A forest of spinning plates marked the grand finale of Comedy in Motion with Bob Cates Oct. 21, 2016, during the first showcase concert in Morden. (Alexis Stockford/The Morden Times)
It was all about the arts in Morden Oct. 20-23.
The 2016 Manitoba Showcase, presented by the Manitoba Arts Network, brought 15 performers hand-picked coast to coast, over 100 representatives from Manitoba-based art organizations and hundreds of the public to take in the music, comedy and stories on stage.
Each performer got their 15-minutes in the spotlight during three showcase concerts, followed by a public interview and private networking opportunities after the show.
“We’re thrilled at the hospitality and the warmth that we’ve experienced, not only from the weekend of the conference, but while we were setting it up,” Manitoba Arts Network executive director Josh Marantz said.
The provincial showcase is hosted in a different rural community each year.
“I think it’s gone absolutely fantastic,” Pearl Braun Dyck of the Southern Manitoba Concerts series said. “I’ve been privileged over the last three years as a board member to go to different communities and to see it being presented there, and now, for it to come to our area, it’s been really good.”
The SMC was chosen as the local host of the 2016 showcase.
Meant to connect performers with potential bookings, the four-day conference included a banquet at the Minnewasta Golf and Country Club and opening reception at the PHAC clock tower (described by Marantz as a “wonderful old heritage building” and a “perfect setting”) and professional development workshops on top of actual performances.
“The bulk of our activities were in the Access Event Centre, which is a world class facility,” Marantz said. “I mean, it’s just a fabulous facility and the staff here have been so accommodating. It’s been wonderful.”
For B.C. singer/song-writer Lauren Mann, it was the first taste of performance in Morden, prior to her Deadhorse Entertainment debut Oct. 23.
Appearing without her usual Fairly Odd Folk band, Mann and her one-woman multi-instrument skills closed out the first showcase, following comedian and magician Bob Cates, three-generational country trio the Traveling Mabels, the Celtic-inspired tunes of Lizzy Hoyt and the surprisingly Latin style of Saskatchewan-based Andino Suns (all the children of Chilean political refugees who fled to the Prairies after the 1973 coup in their home country).
“There’s a lot scary to that story...when you talk about the strife that our families have gone through and that we have gone through,” one band member said when asked about their families’ tale.
Folk artists Craig Cardiff and 100 Mile House, Celtic rock-based Derina Harvey Band, Manitoba fiddle maestro Patti Kusturok, and classically influenced Quartetto Gelato took over the showcase Oct. 22, followed by Yukon-born Speed Control, Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys, final Manitoba local Sol James, classical group Proteus Saxophone Quartet and wrapping up with magician Spidey.
Both the variety and quality of performances were worthy of a nod in Braun Dyck’s estimation.
The SMC board member said she could think of at least four or five of the performers she would personally like to have back to perform.
“It’s going to be tough to make that decision, but we certainly, as always, want to provide a nice variety to our subscribers and I think we’re presented with that this year without question,” she said.
Delegates met a final time on Oct. 23 to share initial thoughts on which artists they might be interested in booking. Marantz said the arts network won’t know how successful they were in matching artists with interested organizations until actual bookings are counted, although he is optimistic based on comments heard during the weekend.