Maria Hawkins: Blues Lady Returns to Gil’s Hootenanny

Maria Hawkins with Arthur McGregor warming up for the inaugural Gil’s Hootenanny outside the Elmdale Tavern on Sommerset Street.

Ten years after her first performance at 2010’s Gil’s Hootenanny, Maria Hawkins is returning as a headliner for the 10th Anniversary event. Long considered Ottawa’s Blues Lady, Maria has been a well known and much-beloved performer in Ottawa for decades, and is recognized for her dynamic and confident stage presence. Maria Dunn and Maria Hawkins, affectionately dubbed “the Marias” by Hootenanny organizers, are the headliners for this annual May Day sing-along event.

What Maria’s legion of fans might not realize is that her music is informed by the intersection of many facets of her background, including her Mi’kmaq and Acadian roots. Maria can also trace her family back to “released slaves from Sir John Hawkins”. Given her ancestry, it’s no wonder that Maria’s music is informed by a deep respect for indigenous peoples and a passion for peace and justice. Her repertoire at Gil’s Hootenanny will include a song of “thanks to first nations who helped bring slaves to Canada through the underground railway”.

Maria is well known as the co-creator of “Blues in the Schools”, bringing music to classrooms across the nation’s capital. This program garnered Maria the W.C. Handy Award for bringing together 200 students from 28 schools to play in the largest blues band ever, with help from local musicians. According to Maria, “It was some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done”.

Maria with Chris White on stage at the inaugural Gil’s Hootenanny

Less well known is Maria’s work with dozens of local charities, which earned her a United Way Community Builder Award. Maria has won numerous other awards, including the NAC Award for Artistic Excellence. Maria is particularly proud of her Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal for 25 years of inspiration to Canadian youth.

Gil’s Hootenanny is delighted that Maria will once again be bringing her voice and her message of hope, gratitude and strength to Gil’s Hootenanny.

The 2019 Gil’s Hootenanny will take place on Wednesday, May 1st at 7:30pm in Clark Hall at the RA Centre, 2451 Riverside Drive. Staffed by UNIFOR members, the RA Centre is accessible, has loads of parking and is well serviced by OC Transpo. Tickets ($10, kids free) are available online and (cash only) at Octopus Books, 16 Third Avenue.