The 11th annual Cowboy Christmas Concert coming up Saturday, Nov. 21 is dedicated completely to local talent this year, featuring the fast-paced poetry of Frank Gleeson and the musical stylings of Bernadette Ducharme, Iris Witte, and The Perfect Match.
Iris Witte describes herself as just a little country girl who enjoys chopping wood, cooking on a wood stove and singing her heart out when driving vehicles in rough terrain.
“For a lot of years I didn’t have a vehicle that could keep a muffler on so I just sang,” Witte says. “You couldn’t hear me anyway.”
But those who know Witte and her singing, describe her as one of the Cariboo Chilcotin’s hidden gems.
Witte bought her first second-hand guitar at age 14 with wages earned helping with a trail ride that summer for Red and Dionne Allison at Riske Creek where she was raised. She continues to live, work and ranch at the Circle A Ranch at Big Creek with her husband, Duane Mulvahill. .
“I mostly sing to myself,” Witte says, adding she has no particular favourite songs.
“My favourite song is the one I am learning at the moment. I like lots of songs. It’s amazing what people write.”
Perfect Match, WITH Cindy Lightfoot and LeRae Haynes, is a dance band duo that is easy on the ear and good for the heart.
Their music is characterized by rich vocal harmonies and rollicking piano and crowd-pleasing cover and original tunes.
With Lightfoot on guitar and Haynes on keyboard, and both singing in rich vocal harmony their performances include toe-tapping, popular cover tunes, and their lively original songs that include Here I Am, Cariboo Pantleg Polka and Stop on the Bridge.
Playing dance music from the 30s and 40s right to the present, Perfect Match performs on stages and festivals throughout the Cariboo Chilcotin and beyond.
They can be found at community at events such as the Stampede Street Party, regular dances at the Royal Canadian Legion, Performances in the Park and more.
They volunteer their talents throughout the area for events such as the ALS Walk, special events at the Seniors Village, the Seniors Winter Games and the Williams Lake SPCA.
They also perform at country/bluegrass festivals around the province, with their strong, blended vocals, full band sound and rollicking piano riffs.
Williams Lake rancher, Frank Gleeson is known as the fastest, funniest, cowboy poet in the west.
His original poems are delivered in an easy going, humorous style.
In 2003 Williams Lake city council declared Gleeson the “official poet of Williams Lake,” and in March 2010, he was inducted into the BC Cowboy Hall of Fame in the artistic category.
Frank writes all of his own material and has five books of poetry and four CDs of his poems and songs to his credit.
Frank has entertained far and wide on both sides of the 49th parallel, and his songs and poems have been played on radio and television throughout Canada, the U.S. and Europe. He has been a feature entertainer many times at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada and at the Kamloops Cowboy Festival.
He has been nominated several times for the Academy of Western Artists Will Rogers poet of the year award several times, finishing among the top five in 2003.
Horsefly’s guitar playing singer/songwriter Bernadette Ducharme, has more than 100 songs to her credit, some of them on her new country CD Pieces of Me.
Ducharme, who has performed at many festivals including Horsefly’s Arts on the Fly loves a great audience. In addition to writing her own songs she happily co-writes with other artists including her poet Mom and Horsefly cowboy poet, Bruce Ralph, whose poems are both featured on Pieces of Me.
Ducharme was the first place winner of the Northern Star Competition last year in Barkerville and was a runner up in the Spirit of the West Rising Star Showcase at the Kamloops Cowboy Festival last March.
She has played at music festivals, weddings, funerals, birthday parties, open mics, and more.
Her latest project is recording her first Gospel album.
The Cowboy Christmas Concert is hosted by the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin and takes place at the Gibraltar Room Saturday, Nov. 21 starting at 7 p.m. with doors opening at 6:30 p.m.
Concert tickets are $15 and available at the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin and will also be available during the Cowboy Christmas Craft Sale and Auction also taking place at the Gibraltar Room, Nov. 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Entry to the craft fair is free and also features an open mic and Chuckwagon Concession all day.