A songwriter becomes a podcaster with “a sometimes true story”
Little Miss Higgins has taken the hobby of investigating her family tree to new heights.
The singer-songwriter from Ste. Anna created The waltz of firea five-episode podcast about his great-grandmother, Eva Bersay, and her travels from Jersey Island in the English Channel to southern Alberta in the early 1900s.
Higgins’ storytelling doesn’t end there. The music that accompanies the episodes was made into a 21-track album which she released on streaming services on March 14. Expect a selection of them to appear when she performs at Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club on April 15.
“I’ve heard different versions of stories (from Bersay) throughout my life,” Jolene Higgins says of her great-grandmother. “They got more mature as I got older, and I got to hear the juiciest bits a bit, which was always fun.
“I was always intrigued by her character and she just seemed like a very strong, funny woman. So I started writing down these stories that I heard, and I started researching the island of Jersey, where she lived.”
The podcast (which can be heard at buzzsprout.com/1936032 or on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts) begins with Bersay being a humble potato farmer’s daughter crossing the Atlantic Ocean across Canada to Whiskey Gap, Alberta, which in 2022 is a ghost town near Lethbridge.
“We have postcards, we have a travel journal, we have letters, and we have an oral history,” Higgins says. “That’s just the framework we used. We filled it with our own creative notions of what they might have been, what those people might have looked like, and things that might have happened to them at that time. -the.”
The comedy television series Greatabout the 18th-century Russian Empress Catherine the Great, inspired Higgins and his associates to add to the story of Bersay’s life.
“At the beginning of Great) I love it because it says, “A sometimes true story,” Higgins says of the satirical series starring Elle Fanning. some of them are fictional – to create this innovative and truly engaging new way of telling stories through film.”
Join Higgins on The waltz of fire are Winnipeg musicians Matt Foster and Gilles Fournier, as well as Calgary musician and poet Kris Demeanor — the city’s first Poet Laureate — and Eric Rose, artistic director of Calgary’s Ghost River Theatre.
The result is tunes reminiscent of a century ago, akin to post-WWI vaudeville shows and Jazz Age cabarets rather than the bluesy flare tunes that earned award nominations. Higgins Juno in 2008 and 2014.
“I think there are elements of my past work that influenced it, but I’m definitely going in different directions with it,” Higgins says.
Higgins, who also has a background in theatre, has worked on The waltz of fire since 2019, with plans to make it a theatrical work, but the pandemic got in the way. She still dreams of telling her great-grandmother’s story to a wider audience.
The first five podcast episodes round out Season 1 of the Fire Waltz; Higgins and company are working on a second batch of episodes and she’s hoping for even more.
“I feel like there’s an opportunity to make it into a play. Or while I’m working on season 2, is there a possibility for a movie?” she says. “I love to write. During the pandemic, I wrote so much, not only The waltz of fire. It’s exciting to write in a different way and more in a narrative style. I hope to do a lot more.”
Alan Small has been a Free Press reporter for over 22 years in a variety of roles, most recently as a reporter in the Arts and Life section.
Read the full biography