Regina singer/songwriter Melanie Hankewich, best known by her stage name Belle Plaine, has been a full-time, touring musician for the past five years. Her music crosses the genres of country, folk and jazz, and she has three albums and an EP under her belt.
On December 17, she tackled a new challenge, performing her original songs with the Regina Symphony Orchestra (RSO) in its “A Candlelight Christmas” concert at Westminster United Church. Hankewich also served as co-host alongside RSO musical director Gordon Gerrard. “This is an undeniable achievement for me. Being asked
Hankewich received a Saskatchewan Arts Board grant to create orchestral arrangements of four of her songs for the concert: the unreleased song, “Radio Dreams,” as well as “Crashing Through” from her album, The Unrequited Love, and “Old Love” and “Legendary” from Notes from a Waitress.
“Performing with a symphony is a privilege, and I’m grateful that the Regina Symphony Orchestra has offered me this opportunity. It’s a dream of mine to have my music realized in this way,” she says.
She hopes the performance will result in more opportunities to perform with symphonies or chamber players, leading her to be recognized as an artist capable of travelling to other cities to perform with symphonies, similar to Canadian singer/songwriters such as Jill Barber and Sarah Slean.
Given this is her first collaboration with an orchestra, Hankewich reached out to other artists to serve as mentors to assist her through the process. One was Michael Wojewoda, an engineer/producer from Ontario who has worked with Buffy Sainte-Marie and Amelia Curran. Another was Saskatchewan singer/songwriter Jeffery Straker, who has performed with symphonies several times. Both connected her with orchestral arrangers who would suit her songs. She worked with two arrangers—Drew Jureka of Toronto and Regina’s own Steve Leidal—to create the arrangements for the RSO concert.
Hankewich’s multi-genre music is accessible to audiences of all ages. “Authentic connection is the most important element of music for me. My hope is that my audience finds relevance in my songs and can relate the subject material to the experiences in their own lives,” she says.
For more on Belle Plaine, visit www.belleplainemusic.com
For more on the Regina Symphony Orchestra, visit www.reginasymphony.com
Photo of Belle Plaine: Carey Shaw