One-night-only Barn Dance show wows Wingham audience
BY SCOTT STEPHENSON
On Nov. 5, the long-running local phenomena known as CKNX Barn Dance came home to Josephine Street in the form of an afternoon of old-time country tunes at the regally restored Town Hall Theatre in Wingham.
Barn Dance has gone through many permutations from year to year, starting from the early days of W.T Cruickshank’s innovative radio programming to Earl Heywood’s heyday as the undisputed king of “Nashville North”, to the hard-working Barn Dance Historical Society’s efforts to immortalize the ethereal experience for future generations. Sunday’s showcase of Barn Dance mainstays and special guests attracted a full house of music fans young and old to the stately old theatre, just like it did in days gone by.
The countrified celebration was emceed by the “Voice of Barn Dance” himself, Jim Swan, who introduced each act with the patter and aplomb Barn Dance fans have come to expect over the years. The iconic red and white Barn Dance microphone stands are always available accessories to Swan, not that his booming voice ever really requires any artificial amplification, no matter how cavernous the venue. Musical director Doug Dietrich and the Barn Dance Band were there backing up each act. Singing siblings Paul and Sue Weber entertained with songs of love and heartbreak, the same way as they’ve been doing for decades. Their set on Sunday really made the crowd believe there just might be a place called heaven.
Anybody who had a chance to catch the most recent Barn Dance Jamboree Weekend show in Blyth may have already been familiar with the outsized singing of 10-year-old Memphis Marier of Bayfield. The lad reprised the rendition of the Buck Owens classic “Together Again” that first launched his career way back in May. He also signed posters at the merch table on a first-come, first-served basis.
Yodelling sensation (and Barn Dance discovery) Naomi Bristow has been on a turbo-charged tour all year long and shows no sign of slowing down any time soon, but she certainly seemed happy to take a breath and reflect on how it all began - at a CKNX jamboree 15 years ago.
After intermission, special Barn Dance guest and Canadian Country Music Hall of Famer George Fox filled the stage with his special brand of singing, storytelling and dancing. The consummate entertainer kept fans clapping, laughing, singing and cheering for over an hour, playing hits like “Mustang Heart” alongside some of his lesser known, equally excellent tunes. His flawless cover of Hank Snow’s “I’ve Been Everywhere” brought the house down, and his last song was met with a standing ovation and shouts of “Encore!” - a request that Fox happily obliged. The spirit of Barn Dance filled fans as they filed out of the theatre, just in time to see Bristow wave goodbye as she jumped in her car to make the drive to her next performance in North Bay.
There will be a motion put forth at the next meeting of the Barn Dance Historical Society to disband their collective. If the motion passes, it will mean the end of yet another chapter in the book of Barn Dance. If that turns out to be the case, Sunday’s show was a perfect way to say goodbye for now.