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Folk music tour bringing artists to rural Alberta

Posted on March 21, 2024 by Taber Times

By Heather Cameron
Taber Times
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Home Routes/Chemin Chez Nous is promoting local concerts for several artists in the near future.

Kitty and the Rooster will perform in Taber on April 6, and in Coaldale on April 7.

Leonard Podolak, Executive Director and Co-Artistic Director for Home Routes, says that tickets for the Raymond and Coaldale Kitty and the Rooster concerts can be reserved at https://homeroutes.ca/artists/kitty-and-the-rooster.

J.D. Edwards, Podolak says, will also be performing under Home Routes in Taber on May 5 and in Coaldale on May 7. Tickets for those concerts, Podolak says, can be reserved at https://homeroutes.ca/artists/jdedwards/. 

Podolak says that Home Routes is an organization that was founded in 2007 by his parents, his late father Mitch Podolak who passed away in 2019, and his mother, Ava Kobrinsky. His father, Podolak said, was the founder of the Winnipeg Folk Festival and also the Vancouver Folk Festival, and in 1980, he ran a tour that started off at the first annual Calgary Folk Festival and ended at the first annual Edmonton Folk Festival that had about a third of the lineup of each of those festivals. After doing all those things, they opened up a cultural center in Winnipeg called the West End Cultural Center, Podolak said. And 20 years after that they started Home Routes due to the lack of folk music infrastructure in Canada. 

“They came up with this idea of recruiting movers and shakers in different towns to donate their time and their houses and transform them into little mini concert venues and invite the neighbours and their circle of friends and their work colleagues,” said Podolak. “They would put up a few posters around town, and we had to have a set up on our website for if a member of the public wants to come, they can find out about it, but it was really meant to operate in the woodwork, transcending all the tropes of the music business, you know, not involving booking agents, not doing mainstream advertising. There was no social media. It was all just completely underground. And for many years, it worked very well. It was a new thing and, and completely different than anything else, but the world kind of changed and technology sort of became the way that ideas got moving.”

Podolak says that when he started with Home Routes in 2016, there was no Facebook page, so he decided to implement one because he wanted to make the tours into real career building opportunities.

“We’ve started to use that to advertise and to act more like presenters do typically, but still maintain this kind of underground culture and execution of the endeavour,” said Podolak. “During the pandemic, we went from doing all these tours to doing concerts online, and doing ticketed shows on Zoom, and that was very successful. And then we really saw the benefit of marketing and doing press releases.”

The whole point of Home Routes, Podolak says, is two-fold.

“It’s to create more infrastructure and uplift folk musicians mainly from Canada, but in the wider diaspora as well,” said Podolak. “And also to use that as an excuse for a local mover and shaker to bring the community together and uplift the community a bit with a cultural experience that otherwise is sort of a bit harder to come by in communities that are sort of off the beaten path of the mainstream music scene where artists typically get booked.”

Home Routes, Podolak says, is funded by the Government of Canada.

When the organization started, Podolak said, they were just looking at the map and picking towns and calling the local librarians and asking everybody in town, “This is what we’re trying to do. Who’s the local mover and shaker? Who should we call in this community to get behind this? And they’d say, let me think about. Oh, I know who would get into this,” and we were literally cold calling, just places that we thought were interesting, and that had a critical mass of people. Over the years it built up. The next thing Home Routes knew, Polodak said, there was a dozen or so tours. 

“The way we pick hosts is, if we believe based on what they’ve told us and shown us that they have a community, a circle in the community, that they have the willingness to,” said Podolak. “The other thing that happens, too, is the artists all stay with the hosts, right? And the hosts are responsible to accommodate the artists and to feed them dinner and breakfast. And it’s all volunteer. It’s an amazing thing. The artists move in with the family for a night essentially, and they immerse themselves into the town as much as possible. We also try to set up workshops for the artists to go into schools or to play at a senior center and to just try to be in the community a bit, not just do the gig and dash out. We can’t set that up everywhere, but that’s sort of what our goal is: to create kind of like this slow touring platform to make it so that it’s a really meaningful experience for the artist to come into the town. We’re all very happy to be a part of the greater culture of Canada, and they’re also excited to experience other cultures as anyone else.”

Part of the Home Routes tour, Lynne Hanson already performed on March 1 in Raymond and March 2 in Coaldale.

For more information about Home Routes and their shows, visit: https://homeroutes.ca/. 

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