Established artists and emerging talents to perform in Hay River


Ellen McIlwaine will bring a mix of experimental and mainstream world music to Hay River on Sept. 21.
— photo courtesy of Ellen McIlwaine

The Northern Arts and Cultural Centre (NACC) in Yellowknife is launching its 28th season this week, and a variety of talented artists will perform in several NWT communities until next February, including Hay River. The new season, entitled On the Edge, represents a fresh start for NACC. With a substantially renovated centre and an exciting lineup of artists, organizers want to bring audiences a wide range of experiences and emotions during the performances.

The artists will bring you out of your comfort zone,” said Marie Coderre, NACC’s new executive and artistic director.

We’ve always been to Inuvik and Hay River, but we’re very excited to bring some of these artists to two new communities: Norman Wells and Fort Simpson,” Coderre noted. “With over $1.2 million in renovations to the centre and a brand new program, we can finally use this funding to expand our work. It’s very costly to bring artists out to small communities, so the increase we got from Heritage Canada and the support we have from the private sector will allow us to improve access to the arts for the people living there.”

The Riverview Cineplex in Hay River will play host to the artists coming through town, kicking off the season with Ellen McIlwaine on Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m.

McIlwaine, also known as ‘The Queen of the Slide’, is a guitarist who has been performing around the world for more than 40 years.

Her unique brand of world music caught the attention of Jimi Hendrix in 1966, when she opened for him in New York City.

He was a very gentle and quiet man,” McIlwaine said. “He never put his guitar down, not even when we were backstage sitting around and talking. After I opened for him, he asked if he could play on my set, and my jaw just about dropped.”

McIlwaine is looking forward to performing in small communities, where she also plans on giving workshops at schools.

I want to show people how I play the guitar, but also show them what you can do with your voice and a few strings,” she said.

Other artists performing in Hay River as part of On the Edge are the International Lute Festival on Sept. 28, jazz musician Woody Holler on Oct. 18, American singer/songwriter Vance Gilbert on Nov. 15, and Gryphon Trio, a chamber music group focusing on the piano, on Feb. 22.

— Myles Dolphin