When Fawn Fritzen’s new CD, Pairings, debuts at the Old Fire Hall on Saturday, it won’t be your typical Whitehorse album launch. For one thing, many of those in attendance already have a connection to the project as contributors to Fritzen’s effort to underwrite the album’s cost by using social media to appeal for financial support.
“Involving people in a crowdfunding campaign, and showing where all the expenses are, is engaging in multiple ways,” the Whitehorse singer says. “It’s really powerful, not just because it helps me to actually be able to create the recording, but it lets people be a part of it and see why it’s valuable beyond the artistic, creative part of it.”
By raising nearly $14,000 of her initial $16,000 goal through crowdfunding, Fritzen was able to complete the 12-track project that involved two Whitehorse studios and one in Toronto, and had been in the works for nearly three years. Her 2013 inaugural album, Bedroom Voice, had cost nearly $18,000 to produce. Apart from a $5,000 matching grant from the Yukon Film and Sound Commission, much of it had come from her own pocket.
Another factor that will set the upcoming launch apart is the way the CD’s theme of “pairings” is reflected in the evening’s festivities themselves.Local wine aficionado Peter Turner has been recruited to select distinct wines that reflect five of the album’s songs, which attendees who purchase the $50 wine ticket can sample as they listen to Fritzen and her musical collaborators.
“I’m just excited to see what he comes up with. Like, what’s the story of this wine, and what’s the story of this song? And finding ways of matching them up that way,” Fritzen says. “In order to have five samples, there’s kind of an order that you need to have. You want to start with a lighter-tasting wine and progress to bolder ones as your palate can handle it. So that will affect the programming.
“I’ll play a couple of tunes to kind of start out the evening, and then Peter will talk about the first wine and that will be served. Once the wine is poured and he is done talking, people can sip the wine and enjoy it and the song together.”
In addition, Mike Boudreau of Bella Fine Dining will be offering hors d’oeuvres designed to match the wine selections.
“Logistically, this is quite a complex evening. I’m still wrapping my head around it,” Fritzen admits. She’s even gone so far as to make 100 distinctive wine charms so patrons can tell their glasses apart.
“And I’m getting five volunteers to serve the wine, because we don’t want to have people shuffling, getting up to get their wine and going back. That creates too much chaos.”
The idea of pairing wine and song originated with Fritzen’s husband, Michael Pealow, who suggested the possibility for the launch of her earlier album.
“After I released Bedroom Voice, I would get pictures from fans, and very often it would be a picture of the CD with a glass of wine, or a bottle of wine. So I thought everybody felt it needed to be paired with wine. Red wine, usually.”
That concept led directly to Fritzen’s decision to compile an album of duos with a variety of different musicians and call it Pairings. As with her first CD, it includes four original tunes, with lyrics in three of the four languages she speaks (English, French and German – there is nothing in her mother tongue of Mandarin).
One of those songs, “Make It a Double,” was inspired by Calgary singer Tim Tamashiro’s observation that jazz music is either “thinky or drinky.”
Another duet on the album is with Toronto vocalist Steve Amirault that will doubtless remind listeners of the Frank Sinatra classic, “One for My Baby.”
The album also contains distinctive treatments of some jazz chestnuts, including the 1925 show tune, “Tea for Two,” which pairs Fritzen’s voice with piano work by Whitehorse musician Daniel Janke that “gives a kind of weird, dissonant edginess, but it’s still really sweet.”
Besides collaborating on several of the tunes as both a performer and engineer, Janke also mixed the album. The album also offers a haunting, voice-and-drums rendering of Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine” featuring Calgary percussionist Karl Schwonik and a version of Irving Berlin’s “Always,” arranged by David Restivo for solo voice and alto, tenor and baritone sax.
Fritzen also teams up with the saxophone trio on a lesser-known Guess Who number, “Straighten Out,” and with Toronto’s George Koller on two of her own numbers, “Do Do Do” and “Just a Little Dance.”
Fritzen’s partner on her original, “La tête dans la lune” and Cleo Laine’s “Lies of Handsome Men,” is award-winning guitarist Reg Schwager.
Pairings will be released at the Old Fire Hall on Saturday, April 30 with two concerts, at 6 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. Tickets are available at Dean’s Strings.
Following the launch, Fritzen leaves for a five-stop tour in southern Ontario and Québec.