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Juno night kicked off six hours early in Calgary yesterday with an intimate event some people call the jewel of Juno weekend: the Songwriters' Circle.

Hosted by Joel Plaskett (looking dapper in pinstriped pants, white suspenders and a black shirt), the two-hour event featured performances and some off-the-cuff chatter from Juno nominees Alex Cuba, Jeremy Fisher and Serena Ryder in the first hour; and Corb Lund, Bedouin Soundclash's Jay Malinowski (playing the guitar of Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy) and Tegan Quin (from Tegan and Sara) in the second.

The casual event featured an enthusiastic audience and a laid-back feel from the performers, who had also attended the non-televised portion of the awards on Saturday night.

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"It's early," said Ms. Ryder shortly after yesterday's show began at noon. She had won the best new artist award the night before.

Ms. Ryder treated the audience to a preview of a song she is about to record in Los Angeles at the studio where Fleetwood Mac recorded their monster album, Rumours.

"I'm kind of freaking out. I feel honoured and blessed," she said, before launching into an inspired performance of When The Truth Just Walks Away.

Ms. Ryder also sang backup to Mr. Fisher's infectious Scar That Never Heals (Mr. Fisher was also nominated for best new artist, as was Mr. Cuba).

Ms. Ryder came out on stage sipping tea, and Ms. Quin told the crowd she was under the weather. "When I hit the wrong notes, that's why. And I'm from Calgary so you should cut me some slack," she said. She also said she was performing for only the second time in her life without her sister Sara.

Mr. Lund, a hometown favourite, got a big laugh with this line: "I have a bad habit of starting love songs and then they end up being about horses." The rodeo song was much appreciated by the Calgary crowd.

Held at the Jack Singer Concert Hall, the circle (actually a straight line across the stage - which was the source of much joking during the afternoon) was broadcast on CBC Radio, and will be available as a podcast in a couple of days.

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