Perennial Manitou Beach favourite Ellen Froese made a stop at the Little Manitou Art Gallery. Not only did the Saskatchewan folk singer / songwriter bring a guitar case full of new songs, she brought some newfound friends from down east, the Doghouse Orchestra, to back her up and perform an energizing set of their own.  

Froese and her musical compatriots are on the tail end of a western Canadian tour that’s taken them from Banff and the Rockies to Winnipeg and the heart of the Manitoba Music Scene.  

“It’s been going great,” said Froese on the tour and her bandmates. “All the shows have been fun and it’s a really awesome and hilarious crew to hang out with.” 

Her set included new music from her 2022 album “For Each Flower Growing.” The title track is a rich and moody reflection penned on the shores of Manitou Beach on a previous visit. Long Division shows the continuing maturity of Froese’s writing with a pensive song about isolation. Her trademark quick wit and inviting rapport made the Wednesday night garden party a perfect setting. 

“I love coming here,” Froese confesses. “I like to go every summer. We took a dip in the lake before we played and we’re all feeling rejuvenated. Something about those salt waters that makes you feel really nice. And this is just a special place with lots of music and art everywhere.” 

Guitarist for the Doghouse Orchestra, Jason Jones, says he and the rest of the musical collective met Ellen when she was in Toronto during a series of shows. Some of the members joined her as a backing band, and the musical chemistry melded so well that the troupe agreed to join forces for a summer tour. 

Doghouse Orchestra.JPG (l-r) Charlotte McAfee-Brunner, Jason Jones, Bruce Mackinnon (on drums, hidden), Donovan Locke, Matt Coldwell - The Doghouse Orchestra

 The Doghouse Orchestra is an eclectic collective of musicians who have a permanent home at the Cameron House on Queen Street West in Toronto. Five of the ensemble joined Ellen onstage and then delivered an impressive set into the deepening night. With elements of funk, jazz and country standards, like a turn at Marty Robbins’ heartbreaker “El Paso,” the musicians all jammed with virtuoso flair. The tunes ranged from the spiritual “I’ll Fly Away” to the whimsical “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” complete with a Kermit the Frog inflection. Lead vocalist Cameron Locke handled it all with versatility and a definite style and charm all his own. 

The group heads to Winnipeg for a final performance on the tour. Ellen Froese and the Doghouse Orchestra performed at the Little Manitou Art Gallery on Wednesday night.