by Danielle Marion
2014 has been a busy year for Winnipeg’s JP Hoe. He played a number of festivals during the summer including The Winnipeg Folk Fest, toured England with 2012’s Mannequin and has recently began recording his new album with acclaimed musician and producer Rusty Matyas. To wrap up the year, he returned to the Burton Cummings Theatre for the ninth JP Hoe, Hoe, Hoe Holiday Show.
JP’s Holiday Show has become a holiday tradition amongst Winnipegers. Although there is an impressive assortment of “bonuses” (think costumes, cameos and elaborate stage décor) that thrill children and adults alike, the real focus of the evening is the music. JP plays holiday classics, unexpected covers and his own material with as many musicians as he can fit on one stage. Each year it feels like he manages to add a few more details to make each one more special than the last, and this year the most notable addition was holding the event in support of The Christmas Cheer Board.
“To be honest, this was the first time it was logistically possible” explains JP, “But I am really glad that we are able to make it work”. The idea came to him this summer, and he went to work securing sponsorships from Bell Media and Sobeys in order to be able to donate a portion of each ticket sale to the Cheer Board. By nearly selling out the Burton Cummings Theatre, this event can quickly make the holidays brighter for many Winnipeg families. As always, JP is looking ahead to the future with the goal of one day gaining enough support that the entire proceeds could be donated to the cause.
The holidays are all about getting together with the people you love, and that couldn’t be more evident in the Holiday Show. It is telling that the audience is made up of people of all ages, with everyone in the family able to enjoy the show together. On stage, it is just as obvious that this is an opportunity for everyone to come together. All of the musicians (this year there were 15 on stage at all times and another 16 involved at my count) seem genuinely happy to be there and to have a part in everything that JP has up his sleeve.
Community in general, and family in particular are hugely important to JP. When we sat down to talk a few days before the show, he reflected on the way that fatherhood has sharpened his perspective. He knows what an uncertain path music can be and that if it ever came down to choosing one or the other, it would be easy to put his family first. For the second time, his son, Parker, was a part of the show this year and although the song is beautiful, as soon as Parker toddled onto the stage, everyone’s attention was on him as JP sang the song he’d wrote about him. The sense of community surrounding JP and his family was palpable, and it is clear that JP is aware and grateful for this as well.
All of the people on stage (and behind it) work very hard to make the Holiday Show a reality, but in the end, the final decisions lie with JP.
“My friends know that I go a bit nuts this week” JP laughs. “Luckily they’re all willing to go with it”. It’s no surprise that he puts a lot of pressure on himself in the lead up to the show. He has found over the years that he is only able to make final decisions regarding the production under pressure, and that leaves a lot of details to iron out in a short span of time.
For a show this elaborate, the list of details must seem endless. He has to commit to a set list, including a mix of the staples (a mixture of songs off the Hoe, Hoe, Hoe EP and classics) and requests from his friends, like reviving “that one song we played six years ago”. He also invites other musicians to play throughout the night (this year, The Small Glories, The University Singers and Fred Penner). Then comes the production side, including sets, decorations, costumes and a photo of Jennifer Jones and Jeff Stoughton and laser beams for a curling-inspired rendition of “We Built This City”.
“I just love kitsch” JP laughs. It is these kinds of warm and silly details that make the Holiday Show so special. There is no concern about looking cool here – this year alone had JP dressed as a snowflake, singing Spice Girls and chatting with a lumberjack after “The Log Driver’s Waltz”. Instead, it is a gathering of people sincerely having fun and kicking off the holiday season with a show that has something for everyone. Here’s looking forward to everything 2015 has in store for JP, including the tenth edition of the Hoe, Hoe, Hoe Holiday Show!
The Holiday Show took place December 20, 2014. Fans will be happy to know that there is a new album in the works, set to be released mid 2015.