On the heels of performing at the highly successful Sylvan Lake Jazz Festival, local singer Cheryl Fisher has become the “poster child” for a new Alberta arts festival.
Fisher will kick off Alberta Arts Days in Calgary with a Sept. 18 performance at the Epcor Centre when she will sing selections from her newest CD, Moments Like This. The recording of standard jazz tunes, including Autumn in New York, I Concentrate on You and Jordu, features collaborations with pianist Oliver Jones, Ira Sullivan, and Fisher’s husband, Eric Allison.
Fisher, a Sylvan Lake resident who’s been part of the Alberta arts scene since the late 1980s, said she’s honoured to have been asked to open Calgary’s three-day festival. She’s also thrilled because the choice indicates her once “specialty” musical form is now appealing to a broad audience.
The government-sponsored Alberta Arts Days will actually run across the province from Sept. 18-20, with various communities planning different local events. (See Red Deer’s events below).
Whether jazz is being embraced by a larger audience because artists such as Diana Krall are being played on adult contemporary radio, it’s clear there’s a growing appreciation for the musical form. Fisher added this is allowing many jazz artists to “come into their own.”
For instance, the Juno Award-winning Jones helped break attendance records at the Sylvan Lake festival last weekend. Festival organizer Allison said some 200 people filled the Stephenson Performing Arts Centre for concerts by Fisher and Jones. There was also a capacity crowd for the Swing Dance at the local golf club, and fans had to be turned away at the Blues Bash at the Lion’s Hall.
Allison attributes good word-of-mouth for the festival’s growing popularity. This year’s event not only drew people from Edmonton and Calgary, but also B.C. and the U.S. “Some people have told us they plan their holidays around it.”
Fisher loved singing with internationally recognized Jones, whom she described as being a wonderful, “percussive” pianist. “For a vocalist, it was an interesting opportunity. You have to alternate your phrasing and delivery to match what he’s doing.”
Having trained at the University of Miami School of Music, Fisher believes jazz is still very much an American art form, so it speaks well that so many Canadian performers are becoming known on the international scene.
Meanwhile, few events are already being planned locally for Alberta Art Days in Red Deer, including a city-wide “chase” on Friday, Sept. 18, organized by the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery. It will involve people taking “passports” around the city to a number of visual, performing and literary arts events, for the chance to win prizes.
The Alexander Way Festival will also be held on Saturday, Sept. 19, put on by the Downtown Business Association, featuring artist demonstration, performances and vendor tables.