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by Jim Leahy
Joni Mitchell was one of eight Canadians who received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award at Governor General Romeo Leblanc's residence, Rideau Hall, in Ottawa on Friday, November 1. The awards, each worth about $10,000 (Cdn), are presented annually to distinguished Canadian performers/writers/artists. Previous pop star winners include Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, and Bryan Adams. My only question is why did the G-Gs take so long to discover Joni Mitchell?
Both CBC TV and Global TV showed brief video clips of the awards presentation, showing Mitchell dressed in a long, brown velvet gown, with a matching beret and what looked suspiciously like -- shades of Liz Taylor! -- a diamond necklace.
An awards gala was held the next day at Ottawa's National Arts Centre. Among those on hand to pay tribute to Mitchell were Sara McLachlan, who sang "Blue," jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, and singer kd lang, who extolled Mitchell's "honest, uncompromising, undaunted integrity."
In an interview held before the gala, Mitchell reflected on all the awards she has received in the past year: "There isn't a lot of honor in our culture -- toward elders, in marriage contracts, or in politics ... I've been to some very colorful ceremonies in the last year, but, in some ways, they didn't really honor me. They didn't address what I felt was the best of my work. In some cases, I didn't feel they knew what they were honoring."
Mitchell had kind words for her experience at the Governor General's awards ceremony: "I was proud to be Canadian. I found the people warm and bright. There was a lot of pomp, but everyone was quick to irreverence, too. It (the ceremony) rode the cusp quite gracefully."
Every time Joni comes back to Canada, she's asked about her expatriate status, and, every time, Joni responds graciously: "People ask me 'do you still think of yourself as a Canadian?' and I say 'do you still think of me as Canadian?' I guess you do, because you're giving me this award."
Tomaz Jardim, whom you may recall as one of the "window people" at 1994's MuchMusic broadcast "Joni Mitchell: Intimate & Interactive," represented the home page in Ottawa and was lucky enough to get an invitation to the post-gala reception. Tomaz reports that he spotted Joni in the stairwell with her protege Sarah McLachlan, smoking, drinking champagne, and eating chocolates. Joni was telling Sarah how she first met Jimi Hendrix at Ottawa's Capitol Theatre in 1969. When Joni saw Tomaz, she instantly recognized him and welcomed him over. "I remember you from the Intimate & Interactive -- we were just watching that a few days ago."
Tomaz took some photos of Joni, Sarah, and Oscar Peterson, and as an extra bonus got his picture taken with La Mitch herself.
Conscientious correspondent that he was, Tomaz of course mentioned Wally and the home page to Joni, who sent out a big "hello" to everyone in "Internetland."
The awards gala, by the way, will be televised in French on Radio-Canada 8 pm on December 1 and in English on CBC, December 29 at 8 pm. (jl)