Monday, December 14, 2009

Rita MacNeil and the Men of the Deeps

I attended a Christmas Concert at the National Arts Center in Ottawa on Saturday evening. Since Karen was to be home late from taking a group down to New York for a shopping tour, I asked my friend Sue if she'd like to see the concert, and she agreed to accompany me.

She treated me to a really nice Korean BBQ restaurant at Koreana, in the heart of Chinatown before hand. I've already blogged the experience of seeing the Olympic Flame carried by the restaurant that evening ... suffice it to say that I'm still pretty thrilled.

We arrived just in time, since the traffic from the flame had delayed us by at least 10 or 15 minutes. We went straight to our seats, which I must say were pretty decent (I grab seats as they come available.)

And what I heard next was music to my ears ... cameras were welcome. Holy cow ... that is *so* rare at the NAC. Now I was in heaven ...

The set was simple, yet Christmasy ... several small decorated trees strewn about, quite pretty to look at. And the sound system was simple, yet decent. The acoustics, after all, are magnificent.

I recorded ten HD videos, only four of which have been processed and uploaded to YouTube so far. You can check my channel on YouTube (or even subscribe) over the next weeks if you want to see the hour or so that I recorded.

Update: I published the whole series on YouTube and the playlist itself can be accessed here:

Rita walked out and belted out a couple of nice songs of hers, written for Christmas. She exudes down home Nova Scotia charm and you certainly get the feeling that this is a small group of nice people when you see them play.

I recorded about an hour of the show and spent the rest of the time just listening or trying to get stills with the ZS3. This camera is not known for its high ISO prowess, so it is a bit tough to capture really nice images in a fairly dark concert such as this. However, it does retain good detail at 800 and even 1600 ISO so it is possible to process for saturation reduction or even full black and white, which I did a few times for this concert. The first image is full color, though, of the band.

I caught an excellent image of Rita, which looked best in black and white. A nice smile with excellent light.

Her age and physical condition have necessitated the presence of a bench, which she uses between songs and on rare occasions, during songs.

Her bassist is Brucs Dixon, and I must say that I really enjoyed his technique and sound.

Here's another nice images of Rita.

Rita has a terrific keyboardist named Kim Dunn. She gave Kim an opportunity to play a wonderful song called Backroads of Heaven, which comes from his new CD called Take This Hammer. Get it ... it's terrific. And to prove that, here's a video that I'm really proud of ... the ZS3 caught it perfectly. Audio and video ... superb.

Her guitarist is named Chris Corrigan, and here he is.

And finally, her drummer is named Geoff Arsenault ... and I have no images of him, as he was behind Kim Dunn all night. However, you can see his hands in action in the Kim Dunn video above :-)

Rita continued to sing some of her own Christmas creations, and the odd familiar carol.

And then the Men of the Deeps filed in while she was singing. It was simply awesome ... I have a video of it, but you'll have to go to YouTube to find it in a few days ...

They have a lot of solos, which works just great.

The Men of the Deeps are led by Choir Director Jack O'Donell.

He takes over from Rita as she goes back stage for a rest. And then the stories start. There is a superb story of Christmas eve that includes a haunting rendition of Silent Night, followed by a song about working in the mine on Christmas day ... this video should give you chills ...

And in a while, it was time for a break. Sue and I met Shane McLeod, the amazing soloist for Working Man, my favorite all-time Men of the Deeps song. He was kind enough to exchange a few words and to pose with Sue.

We grabbed a couple of soft drinks and waters and ran back to catch the second half. They all came out together this time and we got a series of nice Christmas songs, including some well know carols. Joy to the World comes to mind. Unfortunately, Rita is near the end of the tour and her voice is flagging a bit. Still, she held on through the rest and the Men of the Deeps shouldered a lot of the burden. A nice collaboration this is.

A moment after I shot the following images of Shane's first duet with Rita, the song ended and he hugged and kissed Rita on the forehead. A wonderful moment. These guys really appropriate what Rita has done for eastern music for for their choir. I can't tell you how nice they come across ... you have to attend a concert ...

And then the moment arrived ... I'd waited for Working Man the whole concert and of course they played it last. Shane had kindly let me know that it would be last, so when she said "we'll leave you with" I knew that this was it. The ZS3 went to record mode and I got the whole thing ... awesome ...

And that was that. The Men of the Deeps hung around the aisles and shook hands and chatted. There are a surprising number of groupies hanging around ... it was really nice.

Sue drove me back to my car in Chinatown and I went home while she drove back towards the US border.

On the way, I encountered some traffic ... construction in cold weather at night on a Saturday ... what in the world could have required that ...


Sue W said...

Wonderful vids...great shots! With a camera like this, people can do amazing now the Don has serious tool envy!

Kim Letkeman said...

Hmmm ... you sure he wasn't looking at the image of you and Shane when he said that :-) ... don;t tell him the D700 arrived today ...