A journey through the music of New York

By JT McVeigh, The Enterprise-Bulletin

Micah Barnes wants to take you on a New York journey.


Home of some of world’s great music – jazz, Broadway musicals, doo-wop – Barnes is exploring that journey with his recently released New York Stories and that is what he is bringing to the Historic Gayety Theatre and Theatre Collingwood April 21.

And he knows of what he sings.

If the name Micah Barnes sounds familiar, you’re likely a fan of the Nylons. Barnes was a member of the popular Canadian a cappella pop group from 1989 to 1996. Afterward, he launched himself as a solo artist, establishing himself as a jazz-oriented singer-songwriter who dips into blues and R&B.

“What we are bringing to Collingwood is a live show version of my latest record. We take the audience on a whirlwind tour of musical history in New York. The fun in that is that aside from New York being a romantic destination, it is so rich in musical history,” said Barnes. “The beginnings of rock and roll happened in the doo-wop era and, being a former Nylon, we were into that and all the jazz standards that started out as Broadway tunes. I love looking at that canon for inspiration.”

Part of a cross-country tour supporting the album, Barnes is looking forward to playing at the Gayety.

“I have been to the Gayety before as an audience member because I have family who live in the area,” said Barnes. “I love the historic theatres. I don’t know what it is – you get that sense of theatrical history, vaudeville and the old companies that used to perform there. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

What Barnes has found so far with his show, which has just finished up the western leg of the tour, is how deep appreciation of the music goes with his audiences.

“I don’t like singing just one type of song. I know being part of the Nylons that audiences are attached to lyric, harmony and melody and we want to feel good. So, I try to honour that in the concert these days,” Barnes said.

And he watches the audience closely.

“The guys in the band – their job is to play their instruments; I play the audience. My job is to listen and be in a relationship with them and they will tell you how you’re doing if you are listening,” said Barnes.

When Barnes isn’t performing or writing, he is teaching, developing a reputation as one of the best voice coaches in the country. His coaching credentials include Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CBC TV show, How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria, and the original cast of Tomson Highway’s The Rez Sisters. He has coached cast members of Mirvish’s The Sound Of Music and Broadway’s Priscilla Queen of the Desert as well as voice coach to Tatiana Maslany from the Emmy-winning show Orphan Black.

“I have two full-time jobs. I teach privately. I teach in-group sessions when I am on tour and I am on the faculty at Seneca College. The coaching is something that is very important to me. I just love it. I think it is my calling to prepare the next generation for whatever is coming in the music industry.”

Despite the other job, Barnes still finds being on stage is what gives him a thrill.

“I am constantly amazed how a piece of music can find itself lodged deeply in the listener’s heart and imagination and how a piece of music will bring back a memory or a feeling that we had in a certain time in our live,” said Barnes.

Micah Barnes New York Stories plays at the Historic Gayety Theatre April 21. For tickets, call 705-445-2200 or visit theatrecollingwood.ca.


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