Contenders find comfort in tradition of folk/roots

Gary Fjellgaard and Valdy return to Okanagan for their 13th annual tour

Valdy and Gary Fjellgaard (left and right) reunite as the Contenders for their annual Okanagan/Interior tour.

Valdy and Gary Fjellgaard (left and right) reunite as the Contenders for their annual Okanagan/Interior tour.

Playing with Gary Fjellgaard is just like putting on an old comfortable sweater, according to folk singer Valdy.

When you are playing with someone that good, he said, it allows you to express yourself even more.

Valdy and Fjellgaard, who perform together as the Contenders, have distinct musical styles. Valdy’s background is as a folk musician while Fjellgaard is a country performer.

The two legendary folk singers are returning to the Okanagan for their 13th annual tour at the beginning of November. Valdy said, though, that they are as fresh as ever.

“I’m not getting old,” he said, “I am getting older. That’s inevitable, but there is no reason you have to be old.”

The same might be said about his partner in crime, Fjellgaard, who is now in his 70s and has just added the mandolin to his repertoire of musical instruments. Valdy said he tried to learn it, but found it too small.

“I learned to play the mandola instead. But that isn’t ready for performance yet,” he said. He is, however, enjoying the chance to play some bass on this Contenders tour.

When the legendary musicians perform at the Barking Parrot on Nov. 2, they will have some new music in addition to their old favourites.

The two have performed in the Okanagan Valley each year since 2001. Both musicians are working on some new music which they will include in this year’s concert.

Valdy said one of the songs he will perform is Oh Tom, We Miss You, in honour of Canadian performer Stompin’ Tom Connors, who died last year.

“I didn’t know Tom well, but he was a poster boy for a lot of us who tour,” Valdy said.

Connors is remembered as much for his personality as for his music, Valdy added. “What he did was unique to Canada.

In addition to the new music, the two will also include new styles and instruments in the concert.

Their songs as the Contenders are written by both, as a collaborative effort.

Valdy said audiences often want them to perform their earlier music, since the songs were meaningful at certain points in their lives.

“It’s wonderful to see what the music can do,” he said.