Local musicians who want to start gigging professionally or step up their game should take note of Ten Pound Fiddle’s calendar next week. The long-running folk concert series will host a special three-hour workshop April 5 at The Robin Theatre, and host James Keelaghan will cover a lot of ground.
Keelaghan, an award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter, will discuss effective strategies for presenting music to an audience. According to Ten Pound Fiddle organizers, he’ll “give a workshop on ways to become the best presenter you can be.”
Described by AllMusic as “one of Canada’s international stars,” Keelaghan melds classic Americana with elements of modern folk and roots rock. That rustic sound has garnered him followings across Europe, Australia and North America. Over the years, his time spent studying history at the University of Calgary has fueled many of his original songs.
Within his catalog of music, including 2022’s “Second Hand,” his lyrics also offer up stories about real-life situations, from hardships and attitudes to the events that shape our day-to-day lives. In short, classic, well-executed folk songs.
Outside of touring and recording, Keelaghan is also the artistic director for the Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival in Owen Sound, Ontario, where he curates dynamic lineups. All of this experience will inform his workshop.
The following evening (April 6), the troubadour will put those strategies into practice at an intimate concert at The Robin Theatre. Sally Potter, Ten Pound Fiddle’s booking manager, is excited about both events.
“About eight years ago, James Keelaghan gave the best workshop I have ever attended,” Potter recalled. “As part of the Folk Alliance International Conference, I watched him explain his strategies as a performer. Simultaneously, he entered the room and got ready for and performed a mini-concert.”
“We watched him enter the workshop space, set up what he needed, coordinate with the sound personnel, arrange his performance space, check the lighting, set up his merchandise area and more,” she added. “While in motion, he explained to us the reasons for everything he does, including where he positions his guitar, chair and body; what he says between songs; his length of sets; what type of tuner he uses; and so on.”
She compared his professionalism to that of the late folk singer Pete Seeger — a genuine compliment coming from a folk expert and educator such as Potter. She also complimented his ability to clearly communicate these messages to an audience.
“These strategies are similar to those used by successful directors, managers, teachers, administrators, public servants, politicians, entrepreneurs and parents,” she said. “As a high school teacher, I took several ideas and immediately implemented them in my classroom. As a performing musician and song leader, I use many of his suggestions to this day.”
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