Nationally touring folk duo serenades

Todd MacLean
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Last Saturday night, a small-yet-appreciative Charlottetown audience took in a serenading performance by touring folk artists Elder Sister Plum and The Sun Harmonic.

The Sun Harmonic is the stage name of Toronto-based folk singer-songwriter/recording engineer/multi-instrumentalist Kaleb Hikele, and Elder Sister Plum is the stage name of Victoria, B.C., folk singer-songwriter Tanya Semple.

While the two have established themselves well on their own in recent years, with several recordings each to their names, Hikele and Semple have united as a duo on an East Coast tour this spring.

And as the two presented their music to Marc’s Lounge last Saturday — music that was spiced by seamless-vocal-harmony infused tunes ranging from lullabying ballads to thoughtful folk love songs to even some country classics in the mix (including Waylon Jennings’ I’m A Long Way From Home) — they took turns at the lead vocal mike with their acoustic guitars, while the other backed up with harmonies and percussion (floor tom, cymbal, tambourine, shakers, etc.)

It was an interesting setting for a performance of indie folk music that night, as Marc’s Lounge was filled early-on in the evening with a private function — and thus a co-mingling of patrons inevitably took place, as show attendees arrived to do their best to listen to the performance amid ongoing chatter from those who were part of the private function.

So, while it was certainly not the most ideal environment to enjoy Elder Sister Plum and The Sun Harmonic (as they would be suited for a house concert, an intimate night of music at P.E.I. venues like The Trailside or The Old Belle River Church or The Dunk or perhaps a more low-key weeknight at Baba’s Lounge), the duo did exceedingly well to surf on through the waves of noise that surrounded them throughout the night, to not pay attention to those who weren’t paying attention and to connect with those who were, indeed, there for the music.

Some great in-the-moment seizing of attention took place, too, at the beginning of the second half when the two sang Happy Birthday to the person at the centre of the private function, as the crowd applauded and sang along.

“Whether you’re listening or enjoying your conversation, I hope you’re having a good night,” Hikele added.

Second half highlights included songs like Semple’s Northern Bound and Darling Come Home and Hikele’s The Morning Breaks and It Was All Okay Thanks to You.

In general, it was a delight to take in this show by The Sun Harmonic and Elder Sister Plum. Their contemplative, laid-back original folk music is like a right and left foot of the exact same shoe: the fit for the act is perfect, and as they journey around the country one-foot-after-the-other, it is clear that there is a mutual musical strengthening going on, every step of the way.

For more on both of them, check out and

Next week: I’ll be making the first trip of the season to The Dunk in Breadalbane to hear Sherry Ryan with special guest Shirley Dalton.

Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.

Todd's weekend picks

1. Two award-winning East Coast songstresses at the Trailside – Trailside Café, Mount Stewart, with Kim Wempe today and Catherine MacLellan tomorrow. Shows start at 8 p.m. with dinner seating at 6:30 p.m.

2. Ten Strings and a Goat Skin – Souris Show Hall, today at 7 p.m.

3. Let Them Eat Cake! – Haviland Club, today at 6:30 p.m. A fundraiser for Rock Barra Artist Retreat, with music by Larque, Teresa Doyle, Jon Rehder and more.

4. What to Wear to the Birth of a Nation – Watermark Theatre, North Rustico, tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.

5. Beach Walk and Potluck Picnic – Cavendish Beach National Park, Sunday at 10 a.m. Presented by International Oceans Day and Save Our Seas and Shores P.E.I.

Organizations: The Old Belle River Church, Haviland Club

Geographic location: East Coast, Charlottetown, Victoria Breadalbane Mount Stewart

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