|Palmer Rapids, On.
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Click here to download a free song from our new CD, Walter and Alice.
Concession 23 is an award-winning Canadian bluegrass band based in and around the valley region surrounding Canada's capital city of Ottawa. The band's musical strength lies in its teamwork, its energetic playing style, and in the relaxed relationship it establishes with its audiences. The band is Jonathan Ferrabee (acoustic bass/vocals); Kevin Golka (mandolin/vocals); Sherry Philp (banjo/vocals); and Nick Strachan (guitar/vocals).
This is a unique year for Concession 23. On October 23, 2003 we took the 23 strings of our 4 instruments along with our voices to the stage for the first time. We later learned that this happened to be Kevin’s birthday. He’s so modest. ;) It has been 20 years of growth, friendship, and goofy fun since that day. It is unlikely any of us would have predicted the band’s longevity at that moment, going on to perform hundreds of shows and record three full length projects to date.
But we made it past the honeymoon, are proud of our long collaboration, and feel a modest celebration is in order. Stay tuned for news around October 23rd! In the meantime you can find us doing our thing at a number of summer venues listed on our gigs page, including the Palmer Rapids Twin Music Festival., at the end of July.
We’d like to take a moment to recognize the great work of Pat Moore and Kate Greenland, founders and hosts of Bluegrass Mondays at The Red Bird Live.. In case you haven’t been down to check it out, Bluegrass Mondays offers the best bluegrass in the Ottawa region. Red Bird Live is a superb listening room. It features an excellent stage, comfortable seating, a terrific sound system, and a well staffed bar. Bluegrass Mondays features a different band each week for two full sets of music. Concession 23 and the whole community benefit greatly from Pat and Kate's effort and commitment.
Thanks to Roman Romanovich for the cool pic!
Finally! The wind appears to be 100% back in the sails of the live music community. What a pleasure to be playing the regular venues at full steam as well as a host of summer festivals. We were appreciative to have been invited to play at the Galop Canal BG Festival,, sharing the stage and the jamming circles on this magnificent site along the water, often stopping to take in a giant ship sneaking by a few feet away. The South Grenville Bluegrass Festival, another superbly organized Eastern Ontario festival, was a pleasure to perform at and an opportunity to catch up with many old musical buddies.
We also returned to the Tottenham Bluegrass Festival, performing there for the first time in many years. It was particularly sweet as all of us have strong memories of this festival from years ago. It was there that we got to know each other playing around the fires before starting to play together formally in our band. The Tottenham festival was an early supporter of Concession 23, offering us good performance slots early in our band life and even once giving us the somewhat surreal experience of promoting their festival by playing in the middle of the town grocery store while folks shopped around us.
We’d like to take a moment to thank Huby Giroux, Shawn Wallace and Brent Weatherall for filling in on guitar during Nick’s unexpected absence.
Well, I think you all know what happened in 2020 and 2021. Insert your favourite game show music here. You know, what they play when the audience waits for the contestants to make a decision under pressure…
Wait, there is one swell thing that happened to us in 2021. We got a feature in Bluegrass Today!!
This was a big summer at the festivals! We got out of the gates early at the Quinte Isle Bluegrass Festival in Prince Edward County. It's such a pleasure to drive in through sweet small towns and perch ourselves on the lakefront for three days of music. Two weeks later we were at the most unusual festival we have ever played - Whitney Blackfly Festival at Camp Bongopix. We have perhaps never met a more playful and creative pair of folks than our hosts Andrea and Bongo. If you are looking for a stop over on your way into or out of Algonquin Park, Camp Bongopix will bring a wide smile to your day. Check out the cabin they had for us:
The summer was filled out with performances at the Renfrew Bluegrass Festival (our "hometown festival") and a trip up to Northern Ontario to play the River Valley Bluegrass Jamboree. It was an interesting contrast to play these two festivals back-to-back, sharing music with geographically separate sets of friends within a few weeks of each other. We felt somehow like a conduit, conducting our own little bit of current between Ontario bluegrass communities.
Deciding to learn how to play an instrument usually means sitting at home struggling with h ands that won't do one's bidding. Hours of practice alone seem to go on forever with little promise of the effortless flow of a seasoned player that we strive for. The focus is on the music, its mechanics, theory, rhythms and arrangements. But somewhere along the line we begin to meet people, people who share the same musical interests and inspiration. Get togethers lead to jams which occasionally lead to bands. Inevitably, music also becomes about friendship and community.
That is the story of our band and the friendships that brought the four of us together. And that fortunate event has only lead to a further expansion of friends over the years that we have been playing. Whether meeting concert goers, other players at a late night jam, or fellow bands at a festival, it seems our network of musical comrades is ever growing. Music has become as much about friends as it is about music.
2018 was no exception. We caught up with Alicia Robicheau and Lonesome Sound at the Minden Hills Bluegrass Festival where some exceptional late night picking emerged.
Nick couldn't make it to the Galop Canal Bluegrass Festival so our good friend Brent Weatherall stepped in. Brent has covered for Jonathan on the bass at times, but showed us his superb guitar chops this time around.
Here we are performing “The Father, Son and The Holy Ghost” at the Valley Grass Winter Concert Series. We do this to honour the memory of Ernie Thacker - RIP.
Other highlights included playing for and meeting all new folks at the Highlands Winter Festival and at Fairbairn house in Wakefield at the foot of the historic bridge.
We look forward to meeting new listeners/players in 2019 and catching up with all those we already cherish.
Had a blast pickin' and shoutin' our way through 2017 and can't wait to get into festival season 2018. A highlight of the 2017 summer scene was the Pick N Ride Bluegrass festival in Forrester Falls, Ontario - a unique coming together of horse lovers and bluegrass lovers. Met some swell folks and some swell horses! We were super impressed with the commitment these people had to their animals, not to mention the unusual kit that came with them. We all came away wishing we had one of those human/horse combo trailers...
The weather wasn't cooperating on the last day of the festival and the main stage was rained out. This lead to all the bands performing their Sunday sets acoustically under the big tent. It's an intimate setting and the audience got right into it. Lots of banter back and forth. Some how a rained out main stage always produces sweet musical memories for performers and audiences alike. Must be something about the nature of the music that lends itself to such up-close sharing.
Concession 23 also made it's mark on history in 2017. Well, our mark on the Canadian Museum of History at any rate. We were asked to play a private function in the fall of 2017 on the Grand Hall stage. Don't think there is a space quite like it, well, anywhere. The totem poles towered above us and the 4 story wall of glass opened up to the river and Parliament. It's the kind of place that feels empty until a few hundred people get into it. Thankfully a crowd showed up and were ready for a good time. Before long they pushed some tables aside and were showing off their clogging skills. We threw out the set list and played up tempo until they ran out of breath.
Thanks to Pat Moore and Kate Greenland, Bluegrass Mondays continue at Pressed. We have enjoyed the warm company of the community that has grown up around this weekly event throughout 2017 and into 2018. Looking forward to spending time with old friends and welcoming new ones in our musical stompin' grounds this year.
We've had one heck of a great summer thanks to bluegrass fans across Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes! It's been one of our busiest festival seasons ever, and we've met lots of new people, made lots of new friends, and travelled to some of the most beautiful places we could imagine.
A big hello to the people of Campbellton, NB who treated us with such warmth and kindness during our first trip to beautiful New Brunswick?, and a special thanks to Cyril Kelly and Simone for hosting us at their place at Pointe-Verte (great lobster dinner, great music!). A big, fat howdy to Frank Doody and the Bluegrass Diamonds for a great night of jamming -- we love you guys! Heart-felt thanks to the many Ontario festival promoters and music fans (Woodsmoke, Eastern Ontario, Galop Canal, Renfrew, South Grenville...) for supporting us and inviting us back to play over the years. To Pat Moore for founding and hosting Bluegrass Mondays at Pressed in Ottawa time and again...
It's interesting that our summer has been bookmarked with festivals in such spectacular settings: Prince Edward County and (its namesake) Prince Edward Island. Beginning back in May at the Quinte Isle Festival, and extending deep into November at the Summerside Bluegrass and Acoustic Music Festival in Summerside, P.E.I., we've had a terrific time travelling, playing and meeting new friends. Thanks to everyone!
Come on down to the NAC's Fourth Stage on Tuesday, December 1 2015 at 7:30 pm. to help us celebrate the official Ottawa release of our latest recording, Walter and Alice, and raise funds for the Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County!
The release of Walter and Alice is a real milestone for us, and we'd love to celebrate the occasion with all the wonderful people who have sustained us over the years. As a fledgling bluegrass band, our friends and families supported and encouraged us as we hit the road, made new friends and slowly built a base of other bluegrass music fans! Now, 12 years and three major recordings later, we've matured into one of Ontario's most sought-after bluegrass bands, thanks in large measure to all of you.
As many of you know, the song "Walter and Alice" is a ballad inspired in part by Kevin's mother who passed away in 2005 after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease. More recently, Jonathan's father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Each year, thousands more Canadians are afflicted.
In addition to a huge party, we pledge that 50% of all proceeds will be donated to the Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County.
Announcing the release of our latest CD Walter & Alice. We had a great time once again working with gifted recording engineer, Jason Jaknunas.
After receiving so many inquiries, we are finally on Facebook. Please check us out, and see what's on our timeline...
Check out a live performance of the gospel number, "Brighter Mansion"...
"I've watched Sherry sing and play banjo for years, and, you know, certain voices can physically sing, and certain voices can portray the feeling of a song... I feel Sherry's that way: when she sings, it comes straight from the heart..." -- Brother Brian
Brother Brian, host of CFRC 101.9 FM's Brother Brian's Bluegrass radio show, uttered these words when he presented Sherry with her 5th, consecutive Female Vocalist of the Year Award at Central Canadian Bluegrass Awards back in 2012, when she was retired from the category.
And we couldn't agree more. Many people sing well, hit the notes squarely, phrase the lines just so, but Sherry's appeal is of a rarer order: she has soul. A bluegrass soul. The emotion she is able to evoke from audiences is pure, authentic, and impassioned. I've seen Kevin brought to tears on stage when she sings "Walter & Alice," our song about the devastation of Alzheimer's. The first time she ever sang "Wandering Steps" in rehearsal, I was physically moved by the impossible beauty she brought to the lyrics.
Sherry's vocal sensitivity also informs her banjo style. Bluegrass fans often seem to want their banjo heros to be all brass-and-knuckles, but Sherry's approach is all about the song. Her textured back-up teases extra attention from the listener, and her breaks seamlessly express the song's narrative and melodic intent. All this while often simultaneously singing like a star!
Click here to see Sherry receiving her Female Vocalist of the Year Award from Brother Brian.