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

Male, 32, robbed and stabbed in Port Hardy

One of the male suspects, 33, now has a warrant for his arrest on counts of robbery and assault.

UPDATE: Conservation officers euthanize cougar recently spotted in Port Hardy

Jonathan Paquin, local conservation officer, confirms the cougar spotted today was euthanized.

Port McNeill’s ‘T’ Intersection upgrades are wrapping up, but residents dissatisfied

The estimated $1.57 million contract for highway upgrades will finish by October.

North Island Mall revitalizes as new stores open

Dirom wants to “create a vibrant new space in the community by working together” with new business.

Three strong earthquakes reported off Vancouver Island

The quakes, all measuring more than 6.0 on the richter scale, were about 260 kilometres west of Tofino

‘She’s charging. Oh God’: Mama grizzly runs at B.C. man armed with shotgun

People online were quick to question – and defend – a man’s decision to shoot a grizzly bear charging him on a Bella Coola front yard

Island Health encourages sexual assault survivors to #TrustYourself

New social media campaign urges survivors of sexual assault to seek medical care

Canada announces $20M fund for women entrepreneurs

New federal program will provide up to $100,000 for female business owners to grow their operations

Vancouver Island man claims falling ice smashed his truck windshield

Man discovered volleyball-sized chunk ice on his truck Saturday, near Nanaimo, B.C.

B.C. veteran combats PTSD in the ring and on the farm

Cam Tetrault is a valuable contributor at Quesnel’s Two Rivers Boxing Club

B.C. vegan butcher to appear on Dragons’ Den

Victoria’s Very Good Butchers will star in Nov. 29 episode

Fast ferries from B.C. spotted in Egypt

Controversial aluminum BC Ferries vessels ’big white elephants covered in dust,’ eyewitness says

Canadian troops, families take shelter in hotel after Florida hurricane

Most of the Canadians were evacuated from the military base before Hurricane Michael

B.C. jury trial hears police-sting audio of man accused of killing girl, 12

Garry Handlen has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder of Monica Jack on May 6, 1978.

Most Read