Liona Boyd The Return of Canada’s Sweetheart


Submitted by Don Graham
Photo Credits: Don Dixon

Ask anyone what name comes to mind when you say these words; Canadian, female, classical guitar,  and 10 out of 10 people will answer the same; Liona Boyd. So ingrained and branded is Liona Boyd that she has become synonymous with the classic guitar. And rightfully so.

Boyd was born in London, England moved to Canada with her parents when she was eight years old and became a naturalized Canadian citizen in 1975. In 1963, Boyd saw a performance of the English guitarist Julian Bream in the auditorium on the 7th floor of the Eaton's building at the intersection of Yonge and College in Toronto. Boyd vowed to master the guitar after watching Bream's performance. Bream "changed my life when I was 14", Boyd wrote in her autobiography In 1988, Stoddard Publishing of Toronto, Canada published Boyd's autobiography In My Own Key: My Life in Love and Music.

As a teenager Boyd took private lessons with Andrés Segovia, as well as with Eli Kassner, Narciso Yepes, Alirio Díaz and Julian Bream so her foundation in the classical guitar world was formidable.

In 1972 Boyd graduated with honours from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Performance. That same year she won the Canadian National Music Competition, held in Trois-Rivières, Quebec. In 1972 Boyd toured England with British guitarist John Mills. In 1975, after her New York debut at Carnegie Recital Hall, Andrés Segovia wrote a prescient message on a card and passed it to Boyd: "Through your beauty and talent you will conquer the public, philharmonic or not."

Boyd has performed for royalty all over the world, has performed thousands of concerts in dozens of countries around the world. She has performed in all the major North American cities, as well as concert halls in London, Paris, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Munich, Santiago, Rio, São Paulo, Bogotá, Havana, Lisbon, Mexico City, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Bangkok, New Delhi, Calcutta, Bombay, Kathmandu, Singapore, Cairo, Istanbul, Thessaloniki, Athens, San Jose, San Salvador, and Santiago and performed in Frankfurt and Munich the week the Berlin Wall came down. She was even summoned by Judge Lance Ito to play for the sequester jury during the infamous  O.J. Simpson trial in Los Angeles.

Photo Credit Don DixonPhoto Credit Don DixonShe could have comfortably rested on her laurels for the rest of her career, Boyd has nothing to prove, she’s accomplished so much over the years including,  five-time winner of the Juno Award for Instrumental Artist of the Year  Guitar Player Magazine's Gallery of the Greats  five-time winner of the Guitar Player Magazine's Classical Guitarist of the Year , the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario. And released 24 albums. But settling is not Liona Boyd’s style. She has found she has a passion for singing and writing her own songs and put a collection of them together to celebrate her return to Canada after spending a year in Santa Monica, California.

Liona and producer Peter Bond  have  collaborated on an excellent  new album of 15 songs she composed, inspired by Canada, called "The Return… To Canada with Love" and released by Universal Music Canada in September 2013. Guests included Olivia Newton-John, Dan Hill, Daniel Lavoie, Jann Arden, Serena Ryder, Michael Savona and others.

This is mesmerizing album that deserves a couple of listens in a row when you first play it. It’s one of the most peaceful albums I’ve heard in a long time and there is a thread that runs through it that makes you want to hear more.

From the opening strains of Spirit of the Canadian Northlands, Silver Birch and Emily Carr the mood is set and by the time you get Living My life Alone, my personal favourite of the album there is no turning back.

The album’s anthem like closing song features a who’s who of Canadian musical talent; Jann Arden, Divine Browm, Serena Ryder, Divine Brown and Randy Bachman of The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive as well as Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and Hockey Night in Canada’s Ron Maclean make appearances.

Liona Boyd The Return... to Canada with LoveLiona Boyd The Return... to Canada with LoveIn Liona’s words “...I'm enormously proud of all the music and the lyrics, and the unique idea I came up with to write an album that, apart from two autobiographical songs, takes all its inspiration from Canada and the deep feelings I have for my country and her people. Dear Stompin' Tom would have been so proud! Tom helped launch my career which back then in the 70's was purely classical. I'm particularly thrilled that so many renowned Canadians joined me for my patriotic song, Canada My Canada and all came to sing Pro Bono once they had heard the song. I even play that amazing Voyageur guitar that is now part of Canadian history. I'm truly fortunate to have found such a brilliant producer in Peter Bond, a "polymath" whose musical vision for each song has always been in sync with mine.  This is the fourth CD we've worked on together as he also did the mixing for Liona Boyd Sings Sings of Love and the engineering on Camino Latino, and we co-wrote Seven for the Soul and the imagination.”

Looking at Liona Boyd’s touring schedule there are few open dates proving how much in demand this Canadian treasure is. She started touring with her new accompanist, singer and classical guitarist Michael Savona is reaching a whole new generation of fans as well as impressing her existing fans with her voice and songs neatly integrated into that familiar guitar sounds they come to know and love.

So when a lot of artists after 40 years plying their craft are slowing down and basking in their accomplishments Canada’s sweetheart Liona Boyd is forging new music, with new ideas and keeping herself fresh and vibrant.

If you’re a Liona Boyd fan and haven’t done so already, go get a copy of The Return! If you are not yet a fan go get a copy of The Return and you will be one 15 songs later.
Liona Boyd is Canada’s sweetheart and will always be forever young!