Recapping Shivering Songs 2024

Category: community 341

Shivering Songs’ combination of marquee festival events helped make the 2024 event a festival to remember.

Matt Carter 
Thanya Iyer in performance at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre.

Every festival is unique in its own way. Locations, venues, and artist lineups are the three biggest contributors to making each event special. But it’s also more than that. The relationship between all three of these factors has to be there as well. Everything needs to work together on equal footing. No matter how impressive a lineup looks on a poster, if the location stinks and the stages are poorly run the audience experience will suffer. And these days, if the audience doesn’t have fun the entire world will hear about it. 

I was thinking about all this festival chemistry over the last few days as I made my way from venue to venue checking out what I could during last week’s Shivering Songs festival. In addition to being the most appropriately titled festival ever conceived, Shivering Songs has been checking all the important festival boxes – locations, venues, and artist lineups – for as long as I can remember. But there is something about this festival that goes a little deeper than most and I think it has to do with what goes on within the aforementioned winning trifecta, whether that involves spending some seriously relaxing time with a select group of performers at the Songwriters and Storytellers event, having my collaboration loving mind blown by the FUZE Orchestra, or watching my son dance to some old time toe tappers at the Bluegrass Brunch. These events within events are a big part of what makes Shivering Songs so special.

Chillteens’ Oscar Tecu performs with the FUZE Orchestra.

I’ve always been a fan of the Songwriters and Storytellers event that takes place on the Saturday afternoon. It might even be my favourite event of the whole festival. My wife and I have gone to almost every one of them. And now we go as a family. As much as this event has become a tradition for us, it’s obvious we’re in the minority here because this is always one of the festival’s least attended events with few exceptions. And every year I wonder why. The location is ideal (downtown on a weekend afternoon), the venue is top shelf (Wilmot United Church – sure, the seats are not the most comfortable. Some years I feel like they were designed specifically to remind me of my long list of sins), and the artist lineup is always great. Every single year. 

The Songwriters and Storytellers event is the best opportunity for anyone to get to know some of the festival’s diverse lineup of artists up close and personal. I think the magic has to do with the timing. It’s a Saturday afternoon. It’s still too early for an artist to effectively shift into Performer Mode so everyone’s guard is down. The talk is casual and intimate adding to the atmosphere of it all. This year’s event was hosted by rapper Tristan Grant (aka Wolf Castle) and featured singer songwriters Carlene and Bells Larson, along with illustrator Alexander Forbes. A weird combo on paper, like a lot of Songwriters and Storytellers events, but it’s these kinds of unlikely pairings that make each of these events so special. 

After seeing last year’s FUZE performance with locals Marian I knew this year’s pairing with Chillteens would be a must-see, and I was correct. The evening’s opener was Montreal’s Thanya Iyer, a complete surprise to me and a definite highlight. Iyer’s four piece band delivered a powerhouse performance of some of the most beautiful sounding pop-inspired music I’ve heard in a long time. When her performance came to a close the audience gathering at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre was left wondering what they just experienced. The reactions I heard confirmed it all – “That was incredible!” 

No two collaborative performances from the FUZE Orchestra are ever the same, which only adds to the magic of these events. After just a single rehearsal the previous night, the ensemble led by Fredericton-born, Toronto-based percussionist Greg Harrison, layered immense textures upon the music of Chillteens elevating phrases, igniting choruses, and trading solos as the full nine piece onstage ensemble electrified the room and its capacity crowd.  Rumour has it the performance was recorded. With any luck, we’ll have the chance to relive a touch of that magic sometime down the road. 

Al Jeffries (guitar) leads the Bluegrass Brunch ensemble at the Boyce Farmers Market.

Now let’s talk about the Bluegrass Brunch. Al Jeffries has led this reimagined Sunday service from the very beginning and in doing so, has helped create an annual tradition for so many festival goers. Although it is no longer the official closing performance (music continued at Officer’s Square well into the late afternoon), the event represents the end of a long week for organizers and a fulfilling weekend for audiences. It’s conversation, food, dancing, kids playing, and in my experience, it’s also the best way to conclude three or four days of activity. 

While it is impossible to experience every performance at a festival like Shivering Songs, spread out across the city’s downtown, and there were many I missed, it’s these three pillars (or three pillars within three pillars) that I base my entire experience around, year after year, cramming as much in as I can between. 

Special shoutouts and honourable mentions go out to Pallmer, who filled the Beaverbrook Art Gallery with joyful sounds on Thursday night; to Grand Manan singer songwriter Carlene who gave her fourth-ever performance at Gallery 78 supporting her stunning debut, and to Les Chanterelles, The Hello Crows, Julie Aubé, Old Man Luedecke, Catherine Kennedy, Daniel Romano’s Outfit, and Motherhood for completing my Shivering Songs 2024. And let’s not forget the organizers and volunteers who made it all possible. Forever grateful. 

alt text

Related Articles