The night air may chilly, but inside Carlin Hall, the convivial warmth of great music and an always-appreciative audience will banish the cold.
On their 14th tour as The Contenders, Valdy and Gary Fjellgaard will appear at Carlin Thursday, Nov. 6 with popular special guests Blu and Kelly Hopkins.
Troubadours all, the evening is an opportunity to hear about Canada and her people to an always-capacity crowd.
Born Valdemar Horsdal in Ottawa, Valdy has been part of the fabric of Canadian pop and folk music for more than 34 years.
He’s a singer, guitarist and songwriter, who successfully captures the small but often extraordinary moments in life.
His Play Me a Rock and Roll Song was a hit in the late ’60s and continues to draw wild applause. And so, for his fans, he always adds that to his play list.
Being on stage is as hugely entertaining for Valdy as it is for his enthusiastic audience.
Moving about the stage with agility and an impish grin, Valdy admits there is indeed a story about his trademark red shoes.
“I enjoy wearing red; it’s supposed to do something for your spine chakra – inspire,” he laughs. “It’s a bit of flash, I don’t have to be false or gaudy.”
He tells of touring Cuba in a set of “Chuck Taylors.” By the third day, his feet were so sore he had to pass on a dinner in Havana.
Back in Canada, he purchased a pair of Skater shoes, which have stood the test of time and comfort.
“I’ve had them eight or nine years and they have stood me well for all this time… they’re supportive and do the whole show business thing.”
On the music front, Valdy has written a new song about Stompin’ Tom Connors, called Oh Tom, We Miss you.
One of the country’s foremost songwriters Valdy’s popular CDs include Contenders, a collaboration with friend and fellow singer/songwriter, Gary Fjellgaard with whom he has “an absolute blast” touring.
A young 69 as of Sept. 1, Valdy marvels at the 76-year-old Fjellgaard’s energy and enthusiasm and their ability to collaborate based on friendship and respect.
“It’s also a chance to play a lot of instruments together,” he says. “We never do the same set twice so it’s fresh for us, therefore fun for us, therefore it’s fun for the audience.”
Valdy calls Carlin Hall a beautiful place with a good vibe and a venue he and Fjellgaard look forward to playing every year.
“It’s a chance to strut our stuff, not in an arrogant way, but as entertainers,” he says. “I like to keep a touch of enlightenment; if something comes across my bow that could be applicable to someone’s life, or I think is an important item to get out, I will put it in a song.”
Also crafting their lives in song, Blu and Kelly Hopkins are close to releasing a new CD called HomeFires.
A collection of some of their favourite covers and their own new songs, HomeFires is the fifth for the couple who have been together for close to 43 years.
“I feel it’s the best of any of the recordings we’ve done,” says Blu, noting HomeFires has been a strictly duo affair – from writing to engineering, recording and producing. “We’ve had the most fun and felt the least pressure.”
It’s a partnership that works, says Kelly, noting the CD is built on the kinds of songs the couple play in their own living room.
“We’ve begun to be able to tell kids we were street kids on the streets of Vancouver in the 1970s and survived, and we have the stories and songs to prove it,” she adds, noting the couple works together, lives together, writes songs together and plays in the band together. “This CD is a product of the way we have done everything together.”
Half the songs are original tunes the couple has written and love and the others are covers that have been most requested by their audiences.
“We’re hoping to have it available at the Nov. 6 concert, but if not, we’ll host a CD release party before Christmas,” says Kelly, noting she and Blu will showcase some of the new CD at the concert. “We have benefitted so much from the concerts with Valdy and Fjellgaard. They’re consummate professionals.”
The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are available at Acorn Music.