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Perrie inspired by Joni Mitchell's musical activism

Concert ‘reimagines’ her songs with modern arrangements
Coquitlam native Scott Perrie (centre) in Circle Game.

Scott Perrie is thinking a lot these days about the lyrics from Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi.

Though the Canadian folk singer-songwriter composed the catchy tune half a century ago, her words about environmental sustainability still ring true: Development continues to take over nature, food continues to be produced with chemicals and big money always wins.

A Centennial secondary graduate, Perrie has sung the song many times since he was cast in 2017 in the Firehall Arts Centre’s production of The Circle Game: Reimagining the Music of Joni Mitchell — now on tour around the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island and includes a stop next week at Coquitlam’s Evergreen Cultural Centre.

“I get so fired up when I sing it,” Perrie told The Tri-City News last week, “because it’s still so relevant. There’s deforestation. We’re losing our bees. How did we get into this mess?”

Created and directed by Andrew Cohen and Anna Kuman, Circle Game features six musicians highlighting contemporary takes on 30 of Mitchell’s songs such as Free Man in Paris, River, California and A Case of You.

Each actor — Perrie, Samantha Bourque, Kimmy Choi, David Z. Cohen, Benjamin Millman and Adriana Ravalli — plays a number of instruments and, together, they weave a tale about love, activism and other themes by communicating only through Mitchell’s music.

Perrie said he became familiar with Mitchell’s voice at a young age, while growing up in Coquitlam.

His parents had her albums and, when he left home, Perrie took their vinyls and record player.

Over the years, “I certainly learned the depths of her music and lyrics, and the beautiful way in which she sees the world,” Perrie said.

But it’s Big Yellow Taxi that haunts him.

Last year, the song inspired Perrie and his wife, Leora Joy, to pen a tune about the environment. The couple, who go under the band name Winsome Kind, are now in the process of recording Contemplation — a song they hope to release on Earth Day, April 22.

Like Mitchell, “we want to make music that’s lasting and relevant, and say something important,” he said, adding, “The idea for our Earth Day song is to speak about how much the world has changed in 30 or 35 years and to question the path that we’re on. There’s so much riding on the decisions we make today and how we’re going to leave this planet.”

Tickets for Circle Game: Reimagining the Music of Joni Mitchell, by the Arts Club Theatre Company On Tour, are $15 to $45. It runs March 5 to 9 at ECC (1205 Pinetree Way). Call 604-927-6555 or visit