On the brink of extinction barely a year and a half ago, the North Island Concert Society continues an impressive comeback when it kicks off its 14th season by presenting three-time Juno Award winner David Francey at Port Hardy Civic Centre.
In deep financial straits at the close of its 2009-10 concert season, NICS lobbied local businesses and provincial authorities for funding assistance. That effort was followed by a season that kicked off with an array of Canadian songwriting and performing icons in Lunch at Allen’s, a quartet made up of Murray McLaughlin, Cindy Church, Marc Jordan and Ian Thomas.
In Francey, the local society has landed another iconic folk music writer and performer, who amassed four Juno nominations and three awards in a six-year span. He’ll be in Port Hardy as a part of a three-month Canadian tour in support of his ninth CD, Late Edition, which was released earlier this year.
And the B.C. leg of the tour was essentially built around this performance, according to NICS chair Brian Hicks.
“I’ve had this date on hold for well over a year,” said Hicks, who tried to book Francey for last season but found the singer already on tour for the 2010-11 dates. “I first saw him about 10 years ago, and he’s one of my favourite singer-songwriters.”
As usual, a diverse range of music styles will be a hallmark of the concert society’s five-show, 2011-12 season. Francey’s soulful storytelling will be followed by the vigorous Afro-Cuban rhythms of Adonis Puentes and his band on Jan. 14, 2012.
The third concert, which headlines the society’s annual dinner show Feb. 11, will bring the classic gospel of the Sojourners, backed by a full band.
In March, transplanted prairie folk-rocker Barney Bentall arrives for a concert with help from multi-instrumentalist Eric Reid, a former member of Tiller’s Folley.
The season wraps up with an appearance by the up-and-coming classical string trio Infinitus, which adds a unique and interactive twist to classical music by applying its stylings to everything from commercial jingles to blockbuster movie themes.
Infinitus visited North Island Secondary School and Port Hardy Secondary School last spring as part of the provincial Music in Schools program, and wowed the young audiences with their improvisational skills and humour.
“A lot of members of our society are teachers and they got to see these guys perform,” said Hicks. “A young act like that may not be that well-known, but they’re incredible musicians and they’ve got appeal. Hopefully it will help bring more young people to see what we put on the stage.”
Hicks said it is no accident the concert society brings such a mix of music styles to North Vancouver Island.
“I think we need to keep that diversity so we don’t get pigeonholed,” he said. “My whole focus it to put quality entertainment on the stage, and to put out a good cross-section of entertainment.
“There are so many great acts to bring up. I think it’s our mandate to do that.”
Tickets went on sale at the recent Regional Fall Fair in Port Alice, and will be available through the season from The Hobby Nook, Cafe Guido and Port Hardy Museum in Port Hardy, from the Flower Shoppe in Port McNeill, and in Port Alice by calling Gail Neely at 250-284-3927.
A full season ticket is $120, or $100 for seniors and youths 18-under. That compares to a $145 cost for individual tickets to all shows. Single tickets are $25, $45 for the dinner show that includes a catered meal by Malone’s Oceanside Bistro and dinner entertainment by the North Island Community Band.
For more information, visit www.niconcert.ca