Play The Parks, an annual music program and concert series showcasing local artists in Toronto’s Downtown Yonge community for the past 10 years, is expanding into 13 Canadian cities. Presented by the TD Music Connected Series and curated by Canada’s Music Incubator (CMI), the free, musically and culturally diverse concert series will spotlight over 100 diverse artists from Black, Indigenous, Chinese, South Asian and 2SLGBTQ+ communities, connecting Canadians throughout the rest of the summer.
In addition to Play the Parks in Toronto, concerts will take place in the following 13 cities this year: Victoria, BC; Vancouver, BC; Surrey, BC; New Westminster, BC; Edmonton, AB; Calgary, AB; Winnipeg, MB; London, ON; Brantford, ON; Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON; Barrie, ON; Sydney, NS; and St. John’s, NL. A cluster of performances will be produced in each of the mentioned cities, spanning dozens of parks, from August 15 to September 30, 2022.
More information on the shows can be found here.
Since 2012, Play the Parks has been a great success in Toronto, receiving positive feedback from both the artists and audiences involved. In September 2020, a virtual Play the Parks pilot took place in Calgary in collaboration with CMI, the TD Music Connected Series, Calgary Parks and the National Music Centre (NMC). The 2020 program included a series of pre-recorded 30-minute performances from local artists in six parks in Calgary, helping to connect communities and fans in a virtual environment. This year marks the first time that artists and fans will be gathering in person to experience Play the Parks in Calgary, and in the other mentioned Canadian cities.
With free live music available, Play the Parks is a chance for Canadians to create lasting memories, explore diverse cultures and share new experiences. Through the 2022 program, CMI and the TD Music Connected Series hope to engage additional neighbourhoods, activate more parks and inspire live audiences.
The 2022 Play The Parks lineup includes performances by Jasper Sloan Yip, whose pop single, “Show Your Teeth” earned him the Best of BC song-writing prize, at Jack Poole Plaza Park in Vancouver; Cynthia Hamar, Métis singer-songwriter with four folk studio albums, at Strathcona Parkette in Edmonton; Chad Price, 2022 CBC Music Searchlight Grand Prize Winner, at Wortley Village Green in London; and Jing Xia, professional guzheng artist, teacher and scholar, at Bannerman Park in St. John’s.
Eight years ago, electropop polymath Johnny Saga began conjuring a new era of his musical identity. Now based in Toronto, Saga spent his 20s in London, Ontario, where he was born, and in Kitchener-Waterloo, tenderly building a stockpile of sounds that would manifest as Wolf Saga: a one-man ensemble with a pack mentality.
Wolf Saga was named to honour the spirit of the wolf—a loyal protector of loved ones that holds special meaning in Saga’s Ojibwe culture. Nearly a decade after the Wolf Saga story started, Saga is finally ready to release his debut LP under the name—a self-titled offering of eight songs, one to honour each year of Wolf Saga’s existence. (Wolf Saga’s accolades include two Jack Richardson Music Awards. He was also a 2018 JUNO Masterclass Finalist and named RBC Canada Emerging Artist in 2017.)
With this album, generous in its wisdom and lavish in its fun, Saga is on a quest to give listeners a reason to dance, but jokes that it’s not all bottle service and strobe lights. The album’s songs, guided by the unwavering presence of Saga’s father, who passed away in 2019, were inspired by important causes, such as Black Lives Matter and support for Indigenous land defenders. Saga wants listeners to pay attention. He also wants to ignite our imaginations, comfort our memories, and to help us envision a resilient tomorrow.
I had the opportunity to speak with Wolf Saga who is performing at Springbank Park in London, Ontario on September 10th, about his musical process and what we can expect from his “Play The Parks” performance.
Kat: Can you talk about the inspiration behind your lyricism? Where do you look for ideas, or do they just come naturally?
Wolf Saga: I talk about things I see or experience. Whether it’s from my point of view or imagining what it might feel like from another perspective. Some are ideas I’ve had floating around for a while, and some definitely do come naturally.
Kat: What do you find is the most challenging part of your creative process?
Wolf Saga: Finding direction is definitely the most challenging aspect for me. Sometimes it takes time to figure out where I want to go with a song. I think it’s important to listen to your favourite music and what inspires you during that process.
Kat: What has been a career highlight for you so far? What have you learned along the way?
Wolf Saga: I take pride in how many people are enjoying the music. I’d say a highlight would for sure be the amount of streams I have accumulated. Another highlight recently was meeting someone up in Yellowknife during a festival. They told me how much a song of mine helped them deal with the loss of a sibling. Knowing you are making a difference to someone’s life, macro or micro, is absolutely rewarding.
Kat: What’s your favourite part about London’s music scene? Are there any other local artists that have caught your attention?
Wolf Saga: I like that everyone sort of knows everyone. It has a tight knit vibe, but also welcoming to new emerging artists and musicians. I got to see Status/Non-Status recently and I really like what they are doing.
Kat: You’re performing at this year’s Play The Parks Presented by TD Music Connected Series in London! What can audiences expect from your live performance?
Wolf Saga: I’ll be doing an acoustic set. I would say expect to hear these electro pop high energy songs torn down to the roots. I enjoy playing these acoustic sets because we really get to focus on the lyrical content and the songwriting. Come say hello!