Creston Concert Society is celebrating the start of the 2023 season with Wheat in the Barley on Saturday, Jan. 21 at the Kootenay River Auditorium.
This is Canadian roots music with a major makeover. Crack songwriting, brilliant and warped arrangements and stunning instrumental solos unite under the banner of a savvy eclecticism that’s always been the band’s guiding light.
The Wheat in the Barley pulls together a lot of great influences into one package: Celtic, Slavic, French Canadian, Yiddish, Cajun, and more. Hailed by Denis McMaster (President, Rocky Mountain Folk Club, Calgary) as “absolutely one of the very best groups I have heard in recent years… a great mixture of both original and traditional songs, plus outstanding instrumentals from the Celtic countries, Eastern Europe, Latin America and more, all performed with great virtuosity on a huge range of wind, string and percussion instruments.”
The band puts on a show that’s as danceable as it is listenable. The group’s name evokes images of Irish and Ukrainian agriculture, which sums up the heritage of its founder, Steve Gidora. Both sides of the family were very musical, and Gidora received his first mandolin from his Ukrainian grandfather at the age of 10. Providing vocals, mandolins and guitar with the band, in recent years a passion for songwriting has overtaken him, resulting a many new originals. Gidora has shared the stage with folk singers such as Ann Mortifee and Charlotte Diamond and his groups have opened for the legendary Pete Seeger and Odetta.
Another well-known member of the group is Victor Smith, a gifted Celtic music interpreter respected for decades of outstanding work with other outstanding Vancouver folk groups such as Under the Moss, The Stoaters, Fear of Drinking, Shenanigan and the Paperboys. His instrumental arsenal includes accordion, whistles, violin, flutes, guitar, bohdran drum and bones.
Woodwind specialist Mark Dowding, also a co-founder of the respected Gypsy jazz group The Hot Club of Mars, is a veteran of numerous folk festivals and concert stages across western Canada. He creates elegant melodies, harmonies and counterpoints on a wide range of wind instruments, including various types of flutes, whistles, saxophones and harmonicas. Over a long and storied musical career, he has guested with many Canadian folk music icons such as Valdy, The Paperboys, Sylvia Tyson and Stan Rogers.
The group’s newest member is violinist Nicole Scoffield, whose brilliant improvisations and lively stage presence add a sparkle to their live performances. She also sings beautiful lead and harmony vocals and occasionally switches to guitar. She has recently released a solo CD, Colouring. The title track and other original songs of hers have become a part of the group’s regular concert material.
Mickey Hovan, the group’s guitarist and bassist, brings to the group’s concerts the energy and excitement developed through years of playing the rock and country music scene around British Columbia. He adds driving rhythms and blazing flat-picked melodies that make the group’s concerts take off, complete with a wacky sense of humour. He has also been heard around British
Columbia with a number of popular pop-rock and country groups.
Ed Johnson, who provides bass and percussion, is a graduate of White Rock’s Semiahmoo Secondary School music program, where he received a scholarship to attend the Columbia Academy of Recording Arts. He is a full-time professional musician and sound engineer who operates and maintains the group’s sound equipment, and can often be found making good things happen at Turtle Recording in White Rock, BC. Johnson is also a member of one of Vancouver’s premier blues bands, “Brickhouse”.
Gary Cristall (former Artistic Director of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival and Music Officer for Canada Council For The Arts) praises Wheat in the Barley as “an altogether superior ensemble. Folk, world, jazz, a little funk, reggae and Cajun, all co-exist peacefully and passionately… there are few bands that can move from a traditional Celtic tune to a Yiddish theatre gem, to a Blue Rodeo cover, to more-than-solid originals. These folks can. With one foot in the tradition and the other somewhere in the future, The Wheat In The Barley keeps getting better and better. This is music to make you exercise your feet and your brain!”
Wind in the Barley performs Saturday, Jan. 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Kootenay River Auditorum. Advance tickets are $25 for adults and $12 for youth (age 18 and under), available at Kingfisher Books (cash only) or online by contacting email@example.com. Please include the number and type of ticket as well as names. Tickets bought at the door are $28 for adults and $14 for youth. This will also be the last chance to buy the Christmas package of four tickets for $95 adult and $40 youth.