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By Constance Scrafield
For anyone who missed Leisa Way and her Wayward Wind Band playing Rock 'n' Roll is Here to Stay at Theatre Orangeville, the show is playing again this weekend in Shelburne's Fiddle Park on Sunday, June 26 at 3:00 p.m.
Sponsored by the Shelburne Rotary Club, Rock 'n' Roll is the first of a line-up of three concerts, all part of the Heritage Music Festival series. The Old Time Canadian Fiddle Championships have been a favourite annual event in Shelburne, with attendees coming from far and wide since its first year in 1951. The competition, open for everyone to compete, eventually featured plenty of fiddlers and more country music until it was felt there was a call for a broader scope of music. In 2016, the name and mantra of the event became the Heritage Music Festival to answer to a perceived call for a broader scope in the music being offered to the crowds who wanted to attend.
Until this year, the fiddle competition was still part of the festival. Sadly, this year, its 70th year, the Fiddle competition has been cancelled “due to a variety of concerns” but the Heritage Music Festival (HMF) is still raring to go.
The Citizen had the chance to catch up with Leisa Way to talk about Rock 'n' Roll, the musicians and the touring they are doing this year. In fact, they are just back from performing this show in Quebec and Sudbury, Ont., Ms. Way's home town.
“The staff at the theatre there were very kind,” she told us with a smile. “Because Sudbury is my home town, there were so many friends that I was delayed by all the conversations and the staff let us talk without shooing us out of there.”
She laughed as she related the differences in audiences in other towns. Audiences in Orangeville are polite and stay in their seats but audiences in Quebec and Sudbury have a different take on her show, Rock 'n' Roll is Here to Stay.
In Quebec, she told the Citizen, “They danced in the aisles and sort-of sang along and have a great time; in Sudbury,” she continued, “they really sing – they sang so loud we couldn't hear ourselves through our earpieces. It was really funny.”
This weekend in Shelburne, they love to bring a rock show outside. “It feels a bit like Woodstock in Shelburne,” she joked.
The band members of the Wayward Wind Band are not all young. They are a combination of rather young not particularly young: Bruce Ley, well known musician, composer, singer is a member who was in a band that opened for a Rolling Stones concert more or less 50 years ago. Likewise, Don Reid and Bobby Prochaska have been in the music business for lots of years but new to the band this season are young musicians Tyler Check and Adam Koopmans. Among them, somehow, they bring the true sound of rock.
It was Bruce Ley who explained this to the Citizen in a brief interview from his stone house in Mulmur, “I was alive when Elvis first started. But I was involved in the British music scene. I had my first band at the same time as when the Beatles came to America. “So, I really know rock music from that time well. It was the music of my childhood. Their influence on my music was they were honest. I actually know those songs; I grew up with them. This show is like re-visiting my youth.”
He reflected, “Through the years, I know a ton about music and they [the Beatles] did know. Then I couldn't figure how they did it but now I have it figured out. Lots of times, people younger than me tell me, 'This is how it was done'. And I just go quiet 'cause they're wrong.”
Ms. Way is enthusiastic about the virtues of experience among her crew. Her sound man “Woody” was on hand when the sound went out at one of the theatres. No panic, he calmly checked one thing and then came on stage to adjust another and the sound was back on. No fuss, just experience knew what was wanted.
She is also very vocal about how lucky she is to have Bruce as an arranger because he has done arrangement for practically everyone, saying, ”Bruce zeros in on exactly how the riffs should be because he was there. The younger guys realize how cool that is and then they know how to do them.”
This weekend there are carload tickets for driving into the park to see the show or park in the lot and bring your chair, for you can buy a single ticket.
Rock 'n' Roll is Here to Stay lost one of the band members to Covid just before they were due in Quebec but Ms. Way gave a former member, Liam Collins, a call and asked him to come and fill in.
“He saved the day,” she related, “The smile on his face and the audience loved him. He loved being back. But he has a full-time job and Tyler came back a week later and that was great too.”
After the show on June 26, Leisa Way and the Wayward Wind band are off again with 12 shows by the end of August; 84 concerts all told.
“It's kind of cool that I've got these guys who were there when rock was big, as well the great young talent,” she said.
The magic of getting rock right is known but yet a mystery. Bruce Ley summed it up: “A couple of younger guys in this band [talking about Wayward Wind] and this balance is letting us do the rock songs really well. That's very surprising to me. The way we play and the two young guys in the band – it really works.”
To catch Rock 'n' Roll is Here to Stay at in Fiddle Park on Sunday, June 26 at 3:00 p.m., go to heritagemusicfestival.ca for tickets and more information.
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