pursuit of the elderly.
NLBOTMS is working to make Saskatchewan a stop for bluegrass musicians. Their music festival runs August 18 to 20 at Ness Creek.
The Northern Lights Bluegrass and Old-Tyme Music Festival is still a few months away, but you can get a taste of what’s in store at a special concert this Sunday, March 12 at the Barn Playhouse.
The “Bluegrass Blast” features the Slocan Ramblers, a four-piece band (Frank Evans, Adrian Gross, Darryl Poulsen and Alastair Whitehead) from Ontario that’s been described as “a leading light of Canada’s roots music scene.”
On the same bill is In With the Old, which includes Ellen Froese-Kooijenga, Jaxon Lalonde and Kasia Thorlakson. In With the Old seamlessly combine raw talent and prairie camaraderie with a passion and respect for the music from the past. The band has two albums under their belt, including 2014’s Rollin’ On Down the Plains and 2017’s My Mother’s Couch.
Last month, In With the Old showcased their music at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City.
Vickie Dyck, Artistic Director with the Barn Playhouse, said the facility is a fitting place to hold the concert. Even though the show is being produced by the Northern Lights Bluegrass Festival, it fits the venue, she said.
“It works well because we’re between events at the Barn Playhouse,” said Dyck in an interview. “About 12 years ago, our own family band played at the first Northern Lights festival. It was an incredible experience, and it’s nice to keep that connection going.”
Lois Miller, who did the booking for the Barn Playhouse, said she attended the Northern Lights Bluegrass festival last summer and stayed for the week-long music camp. She came back from the camp and pitched the idea of a mid-winter concert to Vickie Dyck.
“It’s amazing music, and it’s nice to be able to give people a chance to see and hear these bands,” said Miller.
Dyck noted that Ellen Froese-Kooijenga, in addition to being a great songwriter and musician, has acted in numerous productions at the Barn Playhouse during her younger years.
“Ellen grew up on a farm really close to here,” said Dyck. “Having her perform on our stage again is really close to my heart.”
Tickets for the concert are available online at picatic or at the Farmyard Market on Highway 12 north of Martensville, or by calling 306-242-8949.