Review by Lynn Stevenson
“Shall I do it in E? No maybe in G? Okay let’s try it in C…” and so John Lloyd, in spiffy attire and a lopsided grin launched into his very fun performance. In any key, “Blue Sweater” by Ottawa’s Missy Burgess is a joy to listen to and much admired by her fellow performers. The audience at the Westboro Masonic Hall were treated to two very different versions of Missy’s classic tune on Saturday, May 28th at the annual Chrysalis event – a unique celebration of Ottawa singer songwriters hosted by the Spirit of Rasputin’s.
“Chrysalis” refers to the fascinating transformation from cocoon to butterfly. In the context of this event, it symbolizes the rebirth of a song and the magic that happens when someone other than the writer performs it. Now in its 8th year, Chrysalis has provided Ottawa singer/songwriters with rich opportunities to re-invent, re-imagine and just enjoy the tremendous songwriting talent that exists in Ottawa – in all its varied forms and vibrant colours.
The dominant colour of this particular evening was clearly blue – not only the shade of that much loved old sweater, but “Missy’s Blues” sung with gorgeous depth by Carole Trepanier (wow what a voice!) and “The Blues Will Always Be the Blues” written by talented newcomer to Ottawa Wen Chen (aka Blue Blue Satellite) with which Missy concluded the show. The highlight in that hue for me was Jeremy Owen’s rendition of Missy’s “Blue Dog Man” – a simply sublime performance that caused Missy to comment, “One thing I really love about Chrysalis is when you get to hear your song performed even better than you do it yourself!”
The evening was full of tributes such as this, as one after another songs were transformed in beautiful and sometimes unexpected ways. Using looping technology that was tricky and not entirely successful, Wen Chen also performed a fine Blue Sweater – his personal thanks to Missy for her leadership and support. There were tributes to songwriters old and new – Margaret Currie did a beautiful job on a John Casselman song, “Don’t Worry Mother, I am not a Ghost (Yet)” and Greg McGillis performed a gutzy anthem to girl power written by his 13 year old daughter Bronte (now there is a great dad!) With far too much talent for one so young, Spencer Scharf did a fab job on the Johnny Cash infused “OC Transit Strike Blues“.
Other highlights included: Chris White performing Tom Lips’ “Judgement Day” which, in classic Chis fashion, got the entire crowd singing along. Chris also sang Shelley Posen’s “No More Fish” and used the opportunity to underscore the importance of social activism and caring about the communities we live in. Trading his guitar for a banjo, Dan Arnott worked a similar magic with “Arboretum, Arborteum” by Shanker and Romps and “Lessons” by Chris Landry & the Train Jumpers. Both were lots of fun – Dan, you’ve been away too long! Arnott was honoured in turn by Sjef Frenken who did a beautiful version of “Another Winter Like This” which was so fine it left Dan speechless. Sjef was the only performer who played piano which Missy was pleased to point out had been purchased with funds from Chrysalis events past along with support from Writer’s Bloc. And so the gift continues.
Along with the many tributes were heartfelt thanks to songwriters who supported and encouraged others when they were just starting out. On a personal note, I would be amiss not to thank the wonderful Greg Kelly for letting me perform his beautiful song “Stepping Stone“. Greg, a terrific songwriter, was in fact the first performer of the evening offering splendid versions of Peggy White’s “Awhile” and Rick Hayes wonderful song “Legends“.
There were many more performers and many great moments – too many to cover here. Ever the advocate for Ottawa musicians, Missy promises an even bigger Chysalis next year – or, she says she’ll take the show to Toronto and fill Massey Hall. “Missy does Massey” now that would be something to see! But for now I am just grateful for a fine evening of friendship and splendid song.