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Assiniboia ready for a country music celebration

SCMA awards come to the Southland Co-op Centre this weekend.

ASSINIBOIA — It’s going to be a party the likes of which Assiniboia and area has never seen.

“We’re so proud of what our community has accomplished, and we just love to show it off,” said Stephanie VanDeSype, Recreation and Community Wellness Manager for the Town of Assiniboia. “It is a ton of work, but it will be so worth it!”

The 34th edition of the Saskatchewan Country Music Association awards will be televised live on Saturday night, at the Southland Co-op Centre. Prior to the main event is the Stars and Guitars banquet at the Prince of Wales Cultural Centre on Thursday night, then a concert and cabaret on Friday featuring special guests The Washboard Union.

Indeed, the chance to host a major event like the SCMA awards is a rare honour for smaller centres, but with the new Southland Co-op Centre, the show is poised to be the first of many.

It’s not just locals who are excited for the big show happening on June 10, but those involved in the music industry as well.

Regina-based musician JJ Voss is no stranger to the awards, having accumulated a fair collection over the years and is up for nomination in five categories this go-round. He’s also the main performer of the Stars and Guitars show on Thursday night.

“It feels really good,” he said when asked about being nominated for such an award. “It feels great when your peers give you a pat on the back and recognize that you’re putting in the work.”

Voss also noted that from a business standpoint, such recognition can be very powerful and validating for the public.

“The members of the SCMA have been generous with me over the last few years,” Voss said, adding that he tries to give back through encouraging fellow artists as well.

The SCMA is a non-profit organization, devoted to the promotion of country music in our province at the local, national and international levels. For new and established artists alike, this level of notoriety is crucial for their careers - especially post-pandemic as artists can finally return to traditional live shows and tours.

Hal Schrenk grew up in Assiniboia and will be quite busy this week. He’s not only the music director, but also behind the drum kit during Friday night’s cabaret and the televised gala.

“It’s going to be a great show - Assiniboia knows how to do it up! Everybody’s excited,” Schrenk said, adding that he’s excited to “come back home.”

The quest before Schrenk is learning the sheer amount of material that a dozen artists require during the various events for which he’ll be providing the backbeat. Just getting through a practice of going through the playlist once takes between four and five hours, but it is a challenge this humble professional eagerly embraces.

“It’s sort of like reading a book,” Schrenk explained. “After a while, you can recognize common themes and passages that help you, but you still get thrown a curve.”

Of course, there are other tools such as a self-developed shorthand notation system, technological resources, and reviewing the music. Ultimately, it’s the sweet spot familiar to all musicians - being in “the zone” - that is the goal.

“If you can get to that meditative state and still be conscious enough that you don’t mess up the arrangement - and stay in that meditative state - that’s where you want to be,” Schrenk said. “And if you can be there as a band, then it becomes magical. It’s my favourite place to be!”

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