Beacon Herald Feature

By Brian Shypula
The Beacon Herald (Stratford Ontario), Friday May 7th, 2010

No, there isn’t a toddler touring with Karyn Ellis.

The Toronto singer-songwriter laughs at the question, a reference to the voice at the end of the song “Beauty” on her new CD, “Even Though the Sky Was Falling.”

“He doesn’t know how to drive,” she quipped over a cellphone on her way to teach a music lesson.

The voice belongs to Oscar, her sort-of godchild, who was just three when he lent his voice to the song a year ago. Ellis said she had an idea of a “toddler choir” made up of Oscar’s friends singing the chorus. She got them together but they got a case of stage fright.

“Except for Oscar who stepped up,” she added.

Quirky, whimsical, poetic and sweet describe Ellis’s music. She performs Friday night in Stratford at Foster’s Inn, her first show in town.

Ellis, who studied opera at Queen’s University, said she almost gave up on the music industry in favour of getting a “real” job when a Canada Council grant for composition arrived in answer to an application she’d forgotten about.

It allowed her to put together a supporting case of 16 musicians for the album. The result is a lush, multi-layered sound with horns, strings and even glockenspiel.

Ellis, shortlisted for the Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award and named Humber College’s 2007 Most Original New Voice, is performing solo though.

“It’s basically stripping it down to the song. That’s where I started from when I went into the studio with just these songs and me playing guitar,” she said.

“It’s far more about the vocals and the lyrical content.”

The album was co-produced by Don Kerr, who has also worked with Canadian songsmith Ron Sexsmith.

Ellis is touring with Janine Stoll, who also has a new album.

The show begins at 8 p.m. Admission is a suggested $15.