Innovative concert becoming Yule favourite

By Lindsay Tate

New, original, holiday music by local artists and an energetic audience sing-along are part of an innovative Christmas concert that is on its way to becoming a refreshing seasonal tradition here in the capital.

The Christmas GOOSE concert, now in its fourth year, features creative holiday songs written and performed by a diverse group of local singer-songwriters with proceeds going to the Ottawa Food Bank.

The event is a collaboration between the Ottawa Folk Festival and GOOSE – Gaggle of Ottawa and Outaouais Songwriters Exposed – which will take place on Dec. 16 at the National Arts Centre’s Fourth Stage.

GOOSE, a small cooperative whose purpose is to inspire local songwriters and give them venues to perform their music, created Christmas GOOSE in 2002. The group’s initial plan was to produce a CD featuring new holiday songs by Ottawa artists.

“We thought, people like Christmas songs, but they get tired of hearing the same ones all the time,” says Pat Moore, GOOSE coordinator and organizer of the Christmas program. “Wouldn’t it be fun to add to the traditional songs with new ones by local people and then take it to the stage?”

The first year the event was such a success, Moore says a second concert had to be added and the organization has since sold all 500 CDs that were originally produced.

The concert has sold out every year and Moore, who will also perform at the event, says she expects all 150 seats at the Fourth Stage will be filled again this year.

The tie-in with the Food Bank began with the first Christmas GOOSE and the majority of proceeds from ticket sales and $5 from every $15 CD has been donated to the organization, she says.

Tony Turner, a local musician and member of the group, says the draw of the concert is two-fold.

“When we get into December I think people in Ottawa show how generous they really are about supporting causes like the Food Bank,” says Turner.

“I think people like to be entertained and going to an intimate concert like this can really reinforce the spirit of the season.”

Turner is featured on the Christmas GOOSE CD and will also be performing at this year’s concert. He says in addition to the charitable aspect, the concert’s format is great for artists.

It gives both professionals and those who write and perform songs as “a serious hobby,” the chance to perform together at a professional venue like the NAC’s Fourth Stage, says Turner.

For singer-songwriter Maria Hawkins, taking part in Christmas GOOSE for the first time this year is not just about performing. It is also an opportunity to use her platform as a musician to support a worthy cause, says the singer-songwriter and social activist, well known as Ottawa’s “Blues Lady.”

Hawkins, who over the years has received the YMCA-YWCA Women of Distinction award and has been honoured as a United Way Community Builder, says everyone has their own way of giving back, and singing is hers.

“It’s about doing what I love in contribution to a cause I feel very strongly about, having lived in poverty… I know what it’s like to have empty cupboards,” she says. “Poverty can happen to anybody and this is one more opportunity for us all to do our little bit.”

Her artistic contribution to the concert will be a song that has “something to do with a greasy goose and has a very catchy riff that everybody’s going to go home humming,” she says, laughing.

The concert’s lineup features a diverse mix of artists covering a variety of styles including jazz, funk, folk and traditional. It will feature performers from previous years and two new faces, Hawkins and Nubia, a performer who will bring a Spanish perspective to the concert, says Moore.

Ottawa has a thriving music scene and singing-songwriting is one area that is very strong, in part because of events like this, says Chris White, artistic director of the Ottawa Folk Festival.

“This concert is one of several examples of musicians getting together and making things happen at a grassroots level,” says White.

For Christmas GOOSE, the Folk Festival arranges the event with the NAC and also publicizes it and the CD, says White.

It is one of many events the Folk Festival puts on throughout the year.

“What they’re doing is interesting and creative and it’s also supporting the Food Bank,” says White. “This represents the kind of arts community we want to be a part of.”

The concert is on Saturday, Dec. 16 at 8:00 pm at the National Arts Centre’s Fourth Stage. Tickets are $18 and available at the NAC Box Office or through Ticketmaster. CDs are $15 with $5 going to the Food Bank and available at Ottawa Folklore Centre, Compact Music, and CD Warehouse.