Alana Levandoski, Turners Hill House Concerts (Sussex, UK. 1/19/13)
Manitoba native, Alana Levandoski, spent five months of 2011 on a music pilgrimage. She drove away from heartache, loss and financial ruin without any particular agenda except to immerse herself in the music of the communities living along her route – from Newfoundland to New Orleans. Relying on the goodwill of friends and people she met on her journey for board, she met many interesting characters and wrote a memoir I Am a Sparrow: a woman’s music pilgrimage from Newfoundland to New Orleans depicting her experiences. Her story shows how music has the power to heal; how women over centuries have longed to ‘fly’ away from daily struggle and how in the end Levandoski’s solo pilgrimage was the beginning of a new chapter in her life.
An album of music comprising self-penned songs and interpretations of traditional folk songs, accompany the book. A central theme is one of ‘flying away’ and during tonight’s show many of the album tracks were performed. Levandoski interjected the songs with stories in which she laid bare, the hardships she has personally faced during the past few years. Whilst her voice, at times, quivered with emotion she was able to show that the literal and metaphorical journey she had been on, her story of finding strength through adversity, is one familiar to many.
For the current tour of Europe, Levandoski invited the young award-winning fiddle player, and guitarist, Braden Gates, to accompany her. Joining in, he lent his fiddle skills to many of the songs; not only that but he opened the evening with a set of his own material – autobiographical songs reflecting life and times in his home of Fort Saskatchewan. Throughout the evening, they complemented each other well and held the audience’s attention throughout.
The mood was lightened with a cover of Whip My Hair a song that was a big US hit for young Willow Smith as well as extending an invitation to the audience to clap along to the gospel standard When The Saints Go Marching In.
Writing songs ‘on demand’ is a skill that Levandoski has developed and my favourite song of the evening was one that she had co-written with a man whose ‘bid’ for her at a charity event was successful. With just an hour to write a song and then perform it in front of an audience, she asked him to tell her about something in his life that he regretted. As a fourteen-year-old boy he attended a dance and turned down a request from a young girl to dance with her – it was only years later that he appreciated what courage it had taken her to ask him to dance and how crushed she was by his refusal.
Levandoski may have regrets of her own but seems to have found happiness after sadness; she spoke about a new relationship, a new home and a renewed enthusiasm for life as a travelling musician. Long may she continue to journey along this happier path. Jela Webb