Young Hearts Run Free

Young Hearts Run Free

photo of stewart legere & kim harris by krista davis

For a great many of those who were coming of age around 1996 there was something iconic and alluring about Baz Luhrmann’s filmic adaption of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes as the star-crossed lovers. It was the stuff of sleepovers, teenage angst and zealous crushes. Yet, unlike many Shakespearean adaptations aimed at young people, Luhrmann’s film was quite faithful to the original text, which gave it a distinct theatrical quality and proved, in a way that seemed both seamless and definitive, that there is no reason this four hundred year old story should not be able to resonate in its own language to contemporary teenagers.

What is often lost in theatre productions of Romeo and Juliet is the fact that it is a story about two teenagers and the intensity and rashness of their emotions and their hormones, which govern every aspect of their lives. The spirit of the play is beautifully captured in the soundtrack to Luhrmann’s film, which now also proves a nostalgic portrait of the musical stylings of the mid 1990s for the same generation who once revered the film. On Saturday evening at The Company House Halifax-based musicians Kim Harris and Stewart Legere recreated the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack in concert for a large and utterly transfixed crowd. It was a beautifully evocative evening of music, showcasing Harris and Legere’s multi-talents in contending with a variety of different musical genres, but also it was a fascinating exploration of storytelling. Can the soundtrack of a Hollywood film adapted from a Shakespearean tragedy relay the famous story? What was so interesting is that the arc of the emotional journey of Romeo and of Juliet was there in a strangely, wonderful, esoteric, dramatic and captivating way.

From the sensual anguish of the Opening number “#1 Crush” by Garbage to the rapping in One Inch Punch’s “Pretty Piece of Flesh” there were so many rock star moments crammed into this evening it often seemed that Legere and Harris were flying. Stewart Legere had a particularly incredible rendition of Quindon Tarver’s “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)”, where he showed off his gorgeous boy band voice- kind of a mixture of Whitney Houston and a long lost Backstreet Boy. Guest stars Margot Durling, Heather Green and Melanie Stone were featured on several songs, but their harmonies with Harris on Tarver’s song was the most haunting and lovely. Jason Michael MacIsaac helped Legere and Harris put their own unique stamp on Mundy’s “To You I Bestow,” giving it a more folk rock flavor. Stina Nordenstam’s “Little Star” was also a beautiful highlight. Harris and Legere’s voices blend organically together and their adorable chemistry and sheepish laughter between songs ensured that the entire room feel madly in love with the both of them.

The eleven clock number came early in the set list when Kim Harris sang the guts out of the gorgeous, lush ballad “Kissing You,” which, fittingly, is the theme for the film. Her smooth, long notes and phrasing were laden with so much soulful emotion that the Company House was rendered entirely breathless even after she finished singing. In that moment Harris was Juliet floating on a cloud of love at first sight and we were all right there with her.

If Halifax is interested in forging its own Cabaret scene, a place for music and theatre to converge in a myriad of new and interesting ways, Kim Harris and Stewart Legere could become Halifax Cabaret stars. The Company House is the perfect venue for this type of endeavor- a common stomping ground for both the city’s music and theatre communities. The exuberant audience on Saturday night would have happily sat and watched Harris and Legere sing through the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack a second time. They could certainly turn this concept of theirs into a series. I, for one, am hoping for a Moulin Rouge soundtrack recreation next. Whatever these two choose to do, it is clear that both their stars are on the rise and Halifax is deeply enamoured already.

East Coast Music 101 (Part II)

wendy macisaac & mary jane lamond

wendy macisaac & mary jane lamond

BEN CAPLAN: I first saw Ben Caplan in a riveting production of The Pillowman that the Kings Theatrical Society did when I was doing my undergrad at Dalhousie and I was struck by what an extraordinary actor he was and how dark and intense and wildly theatrical and dangerous this KTS production was. Then I started hearing his name everywhere in the Indie music scene and seeing these incredible posters where he looked like a Hipster Rabbi and so I knew I had to check out his album (with his awesome band The Casual Smokers), In The Time of the Great Remembering (which makes it sound like a Land Before Time movie). He was nominated for two ECMAs this year, Rising Star Recording of the Year (which he won) and Folk Recording of the Year. In The Time of the Great Remembering is a jaunty and lyrically poetic album with Caplan’s gruffly melodic voice pulling you in by the heart. There is a perceptible Tom Waits quality to many of the tracks as well, which is a fascinating ingredient to toss into an eclectic mixture of musical instruments, styles and dramatic storytelling and creates something richly meditative and at times even other-worldly. His natural theatrical prowess only makes the performance of these songs more captivating and fun to revel in and I am looking forward to seeing more Ben Caplan in Halifax once he finishes his swanky tour. Download his Mobile App here to follow him along on the road. Or follow him on Twitter. Take a listen:

GRAMERCY RIFFS: Sister of Soulpepper/ Republic of Doyle star Krystin Pellerin is Mara Pellerin, a member of the Indie band Gramercy Riffs, whose 2010 record It’s Heartbreak is one of my favourite things to ever come out of St. John’s. They are rockers with great vocal harmonies and poetic, spare lyrics and songs that are fun to listen to and easy to dance to. Mara has a sweet and haunting voice, check her out in this video!

HEATHER GREEN: Before each film of the OutEast Film Festival last Spring a little bit of Heather Green’s song “Day I Was Born” played and every time it lodged itself deep into my ear and my heart and prompted me to buy her album Your Last War. She has a smooth and soulful voice and her songs have a great pop-rock quality to them that are simultaneously infectious and vulnerable. She was nominated for 2 ECMAs this year in the Pop and Rising Star categories for Your Last War. I still haven’t seen her perform live, but I am looking very forward to it. In the meantime, check out this video.

MARY JANE LAMOND & WENDY MACISAAC: If you love the Gaelic and the fiddle (and if you don’t, I’m not sure we can be friends ;)) there isn’t much more blissful than Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy MacIsaac’s 2012 record Seinn. I am in complete love with it and it has been on repeat in my house for the last three months, especially their rendition of “Òran An t-Saighdeir/Soldier Song.” Even though the song is sung in Gaelic the emotional arc of the song is so palpable and it’s catchy- you will find yourself singing along and butchering the language as only non-Gaelic speakers can. They were nominated for ECMA Roots/Traditional Group Recording of the Year. Check this out:

I wrote a lot of Ashley MacIsaac love in this piece about a show I saw on Friday evening, but I need to give him and Mary Jane a special shout out for “Sleepy Maggie,” which I adore. Check it:

TANYA DAVIS: The Mayor’s Poet Laureate for Halifax, Tanya Davis’ heart-on-sleeve spoken word poem music captures for me so distinctly the character of the North End of Halifax and our immediate time and place. Yet, I think that it is in her specificity and her vulnerability that her music resonates much more broadly. She is brimming with sheepish wisdom and quiet profundity. Check this out: