Woody Holler of Manitoba performed to a tiny crowd as part of the Fort St. James Arts Council concert series. The small turnout raises questions about the viability of the concert series

Woody Holler of Manitoba performed to a tiny crowd as part of the Fort St. James Arts Council concert series. The small turnout raises questions about the viability of the concert series

Good show, bad turnout

It was a disappointing turnout for the first of this year's art's council concert series on Oct. 15.

It was a disappointing turnout for the first of this year’s art’s council concert series on Oct. 15.

Woody Holler and his Orchestra played to a tiny crowd of just over 20 people at the Fort St. James Secondary School gymnasium last Tuesday.

Sheila Thobo-Carlson said she didn’t think there had been a turnout so low for a concert series performance in the past 20 years, which was disappointing.

The professional musicians cost the council $3,500. Ticket sales amounted to under $500, meaning a loss of over $3,000 for the Community Arts Council of Fort St. James.

This led some council members to ask the question, should the arts council continue to bring in professional performers for the community (full disclosure: I am a member of the arts council)?

Can a volunteer organization which volunteer time into organizing these professional touring groups to come to a small town afford to keep going with their concert series? Or is there a way to make the performances more appealing to locals?

Did turkey hangovers keep people away?

The concert series artists must be professional performers and the series is supported by government funding to make it happen.

This is a topic for future discussion amongst the arts council, and the community. Community members can suggest what they might like to see from the arts council in the future – continued concert series performers, a different venue, licensed events. Suggestions can be made via the Community Arts Council of Fort St. James Facebook page.

But despite the poor showing, Woody Holler and his boys managed to entertain those in attendance and the crowd was small but enthusiastic.

I will admit I have a bit of a soft spot for the “western Swing” musical genre, as it tends to remind me of my late grandfather Garth Lloyd.

Holler himself described the music as “jazz from the saddle” and songs like “South of the Border” which was sung by Gene Autry in 1939, transport me back to my grandfather’s living room.

The sweet twang to country swing is not for everyone, and yodelling may be an old school musical styling, but I’ll admit my cowboy grandfather means it will always have a place in my heart.

The skill Holler has with his voice, which he also uses to sing opera, is not only impressive, it is beautiful, and was backed up by an equally impressive band.

Brilliant guitar, some stand-up bass and fine violin rounded out the show.

The classic “Ghost Riders in the Sky” had some audience members even singing along, as did some others, like a Patsy Cline classic. The group also performed some of their own original music.

The western swing evokes the catching upbeat tempo of the big band era and meshes it with the cowboy yodel. Somehow it works.

Woody Holler and his Orchestra were on a fall tour and came across the prairies all the way from Manitoba.