Banff National Park, Alberta
It is true that Banff, like Lake Louise and Jasper is a touristy town. There is a steady flow of visitors that drop in and out of the town like air into a set of lungs. Because of this, there is no shortage of gift shops, activity agencies and restaurants but don’t be fooled into thinking there is no culture in this town. Outside the beautiful sights and late nights on the dancefloor Banff has a creative side and the Banff Centre is where it calls home. Just up the hill from the town centre in the Eric Harvie building on Saturday night, world famous guitarist Paco Pena delivered a performance that set the multicultural audiences alight.
Paco Pena and his company of dancers literally sweat Flamenco. Impressively for such a small town, the concert hall was almost completely full as the lights went low and the little Spanish man’s feet tapped rhythmically across the stage to the waiting chair. A spot light slowly illuminated Pena as the crisp notes of each string echoed eerily around the room. The audience fresh from cold hikes around the Canadian Rockies and vacation eating and drinking were absolutely stunned silent by the magic and spirit of Flamenco oozing from the stage.
If the next 2 hours were just this man on stage, no one would have complained. However, what followed was even more impressive as a full troupe of Spanish singers, drummers, guitarists and dancers joined the master on stage. A woman’s wailing voice set the mood as the guitarists joined in and the room began to feel like it was moving. Deeply evocative and moving, the interval caught everyone by surprise as the sprint to get to the top of the wine queue got off to a slow start. The feeling around the Banff Centre building was one of awe as well as a slight surprise that such a performance could be enjoyed in such a small place.
After the show, people drifted slowly out still caught in the world of Paco Pena and the extraordinarily talented dancers of the show. The thing is, Banff must be one of a kind when it comes to culture in many ways. Though this was a magnificent show in every way, there is always more to look forward to in the Banff Centre and indeed around the town. As the audience drifted back out into the cool waiting air to make the walk or drive back into town, there was an unmistakable feeling of ‘Is there anything Banff lacks’? As I unsuccessfully attempted to start my car in the cold night air, I thought a late night weekend mechanic would be nice!