The upcoming Yellowknife show by Harry Manx – a well-known blues musician – has been sold out for three weeks, according to Marie Coderre, the executive and artistic director at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre (NACC).
Coderre has even been suggesting people make the trip south to Hay River to see him here on Nov. 15, if they can’t get tickets in the capital for the performance the following evening.
“I’m expecting to have a full house,” she told The Hub. “For me, he’s the perfect artist.”
Coderre said audience members can expect the familiar strains of blues music from the internationally-acclaimed artist, but also an intriguing variety of styles – including world music from Manx’s time spent in India – and instruments.
“He’s been on the musical scene for 25 years and he plays multiple instruments during his sets,” said Coderre. “I think audiences all over the territory will really love him.”
Manx, who is originally from the Isle of Man, currently lives in British Columbia.
Hay River musician and fellow NACC performer Tyler Hawkins said anything that brings music and arts into Hay River is a good thing, but that performances take on a special quality when the artists are well-known.
“We’re brushing elbows with really special people,” he said. “It’s not like you’re 10 miles away with binoculars. You can get right up to the front and make friends with these people.”
Hawkins, who is the force behind the annual International Lute Festival, said, as a fan, he is always game to go out and support visiting artists. However, looking at the bigger picture, he said he buys tickets as a matter of principle, as well.
“Obviously, we don’t have this sort of thing all the time,” he said. “And if we don’t support it, we’re going to lose it.”
Although NACC began offering more performances in the communities some years ago, Hawkins said it’s only now that there seems to be a steady audience developing.
“I think we’re lucky in that Hay River has the population to support a regular audience,” he said. “People are coming to rely on NACC programming from year to year and fortunately there are more and more people going out to shows.”
Manx will be visiting students at Diamond Jenness Secondary School the morning of the performance as part of NACC’s ongoing mandate to help communities develop arts scenes of their own.
Hawkins said that’s the direction he would like to see the seasons’ programming go as well, citing the Ko K’e Storytelling Festival as an excellent example of what local contribution can bring about.
“I went as a supporter of the arts,” he said. “And I was over-the-top impressed with the show.”
The festival combined a set of professional performers – from both the North and across Canada – with an artist from every community on the tour. Hawkins said he was impressed by the quality of the show itself, but also by the buy-in it garnered from the residents of Hay River.
As for world-class acts like Manx, Hawkins is happy to see them come to town.
“I’ll attend every time. If we don’t, we’ll lose them,” he said. “These artists that are coming, they’re not the Justin Biebers, they’re not the superstar people, but they’ve chosen not to be and in many cases they’re better for it.”
Along with Hay River and Yellowknife, Manx’s tour of the NWT, which began on Nov. 11, will also take him to Norman Wells, Inuvik and Fort Simpson.
— Sarah Ladik