Calgary and Canmore folk fests participating in ‘beautiful’ Canadian songbook project

Local events part of all-star Western Canadian initiative this year that will celebrate the acts and artists from Far & Wide that have made this country what it is, including Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Ian Tyson, The Tragically Hip.

Western Canadian folk festivals are truly getting into the Cancon spirit to help celebrate 150.

Five major fests in this part of the world have announced that they will be participating in and collaborating on a pretty fantastic project this summer called Canada Far & Wide: Grands Esprits, which will celebrate this nation’s incredible songbook.

The Winnipeg Folk Festival, Vancouver Folk Festival, Regina Folk Festival and local events, the Calgary Folk Music Festival and the Canmore Folk Festival, will all participate in the project through the season, which runs July 5 to Aug. 13.

The gist of it is that a a house band of sorts, featuring Cree cellist Cris Derksen, one-time A Tribe Called Red member DJ Shub and Quebecois artist Mélisande (électrotrad), will perform  a set with a guest artist in conjunction with each festival. At the end of the performance, they and the audience will participate in a singalong, “a beautiful shared moment,” of a popular Canadian song, led by Coco Love-Alcorn in Canmore and Choir! Choir! Choir! in all of the other cities.

DJ Shub
Former A Tribe Called Red member DJ Shub will be participating in the Canada Far & Wide: Grands Esprits songbook project at several Western Canadian folk fests.

“The songs chosen celebrate diverse genres, cultures, regions, traditions and generations,” says Calgary folk fest artistic director Kerry Clarke in a release.

“Plus, we included key compositions by Canadian trailblazers like Joni Mitchell, Hank Snow, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Leonard Cohen. But, we really wanted to mess with genres and perspectives with these songs, and bring them into new forms while celebrating their narratives and history.”

Calgary’s concert will take place July 26 at the Jubilee Auditorium and feature, along with the aforementioned artists, guests Jason Collett, Basia Bulat, Turkwaz, Birds of Chicago and Barney Bentall.

Tickets are free and on a first-come, first-serve basis and must be picked up in person from the Calgary folk fest offices at 1215 10th Ave. S.E. during regular office hours.

Other artists at the festivals who will be participating in the project are an eclectic bunch of performers from across this country, including Old Man Luedecke, Diyet, Cécile Doo-Kingué, Vox Sambou, Kacy and Clayton, Cold Specks, CR Avery, Quantam Tangle, Dirty Catfish Brass Band, Whitehorse, Eekwol, Kiera Dall’Osto, Blake Berglund, FadaDance and William Prince.

According to the release, the songs that have been chosen for Canada Far & Wide: Grands Esprits have been done so “with a focus on a diversity of voices and artistry while putting the focus on all of Canada’s history, both positive and challenging. Indigenous songwriters have contributed key songs to the songbook and Indigenous artists are integral to the live performance of the project. Through the power of the songs and the magic of music festivals this project invites us all to come together in a more positive way to create a better, more inclusive, Canada.”

Here is the complete list of songs that the artists will choose from:

Amelia Curran (Song on the Radio)

Arcade Fire (Rebellion (Lies))

Beau Dommage (La Complainte du Phoque en Alaska)

Blue Rodeo (Hasn’t Hit Me Yet)

Bruce Cockburn (Call it Democracy, If a Tree Falls)

Buffy Sainte-Marie (Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee)

Daniel Bélanger (Rêver Mieux)

Feist (I Feel it All)

Ferron (Testimony)

Gene MacLellan (Snowbird)

Gilles Vigneault (J’ai Planté un Chêne)

Gordon Lightfoot (If You Could Read My Mind, Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald)

Hank Snow (Brand on My Heart)

Ian Tyson (Four Strong Winds)

Jessie Reyez (Figures)

Joni Mitchell (I Wish I Had A River)

Khari McLelland (Song of the Agitator)

K’naan (Wavin’ Flag)

Kashtin – (Tshinanu ‘what we all are’)

Kate and Anna McGarrigle (Heart Like a Wheel, Talk To Me Of Medocino)

Kathleen Edwards (I Make the Dough, You get the Glory)

kd lang (Constant Craving)

Leonard Cohen (Hallelujah)

Lillian Allen (Subversives)

Lloyd Cheechoo (James Bay)

Madame Bolduc (Les Américains)

Neil Young (Harvest Moon)

Parachute Club (Rise Up)

Richard Desjardins (le Bon Gars)

The Band (Acadian Driftwood)

Ron Hynes (Sonny’s Dream)

Sarah Harmer (Lodestar)

Sarah McLachlan (Song for a Winter’s Night)

Shad (Keep Shining)

Spirit of the West (Home for a Rest)

Stan Rogers (Barrett’s Privateers)

Stompin’ Tom (Sudbury Saturday Night)

Susan Aglukark (O Siem)

Tragically Hip (Fireworks, At the Hundredth Meridian)

Weakerthans (One Great City)

Wilf Carter (Capture of Albert Johnson)

Willie Dunn (I Pity the Country, Louis Riel)

This year’s Calgary Folk Music Festival runs July 27 to 30 at Prince’s Island Park. For more information, please click here.

Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at