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Lethbridge Folk Club opening new season with bigger names

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The Lethbridge Folk Club  begins another season this week  a couple of big name shows.

Oscar Lopez opens the Lethbridge Folk Club season, Sept. 17 at the Lethbridge College Cave. Photo by Richard Amery
 Oscar Lopez plays the Lethbridge College Cave, Saturday, Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. sharp with local classical guitarist Dale Ketcheson opening.
“We have two big shows at the beginning of the season so we can hopefully get some money in the bank,” said Lethbridge Folk Club president Morris Soenen, observing other venues and concert  groups are among the reasons attendance at the folk club shows have been faltering.


 He is excited to present two time Juno award winner Oscar Lopez for the club’s first show of the season.
“I think he may have played the Folk Club before when he was really young,” said Soenen, who has been part of the Lethbridge Folk Club for at least 20 years.
“I may pick up a bluegrass show too,” he said.


The Folk Club, which has a show pretty much once a month, is skipping October and December, but brings back folk/rock/ blues singer Valdy on Saturday, Nov. 19.
“He’s played the folk club many times. Jolene Draper and The Inquisitive Few are opening,” he said.
 He booked a lot of acts for this season because of the impression they made on him during the South Country Fair.


 So he is excited to bring country band the Tim Hus Trio to the Cave, Jan. 14 and Scott Cook and the Second Chances will be playing Feb. 4.
 Soenen  booked Northern Alberta based folk/ swing/ gypsy jazz/reggae/funk band to play March 11 because he liked their performance at the Shady Grove Bluegrass festival in Nanton.
“They always book one band that is an off band or a band that isn’t a bluegrass band and that was the Misery Mountain Boys. Two of them are from Fort  St. James. I think they’ve played South Country Fair before.”
 He said is is frustrating to get people to come out to the Folk Club’s shows.


“We’ve got to get people to come out. We should be able to easily get 100 people out to all of these shows instead of the 25-30 people we usually get,” he sighed, adding it is also frustrating to get volunteers to commit.
“They all sign up but say maybe the next show,” he said.


“ It would be nice to have person who signs up to do the same job all season long,” he said.
He hopes having some new blood on the board like new treasurer Carmen Petra will help infuse the group with new energy.
“ She’s young and she’s an accountant,” he said, adding she will be able to help the group  fill out grant applications.
 They have a Alberta Foundation For the Arts grant, which is in part based in the acts they book, which helps pay the bills along with memberships.
 Season memberships are five dollars, which gives patron a five dollar discount on all of the shows.
 “We also have student tickets  this year — $15 plus the membership.”
Shows cost $25  for adults, $15 for students.


 “Folk clubs are different than bars. Folk clubs are listening rooms. Bars are places people want to go and talk,” he said, adding the sound isn’t very good in a lot of bars.


 In addition to their concert series, the Lethbridge Folk Club also hosts monthly  open mics.
 This year their will be held in the Casa community room. The first one was Sept. 9.

 The other open mics are 7-9:30 p.m  Friday, Oct. 14, Dec. 9, Jan. 13, Feb. 10, March 10, April 7 and May 12.
 Donations are taken to cover the cost to the $20/ hour room rental.


“There is a forgiving audience and if they aren’t forgiving, there’s a problem. Open mics are a good place to try out new stuff. They are a good place to practice.
Players can perform three songs.


“Do your three songs and keep your chatter to a minimum. Just do the songs and do them well. And come early and sign up,” he recommended, noting attendance is generally pretty high, though they have their slow nights.
 They end at 9:30 p.m. as Casa closes at 10 p.m. sharp.


 Soenen has enjoyed most of the process of putting on shows for the folk club.


“I still love doing it. It’s been about 20 years. I just like the fact I get to meet people like Oscar Lopez and Valdy,” he said, adding can’t choose a favourite show.


“They’ve all brought something special,” he said noting the only show he didn’t enjoy was a double bill of former Blue Rodeo keyboardist Bob Wiseman and  Bob Snider.
“Bob Snider could have carried the whole show himself. Bob Wiseman had this video presentation which was disgusting. There was this silhouette of a guy stabbing a woman and he had this toy keyboard he played with. Half of the audience walked out. But Bob Snider was great,” he said.
He remembered some excellent shows with Valdy including one as part of Compadres with Gary Fjellgaard.
“Gary was playing right after he had his heart attack and he hadn’t had his bypass yet. So his wife was worried. But he wanted to fulfil his dates,” Soenen said.
Santiago, Chile born Latin guitarist and songwriter Oscar Lopez is excited to return to Lethbridge. He’s always happy wherever he is.

“I have a little bambino at home, so I’ve been taking care of him. I love being a father and I’m an older father,” Lopez said from his Calgary home. He has called Canada home since 1979 and moved to Calgary in 1981.
“So I haven’t been touring a lot because of him,” he said.

Morris Soenen  is excited to begin the new Lethbridge Folk Club season with open mics and  some big acts like Oscar Lopez and Valdy. Photo by Richard Amery
“I’ll do shows here and there. But I keep on living. It’s been great. I feel blessed to be able to make a living playing music. It is the universal language,” he said.
“It‘s been great.”


He a is no stranger to playing Folk Club gigs.
“I played the Calgary Folk Club and that opened other doors to me. That’s where my career started and helped get me to the next level. I don“t play the Calgary folk Club a lot because I don’t want people to get sick of hearing me,” he said.


“But people know your story there and they watch you grow. You get to see old friends and there is happiness. People love the music and they support musicians,” he continued.
“It’s good to see older people as well as younger people there who come up and say ‘my dad loves you and made me come and now I am a fan.’ So it really does come full circle,” he said.


He is looking forward to playing the Lethbridge Folk Club, possibly for the first time.
“This is the first time, I believe. I may have played there when I was younger. I’m very excited though,” he said. He noted his show will depend on his mood.
“Whatever they want me to do, I’ll even dance if they want me to,” he said.


“Everyone will have a terrific time. I’ll probably play songs from the most recent album and maybe three or four older songs and maybe a medley of  the older albums. I couldn’t really tell you,” he said.


“I like to play, I like to dance. Whatever happens, I want people to go home happy,” he said.
Tickets for Lethbridge Folk Club shows are available at Casa for $30 (including the year’s membership.) Student tickets are only available at the door.As of press time only 30 had been sold. The show starts at 8 p.m. sharp.

 A version of this story appears in the Sept. 14, 2016 edition of the Lethbridge Sun Times
— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 14 September 2016 11:05 )  
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