No slowing down the Contenders

Gary Fjellgaard and Valdy return to Summerland on annual tour of Okanagan and Interior.

Valdy and Gary Fjellgaard (left and right) reunite as the Contenders for their annual Okanagan/Interior tour which stops in Summerland Oct. 27.

Valdy and Gary Fjellgaard (left and right) reunite as the Contenders for their annual Okanagan/Interior tour which stops in Summerland Oct. 27.

Gary Fjellgaard is still in amazement of what can come from just a single voice and acoustic guitar when amplified.

What he doesn’t mention is the importance of the person standing behind those things, and when Paul Valdemar Horsdal (Valdy) and himself get together it is a magic combination and remembrance of days gone by.

“People always say, ‘What do you have new coming out?’ and we respond, ‘Well, what do you want us to do stand on our heads?’” said Fjellgaard, who is performing with Valdy in Summerland Oct. 27. “We just do what we do and we are keeping that tradition alive of the travelling minstrel, vagabond troubadour or whatever you want to call it. It is nice to do the kind of music that people can just sit and enjoy.”

While music trends come and go Valdy and Fjellgaard, known together as the Contenders, stick to singing about Canada’s frontier spirit and rustic roots.

“I think everything that I write has always been influenced by my surroundings. I came from the Prairies and we still farmed with horses and I have lots of songs about that day and age. In B.C. I worked with a chainsaw for many years working out in the bush as a logger and raising our kids out there and have songs about that,” said Fjellgaard, who is a Juno award winner.

Their songs are as Canadian as they come. Farmers, roughnecks and loggers are what Fjellgaard croons about in Colour of Your Collar.

“I think with songwriting there has to be an element of truth in your songs otherwise it has a hollow ring to it. I sang about life on a little prairie town when I was 10 years old barefoot catching gophers and selling them for a penny a tail and the tobacco can I stole from the hired hand and smoked the whole thing in one morning.”

Fjellgaard said it is one of the highlights of his year to share the stage with Valdy when they reunite each fall as The Contenders for an annual tour through the Okanagan and Interior. Valdy is a Juno award winner, has received seven additional Juno nominations and four of his 14 albums are certified gold. Valdy appeared on the CBC television show The Beachcombers as the environmental activist Halibut Stu, but his career began in the early 70s when he released Rock and Roll Song as his first mainstream single.

“It is such a privilege and pleasure to work with a grand master of showmanship. He is such a professional in such a humble way is my friend Valdy. We have so many things to say and so many stories to tell and we don’t take ourselves that seriously so a lot of them are quite funny,” said Fjellgaard.

One of the ultimate experiences as a songwriter came together for Fjellgaard recently as he played at the Pacific Coliseum for thousands of First Nations people during the B.C. Truth and Reconciliation Week in September. Fjellgaard performed his song I Apologize.

“There was so much power in the room it was absolutely awesome. It was so humbling to be invited to play,” he said. “Moments like that are the ones you treasure.”

Fjellgaard can clearly remember the day when Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the words “we are sorry,” and was listening to accounts from residential school survivors on the radio. Driving at the moment, he was so touched by the survivors he had to pull over and stop.

“It was so incredibly moving. At the time I thought, is that it? The federal government makes the apology and that is it? It should surely last longer than that, so I wrote the song from the perspective that it was my fault and I would take all the blame. It was so truthful and from the heart,” said Fjellgaard.

“One woman told me that my song meant more to her than Harper’s apology. If it touched that lady it probably touched others too. That speech Harper made was just a few minutes long, this song will keep going and maybe help change a few lives.”

The Contenders kick off their 13th annual tour through the Okanagan/Interior in Summerland at Centre Stage theatre on Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets ($20) are available at Martin’s Flowers and Dragon’s Den.

Just Posted

Penticton Overdose Prevention Society co-founders Desiree Franz, Shane Surowski and Stephanie Lines have created the city’s first unsanctioned public overdose prevention site using an old wine-tour bus. The site began operations in June 2021. (Desiree Franz/Facebook)
Volunteers launch Penticton’s first public supervised injection site

2021 is on pace to be the deadliest year for overdoses in Penticton on record

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club in Oliver will golf from sunrise to sunset to raise funds for ALS on June 29. (Submitted)
Golfing from sunrise to sunset in Oliver for ALS

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club have taken up the challenge June 29

Jann Arden will embark on Canada-wide tour Spring 2022 with a stop in Penticton at the South Okanagan Events Centre on June 13. (Contributed)
Jann Arden coming to Penticton in 2022

The Jann Arden Live! tour has been rescheduled for 2022

A storm watch has been issued for the Okanagan, Kootenays and Columbia regions of B.C. (Calvin Dickson photo)
Another severe thunderstorm watch issued for the Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for thunderstorms that may produce strong wind gusts, hail and heavy rain

The South Okanagan Tim Hortons raised over $4,000 through the three day orange doughnut promotion with 100 per cent of proceeds going to to the Residential School Survivors Society. The owner of these locations matched the amount. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
South Okanagan Tim Hortons raises over $8K for residential school survivors

More than $4,000 worth of doughnuts were purchased over three days

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop live horse export

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

(Dave Ogilvie photo)
One injured after being pinned by fallen forklift near Peachland

West Kelowna emergency crews responded to reports of a person stuck under a forklift

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

This goose family went for a leisurely stroll down Vernon’s Main Street Saturday, April 25. (Dave Deshane photo)
Controversial Vernon goose cull won’t fly this year

Necessary permit procedures held up at a federal level

Mounties cover a burgundy truck with a tent at Buckerfields in West Kelowna on Monday, June 14. The RCMP is investigating after a woman’s body was found inside the truck. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
West Kelowna RCMP investigating suspicious death after body found in truck

Police responded to a truck parked out front of a Main Street business where the body was found

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Most Read