It is well known that Merritt, B.C. is the Country Music Capital of Canada.
Home to not only the Country Music Hall of Fame but also the Merritt Walk of Stars where downtown sidewalks boast the hand prints of more than 70 international country music stars and larger-than-life murals of the hottest country acts.
However there is a push to make the Country Music Hall of Fame into a national institution and international tourist destination.
To this end a series of new initiatives have been launched starting with the Then and Now concert series.
The concert series will feature award winning stars in the country music industry including Aaron Pritchett, The Washboard Union, Jackson Hollow, Kenny Hess, Becca Hess and Maple Ridge’s own One More Girl who will be performing music from the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame song book in addition to their own songs.
Fans can expect to hear classics by Ian Tyson, Michelle Wright, Sylvia Tyson, Gary Fjellgaard and Murray McLaughlin among others.
Carly McKillip and her sister Britt who make up One More Girl will be singing Take It Like A Man by country singing sensation Michelle Wright.
“It was one of her biggest hits,” explained Carly.
“And I’m very excited about it because of course we grew up listening to Michelle Wright music and singing along to her songs on the radio,” she said referencing her sister as well, who is currently in Tbilisi, Georgia filming a movie.
“This is a really cool exciting show because it is paying homage to the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame,” she continued adding that it will be a unique opportunity to see new country artists in a different light.
Carly believes the concert is a great way to introduce and showcase the classic songs to younger generations and introduce them to the artists whose footsteps they are following in.
In fact, the McKillip sisters, who will be travelling to Nashville at the end of October to work on their new album that they are planning to release in the spring of 2018, had a difficult time picking a song to sing because the collection of music is so vast.
They chose the Michelle Wright song because it is a country song through-and-through and also because they like the story, the melody and the “chorus is kind of timeless”.
In addition to Take It Like A Man the sisters will be performing one of their own songs called Love Like Mine and they will also be performing a duet with Aaron Pritchett of the Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes hit Up Where We Belong.
Their father, country music artist Tom McKillip ,has performed with Ian Tyson for more than 20 years and knows quite a few of the Hall of Fame artists from working with them over the years. He believes they deserve recognition.
“We’re really not doing much about it right now,” he said of the Canadian industry.
”So we decided to take on this task of making it a national institution and not just a Hall of Fame that’s in Merritt British Columbia,” said McKillip who is the artistic director of the Then and Now concert series.
In the works will also be a Then and Now compilation album to be released at the September 2018 CCMA’s in Hamilton, ON. Participants in this project will include Buffy St. Marie, Family Brown, The Good Brothers, Wendell Ferguson, Gary Fjellgaard, and Murray McLaughlin along with Chad Brownlee, Kelly Prescott, Beverley Mahood, Gord Bamfors and Jess Moskaluke.
Other initiatives by the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame will be live radio shows and the installation of an interactive display screen system at the Hall of Fame location in Merritt where they will also be modernizing other displays and incorporating youth training and employment.
For Carly the concert is important because this is where the current country music stars have risen from.
“These are artists that my generation and the generations that are going to come after me may not get a chance to be introduced to. They may not get a chance to listen to that music and find out about those artists,” she said.
“I think it’s a really great opportunity for us to learn from them and also it’s a great opportunity for us to teach the younger audiences about these artists. It’s a learning experience for us and a teaching experience all at the same time,” she added saying that this concert will be about the music.
“It’s going to be an intimate opportunity for the artists and the fans to kind of connect.”
The Then and Now concert series takes place at 7 p.m. on Oct. 1 at the Clarke Theatre at 33700 Prentis Ave. in Mission.
Tickets are $25 and available at the box office or at khpproductions.com.
For more information go to ccmhalloffame.com.