This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of legendary folk singer, Woody Guthrie.
His life and times will be celebrated at Shuswap Theatre Sept. 29 and 30 with a show that includes stories about Guthrie, lots of photographs, and local musicians performing 20 of the more than 2,000 songs he wrote.
His was a philosophy of inclusion:
“I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose.
“I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what colour, what size you are, how you are built. I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work.”
This weekend’s celebration will feature at least 20 local performers in a multi-media Guthrie Centennial show, including actor David Balser, an accomplished actor and musician who worked with Caravan Theatre and was once part of Perth County Conspiracy.
Also on the bill: Jake Jacobson, Kim Macmillan, Marg Shand, Bill Remphrey, Blu Hopkins, Kelly Hopkins, Miranda Mclaws, Pamela Dettwiler, Heather Sawyer, Sue Kyle, Alan Bates, Richard Owings, Ed Beggs and Doug Stuart.
This summer, Jacobson – “instigator” and longtime folk music enthusiast – invited a handful of writers and performers to see if a Woody Guthrie Centennial celebration was possible – and it was. The script, written by Peter Blacklock and Bill Remphrey, provides a lively overview of Guthrie’s life and the lives of the people he sang for and about.
This special production will incorporate a soundtrack, videos and slides, plus narration and songs. And audience participation is highly encouraged – the audience is definitely invited to sing along.
“Guthrie’s work is as relevant now as when it was written, as we continue to face growing concerns about rising inequality, poverty, environment degradation, unjust wars and loss of democratic freedoms,” says Shand. “Many of his songs fit into today’s Occupy movement, which has raised public awareness about the growing wealth and influence over politics by the ultra-wealthy one percent.”
One of the most prophetic things Guthrie ever said was to his boyhood friend, Matt Jennings, back in Texas when he was still a teenager: “I hope to write a song someday that a lot of people would know, and sing it.”
Not only did he do that, but This Land is Your Land was so well-loved, a Canadian version of the song was adapted. The song, written as an annoyed response to Irving Berlin’s God Bless America, which he considered too complacent, Guthrie varied the lyrics over time, sometimes including more overtly political verses.
Enjoy the genius of Woody Guthrie performed by great local talents this weekend. Profits from the centennial concert will go to support the people that Woody sang for: “the down-on-their luck folks” who get help through local food banks, says Shand.
The show plays Saturday, Sept 29, at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, Sept. 30 at 2 p.m.
Admission is by donation so pay what you can at the door.