Woody Holler yodels while violinist Richard Moody provides accompaniment during Saturday's concert at Port Hardy Civic Centre.

All the world’s a range for cowboy crooner

North Island Concert Society presented Woody Holler at Port Hardy's Civic Centre.

A review by

J.R. Rardon

PORT HARDY—Feel free to label Woody Holler a singing cowboy, if you wish. Just be aware his range extends far beyond the traditional cow-punching prairies of North America to encompass  Hungarian dancehalls, the cobbled streets of Naples, Italy, the French Quarter of New Orleans and the entire swath of Mexican border towns.

“We’re gonna end the evening with this old country tune,” Holler told the North Island Concert Society audience during Saturday’s show at the Civic Centre, “as it’s from the old country.”

He and his bandmates then launched into O Sole Mio, the instantly recognizable Italian standard that seems better suited for an opera house than a Western barn dance.

On the other hand, Woody Holler and his Orchestra hardly ignored the crooning cowpoke during a wide-ranging and well-received show.

Holler is the stage persona of Manitoba-based singer Darryl Brunger, a classically trained opera performer, when he joins with his ‘orchestra’ to play the country swing favourites he grew up listening to.

Like Brunger himself, bandmates Greg Lowe (guitar), Richard Moody (violin) and Daniel Koulack (double bass) are pros trained in classical and/or jazz style. Saturday in Port Hardy, they unleashed that considerable aural arsenal on an audience that was, by turns, delighted, surprised and, in the end, won over by the hybrid mix of country, jazz, folk and flamenco.

At nearly every NICS event there is a clear moment when the band and the audience connect, and this was no different. The surprise was how it happened. After receiving polite applause for the traditional country-swing of Give Me a Pony and the Open Prairie, the smooth jazz of Fats Waller’s Honeysuckle Rose and the Spanish strains of South of the Border, Holler and his Orchestra launched into Grenada, an aria penned by Mexican composer Agustin Lara and sung in Spanish by Holler to the sublime accompaniment of Moody’s violin.

The polite applause converted to whoops, whistles and loud cheers, and Holler was quick to capitalize on the momentum with a spirited take of Ghost Riders in the Sky. At that point, the night was won.

Though few of us harken back to the era, an evening with Woody Holler and his Orchestra seems akin to what it must have been like for a family to gather around the radio in the 1930s and 40s. Saturday’s repertoire included such standards as Sweet Georgia Brown, You Belong To Me, Don’t Fence Me In (an audience participation number), Red River Valley, and Holler’s inimitable yodelling, country-swing take of George and Ira Gershwin’s Oh, Lady Be Good!

But, thanks to their virtuosity, craftsmanship and improvisational chops, Woody Holler and his Orchestra never sound like a cover band. Even Patsy Cline’s If I Could Only Stay Asleep and Jimmie Rodgers’ Treasures Untold are given original treatment.

“I heard songs tonight I don’t think I’ve heard in 50 years,” one man said to Holler as the singer was autographing copies of his group’s 2010 release, Western Skies. Both men smiled.

And they weren’t alone.

The NICS concert series wraps up April 20 with the annual dinner show featuring the one-man variety show of comedian Robert Post. Tickets are advance sale only, in Port Hardy at Cafe Guido, For Scrap’s Sake and Port Hardy Museum; in Port McNeill at The Flower Shoppe; and in Port Alice by calling Gail Neely at 250-284-3927.

More info is available at www.niconcert.ca.

 

Just Posted

VIDEO: North Island Peewee Eagles unleash avalanche of goals against Peninsula in semi-final showdown

The two teams squared up on Sunday morning at the Chilton Regional Arena in Port McNeill.

North Island Seniors Housing Foundation takes the next step towards getting Trustee Road land

Seniors rejoice, Port Hardy council is very much in favour of helping… Continue reading

Port Hardy Volleyball club requests funding from Port Hardy council

The sport of Volleyball is alive and well in the North Island,… Continue reading

Should aquaculture programs be offered at North Island College in Port Hardy?

“I think it would be very timely to have an aquaculture program”

Island Health issues press release regarding Port Alice Health Centre service changes

Island Health will be hosting a community meeting in Port Alice Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. in the rec centre.

Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, resigns amid SNC-Lavalin furor

Butts categorically denies the accusation that he or anyone else in the PMO improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould

Lost a ring? This B.C. man will find it for you

Chris Turner founded The Ring Finders, an international directory of metal detector hobbyists

Poverty coalition has high hopes for B.C. poverty reduction strategy

Funding allocation expected to be released with 2019 budget

‘How did we get here?’: B.C. mom of transplant recipient worries about measles outbreaks

Addison, 7, cannot get a live vaccine because she has a heart transplant

Steelhead LNG stops work on Kwispaa LNG project near Bamfield

Huu-ay-aht First Nations ‘deeply disappointed; Steelhead says funding is the problem

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for public inquiry over SNC-Lavalin questions

Vancouver member of Parliament Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet last week

Canadian airlines waiting for guidance from Ottawa over X gender option

Major U.S. airlines said they will change their process so passengers can identify themselves along non-binary lines

Moose Hide campaign takes message to Canadian schools

Campaign launches new K-12 education platform

‘Violent’ B.C. man wanted on Canada-wide warrant

Prince George man with ties to Vernon sought by police

Most Read