By Andrew Cormier
CALGARY — The website for the Calgary Collection promises the exploration of a big question – what is folk music? For Gillian McKercher, one of the two brains behind the project, it isn’t just about the music itself.
“One of the misconceptions about folk music is that it’s a specific type of music – but anyone can pick it up,” she said. “It’s an idea – if you learn something through another person in an oral tradition, it reflects the environment that you’re from.”
McKercher, along with artist Mike Tod, started the Calgary Collection in 2013 as a way to explore this idea – that folk music in Calgary isn’t just about the artists who play the music, it’s also the venues and the events and the people who come out to support.
“We’re trying to show the context of all of these people in Calgary,” McKercher said. “Calgary very much influences [these] people. It’s an active character throughout the series.”
The first season of the Calgary Collection premiered online and profiled eight local artists, including Robbie Bankes, Barry Luft (watch below) and Spencer Jo. A comprehensive look at the first season premiered at the Calgary International Film Festival on September 20th, entitled Where the Sage Brush Grows.
McKercher and Tod received a grant from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts to produce their second season, which enabled them to pay back some of the volunteers from the first season and to get a head start on the second season.
McKercher said that the musicians featured on the new season were more than open to being involved.
“These eight people volunteered their time and we asked them some pretty personal questions,” she said. “There wasn’t any ‘by the way, can you not show this about me?’ they just wanted to share with us.”
McKercher and Tod will focus on completing season two of the Calgary Collection prior to the first episode’s release on November 14th.
“I think the most important thing is to focus on this season,” she said. “The most important thing is to make sure the quality [is high]. We were so fortunate to get the support from the grant, so we want to make sure this season can stand alone.”
The second season of the Calgary Collection will feature Tim Williams, Tom Phillips, The Bitterweed Draw, Gillian Turnbull, Morley Redwood and Craig First Rider, Amy Nelson and Carter Felker, Rebecca Bruton, and a Jam Session hosted by Jim Grabenstetter.
Beyond showcasing the personal stories of these and other musicians, McKercher and Tod hope to continue promoting folk music in a city where the genre is growing.
“Young people are interested in old-time music. We’re a corporate city and corporations really want to invest in the arts,” McKercher said. “So when you have that sort of artistic wealth and financial wealth together, that allows us to facilitate folk music [in the city].”
“I think [folk music in Calgary] is on the rise. It’s a very good time and a very ripe time.”
The Calgary Collection will premiere November 14 at www.thecalgarycollection.ca.AB, Alberta, folk music, The Calgary Collection