An atmospheric, nostalgic take on the cabaret

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Courtesy of Katelyn Semple

“Try Your Wings” is an aesthetic ode to family, jazz, and travel

Kaitlyn Semple’s “Try Your Wings” is expected to be a fresh take on the cabaret genre. According to Semple herself, “Try Your Wings” is an “atmospheric cabaret,” with the location providing a necessary extra layer to the work itself.

“Atmospheric because the concert venue will be transformed into a 1960s school room,” Semple said. “Cabaret because stories from my great grandmother’s 1968 travel diary will be told between songs.”

Jazz is a passion of Semple’s, so creating “Try Your Wings” was a fresh take on the jazz format she was excited to explore.

“I found success creating in this format with a show called Speak Easy: At The Syncopation (an evening in the 1920s),” she said. “I created this style of show because I love curating jazz concerts, but I’m also a theatre creature so weaving a narrative between songs is important to me.”

According to Semple, this narrative has a few key elements.

“Try Your Wings brings together two big ideas: the travel stories of Lillian Cornish and the songs of Blossom Dearie and Les Blue Stars.”

“During the 21 monologues, stories from my Great Grandmother Lillian Cornish’s 1968 travel diary are told, complete with her slides from the trip!” Semple explained.

“I hired the brilliant filmmaker and film prof at the U of R Ian Campbell to transfer Lillian’s photos from her travels and create fun and interesting videos to play during the monologues.”

“He’s put together stock 1960s videos with her original content and the result is whimsical and heartfelt.”

There are other tributes in the show was well. “During the 21 songs, we pay tribute to Blossom Dearie and Les Blue Stars,” Semple said.

“Blossom Dearie was a jazz pianist and singer with a career in the cabarets of New York City, London, and Paris from 1950-2000. She passed away in 2009. Her last gig was in 2006 at Danny’s Skylight Room in Manhattan.”

“She was an accomplished jazz pianist and arranger, and sang with a girlish voice. She was a pioneer of the straight tone female jazz singer style. She also created Les Blue Stars in France in the 50s. This group later became the Swingle Singers,”

“You’ve only heard of them if you’re a jazz acapella nerd, which I can proudly say I was super nerdy about in high school.”

For Semple, there are several things she’s excited for regarding the event. In specific: the other local talent involved. “The artists involved are all top-notch local talents. By coming to this event you are supporting local artists as well as brand new local art.”

“First off, I’ve got three extraordinary jazz harmony singers: Leora Joy Perrie, Holly Gilroy, and Tanya Bergen. Tanya’s pulling double duty on this gig as she’s also the piano player! Rounding out the rest of the killer band is Brent Jefferson on Drums, Carter Powley on saxophone, clarinet and jazz flute, and Danny Jones on upright bass.”

But to Semple, “Try Your Wings” is more than just a show.

“This show means a lot to me, First of all, I love my Regina audience. I know them pretty well and can’t wait to share this event with them! I also love local Regina artists and am very excited to introduce Regina to new jazzers and let them bask in the talents of local jazzers they know and love.”

“And lastly, it’s dear to me because I’m embodying my Great Grandmother,” Semple explained. “She was the first person to introduce me to the golden age of musicals. I started borrowing all of her VHS tapes from the time I was nine years old and fell in love with Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Danny Kay, Gene Kelly and more.”

“Great grandma Cornish died when I was 12, but I still vividly remember reading the Egypt passage of her Travel Diary as a homeschooling exercise. It means so much to me to bring her words to life onstage and endow her relationships with her husband, son, and daughter with the love I have for all of them.”

While bringing her great grandmother’s stories to life, Semple said that the planning process also had its fair share of fun. “I got a small grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board to develop this show, which meant that I was able to hire a local designer to collaborate with. I absolutely love the elements of design on stage, and had a clear vision for this piece from the start.”

Luckily for her, Semple said she had Rebecca Donison helping her out as her theatre designer, making the stage design all that she wants it to be.

“We are working together to find ways to show off all the artifacts I have from my great trandma’s trip!”

“She was a good hoarder, as was my mother, as am I, so I’ve actually got ALL her original playbills and maps and brochures from her trip!”

“Many gifts she brought back are still alive and well and will be on display, and she catalogued her life in photo albums which will be on display as well.” Semple says. “Very cool to have the original items from her trip still intact.”

The show is to be an exciting and fresh take on the cabaret scene, and Semple is more than excited to give the one-show-only performance. “Try Your Wings” premiers on Sept. 13 at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:30. It will be held at Le Bistro (3850 Hillsdale St.), and tickets can be purchased online through jazzregina.ca.

“Book your tickets ahead of time as we’re almost sold out!”

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