Hoyt enchants with song and story

review by Bob Park

The South Okanagan Concert Society did it again! The choice of Lizzy Hoyt for the third concert of the 2019-20 series was spot on. Her angelic voice, her virtuosic Celtic fiddle and harp playing, the wide range of songs and styles, and her engaging way of connecting with fellow musicians and the audience all proved to be exactly what the nearly full house at the Venables was craving on a winter’s evening. 

Here in the Okanagan valley, Winnipeg-based Lizzy Hoyt may have been a relatively unknown singer/fiddler come to perform her original Canadian and family history-based songs as well as much-loved favorites in Celtic/Folk style, but after this delightful concert she is “unknown” no more! More than 300 people can’t stop talking about her. The joy, enthusiasm, humour, reflection and memories which Lizzy generated, backed expertly by both Keith Rempel on string bass and Chris Tabbert on guitar and mandolin, are sure to continue to resonate with audience members.

Every song came with a story. The much-loved familiar songs, such as Star of the County Down, Jolene, Loch Lomond, St.Anne’s Reel and V’la Le Bon Vent, all were given a fresh interpretation. The musical rapport between the three performers was evident, with lots of scope for Chris and Keith to cut loose and add interesting solos and arranging to the tunes. You might have heard these songs before, but not the inventive way they played them.

Lizzy draws inspiration in her song writing from her family’s roots and her own experiences. “New Lady on the Prairie” tells of an Irish immigrant woman’s first experience on an intimidating Canadian prairie. The horrors of the First World War appear in “The White Feather” and “Vimy Ridge”.

Lizzy, Keith and Chris are so skilled that they seemed to be effortlessly producing such lovely music for everyone. They were obviously enjoying themselves, and when Lizzy invited the audience to sing along with the refrains of several of the familiar songs, it even felt effortless for the rest of us to join in.

The standing ovation was spontaneous, and we were rewarded with Lizzy singing a most beautiful, heart-wrenching rendition of “Danny Boy”. Many an eye was moist, and every heart was moved.

The Venables theatre has the new feature of wine being served in the lobby, and the SOCS has the new feature of serving plates of snacks for a reception after the concerts. This made for all kinds of wonderful conversations and reactions to Lizzy Hoyt’s concert. Here’s a sample of what we overheard:

“Her storytelling put war and its consequences in a real light.”
“We were there” (at Vimy Ridge memorial)
“I love the way I could hear all the words of her songs.”
“I’ve listened to Celtic music on CDs, but hearing it live tonight was a whole new experience.”
“I don’t actually like Celtic music, but this was amazing!”
“What a fabulous voice!”
“We loved the cooperation among the musicians.”
“She can really communicate with the audience.”
“This concert adds to the rich diversity of SOCS concerts.”

Here is one more comment:
“How can a performer this good not be more famous?”
Well, that can still change. Here at the Venables, a corner has been turned.

The South Okanagan Concert Society is bringing its final concert of the season to the Venables on March 20. The Montreal Guitar Trio is coming. It will be a joy to welcome them back to Oliver, after about a ten year stretch. That particular evening, the SOCS will make early bird tickets for the upcoming season available at their traditional reduced price. Advance ticket – $23, Door – $25, and Student – $2.50


See you there!