She’s performed for kings and queens, flown with Prince Philip, and is making her way to little ol’ Elmira for the first, and possibly last, time to share her music.Affectionately called The First Lady of Guitar, Liona Boyd is putting on a night of classical music from her numerous albums, helped by the St. James choir and fellow guitarist and vocalist Michael Sovano.
“I’ve never played Elmira and it’s going to be fun to play in a little church there,” Boyd said from her home in Toronto.
Born in London, England, she moved to Canada with her family when she was eight years old. The five-time Juno award-winner took up the guitar at 13 years old after attending a concert with her mother. She’s hoping families will follow her lead and also bring their children to her concert.
“Many times people have said we brought our son or our daughter to a concert and years later they’re still playing guitar and they fell in love with the guitar just like I did,” Boyd said.
She says to expect some songs from her most recent album, The Return… To Canada with Love, along with new ones from her album, No Remedy for Love, which drops this fall.
“I’m actually going to be premiering quite a few new pieces on this little mini tour of Ontario,” Boyd said.
She says the addition of a choir and Savona, along with her own singing – which she just started six years ago – will make for a more interesting program than she used to do.
“I used to just play solo classical guitar. We still have some solo classical and we have some duos because I’m accompanied by Michael Savona. There’s a lot of variety so I’d encourage people to bring their kids if they possibly can,” Boyd said.
After spending 20 years in the U.S., between Los Angeles, Miami, and Connecticut, Boyd decided it was time to come back to Canada. She realized Canada was lacking in the patriotic song department, unlike the States.
“I realized Canada, other than the anthem, didn’t really have a patriotic song. I’ve played it with different choirs,” Boyd explained. “I did the Governor General’s awards two years ago and I’m performing at the mayor’s lunch for the Pan Am Games. I’m playing a theme song about the city of Toronto called The Toronto Song and also playing a new theme song I wrote for the province of Ontario. So I seem to be on a theme song roll.”
She said she wanted Canadians to celebrate their diversity and landscapes. Also, Ontario hadn’t had a popular song done about it since Ontari-ari-ari-o!
This will probably be the last time she plays in Elmira because she’s cutting back on performing, she says. But at 65, she still plans on performing, just not as much.
In a career that’s seen her fly around the globe performing for big audiences and dignitaries, it’s hard to pinpoint just a couple moments that stand out.
“I’ve been a pen pal with Prince Philip for 30 years and recently I wrote a song and asked if I could dedicate to him. He just wrote back last week and told me yes he’d be delighted. It’s called Love of the Horse, because he’d written me a letter all about horses,” Boyd said.
She also adds playing Carnegie Hall in her 20s, playing a concert for the Cree natives in Moosonee, and playing for the king and queen of Spain as highlights.
“On a personal level one of the highlights was I was asked by the family if I would give a dying man his wish, which was he always wanted to hear me play Malaguena,” Boyd said.
“He lived in Quebec and I didn’t have any concerts coming up, so they called me and he was basically on his deathbed and I played it over the phone. And then I didn’t realize this, they filmed the dad. There was just a big smile on his face and it just really made his day, and then he died two days later.”
She encourages people to stick around after the concert to chat, where she’ll sign CDs, which she’s bringing along to sell. This will be the second of just five concert dates in Ontario this July. She’ll also be performing at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Fergus on July 10 at 8 p.m. for those who can’t make it to the Elmira concert.
“I think it’s a good way for people in small communities like Elmira to meet other like-minded people,” Boyd said. “People have told me that they’ve met new friends because we have an intermission and people can mingle.”
The doors open at 7:30 p.m. on July 4 at St. James Lutheran Church in Elmira, with the concert starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $39.50 for adults and $34.50 for seniors and students. They can be purchased at www.ticketweb.ca, by calling 1-888-222-6608, or at The Window Box.