When Ron Myhr invites his buddies to his Pickering, Ont., home for a night of folk music, they can always count on first rate entertainment.
Performers like Juno award-winner Cara Luft or Canadian Folk Music Awards’ contemporary vocalist of the year Tannis Slimmon are just two musicians who have wowed Myhr’s home audience over the past few years. (The lineup of musicians also includes veterans like Valdy and David Bradstreet.)
It’s not that Myhr has the inside track on Canadian musical talent — or maybe he does. The concerts at Myhr’s house are arranged by Home Routes, the brainstorm of Winnipeg musical promoter Mitch Podolak.
Designed to bring folk music to the people, they’ve taken off in the Western provinces faster than a prairie grass fire and they’re spreading eastward just as quickly.
Tim Osmond, Home Routes operation manager explains, “Usually when folk artists tour venues are very far apart. As well, there are only so many venues.” Home Routes has 10 different circuits across the country with names like Cherry Bomb circuit in B.C. and the Estelle Klein circuit in Ontario. Each circuit has about seven host homes with a one- to three-hour drive distance between them.
All that prospective hosts need is a room that will fit at least 30 people as well as a place to put up the musician for the night and provide dinner and breakfast.
Musicians like Jay Aymar love it. “We can talk to the audience — kids can get up and sing and dance. There aren’t distractions either — like a bartender powering up the blender for margaritas.”
That’s right — no ticket processing fees or lengthy drives to an impersonal venue. There are also no roadies or sound checks. Musicians might bring an amplifier and their guitar but that’s it. Myhr’s neighbours simply slap down their $15 and get ready to enjoy. Musicians usually play two 45-minute sessions and then sell their CDs after. Osmond estimates the annual salary of a folk musician is $10,000 and he says these concerts often account for half a year’s salary.
Aymar believes these are the future of music. “Music is coming back to the people. With file swapping on the Internet and record companies collapsing, it’s all about live music. For the artists it’s fantastic. We can get our music out to the people in a nice, intimate setting.”
Contact Homeroutes at www.homeroutes.ca or 1-866-925-6889 ext 207