(I am on a Christmas concert tour of Canada with singer Michelle Wright. This is a road journal of the tour.)
Day 6—Monday, Dec. 5
The bus pulls out of Kelowna at 11a.m. under cloudy skies, following a winding highway around the edge of the lake for mile after mile, as we go up a long valley surrounded by mountains.
After a couple of hours, the late nights from the last two days catch up with me, and I am forced to take a nap in my bunk. When I wake up around 6, it is dark and we are deep in the Canadian Rockies, speeding along a small strip of cleared highway between drifts of sparkling snow. The temperature outside is 10 degrees. A three-quarter moon illuminates immense craggy peaks, and Jupiter peeks out from between two of them. I feel like I am in that movie “The Polar Express” as we race through the pine trees, matching speed every now and again with a dark freight train that is our traveling companion next to, and passing underneath, the highway.
We reach Fort Macleod about eleven o’clock, and walk to our rooms, with a strong, frigid wind from the north chilling us to the bone after just a few steps. Yep, we’re in Canada!
Day 7—Tuesday, Dec 6
I wake before dawn, and venture out just as the rising sun sets the sky on fire.
A stiff wind is still blowing, but I walk around until I locate a café that is open, and have some eggs and sausage, served by a friendly but sleepy-looking young lady. Afterwards, I walk around town a bit, and stand on the bluff next to the re-creation of the original fort and look west over the river towards the mountains in the distance.
We are playing at a very old theater called the Empress, located on a main street lined with buildings that date back a hundred years. Fort Macleod was built in 1874 as a barracks for Canadian Mounties, and later boomed when the railroad came through. Now it is a quiet small town with friendly people and a lot of community spirit, which helps support the shows that they present at the Empress.
Our setup and soundcheck go quickly, as all of our settings are saved each night in a digital mixing board. Michelle drops by to run a couple of songs and direct the placement of the cotton “snow” that covers the stage to make it seem more Christmas-y, as well as some stuffed penguins and Christmas stockings.
Dinner is great Chinese food at a restaurant across the street, although one member of the band apparently eats too much broccoli, later experiencing a gas attack as we stand close together with Michelle in the theater wings before the show, and prompting Lee to joke that we are now performing in “Fart McCloud”…
The show goes smoothly, although the audience is mainly older, fairly reserved folks. But they really enjoy it, and we have a good time. We are staying overnight and playing another concert there tomorrow night.