[Source : thecasket.ca]
It doesn’t take long to realize that Mary Beth Carty loves what she does.
Whether she is penning songs, singing or playing one of her up to 10 instruments, the Lanark, Antigonish County native has gained a reputation for entertaining her audiences with each performance.
“I think I came out of the womb singing. I started as soon as I could talk,” she laughed while closing a book of song ideas as the start of a recent interview with the Casket at People’s Place Library.
Carty, once one half of Bette & Wallet with Gabriel F. Ouellette, is now a solo performer. She is preparing for an upcoming Valentine’s Day themed show.
“People will have a lot of fun,” she suggested.
Carty, with guest Yann Morin on the jaw harp, will take centre stage at St. James United Church Saturday, Feb. 11 to sing the works of romantic poet Robbie Burns – the famed Scottish poet and lyricist.
“The first set will be dedicated to songs of romance and the second set to social justice songs. For the show I will be focusing mainly on guitar in Irish tuning.
“I will also play accordion, jaw harp, bones, piano, raagini and feet. A few more surprise guests have been added to the show, too,” she added.
It will not be the first time Carty tackles the legendary pieces of the bard. She covered some of his tunes a few weeks ago during a New Year’s Eve performance at St. F.X. University Chapel.
“There was a standing ovation at the end of the concert. That was so touching and encouraging,”
That positive feedback, coupled with her belief she had only scratched the surface in bringing Burns’ work to the stage, planted the seed for the Valentine’s show.
Her first thoughts of taking on the Burns’ challenge came in 2008 when she performed in Antigonish County as a member of Bette & Wallet.
“Somebody asked me why I didn’t sing more Scottish music,” Carty said, recalling that made her think, so she decided to do some research.
“I was intrigued by Robert Burns,” she said, noting she could not find much on-line about him.
She ordered a box set of his music, and a book from her great aunt became the roots for the development of her show.
“I fused those to compile a unique repertoire,” Carty said.
Sandwiched between the Burns’ performances has been an unforgettable trip to Ottawa, where she participated in Contact ontaroisle at the Studio of the National Arts Centre (NAC) in collaboration with Network original show Ontario.ca, which follows a two-part residence for young songwriters and performers from across Canada and Guadeloupe.
“It was an amazing experience,” Carty said.
Her participation in the program began last June with the Festival en chanson de Petite-Vallée in the Gaspé. She joined the same young artists in an initial one-week residency focused on creating art and writing original songs.
The group reunited Jan. 4 for another one-week session, which took place at the NAC. On this occasion, the artists created a show, which highlighted their collaboration during the first gathering. The group received the support and mentorship of some of the best in the business during the process.
“We were playing each other’s songs and we put on a show,” Carty said.
Radio-Canada followed the youth throughout the week, captured the show and then broadcast it Jan. 15.
“They are all incredibly gifted singers, writers, composers and friends. In a few short days it was like we had been friends forever,” Carty said of the experience.
Following her performance at the NAC, she noted “many people commented on how my voice sounded Gaelic.”
Whatever language she chooses – she writes and performs songs in not only English, but also Gaelic and French – Carty could be fittingly described as an eclectic artist, which is reflected in the diversity of her lyrics and the myriad instruments she uses to entertain audiences.
“I love performing for people,” she said.
That diversity is exhibited when asked what she is focussed on other than the Burns’ performances. She is composing some polka songs on her accordion.
When asked about her musical “bucket list,” Carty noted the opportunity to “share the stage” with Buffy Sainte-Marie, Fred Penner, The Duhks, Al Tuck, along with the Boisdale Trio, as highlights.
“I have toured France four times, which was great,” she said, noting her opportunities to perform at major Canadian folk festivals including in Calgary, Winnipeg, Lunenburg, Dawson City and Regina.
She added her pride in the international acclaim and two East Coast Music Award (ECMA) nominations the Bette & Wallet CD Voici received.
Nevertheless, Carty is by no means satisfied. She said there are always challenges, and she wants to continue to perform and create music.
Although, at this point, those performances come as a solo artist, Carty usually shares the stage with someone. When asked about whom tops the list of performers she enjoys sharing the stage with, the answer is an easy one – her younger sister, Lily.
“It is great being backstage together. She is a calming influence,” Carty said of her sibling.
She added Lily has “really good rhythm,” which adds to each performance.
“It is great that she is always willing to get up there,” Carty said.