Music News Digest, Sept. 18, 2019

The 2019 MusiCounts TD Community Music Program recipients include Strings Across the Sky (pictured), Serena Ryder and Jim Cuddy announce tours, and  Amazon has launched a hi-def music streaming subscription service. Others in the news include Gordie Sampson, NSMW, Studio Bell, The Strumbellas, CIMA, Music PEI, The Chills, Creative Manitoba, and farewells to Clark Figenshau, Vic Vogel, and John Cohen.

Music News Digest, Sept. 18, 2019

By Kerry Doole

Yesterday, MusiCounts, Canada’s music education charity, announced the 2019 MusiCounts TD Community Music Program recipients at an event at Strings Across the Sky in Parry Sound, ON. A total of 37 community music programs nationwide will receive $500K worth of musical instruments and equipment, benefitting 7,000 youth participants in the first year alone. This year,  Strings Across the Sky received $17K in new guitars and string instruments from the Program. The community music group strives to rekindle and sustain the cultural traditions of fiddle music, which once thrived in Indigenous communities across Canada. To date, the MusiCounts TD Community Music Program has supported 177 programs across Canada with over $2.64M in instruments and equipment. 


– Live Nation has announced the dates for Serena Ryder's holiday extravaganza, The Christmas Kisses Tour. The tour kicks off in Vancouver on Nov. 23, followed by another 18 shows across Canada. Details here.  Expect material from last year's acclaimed holiday album, Christmas Kisses. Tix on sale Friday at

– Blue Rodeo singer/songwriter Jim Cuddy is now focused on promoting The Jim Cuddy Band's latest album, Countrywide Soul, and an extensive national fall and winter tour has been announced.  It begins in Kingston on October 25, closing out at Toronto's Danforth Music Hall, Jan. 23 and 24. Full itinerary here

– Amazon has launched a new hi-definition music streaming subscription service. Termed Amazon Music HD and available in the US, UK, Germany and Japan, it offers 50 million lossless HD songs, with a bit depth of 16 bits and a sample rate of 44.1kHz (described by Amazon as “CD quality”). A subset of millions of those songs will be available at the “Ultra HD” level — up to 24-bit and 192 kHz, the highest resolution files that record companies typically produce.

It will cost existing Amazon Prime members $12.99 (US) / £12.99 (UK) a month and non-Prime members $14.99 / $14.99 a month. A reported fan of the service is audiophile Neil Young, who states, “This will be the biggest thing to happen in music since the introduction of digital audio 40 years ago.” Sources: MBW, New York Times


– More than 2,500 people attended the Rock the Big House benefit concert Saturday night at the Kingston Penitentiary, the first time a public concert has been held at Canada’s oldest penitentiary. The Tragically Hip’s Paul Langlois acted as the MC, introducing Canadian bands, including The Trews, Kasador, The Headstones and The Pursuit of Happiness. There was also a special appearance by Tom Cochrane. The event benefits the United Way KFL&A. Source: Global

– Hosted by the highly-regarded Grammy-winning songwriter, The Gordie Sampson Songcamp in Cape Breton turns 10 this year. Nova Scotia Music Week and the Cape Breton Music Cooperative are presenting The 10th Anniversary Gordie Sampson Songcamp Show, as part of NSMW in Truro, NS. The show is at First United Church on Nov. 9, at 2 pm, featuring Sampson, Cameron Nickerson, Carleton Stone, Dave Sampson, Kayleigh O’Connor, Makayla Lynn, Maura Whitman, and Willie Stratton.


– Calgary's National Music Centre (NMC) has announced it is the latest institution in Alberta to receive the Recognized Museum designation from the Alberta Museums Association (AMA) for its award-winning facility, Studio Bell. NMC voluntarily participated in the Recognized Museum Program offered by the AMA, which involved providing evidence to a panel of museum professionals that demonstrated how the institution meets the AMA’s definition of a Museum. Source: Amplify

– After initially defending a heavily mocked French-language election campaign song, the Liberals changed course on the matter on Monday to change their tune. The Liberals chose the English-language song, One Hand Up, by Canadian rockers The Strumbellas as the party’s theme song. The group translated their lyrics and recorded the French-language version, but the rendition was criticized online as poorly translated and incomprehensible. The French version of the campaign song will be translated once again and re-recorded, party spokesman Pierre-Olivier Herbert said. No word on that artist yet. Source: CP


– The 12th Toronto Palestine Film Festival runs Sept. 18-22, at four different venues. There is a music component too, headed by a Sept. 21 show at Lee’s Palace featuring Ruba Shamshoum, a Palestinian musician based in Dublin, and Tunisian DJ Missy Ness. Details here

– The Canadian Independent Music Association - CIMA/Canadian Blast is calling for nominations for its Board of Directors. The deadline is Sept. 30. If you are interested in standing for election or would like more information, contact Administrative Coordinator, Matt Badoe, at

 – The Music PEI Investment Program's next submission deadline is Oct.  31. There are three levels of investment: Emerging Music Program (up to max $1K per applicant) - Export Development Program (up to max $2.5K applicant)- Career Investment Program ($10K one year program). Only PEI residents and Music PEI members are eligible for investing.  Online forms can be found here.

– Highly influential New Zealand band The Chills won US$10K with the SXSW Grulke Prize 'Career Act 2019' earlier this year. The money is given to the charity of the winner's choice, and the band has just selected the Christchurch Foundation - NZ: Our People, Our City Fund. This new fund helps raise money to support the families and Muslim communities impacted by the tragic events in the NZ city of March 15 this year. The Grulke Prize is for an established artist who appeared at SXSW to reinvent themselves or launch an important new project.


– A reminder that Creative Manitoba’s Annual General Meeting is on Oct. 4, from 4 -5:30 pm at its office in Winnipeg.


Clark Figenshau, Lethbridge's best-known banjo player, died last week, at 91.

For many years, he was the busker who welcomed everyone to the Lethbridge Farmers Market. He earlier worked as an accountant at radio stations in Calgary and BC. More background from the Lethbridge Herald here

John Cohen, a photographer, musician, filmmaker, and folklorist who dedicated his life to the American South’s traditional music, died on Sept. 16, age 87, of cancer.

He played in the New Lost City Ramblers and Down Hill Strugglers, and produced more than a dozen documentary films. Cohen served as professor of visual arts at SUNY Purchase College from 1972–1997, and his archive was acquired by the Library of Congress in 2011.

More background here and here. Sources: New York Times, Pitchfork

Vic Vogel (born Viktor Istvan), Montreal jazz pianist, trombonist and bandleader, died Sept. 16, age 84. He is credited with energizing the city’s jazz scene by putting together outstanding big bands that featured many of Montreal’s top players.

Vogel's recordings secured several nominations for Juno and Félix awards. In 1980, his band’s tour with Quebec rockers Offenbach resulted in the album Offenbach en fusion, which won the Félix Award for best rock album of the year.


In 2007, Vogel was the subject of the documentary film The Brass Man, and in 2010 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in music by Concordia. He performed in 35 editions of the  Montreal International Jazz Festival fest — the record for any performer. For more background, read the Montreal Gazette obit here

Céline Dion in 'I Am : Céline Dion'
Prime Video

Céline Dion in 'I Am : Céline Dion'

Tv Film

Céline Dion Calls Prime Video Documentary 'A Love Letter To My Fans' In a Message at Her Montreal Premiere

The Quebec artist is as vulnerable as ever in 'I Am: Céline Dion,' which premiered on June 17 before its official release on June 25. Here's what we learned from the sneak peek of the film, which is raw and vulnerable and sometimes hard to watch.

The Maisonneuve Theatre in Montreal was packed to celebrate Quebec's national treasure, Céline Dion.

Monday evening, June 17, Prime Video organized a handful of previews of Irene Taylor's highly anticipated documentary I Am: Céline Dion. In Montreal, where Billboard Canada was among the guests, many people came to attend the special screening.

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