Melanie Peterson’s “Christmas Breaks My Heart” a gentle, melodic nod to holiday heartache

Melanie Peterson, live at Free Times Cafe for last night’s “Christmas Breaks My Heart” launch.

 

It was standing room only at Free Times Café last night, as Melanie Peterson celebrated the launch of her new holiday single “Christmas Breaks My Heart”, featuring the talents of fellow Toronto-based singer/songwriter guests Matt Gerber and Angela Saini.

The evening opened with the whimsically playful sounds of Matt Gerber, whose delightful tunes borrow from folk, barber shop and pop—from songs for kids for all ages, to sweet and nostalgic romantic musings. Gerber had us singing along with his acoustic set, accompanying himself on guitar and ukulele, punctuated by kazoo and some impressive harmonica chops. Give Gerber a listen, and check out upcoming dates, on his website.

Shining with positivity and poignant at times, Angela Saini both moved and entertained with genuine, heartfelt, and sometimes cheeky, observations of life, love and self-image in a pop-inspired acoustic set. And I dare you to not smile, sing along and tap your feet to her upbeat, energetic sounds. Keep up with Saini’s music, merch and gig dates on her website.

Main attraction Melanie Peterson more than lived up to her “Mary Poppins with a broken heart” reputation, treating us to a selection of folk-infused songs from her earliest recordings to her new release in an acoustic guitar set accompanied by Peter Collins on bass. The lyrics and vocals are melancholy, but hopeful, resilient and determined through heartbreak; and full of gratitude and joy in love. Combining cheer with heartache—sometimes with hilarious results (the tequila song)—Peterson’s sounds get real with the warmth and gentleness of a good long-time friend; all delivered with her signature sweet, lilting vocals.

“Christmas Breaks My Heart” offers a rarely heard take on the holiday season—not always a joyful time for some—acknowledging the loss, grief and wistful nostalgia of missing that someone special by your side. Check out the lyric video; and wrap your ears around Peterson’s catalogue and videos.

Next up for Peterson: Live at Sauce on the Danforth on Sat, Dec 28 from 4:00-7:00 pm.

Here are some snaps I took at the show last night.

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Toronto Fringe: Art, longing & acceptance in the poetic, heart-wrenching, gender-bending The Bird Killer

Clockwise, from bottom left: Emerjade Simms, Tymika Tafari, Subhash Santosh, Mo Zeighami, Evan Mackenzie & Mike Ricci. Photo by Patrick J. Horan.

 

LET ME IN presents Justine Christensen’s poetic, heart-wrenching modern-day, gender-bending adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull with its Toronto Fringe production of The Bird Killer, directed by Patrick J. Horan and running in the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace.

A group of artist friends grapple with the day-to-day challenges of artistic expression, and personal and professional fulfillment—all while maintaining their relationships and support network. Masha (Emerjade Simms) is a keen observer of her friends’ goings-on, and acts as a host/narrator when she’s not directly involved in a moment. Wearing black to mourn the state of her life, her sardonic sense of humour masks a broken heart: her unrequited love of the driven, tormented playwright Kostya (Mo Zeighami). Kostya is with the nervous emerging actor Nina (Even Mackenzie), who stars in her new contemporary theatre piece. Singer/songwriter Medvedenko (Mike Ricci, who also supplies original music for the production) is Kostya’s loyal, hard-working stage manager; and taken with Masha.

Kostya’s wise-cracking stand-up comic brother Arkadina (Subhash Santosh) brings his girlfriend, renowned playwright Trigorin (Tymika Tafari), to an invitation-only presentation of Kostya’s new work; setting off debates of artistry vs. celebrity, and changing the group dynamic. He’s unwittingly set in motion a significant ripple within the group—and things will never be the same.

Beautiful, moving work from the ensemble with a piece that cuts close to home for all artists. Each character longs for love and professional artistic fulfillment, but finds it difficult to achieve satisfaction. Does acknowledgement and accolades make one artist’s work more important than another’s? How does an artist navigate authenticity vs. marketability? And, most importantly, how does an artist accept him/herself?

The Bird Killer continues in the Tarragon Mainspace, with two more performances: tonight (July 13) at 9:15 pm and July 15 at 3:30 pm.

Want to check if the show you want to see is sold out? The Toronto Fringe folks have set up a page for sold-out shows, updated daily.

 

Angela Saini takes a leap of faith, life & love in upcoming EP Leap

CCM_4pdigi Angela SainiLeap of faith. Leap of life. Leap of love. Singer/songwriter Angela Saini’s new EP Leap launches a week from today at the Rivoli.

In the five tracks on Leap – a fusion of pop, funk, Motown, blues and even a bit of alt country – Saini has created a narrative that takes the listener across a lifetime of relationships, including those with lovers/partners and with oneself. “U Turn” opens the record, with a funky pop vibe that comes into the chorus. “You can run away / Change your mind / It’s okay to cross that line” makes for a strong, upbeat anthem about getting out of a rut and turning your life around. “There’s so much more” than a shout out to retail therapy in “Little Black Dress.” It’s a nice follow-up to “U Turn,” with its encouraging call to do something nice for yourself – a celebration of self and positive body image that puts aside magazine images and societal imposition.

“You’re Just That Guy” is a kind of a cheerful break-up song, and feels like a natural segue from the first two tracks into the latter half of the EP, as we follow this evolution of life, self and relationship. This time, she’s out and gone, and moving on – going out into the night with a renewed sense of adventure. The tone here is playful, sexy and sassy. “Stay Here With Me” has so much soul, as Saini sings of new love and connection, and that feeling of wanting to hang on and not let go. The final track, “Something Like I’m Beautiful,” has the sense of an older, long-time love that’s become taken for granted. This is my favourite track on Leap, and one that I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Saini perform live with just her guitar backing her up. It’s a bluesy/pop/alt country vibe, and a vulnerable, honest plea to be acknowledged – this is someone who longs to feel special in the eyes of her lover/partner again.

Saini’s vocals are strong and soulful, yet warm and light – and she’s not afraid of bringing a bit of mischief or vulnerability into the performance, giving her lyrics exactly the tone they need. Leap is a collection of catchy tunes that move the listener, both physically and emotionally. Joining Saini on Leap are Tony Rabalao (drums), Sarah Giles (bass), Tony Gare (guitar), Thomas McKay (guitar & keys), John Britton (percussion) and Vanessa James-Locke (back-up vox).

You can also find Angela Saini on her YouTube channel and follow her on Twitter.

angela Porch 2 edit MediumAngela Saini celebrates the launch of Leap on November 14 at the Rivoli – 9 p.m. $8 cover. Guests TBA.