Wednesday, 10 August 2016 11:11

Centre Stage Concert Series at the Empress Theatre dazzles with diverse Canadian talent

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Tia Brazda brings her jazz vocals to the Empress Theatre in March 2017. Tia Brazda brings her jazz vocals to the Empress Theatre in March 2017. Photo contributed

Season tickets for the annual Centre Stage Concert Series at the Empress Theatre in Fort Macleod are now on sale and at the affordable price of $150 for six concerts ($25 per person per concert) should go fast.

The 2016-17 season line-up features a sound for everyone with an eclectic mix of genres for live music lovers.
The historic theatre will be host to jazz, country, blues, vintage folk and Latin-style guitar performances featuring Canadian talent.
Tim Ranson, executive director for the Empress Theatre, says when he first landed the job the overwhelming feedback he heard about the Centre Stage Concert Series was to add more variety. With this, his third season he’s been responsible for, that’s exactly what he’s continued to do, offering up a cornucopia of sounds for music lovers.
“The bulk of the feedback that was waiting for me and what I solicited was to mix it up,” he explains. “To go with variety.”
Times have changed in the small-town theatre world, as have budgets with the sluggish economy and dried-up grant sources. With the funding Ranson has available to produce this annual concert series, he’s been able to find home-grown Alberta, prairies and Canadian talent that will be familiar to some audiences, but new to others.
“I really wanted to give a little love to Alberta and Canadian artists,” he adds.
There are six shows for the upcoming season starting in September and running until March. Sept. 24 will feature the Tommy Banks Trio with the former senator himself kicking off the concert series. Banks is a pianist, conductor, arranger, composer, television personality and former senator. He will captivate the audience with his smooth jazz as part of this trio.
On Oct. 15, Red Deer’s Boots and the Hoots will perform on the Empress stage. Also a trio, these young musicians have developed quite a following as they share their traditional country and western music. They count Hank Williams and Roger Miller as influences on their sound.
The Kirby Sewell Band will perform Nov. 19. The Calgary-based blues singer will bring his five-piece band to the Empress.
Dec. 10 will see familiar performer Oscar Lopez on stage. This Chilean-Canadian master guitarist and Juno-award winner combines Latin rhythms with jazz and pop influences to create his own personal instrumental style.
Rosie and the Riveters, from Saskatoon, will bring their vintage folk sound to the Empress Jan. 28 in the new year. Their original songs include sophisticated harmonies and humorous lyrics.
The concert series finishes March 11, 2017 with Tia Brazda, a jazz vocalist who pays homage to the golden era of music with a contemporary twist.
Ranson says the concert series has faced some challenges the past few years. A change in the type of performances has meant the loss of about 100 subscribers. Last year’s subscribers are given the first crack at purchasing tickets for the upcoming season, and about 40 chose not to do so. Ranson hopes to pick up some new subscribers though in their place and still see full houses for each of the concerts.
“Some of that is the economy as well,” he points out, about a decrease in subscribers. “Times are tough for a lot of people ... We’re working on a budget that is about one-fifth of what it was nine or 10 years ago and times have changed. Hopefully audiences recognize we’re bringing ... quality entertainment.”
What the Empress theatre officials can offer is affordable and high-quality live musical entertainment. Purchasing tickets as a subscriber at $150 for the six shows means each concert costs only $25.
“There really is for me, and I’ve been in the entertainment industry since I was 15, so about 40 years, nothing like a live performance,” adds Ranson. “One of my favourite parts of the job is being in that theatre when there is a live performance. (The Empress is) a wonderful room acoustically.”
Season’s tickets for the 2016-2017 Centre Stage Concert Series are on sale until Sept. 1 and cost $150 for six shows. Individual show tickets are $35 and will become available Sept. 2.
Purchase tickets by phoning 403-553-4404 (toll-free at 1-800-540-9229) or drop by the Box Office on Main Street in Fort Macleod.

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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