Award winning Rita Chiarelli kicked off the Bulkely Valley Concert Association’s new season with a performance that wowed all in attendance. Tom Best photo

Blues big shot plays with prowess and heaps on humour

Award winning Rita Chiarelli kicked off the BV Concert Association season wowing all in attendance.

Some people who don’t live here might think we are way up here in the middle of nowhere and we don’t have any music but that which brings in the moose and the coyotes. Maybe the occasional fish.

Not so.

The Bulkley Valley Concert Association once again has silenced all doubt about the quality of musical entertainment that has been available on a regular basis in the area. With the superb performance of its opening act for the season, we can only hope that whatever follows can be half as good.

Blues big shot Rita Chiarelli, one of Canada’s all time greats, took to the stage at Della Herman auditorium last Thursday evening and left no doubters why she has the supremely solid reputation she has.

Perhaps by herself she would have been merely fantastic, but with her backup group of superlatively gifted players, she and her group rose to a different level.

Chiarelli arose from Hamilton, Ont., and started her career with the Ronnie Hawkins Band before heading to Italy for several years. Since her return, she has become an integral part of the Canadian music scene, winning the Juno as well as numerous other prestigious awards over a broad base of styles, including world folk music for an Italian recording.

Chiarelli is an entertainer. Not only her music captivates, but the easily understood words tell stories and make the experience more enjoyable. Some of the pieces were expressive covers of well known tunes such as Highway 61 and Hound Dog, and she certainly put her own stamp on these.

She wrote others and these were highly entertaining due to their individuality and creativity.

In another life, perhaps Chiarelli could be a stand-up comedian. Her introductions and explanations continually had the audience howling in laughter. There were situations we’ve all experienced and ones we’ve all heard about. Even without that fantastic music we went for, the evening left us all feeling more than satisfied. Maybe wanting more.

The music was magnificent. Even if you were not a long-time advocate of the blues, the music got under your skin and into your soul. There was one particularly wonderful example of how sweeping the music was: the hall was very dark but in one corner, two youngsters were dancing their hearts away. One could only sense their joy at being a part of this celebration of life. Maybe they were up a bit past their bedtimes but it was worth it.

The concert was not merely an exhibition of Chiarelli’s prowess. She gave her fellow musicians planet of opportunities to display their expertise. The group, called Sweet Loretta, had three members who gave her the support she needed with excellence. As Chiarelli indicated, she surrounded herself with excellence.

Emily Burgess on guitar could fill in for almost any lead guitarist. Double bassist Lauren Falls could almost disappear behind her instrument but left no doubt about who was in charge of its deep tones. Tenor sax blower Elena Kapelaris produced superlative accents in support and to highlight.

We can only hope that Chiarelli can return in less than the 10 years since her last visit.

Up next for the BV Concert Association will be the BC World Music Collective on Oct. 24. This is a 13-member supergroup which features the rhythms of four continents. Season’s passes are still available but the number is limited.

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