Juno Fever Hits Winnipeg
Posted on April 2, 2005It is the biggest music event in the history of Winnipeg.
It’s bigger than Janis Joplin splashing around in the fountain of Memorial Avenue. Bigger than the Beatles touching down at Winnipeg International Airport. Bigger than Mick Jagger strutting around the stadium or Pink Floyd shooting green lasers into outer space.
From April 1 to 3, 2005, all eyes are on Winnipeg as our city hosts the annual Juno Awards for the first time.
The Tragically Hip are here. So are Billy Talent and Simple Plan. And k-os. And k.d. lang.
Then there’s the impressive list of bands playing as part JunoFest 2005, not to mention the Juno Fanfare autograph session, the Juno Cup hockey game and the Songwriters’ Circle hosted by Burton Cummings.
It’s going to be an incredible weekend in which the music industry will see first-hand what we¹ve always known about this province: Manitoba loves music.
And we’re pretty good at making it, too.
That fact is obvious from the list of homegrown acts nominated for Juno Awards in 2005.
Headlining this year’s list of nominees is Brandon-born violin prodigy James Ehnes. The virtuoso is nominated for two awards this year, marking the fifth and sixth occasions that Ehnes has been recognized by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
Also up for a classical award is Dr. Robert Turner, whose Third Symphony is nominated for Classical Composition of the Year.
Dr. Turner is a longtime Manitoba resident who has been an important figure in Canadian classical music. Turner was recently the subject of a CD-documentary set titled Canadian Composer Potraits: Robert Turner.
Rounding out the classical nominees from Manitoba is the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra and Measha Brueggergosman. The orchestra provided the music for Brueggergosman's So Much to Tell disc, which is nominated for Classical Album of the Year (vocal or choral performance).
Changing genres, Manitoba is represented in the the realm of hip-hop by 2004 Grammy nominee Fresh I.E. The gospel rapper's Red Letterz album has won a host of awards since its release -- including a Vibe Award and a Covenant Award -- and has been nominated for many others.
Fresh is pleased to be nominated for best Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album of the Year but is also excited to showcase Winnipeg to the rest of the nation.
“Winnipeg, I think, is the music capital of Canada,” Fresh says. “I’ve been all over the place and I think Winnipeg has some amazing talent. Just to be able to showcase that talent... and being able to share your music with Canada and the world is an awesome opportunity for this city, and for artists as well.”
Another act receiving its first Juno nomination is The Waking Eyes. After signing with Coalition/Warner in 2004, the Eyes released Video Sound to positive reviews and are now in the running for New Group of the Year.
Band frontman Matt Peters, he of the wild and majestic red hair, sees the nomination as a validation for long hours of work. “Finally our parents will think that our music career means something,” Matt laughs. “Not that they haven’t been supportive, but (the nomination) pulls your project out of the garage in their eyes, at least.
“We¹ve worked really, really hard in the last years to turn our band into something. When you’re ‘acknowlegded for that kind of work it means something.”
In the Roots and Traditional Album of the Year category, Winnipeg is represented by two acts, The trio The Wailin' Jennys and the quartet Nathan. Both released solid albums this year, proving that, together with The Duhks, Winnipeg's roots scene is as vibrant as any in the country.
“It’s awesome,” Nathan songstress Shelley Marshall says of Jimson Weed being nominated. “When we were recording the album we knew the Junos would be in Winnipeg the year it came out, and we always joked about being nominated for a Juno, but we never thought it would be possible.
“It’s awesome in so many ways -- just to see the Junos take place in Winnipeg.”
Also up for the same award is 40 Days by the Jennys. Jenny member Nicky Mehta is excited to welcome her extended Canadian musical family to her home province but is also happy to be able to show off Manitoba’s roots music scene.
“It’s so great that there’s two Manitoba acts in the roots category, because inevitably that means in the press the roots scene is talked about,” she says.
Rounding out the field of Manitoba nominees is video and short film director Benjamin Weinstein. Weinstein recently directed videos for acts such as The Trews and Damhnait Doyle, but it was his worker on The Weakerthans’ “The Reasons” that earned him the nod in the Video of the Year category.
While some may believe that Manitoba nominees have a hometown advantage at this year’s awards, most artists are honoured to be recognized and ecstatic to be able to celebrate at home with friends and family.
While Marshall notes that due to “super-pregnancy” she wouldn’t be able to attend the Junos if they were elsewhere, Peters just feels as though the event is an important one for the city.
“It makes it a little bit more special for us. Because (the Junos are) in Winnipeg, it means a little bit more to Winnipeg and to us.”
Indeed it does mean a lot to the Winnipeg and Manitoba music communities. Hosting the Junos at the new MTS Centre finally gives our province a chance to showcase its hospitality, talent and enthusiasm, as well as draw more attention to the music scene in our province. Similarly, the Junos will bring a host of industry people to the city, which represents an incredible opportunity for venues and artists alike.
The Junos are also a time to celebrate Canadian music and raise a glass to some of our finest musicians -- and at the end of it all, it¹s very possible that a few Juno trophies will be staying right here in Manitoba.
For more information on the 2005 JUNO Awards and Juno events, please visit www.junoawards.ca.
Article by Mike Warkentin, originally appeared in the Spring 2005 issue of the MARIATALK newsletter