Canadian folk music veteran Valdy is set to kick off this year's Performance Series on Thursday, but he's just the first act in a long list that includes children's performers, world music and up-and-coming musicians.
"We always try to present a broad variety to (satisfy) the different tastes and interests of people in Whistler," says Doti Niedermayer, executive director of the Whistler Arts Council. "There's comedy, there's dance, music, theatre, kids' shows. We try to round it out and offer as much as possible."
The next show is International Guitar Night on Nov. 6. The trio of guitar players is from Italy, Argentina and England and, although the group has played in Whistler before, they have a new lineup this time around. "That always does really well because there are a lot of people interested in guitar-based world music," Niedermayer says.
Also in November is longtime, beloved children's performer and TV personality, Fred Penner (Nov. 16) and cello player Michael Jones (Nov. 21). On Dec. 13, the British Columbia Boys Choir will return with a Christmas show, followed by Joey Albert, a Filipino pop and jazz singer who lives in Vancouver, and Ray An Fuentes who will perform on Jan. 18.
Rising indie-folk singer-songwriter Royal Wood whose most recent album, We Were Born to Glory, was nominated for a Juno, is set to play Feb. 1. Niedermayer says he, along with budding folk-country star Del Barber, who's playing on April 5, are good examples of up-and-comers who you might not get to see in such an intimate setting again. "We're bringing in people on their way up," she says. "This is the time to see them. You don't often get a chance to see someone like that in a theatre with 250 seats."
She points to New Brunswick singer-songwriter Matt Andersen who has played the series a few times, as an example. The first time he performed as an unknown musician WAC paired him with Jim Byrnes to draw an audience, but it didn't take long before his career began to pick up major steam and he became a headliner. "We're able to bring people in just before they hit that well known stage," she adds.
On Feb. 13, Ken Lavigne, who performs as a classical tenor with a modern twist, will offer something for classical music lovers, of which there are plenty in Whistler, judging by Music at Whistler's sold-out show as part of the series last year. "Music at Whistler's A Night At the Opera sold the most tickets," Niedermayer says. "That showed us there's a real taste for classical music. We have always tried to bring in a bit of classical music with a contemporary bend. Something a little different."
Dufflebag Theatre will return on March 1, this time with a presentation of Robin Hood for kids. The interactive play draws cast members from the crowd for its improv shows. The other performance catering to kids will close off the series on May 25 with Pete the Cat, the main character in Eric Litwins' stories.
Every show in the series is all-ages, but organizers like to offer some especially for kids as well. "We do get kids at some of the adult shows, depending on what the show is," Niedermayer says. "It's an opportunity for anyone of any age to see a show. You can't go to a bar if you're 15 and you might not want to if you're 80."
Le Vent du Nord, meanwhile, will bring a little Francophone charm to Millennium Place with their traditional Quebec folk tunes on March 15. Finally, Music at Whistler will return with a brand new performance called Greatest Songs from Hollywood, celebrating Oscar month with classical tunes and film excerpts.
In total, it's the biggest year yet for the series, which is heading into its 26th season. "The whole point of the Performance Series was to bring in professional Canadian and international performers — musicians, actors, comedians or dancers — to local residents," Niedermayer says. "There wasn't a lot of arts programming when it started. Over the years we've seen a growth in bars and bar bands. There are amazing performers who come through Whistler to places like the GLC or Buffalo Bills and what we try to do is present something you don't get to see there."
For more information or for tickets visit whistlerartscouncil.com.