Bluegrass singer to hold benefit for wildlife centre
Calgary singer-songwriter Berna-Dean Holland, who is steadily making a name for herself in both the Alberta and Canadian music scenes, is planning a concert to benefit the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) this fall.
Holland volunteers a great deal of her time at the AIWC, which is located near Madden and cares for up to 2,000 orphaned and injured animals every year.
When she is not working at the centre, Holland writes and performs a variety of western-inspired music, with styles ranging from bluegrass to folk to alt-country to blues. She performs solo and with her four-piece band, comprised of Jack Loree, Norm Rooke, Sarah Dillman and Jim McLennan, as often collaborates with her husband, Brian and several other musicians.
Most recently, Holland was one of more than 50 acts to perform at the Calgary Stampede’s Western Showcase Window on the West stage, coming back for her second year after making her debut last summer with her band.
Holland performed on July 7 with up-and-coming Calgary bluegrass band Prairie’s Edge, playing a mix of old and new bluegrass songs with a dash of classic country. She said she greatly enjoyed the experience.
“Window on the West is a really great thing because it highlights a lot of local talents and Alberta-based musicians and gives the audience a look at the Alberta music community,” she said.
Holland and Prairie’s Edge have performed together several times in the past, including the Shady Grove Bluegrass Festival and Foothills Bluegrass Music Society Picnic and Concert in Nanton last summer, as well as last year’s AIWC benefit concert.
Born Berna-Dean Gaudry in Red Deer to a Métis father and a Saskatchewan farm-raised mother of Scottish heritage, she spent her childhood moving around to various Alberta and Saskatchewan communities, including Calgary and many prairie towns. She also spent several of her teen years living in Great Britain before returning to Canada to finish high school in Calgary and studying at the University of Lethbridge.
It was during her time in Great Britain that Holland began writing songs and playing guitar at the age of 14, although she didn’t show her talents off to many people.
“I played, but I was a closet musician. I was very shy to do it,” she said.
“It was during my years at university that I started to play a little bit and went out and played here and there with a friend. After that, I sort of had music on the back burner for a lot of years.”
Following graduation from university, Holland began working at the Calgary Zoo as a natural history interpreter before moving up to a position as zookeeper. It was during this time that she began to once again branch out musically.
Holland released her debut album Fledgling in April 2010, gaining radio play in Alberta on CKUA and across Canada on CBC. Her alt-country ballad, “Black Gold” gained a great deal of attention, earning her Best Performance at the 2010 Calgary Folk Music Festival’s songwriting competition. The song was also later included in Playlist for the Planet, a compilation of environmental eco-ballads through the David Suzuki Foundation and CBC Radio 3.
The biggest project currently on her plate is organizing a second benefit concert for the AIWC this October or November, which could feature several musicians and a guest speaker. While the details have not yet been ironed out, more information will soon become available on the AIWC’s website, www.aiwc.ca
For more information on Holland, visit www.berna-deanholland.com