“Every day you learn something new/ Discover a world in front of you”, sings Fred Penner on his latest album “Hear The Music”. The track called “The RIver Will Bend” features Ron Sexsmith and Bahamas. They, along with Alex Cuba, Basia Bulat, Terra Lightfoot and The Good Lovelies and others, collaborated with Penner on the record, his 13th, learning for sure from the 70 year old entertainer but also teaching him a trick or two.
“To see the range of talent in Canada is very invigorating,” says Penner in an interview with SlowCity.ca, “. . . to see individuals who are moving up that scale; Ron Sexsmith, Good Lovelies, Terra Lightfoot, Bahamas these are such dedicated souls who are actually making a mark in this world and watching how good they really are and coming in, bringing their energy to this record, and me giving them something to play with, and them just taking it in their own creative path, it’s really lovely to know that that part of our society is strong and is growing and will continue to make that difference.”
Making a difference is the theme of CULTIVATE, a festival of local food, drink and music taking place in Port Hope the weekend of Sep 22 to 24 2017. Food choices include Foragers Farm, Headwaters Farm, and Fries by Jamie Kennedy’s Kitchen. Brews include Manantler, Church Key and NHB as well as Kinsip Distillery and Empire Cider, plus many more. Penner will perform Saturday on the main stage. Other acts include Terra Lightfoot. Evening Hymns, Digging Roots, Gentlemen Husbands, Mayhemingways and Jenny Whitely.
Making a difference is also the force behind Penner’s four decades-plus career as a musician and children’s entertainer. He is a three time Juno winner for Children’s Album and his CBC TV show Fred Penner’s Place ran for a dozen years in the late 80s/90s and may well be best known for “The Cat Came Back”, or maybe not as so many seem to have their own connection with the folks they grew up with on the box.
Penner says he has been able to connect over generations because of the power he found music had. He credits his sister as his inspiration.
“It goes back to early influences and working with special needs children in the 70s, back to my university days. I worked in a residential centre for special needs children. I had a sister who was a Down syndrome child and she was a huge influence on my awareness of how powerful music is to the life of a child,” he says.
Music powered him forward from his work in theatre to working with families and children and as he says one ship led to another.
“It’s been an amazing range of things that I delighted in. It kept me active and hard to believe ultimately how far it has gone. I have been in the business for 45 years and I have never looked back on my career. It has always been moving forwards,” he says.
Moving forwards into a new day, into new discoveries, new opportunities to teach and new opportunities to learn.
"Hear The Music" is available on Linus. He plays 4:30 p.m. Sat Sept 23.