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

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.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mackenzie Cox representing the first Black Shirt Day at North Island Secondary. (Zoe Ducklow Photo)
Port McNeill Grade 12 student observes Black Shirt Day for anti-racism

‘Wearing that colour T-shirt for that day is a commitment to show that we care.’

Port McNeill council file photo. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Port McNeill council approves utility fees increase

The fees cover the three major services the town provides; water, solid waste and sewage.

Black Press media file
RCMP catch alleged drunk driver

The driver provided breathalyzer samples in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit.

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Dr. Shannon Waters, the medical health officer for the Cowichan Valley Region, is reminding people to stay the course with COVID-19 measures. (File photo)
‘Stay the course’ with COVID measures, Island Health reminds

Limit social activity, wash hands, wear a mask, and isolate if you feel sick

Most Read