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Contenders coming back to Kamloops
It all began with an acoustic guitar.
A Martin D18, to be specific, an instrument Gary Fjellgaard’s wife bought for him.
Fjellgaard loved the instrument — most who own Martins do — and wrote a song about it back in 1976.
He recorded it, it got airplay and moved on with his own music career.
Until one day he heard his song, Me and Mr. Martin, being performed by someone else, singer-songwriter Valdy.
Intrigued, he made it a point to eventually meet Valdy — born Paul Valdemar Horsdal — “and that started a friendship that has gone on a long time,” Fjellgaard said.
It also led to the creation of the Contenders annual tour that comes to Kamloops again this year, the 13th time, for a show at Sagebrush Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 2, at 7:30 p.m.
The name of the tour also comes from the friendship the two have shared for decades — and another song Fjellgaard wrote.
When the two first started to perform together, they found themselves with sold-out shows “and Valdy and I were talking and he said that maybe we should take this thing into the studio and record something.
“So, I wrote a song, The Contenders, in anticipation of going into the studio, and we decided to use it for our tours.”
The show is as comfortable as a visit from a favourite uncle, with each performer taking the spotlight on their own and then the two of them coming together occasionally.
They’ll perform some favourites and there’s always some storytelling, an essential for them.
“Sometimes we dig up songs we haven’t done for a while, too,” Fjellgaard said.
Much of this is built on the genuine friendship the two share.
“When I think about it, we’ve never had a serious disagreement ever,” he said.
“Maybe that’s from our mutual respect, I don’t know. But we’ve never had one.”
They’ve always performed their tours as a fundraiser for the George Ryga Centre in Summerland, which announced it was closing last year. The building is still for sale, Fjellgaard said, and once it is sold, the society that turned the playwrite’s home into a cultural centre and writers’ retreat will fold.
“This is the second year we haven’t done this for the Ryga centre,” Fjellgaard said, “so Valdy and I will get to keep some of the money now.”
Tickets are at the Kamloops Live box office, 1025 Lorne St., 250-374-5483, kamloopslive.ca.