CANMORE – The beloved Canmore Folk Music Festival is doing something a little different this year with the help of local singer-songwriters and Calgarian folk artist Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, who take the stage together for this year’s free Friday night community concert.
For the community concert, the folk fest will bring local singer-songwriters on stage to perform their own original songs alongside Fitzgerald.
In June, the Canmore Folk Music Festival and Fitzgerald joined forces to host a songwriting workshop. Local musicians from across the Bow Valley, whether they were emerging artists or experienced, came together to learn about song-writing and connect as musicians.
“Well, I think it’s a way for the festival to give back to the community," said CFMF music director Sue Panning. "We have so much support from all walks of life in Canmore … We know that Canmore has a very healthy and thriving music community and we wanted to reach out to those songwriters to see what that side of creativity in the community looks like."
After the songwriting workshop, artists were asked to submit their best original song and five were chosen to take part in the Friday night community concert.
Among the artists chosen were local musicians, Sue Chick Denton from hummingBird, The Woodnotes and Ellen Braun from Trundled.
Brand new faces have emerged from Canmore’s music community as well, as Noah Isaac and Sarah Lowry were the youngest artists to have their original song selected to play at the community concert.
“There some really talented songwriters in town," Fitzgerald told the Outlook. "I’ve really loved listening to all these different songs."
After 10 years in the music industry as a singer-songwriter and four albums in his repertoire, Fitzgerald said over time he learned to just let the music unfold while you write.
“The last 10 years of playing music, I think the skill you develop over time is just being OK with whatever happens," he said. "You can just kind of role with it as its own."
But sometimes throughout the writing process, songwriters can end up trapped in their own headspace.
“I think where the challenge is for me – and I think this is for any songwriter – sometimes you feel like you want to make sure you want to control what you’re saying ... You can get into that mindset and I think what that does is it ends up kind of restricting what ends up just naturally coming out of or freely coming out," he added.
Fitzgerald said that when someone gets stuck in that mindset, there are methods to overcome those obstacles such as experimenting with a different rhyming scheme, or changing up a word in a verse.
“It’s almost like tricking yourself a little bit, like trying a different instrument, or writing with someone else, because inevitably someone would start in a different place than you would,” he added.
Denton is one of the locals songwriters chosen to perform, the other half of hummingBird as well as a community facilitator.
“It was interesting for me to hear some of Michael’s processes, because every songwriter is different and I got some ideas for exercises, how to get things started and just different ways that he encourages his own growth in a particular song,” Denton said.
While the workshop helped Denton develop as an artist, it also made her realize the importance of relationships within the music community.
“But also because we’re a small town, a lot of people knew each other, knew of each other and just seeing the people who have more performance experience connect with those who are sort of finding their first songs maybe, or growing in songwriting,” Denton said.
“Those connections to me are gold and that’s where the cool stuff happens.”
With the Canmore Folk Music Festival bringing local musicians to the community concert this year, it hopes to encourage this kind of community within Canmore’s music scene.
For Fitzgerald, no matter how much experience you have, whether you have a decade, or are just starting out, inspiration can come from anywhere for a great song.
“I think that sometimes that’s the frustrating part of songwriting, but at the same time it’s just great," he said. "I think for me, my takeaway like the thing that I learned from coming out and just hearing these other songs – so many people have awesome ideas and I think you just have to be open to whatever comes and really whenever it comes too.
"It was a good refresher on that."
Canmore Folk Music Festival starts this Friday (Aug. 2) with the free community concert to kick off the weekend at Centennial Park from 7-9 p.m., including a live broadcast by CKUA Radio. The evening will include Indigenous dancing and performances by Michael Bernard Fitzgerald and local musicians, hummingBird, The Wardens, The Woodnotes, Trundled, Noah Isaac and Sarah Lowry.
Then on Saturday (Aug. 3), Michael Bernard Fitzgerald will perform on the Stan Rogers stage at 4:30 p.m. Check out canmorefolkfestival.com for more details about the lineup and schedule.