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Music returns to Willows in Oak Bay with Soul Shakers

Residents invited to shake off the dust with monthly outdoor concerts
Willows live music returns with a July 22 concert by Victoria favourite Soul Shakers. (Courtesy Soul Shakers)

After a year of silence, the music is back in Willows Park.

The Oak Bay Parks, Recreation and Culture concerts traditionally highlight local musicians with emerging artists as opening acts. This year’s truncated season runs two Thursdays of summer – two more concerts than 2020.

Victoria’s Soul Shakers kick off the summer music July 22 at 6 p.m. in Oak Bay, two years after opening the 2019 season at Willows.

“It’s a beautiful setting. When we played there last time we had a great audience. Everyone was on their feet and moving around and singing along,” Henning Kanstrup said.

While all five members of the group – Kanstrup (bass), Joyce Allensen (lead vocal), Sean McCool (guitar), Paul McLellan (drums) and Alexander Ferguson (keyboard) – can sing, Allensen is the “ball of fire” that gets the crowd on its feet and involved. Audience participation and having fun is what they’re all about.

Soul Shakers has entertained Island audiences for more than a decade with a repertoire that includes tunes from the 1960s to current popular songs, and features artists such as Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Marvin Gaye, Santana, Etta James, Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williams, Adele, James Brown and George Michaels.

A festival favourite, the band played more than 20 outdoor venues in the summer of 2019.

A decade after releasing the first CD, Live at The Yale, and four years after Love is Love, the band released its third compilation Ready for You. The album of eight original songs launched to a sold-out crowd at Oak Bay’s Upper Lounge (at the recreation centre on Bee Street).

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“Then 2020 hit and everything came to a complete shutdown,” Henning said. “We’re hoping to revive that this summer.”

The group recently played a gig at the Esquimalt Lagoon where Henning figures 400 to 500 people spaced out along the beach to enjoy the show.

On Aug. 19, also at 6 p.m., singer-songwriter-keyboardist Ferguson returns to front his self-titled Alexander Ferguson Band. Another group of top-notch Victoria musicians, the band will have the audience in the groove with a blend of pop, soul, funk, and jazz.

The band follows opening act Helena Descoteau. The singer-songwriter shares her work for the first time, offering piano inspired by a range of genres including jazz, pop and rock.

Willows Park is at Dalhousie Street and Beach Drive.

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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