The JUNO Journal: Notes from a Nominee
The JUNO celebration in Winnipeg did not include Spring’s arrival but everything else about the weekend was warm and wonderful. I arrived in Manitoba carrying the hopes of my children’s album, “What’s the Big Idea?!?” to my first ever JUNO Award Ceremonies.
Winnipeg lived up to its name as a place of hospitality. Arriving at the airport to live music and a host of volunteers felt very much like arriving at a folk festival. Much of the weekend was a blur but my memories of folks who were gracious and helpful remain clear and distinct.
Celebrity spotting is a strange sport. Everyone is doing it. No one thinks they’re (noticed) doing it. The receptions and parties were massive in scale and shoulder-to-shoulder. Pretending not to see Ron Sexsmith or Jim Cuddy or Jian Ghomeshi makes for an interesting party trick.
A Saturday morning performance in the Children’s Showcase was a highlight of the JUNO weekend for me. The venue was the Children’s Museum, a beautiful venue located at The Forks, a well-known landmark in Winnipeg. Each of the nominees for the Children’s Award was on the bill along with Fred Penner as special musical guest. Splash n Boots, Helen Austin, Charlie Hope and Marie-Claude were the other artists. It was a relaxed and festive atmosphere and lots of time in the “Green Room” to talk and rehearse (and laugh). (The JUNO Award for Children’s Album of the Year may be coveted but the idea of a cut-throat competition is good fodder for one-liners. A real treat for me to spend time with Fred Penner, the iconic and beloved children’s entertainer. Fred is a lovely and generous soul. He was the closer for the event and brought all of us on stage to join him for “The Cat Came Back.”
Then came the Saturday Gala Dinner and Awards Show when I would find out if The Big Idea would take home the big prized. Before that announcement was made, I had the chance to meet Jian Gomeshi, the host of CBC Radio’s Q at the pre-dinner reception. Was truly impressed at the humility and grace shown by various artists whose work was being honoured and acknowledged. In particular, there was a very moving presentation of the Allan Sleight Humanitaria Spirit Award made to Chantal Kreviasuk and her partner, Raine Maida for their work in places like Iraq and the Congo.
Most people think the Juno Awards take place only on the Sunday night, when the show is broadcast on national TV. In fact, almost all of the awards are handed out Saturday night, with the five or six ‘biggies’ doled out during the Sunday evening broadcast. Back to Saturday night. The Children’s Award was to be presented about halfway through the three-hour event, so I had plenty of time to be nervous.
And the winner of the Children’s Album of the Year goes to … Helen Austin. Helen is a remarkable artist. I met her a few months ago in Calgary at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. (Her album won that award, too.) I really did want The Big Idea to bring home a JUNO and though I was disappointed, as soon as the applause died, my first thought was to return to Kingston and create another record in time to be considered for the 2015 JUNO Awards in Hamilton.
Before that would happen though, I had the chance to attend the Sunday night awards show. The Red Carpet Procession was memorable and beautifully awkward. I was funneled down a narrow tunnel toward the red carpet and directed to stand between 2 Mounties for an official photo op in front of a press gallery of journalists and photographers. (A green chalkboard bearing my name was held up to the gallery in case they did not recognize me—I think it came in handy.) I then walked the carpet through a gauntlet of young women hoping I was, well, someone younger and more famous, I think. I arrived relatively unscathed to a bar inside the MTS Centre waiting for the lights to go up for the Big Show.
I was looking forward to seeing hometown favourites Bachman Turner Overdrive inducted into the Juno Hall of Fame. And, as I enjoyed the last of this year’s Junos, I was already thinking about next year, so it felt fitting to be humming BTO’s Takin’ Care of Business on the way home.