By Sue Tiffin
After a January that characteristically felt two years long and brought us a steady barrage of news of conflict in the world, the start of a new month and a night of really great music was in order to bring us out, bring us together and refuel the hope that we can make good things happen, here.
And so on Feb. 1, the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion filled up with the community, invited by the Haliburton County Folk Society ready to celebrate Homemade Stew, an evening of local musical talent, while at the same time honour the memory of George Farrell. George died Oct. 17 from complications related to a brain tumour, and this editorial space has paid homage to him before, for how much he accomplished in his time here in the Highlands and on Earth: he was a son, a husband and father, a columnist, an author, a featured artist, a musician – even, at the age of 70, becoming the blues singer he had always wanted to be.
Tributes to George by MC Nick Russell, Dave Allen, Tammy Rea, and Hugh Taylor spoke to his verve and enthusiasm, his dream for Haliburton, that he was a community connector, interesting and interested in everyone and everything. “George always believed that we in the Highlands could do anything ourselves,” said Rea, noting the concert was very much proof of that.
And on the stage, moving and creative and skilful performances by friends, neighbours, some full-time artists, some fitting their love and passion for the arts around their day jobs. Harvey Lamb came out of retirement to perform what he had been working on in retirement, while Trina West returned to the Homemade stage for the seventh annual show after performing at the first. Women sang together, friends played together, the stage was set for a variety of instruments, the entire first half was made up of original material.
The young, the old, the working, the volunteers, some who had played music for years, some who stood on the same stage as their former teachers, all who practised and played and put themselves and their art out there, sharing with us all. In some cases it was difficult to tell who was having more fun: the audience taking it all in or the musicians on stage, smiling at each other and toward the general direction of the enthusiastic crowd they couldn’t quite see for the lights.
And in that audience, other familiar faces who bring their own light to the area, bringing community together in their own way, as George did, or who turned up to be there despite what might have seemed like a heavy start to the year, ready to move forward and lift up those who, as Rea said George believed we could do here, “tell our own stories” and “sing our own damn songs.”
January was a tough one for some. But we keep going, together. In the words of Ro Randall, who captivated the audience that night earning a mid-concert standing ovation, and created a buzz of excitement for how lucky we all are to live in the same place together: “All you gotta do is show up.”
Here’s to the community connectors.