There's a reason Coldsnap chose Ginalina to be a headline performer.
She has four albums of family material, sure, and she has her own show on the Knowledge Network, granted. She has Juno and Canadian Folk Music Awards nominations. It is there, in that latter category, that Ginalina and Coldsnap found their common ground.
There are different types of children's entertainer. There's the kind that makes funny voices and faces to get kids laughing, the kind that incorporates costumes and props, another that writes songs that only a child could love about pet ostriches named Mittens or some such whimsical nonsense.
All of these genres have their strong points and exemplary performers. One could include acts like Charlotte Diamond, Al Simmons and Sharon Lois & Bram among the greats.
That is not how Ginalina conducts business. She's in a different category.
There are also many levels of children's entertainer, just like their are artistic gradients among country or jazz or any other form of music act. Some are complex ensembles spiraling down to the DIY musicians who base their act on tinny drum machines and garage sale keyboards.
The entertainers at the top of that mountain have familiar names like Fred Penner, Raffi and the late Mr. Dressup. When they perform for kids, they also know they are performing for parents. They treat the children like little people, with their songs and stories, and consequently the adults in the room can enjoy the musicianship and narrative as well. The Irish Rovers made a career out of walking with a foot on each side of the demographic line. The Barenaked Ladies album Snacktime was written on this same page.
Ginalina is exactly this kind of artist: loved by children, appreciated by adults. She bases her songwriting on timeless themes and doesn't talk down to anyone in her audience.
"You have to be very intentional about how we raise up our kids," said Ginalina in a call to The Citizen from the home where she schools her kids and bases her music career.
"For myself, when I think about these lyrics, one of my goals is to reward the repeat listener - so every time they listen to the music, there is something new they can gather, whether it's a new insight or a musical riff they hadn't picked up on before, or just a new appreciation for how the lyric resonates differently now that their child is two years older but there is still something there for them."
Growing up in Toronto, she played classical violin as a child. She also figured out guitar and ukulele, in amongst the three languages in which she is fluent (English, French and Mandarin). She described herself as "a goal-oriented person," which is symptomatic of why she sidesteps silliness and slapstick in favour of happiness based on nature, recreation, and the observations of life. Like folk music itself, it is real elemental stuff.
"In fact I relate most closely with a folk artist. I'm a folk singer," she said. "That's where I started before I did children's music. I travelled to different cities, I went overseas, I played in restaurants and bars, just playing the regular singer-songwriter type of music on my guitar. I really feel at home with the free-spirited singer-songwriter, 'let's take ordinary life and make it beautiful' feeling that I think folk singers kind of imbue."
She might never have arrived at playing music for children at all, had she not had her own. She has four kids and early on started sharing her music with her newborns. The songwriting and recording became a practical extension of just entertaining her own wee ones and they are still young (the oldest is nine) so the songs keep flowing naturally.
"I've never taken formal music lessons except through public school," she said. "My parents were poor, hardworking immigrants, so I think I have always felt very instinctive about the writing being very cathartic for me, and the expression of my ideas and my observations in the world. With having the young children around, I just found it quite natural to be spending my time with them, but also processing in the back of my mind all these experiences and sort of collecting them, and being very intentional with our conversations and listening, and hearing how they thought about things, and how they saw the world, and then in the depths of my night, often these ideas would flow together naturally and weave itself together."
The albums date back to 2012 with Sandcastle Magic, then Forest Friends' Nature Club in 2015, Home Is Family in 2016 and the most recent is It Takes A Village.
Together they have earned her a win at the Western Canadian Music Awards and perhaps most importantly three trophies from the Parent Choice Awards. The Parents' Choice Foundation said "her respect for her young audience shines through one sunny song after another," when expressing their appreciation for the affable singer-songwriter.
Another sign of appreciation and authentic affection came in unusual fashion when it was announced she would be one of the Coldsnap Music Festival headliners. Some longtime friends who moved away to Prince George promised to host her visit and when she ran into a Prince George couple in the Lower Mainland these strangers immediately volunteered to take her for dinner while she's in our city. She said there was nothing more Canadian than "open-access strangers" as she called them - all the people who have stepped forward to ensure her first Prince George performance experience is a happy one.
Ginalina performs at 2 p.m. on Jan. 27 at the Prince George Playhouse.
On Jan. 28, Ginalina will lead one of the Integris Ice Jam workshops from 10:30-11:30 a.m. at the Two Rivers Gallery where the theme will be Inspire The Children.
For a full Coldsnap Winter Music Festival schedule and instant ticket purchasing for any of the shows, log onto their website at coldsnapfestival.com. The festival runs Jan. 25 to Feb. 2 at various venues around the city.