A concert presented by the Central Alberta Prostate Awareness & Support Group is slated for Nov. 7th at Festival Hall.
Singer/songwriter/artist Ben Crane will be featured at the event, which starts at 7 p.m. and also includes Lloyd Griffith, Ol’ Frisky, Ray Baird & Rod Soonias and Visions Country Gospel. Proceeds will go to the David Thompson Health Trust in support of those affected by prostate cancer.
Originally from New York and raised at Three Hills, Crane is an accomplished musician and a visual artist – and one of only a few Canadians drawing for the greeting card company Leanin’ Tree. He’s also a founding member of Cowboy Cartoonists International and has been a standard at western festivals and art shows across western North America.
Music has also played a prominent role in his life.
“Music came to me by osmosis,” explains Crane, who currently lives between Leslieville and Eckville. “I come from a very musical family – none of them really performed, but dad and I would jam all the time. He’d play these wild jazz swing chords.” Crane started working on some sizzling melody lines to complement his dad’s playing, and the results were memorable. “That’s how I got started. And my mom would play the piano when no one was around,” he adds, chuckling. “My dad’s sister is also an incredible piano player and my mom’s grand-daddy played a five-string banjo and I don’t know how many other things. So music has always been around. When we weren’t playing it, we were listening to it.”
Crane has also recorded several CDs, the latest being a Gospel project called Wonder Working God. Others over the years include Remember the Cross, Hard Times, Off My Rocker, When Cowboys Rode as Kings and Sunlight on Silver.
“I grew up on classic country, jazz, the blues – music was just on all of the time in the house. I never thought of it as anything other then being as natural as breathing.”
Wonder Working God includes many songs that are part of his church at Withrow. “I kept the rock feel but I countrified it,” he explains of the disc. “It’s kind of ‘driving’ music – throw it in and try to stay under 100,” he laughs.
Crane sings and performs outside of Gospel music circles as well, sharing his gift with all kinds of community causes and organizations. He also loves the chance to chat with his audiences between songs. “That’s the difference between a musician and an entertainer. You can be the absolute best musician and play everything with incredible skill and heart, but if you can’t talk to the audience and set them at ease, you’re only half the package.
“I firmly believe that any art or gifting should be honed. My job is to take what I’ve been given and put everything I’ve got into it and learn as much as I can about it, so that when I give the gift to the next guy, it’s excellent. It doesn’t have to be perfect – there’s no such thing as perfect, not around me,” he laughs. “But I want to make it excellent. If someone can walk out the door (of a show) happier two hours after they first walked in, then it’s the icing on the cake – I’ve done what I set out to do.”
Meanwhile, as he grew older, his gift for drawing was also proving to be quite the natural gift. He had started training as a machinist under his father as a young guy, and that’s when, in his Grade 9 year, a local artist from a commercial studio asked Crane’s dad for permission to apprentice him. “That’s the last time I swept dad’s shop,” he recalls. “I really had no idea what to do with it. I just assumed that every kid drew.
“It’s so much fun to be able to do, as a career, what your gifts are. I’m a firm believer that if you can do as a career what you are gifted at naturally, you won’t work a day in your life because it won’t feel like work.”
But after a 10-year stint as a commercial illustrator and graphic designer, it was time to move on. In 1992, he entered a show with a group of cartoonists in Cody, Wyoming.
“We all shared the same philosophy about our style of art, and I soon realized I was in unbelievable company. With a host of other Leanin’ Tree artists, some whose careers I had followed since a kid, we all formed a now notorious group of artists called the Cowboy Cartoonists International.”
Meanwhile, for Crane, music provides a means of connecting with folks such as with the Awareness Musicale event.
“Music to me is more about the heart. There’s a deeper connection there than anything else. When my spirit can connect with someone’s spirit, there’s something deeper there than the artwork. The artwork is fun and has a medicinal effect as well, but it’s not nearly as powerful as when the soul and the heart of one person connects with that of another.
“You can also say things through music that you can’t say through talking. It’s like you are given permission to say what’s really on your heart and what really matters in a song whether it’s something spiritual, a love song, or something celebrating the family.”
For more about the Awareness Musicale event, call Mac at 403-347-2191. Tickets are available by phone at 1-877-895-4430, online at www.davidthompsonhealthtrust.com or at 53rd Street Music.