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Gil's Hootenanny: Labour Day 2021. Screenshot from YouTube

Gil’s Hootenanny celebrates its 13th year singing songs of hope and protest—05.01.22

By Shireen Agharazi-Dormani on April 28, 2022



Music involves much more than just one’s ears: It also needs heart, and people who offer theirs up create a community. Regardless of whether we can go out with fewer restrictions or not, that sense of togetherness will always be needed.

The 13th annual Gil’s Hootenanny will take place on May 1, 2022, at 2pm. This annual May Day singalong is a tribute to Gil Levine, the founding Director of Research at the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). He was a great lover of folk music and an enthusiastic supporter of folk musicians, and spent his life working for social justice. He believed in the collective power of song to bring people together to speak up and sing out for change.

This year’s headliner is prominent Canadian singer-songwriter James Keelaghan. The show will also shine a spotlight on the legacy of Mi’kmaq singer-songwriter Willie Dunn (1941–2013).

James Keelaghan. Photo provided.


Willie Dunn. Photo provided.

Over the years, Gil’s Hootenanny has seen  more people join the headliner, other featured artists, and the Hootenanny Band in singing along with songs of hope and protest, both new and traditional. Masking and vaccinations, while not mandatory, are encouraged this year, and with the reduction in the number of tickets being sold, audience members are expected to be able to spread out more than in the past.

“We usually have an opening procession of musicians wending their way through the audience,” says Kathy Kennedy, “while this year the musicians will enter the hall near a side door by the stage, away from the audience. We usually have a choir entertaining the audience in the lobby, but the choir will not be performing this year. We [also] traditionally invite volunteers to join the musicians on stage for the finale, which will not be happening this year.”

This, of course, is for everyone’s safety. Performers will be behind plexiglass screens, and audience members will be encouraged to sing along with their masks on.

Helen and Gil Levine. Photo provided.

Kathy isn’t going to let restrictions lessen the experience for anyone attending, though: “We’re looking forward to an exciting in-person comeback with all of the Gil’s Hootenanny ingredients our audiences have come to appreciate and enjoy: Singing songs of hope and protest, celebrating the contributions of working women and men, revelling in the spirit of community, and walking away with a song in every heart.”

The 13th Annual Gil’s Hootenanny takes place May 1, 2022, starting at 2pm, at the RA Centre (Clark Hall), 2451 Riverside Drive. Tickets are $10 cash only (free for children), available online and at Octopus Books.