Canada’s 150th Birthday: NYC Rocks The Great Canadian Songbook At Joe’s Pub

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How it’s New York: Joe’s Pub is a longstanding performance space in Noho.

Christina Bianco impersonates Celine Dion on Canada Day. All photos ©Shani R. Friedman.

How it’s Irish: Several of the artists covered, like Joni Mitchell and Alanis Morrisette, are of Irish descent and a number of the performers, like Greg Naughton, are Irish American.

On July 1st, Joe’s Pub had its annual celebration of Canada Day with an evening of comedy, music and of course, the national anthem. For the 15th year, Joe’s Pub raised a glass (or many, as Canadians, like the Irish, are known to enjoy a drink) to the country’s many songwriters and artists, like Rush, The Weeknd, Joni Mitchell, The Tragically Hip and Alanis Morrisette.

Most of the performers were not Canadian but FOCs (Friends of Canada) and virtually all of them have come back year after year to interpret their favourite songs. A number of the singers are well known locally like Christina Bianco, Greg Naughton, Alyson Palmer and Tylee Ross.

The evening kicked off in the red and white-mittened hands of charming Master of Ceremonies Jeff Breithaupt. He explained that he created the Canada Day fest because his friends kept asking him whether Neil Young and Joni Mitchell are Canadian and exasperated, he told them yes, they belong to us!

Before the singing, comedian and storyteller Ophira Eisenberg, perhaps best known to New York audiences as the host of NPR’s “Ask Me Another,” shared some laughs. Looking out at the crowd she declared,

“Look at these faces. So white!”

Ophira Eisenberg.

She also touched on politics, of course, and joked that when her Canadian friends ask her about living in Trump Land:

“they talk to me like I have a terminal illness: ‘are you okay?’”

The long-time New Yorker also noted some of the obvious differences between Canadians and locals.

“People here are less apologetic. I feel like the Canadian has just about washed off me. On the way out, I’ll apologize.”

Fittingly, as we all rose to sing the National Anthem I bumped into the woman behind me and so began a mutual apology gathering between us.

Greg Naughton.

From coast to coast, the Canadian songbook honoured the many contributions made by the country’s musicians. Many of the artists, like Winnipeg’s Bachman Turner Overdrive, and Montreal’s Leonard Cohen, are internationally renowned.

Alyson Palmer, one of the lead singers of BETTY, rocked out to BTO’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”, adding some of her own lyrics after the chorus, such as, “Affordable healthcare!” and “Poutine!” Cabaret performer Marissa Mulder gave a moving rendition of Cohen’s legendary “Hallelujah.”

Shelley McPherson.

Cabaret singer Shelley McPherson showed some love for Ontario when she resurrected the lesser known DeFranco Family, whose main claim to fame was “Heartbeat – It’s a Lovebeat,” and gave it a spirited pop sheen. Singer and songwriter Greg Naughton and his multi-coloured guitar brought down the house at the end of the night with Canada’s unofficial anthem, “Life Is a Highway” by Manitoba’s Tom Cochrane. And there would have been no show without the Workin’ for the Weekend House Band, led by Don Breithaupt.

Alyson Palmer.

You don’t have to be Canadian to enjoy the show and of course as Canadians, we’re so polite we welcome one and all. While you’ll have to wait until next Canada Day to join in the fun at Joe’s Pub, you can spend the months until then hanging out with Canadians for some sesquicentennial good times.

Jamie Leonhart  covers Joni Mitchell.

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