“Rising Stars”, the next-to-last Music in the Park concert of the season, was perhaps the concert packing the biggest surprise of the summer. Young singer-songwriters Kayla Dawn Turnbull, Matthew Thomas, and Kansas Lee Hatherly set the audience on its ear on Thursday night — literally as well as figuratively. Belying their youth, each performer showed maturity in their song writing, confident musicianship, and powerful vocals. All three have received awards and other commendations for their musical talents, have produced CDs, and aim to make music their profession. The small audience was well-rewarded for coming out in spite of the threat of rain. The skies cleared, the sun shone, and the music sparkled like stars.
Kayla Dawn (top photo) opened the concert with a mix of covers and her own compositions. “Tallest Tree”, played on ukelele, described Kayla’s personal happy place high above ground. The optimistic piece was a smile from beginning to end. “Into the Wild”, inspired by the novel and film of the same name, reminded the audience that escape from civilization is not the answer: relationships are. Perhaps the song that most struck a chord with the crowd was “Worthy”, a tribute to a mentor. Kayla’s brand new CD “Never Give Up” is available through Amazon.
Matthew Thomas, a local music teacher and award-winning pianist, accompanied himself on guitar (middle photo). His self-deprecating humour soon had the audience laughing. First sharing that his highschool education had been completed at home, Thomas launched into “Homeschooled through Highschool”, an hilarious commentary on the social drawbacks of his education. Each verse described his most awkward moments trying to fit in with his more social peers, including teen fashion, dating, and slang. Songs from his three CDs can be purchased on iTunes and CD Baby.
Kansas Lee (bottom photo) wowed the audience with her incredible vocal range. Reminiscent of a young Joni Mitchell, the 21-year old appeared completely entranced in her own music, notes soaring high effortlessly before dropping to a husky alto. Baby boomers in the audience resonated with her interpretations of “Chelsea Hotel” by Leonard Cohen and “The Weight” by The Band. But her own compositions, putting her range to best use, most impressed the crowd. “The Wrong Place”, set in an Oliver pub, is a reflection on life in a small town, and how the wrong place may just be the right place to find out who you are. And guaranteed, no one will ever forget Kansas Lee’s evocative imitation of an owl — you had to be there to experience it. Her songs can be heard on SoundCloud.
Thursday August 21 is the last concert of the Music in the Park season. 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. Relax to the smooth ballads of Jazz Out West, featuring Iris Larratt on vocals and backed up by three cool cats: Jim Wyse on piano, Bob Larratt on stand-up bass, and Bob Park on drums. It is sure to be an elegant finish to a great musical season!