This past July in Riverton, music fans were treated to a concert for the ages. And now the two hour and forty minute show is available on DVD and audio CD.
“Celebrating Riverton Music” captures three specific segments of the community’s illustrious music history – the Johannesson family legacy; the Hootenanny era of the 1960’s; and local music legends, finishing up with several fabulous tributes performed by a wide array of performers, from age 8 to age 80+.
Net proceeds from the sale of these items will be going directly to the cost of the new audio-visual system that has been installed at Riverton Hall.
Legacy of the Lions, a highly-regarded event planning and fundraising body, took on the responsibility of managing this entire program, together with financial support from the Riverton Elks.
The July 2 event was also a celebration of Canada 150, and surely one of the best for any community of its size in the entire country.
Hats off to all!
“Rise and Shine, Lake Winnipeg” performed at the Riverton Hootenanny July 2nd. Pictured left to right are Janice Arnason, Lindsey Prise, Britney Kroeker, Bailey Magnusson, Ainsley Kroeker, Trevor Kehler, Dalton Johnson, and Tanner Wahl. Photo by Ben W. Holyk.
Learning to love Lake Winnipeg via song
By Jay Boaz
(Originally published in the Interlake Enterprise)
While a number of songs at the Riverton Hootenanny, held Canada Day long week-end as part of Riverton Reunion Days, focused on tales of Lake Winnipeg’s past, one song in particular is poised to inspire and educate a new generation.
“Rise and Shine, Lake Winnipeg” made its choral debut that night in the Riverton Hall, with music written by the late Lorne Martin and words by Rod Palson. Rod’s daughter Lindsey Prise sang the lead, joined on piano by Janice Arnason and members, past and present, of the choir at Riverton Collegiate.
“The song started as a poem,” said Palson, who wrote it while in college in 1972. “It was five lines, which is now one of the verses.” Palson later filled it out and wrote more verses. “Around 1975 I met Lorne Martin, who was in a band at the time with Dick Johnson called Retreat.”
Palson shared the words with Martin, a fellow “lake guy”, who loved them. “Lorne decided he wanted to make it a song and wrote the melody. It was a song sung around the bonfire and a few times in public,” said Palson, adding his daughter Lindsey performed the song sporadically over the years. “But nothing much was ever done with it.”
In 2011, Lorne suddenly passed away. “Shortly before Lorne passed we agreed that within our lifetime we wanted to give the song some broader meaning to a wider audience,” said Palson. “so when he passed that was at the top of my mind.” Palson then had the thought to approach the Lake Winnipeg Foundation to make Martin’s wish come true. “I always felt that the words of that song were pretty much written for what the Foundation is all about.”
The Lake Winnipeg Foundation (LWF) loved what they heard and agreed to collaborate with Palson. “Rod approached us with the idea we could do something exciting with the song and give it a broader reach,” said Lake Winnipeg Foundation Executive Director Alexis Kanu, “and we thought it could be a great educational resource for youth and a tool to help bring Rod and Lorne’s message and vision to other communities.”
LWF then commissioned a choral score, which will launch in September as part of a back to school promotion, free to use by music teachers and choir directors across the province. “It will be another tool to enrich water education. More and more we are realizing water education goes far beyond just the science curriculum. It touches on art and history and social sciences, and we want to provide teachers with tools to bring that into their classrooms.”
Palson agreed with the Foundations approach. “I loved the idea because it gets to the grassroots, gets young people learning the song and hopefully start having a positive impact on how people think about the lake.”
There are two versions of Rise and Shine, Lake Winnipeg that will be made available, one created by Philip Lapatha and the other, the version performed at the Riverton Hootenanny, composed by former Riverton Collegiate choir teacher Heida Arnason. “Unfortunately Heida couldn’t be at the Hootenanny after all her hard work getting the song ready but her Mom Janice stepped in during the concert,” said Palson. “The Hootenanny really helped us get the initiative off on the right footing.”
LWF has a network of educators to distribute the song to but are also looking to build new partnerships. “We’ll be doing promotion through our social media,” said Kanu,” and we’ve been working at creating more resources for teachers to access on our website.” The scores will be available at no cost.
“We just think there is so much potential with youth, and if they can experience the lake and understand the value of water when they’re young, that’s something they carry forward for the rest of their lives,” said Kanu.
In addition to advocacy and education about the lake, the Foundation also holds fundraisers, as most non-profits do. Of particular interest to Enterprise readers may be the “Lake Bash 2017”, being held at the Farmers Hall just outside of Gimli on August 18. “We will have a pickerel dinner, live music, a cash bar, and silent auction” said Kanu. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for children 12 & under, and can be purchased at the Farmers Hall, HP Tergesen & Sons, and at www.lakewinnipegfoundation.com.
Additionally, Enterprise junior assistant Griffin Boaz, age 6, will be selling lemonade, cookies, and keychains on August the 13th with proceeds going to the Foundation. “I want to raise money to help the animals in the Lake,” said Griffin, “so I am giving the money to the Lake Winnipeg Foundation.” The lemonade stand will be held at 307 Sunset Drive (Vesturland) in Gimli from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
If you grew up in a small town, nobody has to tell you they are getting smaller all the time. Some have virtually faded into the sunset. It’s a common sight as you drive across our prairie landscape. Even the grain elevators which stood proudly on guard have disappeared.
That’s why it’s so important for towns to nurture the things that make them special, and use as a source of pride, inspiration and opportunity.
My old hometown of Riverton, near the shores of mighty Lake Winnipeg has a cache that is unique. Its music. Not the stuff you hear on many of today’s radio stations, mind you. It’s old time dance music, hootenanny tunes and nostalgic country classics that have stood the test of time here for more than eighty years.
A wonderful style and attitude that is now being perfected by young people who grew up listening to their parents, uncles, aunts, friends and neighbours.
So, when I was asked to organize and emcee a concert that would celebrate Riverton Music and Canada 150 in one fell swoop, they had me at “will you?”
I’ve always believed in giving back to the community, and my passion was reignited on Sunday, July 2 as I looked out at 694 exuberant folks singing along and shedding tears for over three hours at Riverton Hall.
It was magical, and I only hope it serves as an inspiration for the young musicians of the day to keep it flowing. It’s the one thing that can preserve Riverton’s place for the next one hundred and fifty years.
Granted, it won’t be “Johnny’s foot tapping out the music” but history will tell you it still sounds the same.
Way to go Riverton. This looks so good on you!
- Rod Palson.
Legends and legacy take the stage at Riverton Hootenanny
By Jay Boaz
Originally published in the Interlake Enterprise July 5, 2017
The difference between a news article and an editorial is that in a news article, the author is to remain impartial and present the facts of the story, devoid of passion or personal observation. In an editorial, the author is free to express their thoughts and feelings on a particular topic or subject.
It was about halfway through the Riverton Hootenanny Sunday night that I made the decision to write an editorial.
While I started the night diligently taking notes to present to you who performed what song and stressed about which of the five different ways to spell Johannesson I needed to use, I found myself making a lot of little notes about things I observed.
Like how the couple sitting next to me whispered to each other “That’s our song” when the Whiskey Jacks & Friends performed “Four Strong Winds”.
Or how excited someone in front of me got when Sol Sigurdson started talking about Howardville.
I have notes for multiple songs that the crowd seemed to know all the words and sang along.
I saw tears, some of joy, some in remembrance of those no longer with us. Hugs, handshakes, and laughter were abound.
I was struck by the storytelling in the music, telling old tales of the area I had never heard before. There was far, far more substance to all of the songs sung than you’ll find on any Top 40 list these days.
And I might have to buy the audio CD of the concert just to hear Fred Oleson perform “Granny” again.
While I grew up in Riverton, my family doesn’t have deep roots in the community; I was one of around three people in high school that didn’t have to worry about accidentally dating a cousin. So while I don’t have generations of family history in the community like the majority of the audience did, I could still feel this event was really, really special.
There are rare times when a small community comes together and feels truly united. The last, and maybe only, time I’ve really felt this was the flood of 2011, where Riverton’s old orange walking bridge was destroyed. I remember racing against the river as the whole community worked together; everyone played a role, whether it was laying sandbags, loading trucks, filling sandbags, driving around to give food and water to the other volunteers, everyone pulled up their socks and helped each other.
I had the same feeling tonight, of a community coming together as one, but this time, thankfully, for a joyous reunion instead of a natural disaster.
The Legacy of the Lions group put on a fabulous event, with approximately 700 people cramming into the Riverton Hall (I didn’t even know you could fit that many people in there). The funds raised from the concert will be used towards purchasing an Audio/Visual system for the Hall. I speak from experience when I say no community can fundraise like Riverton can, thus I have no doubt that the only thing that can rival the financial success of the evening will be the emotions it generated.
Now I don’t want all of my aforementioned note taking to go to waste, so for those who couldn’t make it here is a short description of what happened Sunday night. The nearly four hour concert was split into three acts. The first act featured the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the Mates members, showcasing an amazing amount of musical talent on fiddle, guitar, piano, drums, and vocals. The second act belonged to the headliners of the Hootenanny era in the 60’s, playing hits from their heyday. The third act was designated for tributes to past performers, some still with us, some not. And while he’s known for his hockey talents rather than music, a special verse was added to “This Land is Your Land” in honour of the Riverton Rifle, Reggie Leech, who was in attendance with his family.
Everyone involved deserves a clap on the back and thanks for putting together an amazing evening. And I have to agree with emcee Rod “Roddy” Palson, I’ve never seen so many people content to not have a beer for four hours in the Riverton hall before and doubt I will ever again.
The descendents of Johnny and his Musical Mates, along with surviving member Sella Benedictson, pose with the new sign.
Johnny and his Musical Mates legacy lives on
By Jay Boaz
Originally published in the Interlake Enterprise July 5, 2017
Next to Reggie Leach, Riverton may be best known for the musical legacy of Johnny and his Musical Mates. The families of the band ensured that legacy continues with the unveiling of a new highway sign informing visitors to Riverton of the hometown legends.
An informal ceremony was held at the site of the new sign, just south of Riverton on the east side of Highway #8, where nearly 100 family, friends, and sole surviving Mates member Sella Benedictson gathered for the reveal. A lot of discussion and work went into the final design that was chosen. “The Johannesson family felt the sign needed to send a message not only about the Musical Mates and the orchestra, but also celebrate the broader meaning of the group to the community and to music period in this area,” said emcee Rod Palson.
Mitch Johnson brought greetings on behalf of the families. “When we decided to redo the sign and the website we had a fundraising concert, and in one night we raised $4500 towards the project,” said Johnson. He added the previous sign recognizing the Mates will not be discarded, rather it will find a home at the recently opened Hnausa General Store.
In addition to the sign the launching of a website about the group was announced, with the web address www.musicalmates.ca displayed prominently on the sign. “It’s still a work in progress but we’re going to be adding more music, so if you don’t have a turntable anymore you can go and listen to the songs, as well as read some stories about the band,” said Palson. “It’s a wonderful way to commemorate the legend that is Johnny and his Musical Mates.”