In the words of the Irish Rovers: wasn’t that a party?
The JUNO Awards were celebrated in Ottawa (appropriately, the nations capital) on March 30 – April 2. This was my first time attending, so I wanted to enjoy every minute of it, and what better way than to surround myself with people I love?! So I brought my partner, my best friend, and my sister along for the ride.
The adventure began with a quick trip to pick up my outfit from Atelier Umetsu (thanks to Rosemarie Umetsu for the fabulous design!) and then we were on our way! My partner and I arrived on Thursday afternoon, checked into the hotel, and then headed out for the final quiet night of the weekend, which included a fabulous “date night” dinner and walk around the Byward Market – one of my favourite parts of Ottawa. Along the way, I might have found one or two things that caught my eye … including the most beautiful Fluevog store!!!
The next day, the fun began early. I woke ahead of the sun, and headed out to do some media appearances in support of the JUNO Jazz Mashup that Matt Dusk, Barbra Lica, and I recorded a while back. First, it was off to CBC Radio for CBC Ottawa Morning. Then, I enjoyed a leisurely walk back to the Market, just in time to grab another well-needed coffee and meet at the CTV studios where we had a fantastic time performing and hanging with the hosts (who even invited us to stick around with them while they signed off!). (Click HERE to see the performance.)
After that, there was a little time to relax, pick up some supplies for the hotel room, and wait for the gang to arrive. First it was my pal Kylie, whom I call my “Soul Scat Sister”. Kylie and I went to U of T and were the only two vocalists in the same year at the Jazz Studies Department together. We were in the Beehive Singers together, have recorded together, toured Canada together, and have probably survived this business because of each other. So she didn’t hesitate to tell me that she’d be joining me for the weekend. A little later, my sister Karen arrived. Karen has been living in Washington for 7 or 8 years, now, and flew up especially to be with me for this JUNO weekend. She used to live in Ottawa, so it was also a chance for her to connect with some old friends. Once Karen and Kylie arrived, we broke out the champagne, helped each other make some final outfit decisions, and then hopped in a limo to head to the JUNO Opening Cocktail reception at the National Art Gallery.
This was the official launch of JUNO weekend festivities and featured several of the nominees, as well as a bunch of industry people, all in a gorgeous foyer at the National Art Gallery. Because TD bank was one of the sponsors, we walked the “Green Carpet” and then posed for a bunch of photos. This was my first taste of this sort of media attention and it was VERY cool! First, a JUNO staff member walked in front of the photographers holding a white board with each nominee’s name on it. Then, we – the nominees – followed our names and did the ol’ “Step and Repeat”, which is what they call the stopping and posing you do for photographers / media sources. Not to sound all “green” and stuff, but this was so cool!!! It was kinda neat hearing photographers calling out: “Heather – over here!”, asking you to face them for a good shot.
We had a cocktail or two, chatted with a few people there (including fellow-Newf, Kim Stockwood, and the Dean of Canadian Jazz, Phil Nimmons), and then hopped back in the limo to head to LIVE on Elgin for my JUNOFest performance. I was so excited to play with my pal David Braid, again. David is a two-time JUNO winner, and was nominated again this year in the Best Instrumental Recording for Flow. Playing with him was just like old-times and felt so good! We did a terrific set and then relaxed to enjoy some of the other performances, and catch up with some old friends, including a couple of great pals with whom I’d gone to high school and university in Newfoundland, who were now living in Ottawa. All in all, our first day of JUNO weekend was a good one!
The next day started slowly with a leisurely breakfast – and LOTS of coffee – and then some prepping for our make-up application. I’d booked a fabulous make-up artist, Klava Zykova, to do all of our make-up for the Gala Awards Dinner that evening. Klava created four completely different looks and did it all brilliantly! We had an amazing afternoon of good times, laughter, champagne, and make-up! So “girly” and so much fun!!!
Once our make-up was done, and we were dressed in our outfits, we headed out to the big JUNO Awards Gala Dinner at the Shaw Centre. I have to say: we all looked terrific!! First things first: I was to walk the Red Carpet with another “step and repeat”, which I totally had down, by now! 😉 After that, I was whisked back to a room for more photos to be taken in a couple of “pop-up photo studios”. From there, I joined the girls, and we gathered in the foyer outside of the ballroom where the dinner was to take place. I saw many of my fellow Jazz-nominees, with whom I shared hugs and congratulatory wishes. We’re a small relatively small community, and we were all simply thrilled for one another!
One of the highlights of the evening came when I met a Canadian music legend, whose music I’d recorded on my CD: Bruce Cockburn! My sister spotted him and his manager, Bernie Finkelstein, and approached them to introduce us. Bruce was so gracious, saying that he enjoyed my version of “Lovers In A Dangerous Time” and posing for a picture with me while I tried not to gush too much!! (He even said he enjoyed listening to me on JAZZ.FM. Whaaaat?!?!)
Eventually, we entered the main ballroom for the Awards Dinner. Each place setting featured wonderful souvenirs, courtesy of CARAS / the JUNOs, to commemorate the evening. We met the others who were sitting at our table, including someone from the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, and fellow Jazz-nominee Mike Janzen. We saw and chatted with various other folks we’d spotted around us, including the gang from Splash ‘n’ Boots and Diana Panton (both of whom were nominated in the Children’s Music category), and a few others, as well.
A little over an hour and a half into the dinner, the Vocal Jazz Recording of the Year category was announced. I must admit: by this time, in my head I had ventured a guess as to who was going to win the JUNO, but I also thought we had a pretty good shot at it. I was very happy for Bria Skonberg, who won the JUNO for her recording Bria. This is a great and very deserving record! I was proud to have been included in the category and was more than proud to hear my name announced over the loud speaker with all the others. Win or lose, it was really kinda cool!!
Once the awards were done, we headed over to the Chateau Laurier to meet up with our friend (and incredible Canadian musician, herself) Margo Timmins. Margo and her husband (Graham Henderson, of Music Canada) toasted our weekend and shared a few stories with us. We were eventually joined by a few other folks, including Eleanor McCain and Ron White (both of whom are lovely) and we all toasted this year’s awards. It was a terrific way to end the night! Or, at least, it WOULD have been a terrific way to end this night … but that’s not exactly how the night ended!!
After walking my sister outside to hail a cab, I turned to walk back into the Chateau Laurier, not paying enough attention to the cobblestone driveway on which I was walking, and “rolled” my ankle! Fortunately, the martinis I’d just had helped numb the pain … at least at that point. Let me tell you: the next morning, there was NOTHING numb about it!!! Clearly, I’d sprained my ankle, and had done a good job of it, too!! Sadly, there’d be no red carpet walking for me that evening. In fact, there was no walking at all!!! We packed up our stuff, hobbled into the car, and took a nice, scenic route back to Toronto.
The return trip was filled with more laughter and lots of chatter about how much fun we’d all had that weekend. I can’t think of a better group of people to have shared the event with, and I’m so grateful to them for having made the trip with me. I’m a very lucky gal: doing what I love, being honoured for what I do, and sharing the accomplishments with the people that I love. Nope … it doesn’t get much better than this!
Through it all, I received so many notes, messages, e-mails, social media posts, phone calls, and more, from family and friends all sending wishes of luck and congratulations. To everyone who did that, I say: THANK YOU! You have no idea how much it meant to me!
Win or lose, sprained ankle or not, I had a GREAT TIME at my first JUNO Awards. I have to say: I think I did it up right!!