A Tumbler Ridge Birthday Present

Trent Ernst, Editor

Connie Kaldor is coming to town.

This won’t be her first trip to town. Kaldor has actually come to Tumbler Ridge a number of times. But it will be her first time performing here. “We’re doing a western tour,” says Kaldor, rattling off a handful of locations across Western Canada. “We’re also hitting Athabasca in Northern Alberta, it coincides with Karen’s retirement and birthday, and she wanted to something nice for the community.”

Karen in this case is her sister Karen Strang, who is retiring after 12 years of working as a nurse at the local clinic and who, says Kaldor, will be mortified to be mentioned in the paper. “Karen hasn’t quite grasped the concept that when you retire, it’s a time for other people to say nice things about you, and not for you to do something for the community.”

Kaldor, who was born in Regina, was raised as musician. Her father was the choir master for the local Lutheran Church, and she began to sing and play piano at a young age.

When she hit her teens, she picked up the guitar, and began playing songs by the Beatles, Patsy Cline and Carole King. By 1972, she was playing regularly at fairs and festivals around her home province. She studied theatre at the University of Alberta, and moved to Toronto to work with a variety of theatre groups there.

By 1979, she was out of the theatre and into music full time, one of a group of new wave Canadian folk artists, along with Dawson Creek’s Roy Forbes, Shari Ulrich and Stan and Garnet Rogers.

Kaldor has performed for the Queen, and played in front of thousands of screaming fans. So is the opportunity to play the Tumbler Ridge Community Centre, with a potential crowd of dozens, a bit of a step down for one of the icons of the Canadian folk scene?

Not at all, she says. “An audience is an audience. I’ve played for thousands of people, and I’ve played for ten. I’ve played for the queen. I play in front of crowds and half of them will have never heard me before. You sing your songs and hopefully you can reach them. I like to perform. I like to sing.

“When you play a tiny place you find out immediately if things aren’t working. It’s harder than playing a festival stage with 5000 people screaming for you. I write about things that ordinary people can relate to, but that they probably haven’t heard songs about before.”

Case in point is a song called ‘Perogies’, which is a song about advice offered by her Ukrainian Baba (grandma), full of thinly veiled innuendoes disguised as food. “I do a lot of different styles of songs,” says Kaldor, “but there’s a lot of quirky, funny things. I do a lot of humour, tell a lot of stories.”

If people are curious about the song, they can find it on YouTube, where she performs it with her two sons. “One of them says Kaldor, ‘my mother has taken and combined the two best things in the world: perogies and sex.’ The other said that ‘some parents embarrass you in front of your friends, some embarrass you in front of your family, but it takes a special sort of parent to embarrass you in front of the whole internet.’”
For this show, she expects there’ll be a few stories about her sister. “It’s my chance to embarrass her in front of all her friends,” jokes Kaldor. “And she’s so sweet, she probably has no idea.”

Kaldor says her set will include a lot of her most popular songs (“If I don’t do Wood River, they’ll lynch me,”) but it will be tailored to the audience, and particularly, one particular member of the audience. “I’ll do a lot of things my sister likes. I have no idea what the situation is, so we’ll go with what I’ve got.

Originally, Kaldor was just going to play some songs at a going away party for Strang, but, she says, “some people heard I was coming and it got out of hand.”

Kaldor says she’s looking forward to playing for such a special audience. “The great thing about playing in front of an audience where people have never heard of you is that you can take them by surprise. It’s a great privilege to play in front of any audience. Karen wants to do something nice for the community, and I’m grateful that she considers me a part of that.”

Kaldor will be performing in Room 5 at the community centre on April 18. The show starts at 7:30.