Steven Page has sold millions of records with the Barenaked Ladies and as a solo artist — yet when he performs with the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra next week he’ll be stepping out of his comfort zone.
“As a pop artist you tend to feel… like you’re the hack, and they’re the legitimate musicians,” Page said with a chuckle.
The Scarborough, Ont. native has accumulated wide-ranging experiences since he first set foot in Red Deer as a duo with Ed Robertson in the earliest days of Barenaked Ladies. (“It must have been about 1989 or 1990 and I think it was at the local college at lunch time, in a pub…” he recalled.)
Beyond co-writing and recording If I Had a $1,000,000, Brian Wilson, It’s All Been Done and a myriad of other radio favourites, Page has composed music for McBeth and other Shakespearean productions at the Stratford Festival in Ontario.
He’s also performed with symphonic orchestras across Canada — both with his former band, Barenaked Ladies, which he left in 2009, and with The Art of Time ensemble, which fuses high art and pop culture.
It’s been many, many years — possibly since the mid-’90s — since Page last took the stage in Red Deer. He’s excited about coming back to sing mostly his solo material while backed by 50-some RDSO musicians at the Great Canadian Songbook concert on Saturday, Feb. 18, at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre.
The 46-year-old will also be bringing musicians from his well-seasoned trio — guitarist Craig Northey (of the Odds, who helped produce some of Page’s solo albums) and cellist Kevin Fox (last seen in Red Deer backing Chantal Kreviazuk in November).
Two tunes from Page’s 2016 release Heal Thyself, Pt. 1, Instinct will be presented (Linda Ronstadt in the ’70s, There’s a Melody). Page will also sing A New Shore from his first solo album, Page One, as well as a couple of Leonard Cohen songs: A Singer Must Die and Take This Waltz.
Since the late Cohen is one of his favourite artists, Page was already familiar with his music, and loves performing it. In a recent radio interview, he lamented that Cohen died at exactly the time when his wry, bitter sense of humour was most needed to provide “light” in a world that has dimmed.
At this concert, billed as “A Canada 150 Celebration,” the RDSO will play various other domestic selections, including Mon Pays by Gilles Vigneault, Four Strong Winds by Ian Tyson, Heart of Gold by Neil Young and a Gordon Lightfoot medley.
If I Had $1,000, 000 is on the program, but will be performed by the RDSO alone, from an arrangement by conductor Claude Lapalme, who has some surprises in store for the audience.
He’s thrilled to be performing with Page, “a very creative person… It’s pretty obvious from his writing that he’s a smart man and has a great sense of humour.”
Page looks forward having his pop songs performed by a whole orchestra — it’s is like hearing them sung with an entire chorus of ‘voices,’ instead of just one or two, he said. “It’s always interesting — especially with songs I’ve sung so many times — to hear them from another point of view. It’s exciting and it really encourages you.”
Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.