Donny Parenteau was somewhat skeptical at first when organizers of an Ottawa concert asked him whether he could be available for three days even though he was performing on just one of them.
But the 46-year-old Métis musician from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, quickly made himself available though upon hearing more of the concert details. In a historic first, they were inviting him to perform on Parliament Hill on July 1 as part of this year’s Canada Day festivities.
Organizers are anticipating between 60,000 to 75,000 people to attend the free outdoor concerts in the nation’s capital. For starters there will be a noon concert. And there will also be an evening concert, which will include an extravagant fireworks display. The concerts will be broadcast nationally on CBC’s television and radio networks.
“This is big,” Parenteau said, adding that he will arrive in Ottawa two days before the concerts to rehearse and do some prep work for the televised broadcast. “I had no idea how big this was going to be until I saw the list of some of the other performers.”
The list includes Feist, the singer born in Nova Scotia who is best known for her internationally acclaimed 1234 song, as well as the Montreal rock group Simple Plan.
The Canada Day concerts will mark Parenteau’s second trip to Ottawa in as many weeks. He’s fresh off his June 21, 2012, Aboriginal Day performance at Rideau Hall.
“This is my time,” Parenteau said. “This is my moment. When I hit the stage I’ll be giving it all I have.”
Parenteau will perform a total of three songs during the day. At the noon concert he’ll introduce one of his new songs, “Deep in the Heart of Saskatchewan,” which pays tribute to where he’s from. During the evening concert he’ll perform a pair of songs, including the title track from his third solo album To Whom It May Concern. Parenteau is thrilled he’ll be the only country musician performing at the concerts.
“And on top of that I know being the only aboriginal [performer] is huge for me as well,” he said.
Parenteau said he’s unsure just how much time he’ll have to address the audience before his songs. But he said it will be rather obvious to all that he’s Métis.
“Take a look at my sash,” he said. “It will be my guitar strap. That’s what I’ve always worn for my performances.”
For Parenteau, this will easily mark the largest crowd he’s played in front of during his solo career. He’s hoping the Canada Day concerts are a springboard to bigger and better things. Besides being a trailblazer for aboriginals, he hopes to generate interest in his next album, which is scheduled for release on October 30.
“You can never sit back and rest,” he said. “For something like this you take the media exposure you’re getting and you use it toward your next project.”