Multigenerational music appreciation for Canadian rockers Harlequin

Harlequin bass player Chris burke-Gaffney performs at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre as part of the EAR Candy Music Festival. -- Photo by Marjorie Roden

Rarely does a band come into existence that every generation in a family can appreciate, but the Winnipeg-based rockers otherwise known as Harlequin did exactly that.

They performed at the Olive and John G. Diefenbaker Theatre on Sunday as the headlining act at the inaugural EAR Candy Music Festival. 

“It was awesome,” 13-year-old Julianna Parenteau said after Sunday night’s show. 

“I was literally smiling the whole time. I loved it, it was so much fun” she added while clutching a guitar pick given to her by Harlequin’s lead guitarist Derrick Gottfried.

Sunday night wasn’t Harlequin’s first time performing in Prince Albert. The group has made several trips to the City, and lead singer George Belanger said they always enjoy playing here.

They’re also happy to be back playing after COVID wiped out so many tour dates.

We did Chester Fest, and I think we’ve played (at the Rawlinson Centre) before,” Belanger said.

 “Everything’s kind of a little strange because of the times now. Covid has really thrown a monkey wrench into everything. You never know what’s going to happen.

Belanger said festivals and tours are starting to make a comeback, but the music scene is still a long way from a full recovery.

“It’s kind of hit and miss,” he explained. “It would have been much nicer if we’d have had more people here tonight, but I think (the audience) had fun, and I had fun, and that’s all that matters, really. 

“Next time, they’ll tell their friends, and bring some more people”

Belanger also recognized the importance of building new festivals and events like EAR Candy.

“You certainly don’t want it (the festival) to go away. You want to encourage it. It’s a great venue, to come to with your friends, and you’ll have a memory together.”

What advice would Belanger offer to any young musicians or music fans for the future?

Harlequin first formed back in 1975. During that time they’ve released six studio albums, one live album, and two compilation albums. While the band has maintained their high-quality sound, Belanger has changed quite a bit from during that time.

 “When I was younger, I was a bit of a snob,” he said. “I liked what I liked, and if you didn’t like what I liked, you were out! As I grew, and my tastes were a little more refined, I was a little more open-minded. I realized I like classical pieces, I like country and western, I like hip hop, and I started liking disco and these things that were ‘not cool’ for rock and roll musicians.

“I like I learned to appreciate all kinds of music. Every song has something. If it’s not the lyrics, it’s the melody. If it’s not the melody, it’s the beat. There’s different ways to appreciate music. 

“You’ve got to open up your brain and all your senses and just let go. Just lie with people, they may look different, but inside, we’re all the same.”

Harlequin didn’t just draw music fans on Sunday, they had a few local musicians in the crowd as well. Country music legend Donny Parenteau was in the crowd with his family watching one of his favourite bands. He said it was great to be able to share this music with his kids.

“I know George, and I know the group, but when I started listening to them, I was 13 years old,” he said. “For my daughter to be here tonight to watch her first concert of Harlequin at thirteen, it’s surreal but absolutely beautiful.”