Two acts, one night on the
Holmes Theatre stage

By: Vicki Gerdes, DL-Online
Published April 27, 2011

This Friday at the Historic Holmes Theatre, acoustic music fans will have an opportunity to hear not just one, but two of the genre’s most talented acts.

This Friday at the Historic Holmes Theatre, acoustic music fans will have an opportunity to hear not just one, but two of the genre’s most talented acts.

Singer, songwriter and multi-instrument musician John Gorka will be accompanied by the Canadian acoustic pop duo of Sheila Carabine and Amanda Walther, known to fans as Dala, who open the 7:30 p.m. concert on Friday, April 29 in Detroit Lakes.

“He’s (Gorka) one of our favorite American singer-songwriters,” said Walther in a telephone interview from her Toronto home. “We’re completely honored that we get to open for him."

Walther said that Gorka “gave this up and coming band a chance” when they opened for him at a Massachusetts concert, and “we just hit it off. He’s an amazing supporter.”

“We’re really excited to share the stage with him,” added Carabine. “He’s inspiring as an artist, and as a person off stage as well.”

Gorka returned the compliment.

“I think they’re just great,” he said. “They have a very bright future.”

In fact, Gorka said he expects he probably won’t be doing too many more shows with them — “because I think they’ll do very well on their own.”

Gorka, who got his start performing at the Godfrey Daniels Coffee House in Bethlehem, Pa., has been a resident of Minnesota since January of 1996.

“I’ve been here over 15 years now,” he said. “I like the people. The winters can be a challenge, but it can also be a lot of fun if you get out and do things in the snow — and the spring is beautiful.” Gorka writes all his own music, drawn from a variety of influences.

“I knew I wanted to be a writer even before I knew songs would be the way to do that,” he said. “But the thing I’ve found is that even after doing it a long time, the process itself is still kind of mysterious.

“The germ of a song can come from anywhere. It could be a musical impulse that gets things going — something I’ve played on the guitar that I’ve not played before — or it could be something I overhear, a phrase that can trigger it.”

Though he considers himself primarily a singer-songwriter, Gorka does play a variety of instruments as well, including his first instrument, the banjo, as well as guitar and piano.

“I might bring my banjo to Detroit Lakes,” he said, noting that whether he plays it or not will depend on what his audience wants to hear.

“I don’t do a very formal or serious presentation,” he said. “It changes a lot from show to show.

“I try to have some idea of what to start with, but I don’t know where it’s going to end up,” Gorka said of his concert format.

“Sometimes the audience will pull out a song title that might be a better idea than the song I was thinking of doing next. So I might go in with a set list but I could just as easily diverge from that and go somewhere else. I try to be flexible.” That informal style meshes well with Dala, as Walther said their format is also “very interactive.”


“We chat a lot with the audience while we sing our songs and talk about how we came to (write) them,” she added. “We have a lot of fun and hopefully, it’s contagious.”

Gorka also hinted at the possibility that they might do one or two songs together.

“We’ll be doing separate sets, but it’s possible we might do something together as well,” he said.

Like Gorka, the duo who call themselves Dala also rely on guitar and piano as their main accompaniment on stage, with Walther playing the former, and Carabine the latter.

Walther said her proficiency on the guitar was mainly learned by ear, while Carabine underwent extensive classical piano training, even attending the Royal Conservatory for a few years.

In order to write and perform music, however, “I had to un-learn some of that (classical) technique,” Carabine admitted. “I found I was writing songs where the piano part was much busier and more distracting than it needed to be. I learned to simplify the music so I could feature the lyrics and vocal melodies a little more.”

She and Walther first met when they both joined the high school band in their native Toronto.

“We became instant friends,” Walther said. “A few years later, we wrote our first song together, and it was magic.”

“We were friends for a few years before we embarked on a musical career together,” Carabine added, noting that their friendship formed a solid base for their songwriting partnership as well.

“We are collaborative writers, and we really enjoy that process,” Walther said. “It’s a lot of fun writing with somebody… it’s very organic, like a conversation.

“Sheila brings something to the table, I respond to that and before you know it we’ve developed a song.”

The duo has recorded five full-length albums together, as well as a DVD — a live concert filmed for PBS called “Girls from the North Country.”

“We were really excited about the idea of covering some of the great Canadian singer songwriters as well as doing our own songs, so we brought the idea to PBS and they loved it,” Walther said, noting that they were “really lucky” to have their music featured on public television.

Though they are from Canada, Dala has also begun playing more and more U.S. concerts as their music becomes better known south of the border.

“This year we’ve probably been performing more there (in the U.S.) than in Canada,” Walther said. “This last year we’ve done over 170 shows in the U.S. and Canada,” Carabine added, noting that Friday’s concert at the Holmes Theatre will be their third trip to Minnesota.

“We were in St. Paul yesterday,” she said Friday. “We met the mayor, which was really exciting.” “We’re looking forward to coming to Minnesota again — we love it down there,” Walther added. “It feels almost like home to us.”

Tickets for Friday’s show are $20 for adults, $10 for students, and can be purchased directly from the Holmes Theatre Box Office at 806 Summit Ave., by phone at 218-844-SHOW (7469), or online at


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