Because we Song Circle types are so committed to
singing and sharing traditional and contemporary songs, we might
forget sometimes that there are many other forms of traditional
music alive and well all around us. In Eastern Ontario and western
Quebec, the fiddle rules; every little town has its fiddle club.
That doesn't mean there's a Natalie McMaster on every corner,
but any gathering will produce at least a dozen fiddlers of all
ages, ready to provide music for dancing.
On the Sunday after our last song circle, Dale and
I took our kids (Elspeth, 7 and Tristan, 2) to the Maryhill Fiddle
Jamboree, a gathering held every fourth Sunday afternoon in the
Knights of Columbus Hall just outside Maryhill. We arrived late
and the hall was full, but we managed to find seats on the edge
of the dance floor, perfect for seeing both the stage and the
dancers. Across from us were a couple who introduced themselves
as Wilfred and Mary, who had driven up from Hamilton for the afternoon.
The evening before they'd been at a fiddle jamboree in St. Catharines.
They told us about three or four other fiddle clubs that hold
monthly gatherings some of them conflicting with each other, which
made it difficult for diehards like Wilfred to choose! They thought
nothing of driving all over southwestern Ontario to attend a gathering
such as the one in Maryhill, and judging from the number of people
who stopped by to say hello, they were part of a fiddle circuit.
Wilf, originally from Cape Breton, was quite a hot dancer too!
The jamboree works like this: there's one invited
performer who does half hour sets throughout the afternoon. On
this day, this was James Bickle, a super young fiddler whom I
had never heard of, but who seemed to be well known to the crowd.
(Does anybody know who he is? He was terrific!) As people arrive
at the hall, there's a sign-up sheet at the door, and anyone who
wants to perform is invited to sign up. "Perform" may
mean playing fiddle, harmonica, steel guitar, bass, piano, drums,
rhythm guitar, autoharp or it may mean singing, stepdancing or
calling a square dance. There's a sort of rotating band that takes
turns up on the stage. I remember once being at a jamboree and
having the MC plead from the microphone "Is there a piano
player in the house?" Honest! It makes for an interesting
assortment of entertainment, but the single requirement is that
the music has to be good for dancing, because the dance floor
was packed with couples, ladies, children, everyone waltzing,
two-stepping and gay-Gordoning with sometimes more enthusiasm
than skill! During the hour and 20 minutes that we were there,
we heard James Bickle play a set and a half, a lady with an autoharp
sing (backed up by the band ), a family (grandfather, and three
adult children backing him up) play three fiddle songs, an older
Scottish gentleman play fiddle and then harmonica, and saw a young
woman step dance a reel on the special stepdance floor, and nearly
broke the special floor in front of the stage.
For the Mills family it was an hour or so of chatting
to other people who love fiddle, dancing with the kids (Elspeth's
waltz is coming along, thank-you, but Tristan can only dance if
Mommy's holding him), making trips to the kitchen for snacks and
drinks, and spending many long moments in front of the stage with
two kids who couldn't keep their eyes off the performers and their
instruments . And ours weren't the only kids there, I'm happy
This is traditional music in action, and a perfect
example of how the tradition gets passed on. Isn't it great?
Just a quick note to confirm that Modabo will be
performing for us on Saturday, April 18, 1998. I have requested
Zion United Church (Weber St. in Kitchener), and expect confirmation
this week. I hope to have tickets on sale by February 20 at $12
for adults and $10 for ages 12 and under. Call anytime to reserve
I would have to rate January's Circle as one of the
best in our nearly 3 years. The music was lots of fun, and there
was certainly variety as many people did very well with
the topic of "first" songs. We also set a record
attendance, as 44 people squeezed into our room!! Despite
the crowding nearly everyone stayed until the end - only twice
round the circle by 11:30! Among the 15 newbies were folks from
Woodstock and Brantford - welcome to everyone. Space prevents
me from elaborating, but it was a good night.
February's topic: songs with boats. Why? Beats me!
Celtic College (Part 3) Jack Cole
My report on Goderich's Celtic College (CC) concludes
with a comparison with The Woods Music and Dance Camp. Let me
begin by saying that both are wonderful, enriching experiences,
and I intend to return to each many times in the future. (Information
below is preliminary.)
Hi, folks. My name is Jack Cooper and I have been
coming out to the Song Circle on and off (but mostly on) since
its inception. I am also one of the coordinators of the Black
Walnut Folk Club. Last year I completed a CD of original songs
that I had been working on for a few years. Ever since then, Jack
has asked me if I would mind sharing my thoughts about the process
of making a CD. Nicely, at first. Then he started hounding me.
Day and night. The midnight calls at home were bad enough, but
then my invalid mother started receiving those anonymous ransom
notes using more fonts than Wired magazine stating, "GIVE
ME MY ARTICLE, OR YOUR BOY WILL BE BANISHED TO BLUES JAMS".
That was too much for my poor mother to bear (her knowing how
I feel about the blues- I couldn't perform a blues lick at gunpoint,
even if my woman just left me for the postman, my dog died and
I just polished off my last bottle of Jim Beam from my jail cell)
so through her urging, I decided to get cracking. Who said folkies
1) Why Record? There are many options available now for recording and producing one or several hundred CD's. In fact, the technology is so available and accessible, the questions of how or where become much less relevant than why. Why do you want to produce a CD, and what do you wish to accomplish? Answering these fundamental questions will determine to a large extent how much time and money you wish to invest in recording, where to record and how many copies to produce.
My personal objectives weren't quite clear at first.
I wanted to produce a professional caliber, fully arranged recording
demonstrating primarily my writing and arrangement abilities.
My secondary motive, which muddied things a bit, was that I also
wanted a saleable product to recoup some of the recording costs.
I would use the demo primarily to send for reviews, contests,
and auditions. I would also have CD's on hand to sell at performances.
For either objective, it seemed clear that I would
need a quantity of CD's on hand. It was clear to me that I wanted
to spend that time necessary on recording to be happy with the
arrangements and production.
2) Choosing a Studio There
are several local, relatively inexpensive, home based studios
to choose from in the region. One can usually find out about them
through word of mouth, by asking people who have recorded, talking
to folks at jams, festivals, concerts, etc. I recorded with Ron
Roy at Threshold Sound in Kitchener. At the time I started recording,
Ron had just assembled some serious recording equipment and was
looking for business. I had heard a demo of Lindsay Stewart, another
local songwriter, that had been recorded by Ron. I was impressed
by the sound and arrangements, and decided to give recording a
Another factor important to me was that Ron is an
excellent guitar player, and capable of adding studio caliber
guitar and bass parts. Ron also programmed drum tracks and could
construct inventive arrangements using the keyboard. These extra
things can be very important, depending on the amount of instrumentation
you want to use. If you are looking to record primarily "live"
instead of "over dubbed", and need to find other musicians,
another factor when choosing a studio is how capable the studio
is of finding musicians to play. Will you be charged extra for
hiring other musicians, or will the musicians used be doing in
for the love of it, or as a favour for something else?
[ Next - Jack records! And if he doesn't, I know where he lives! ]
Feb 7 Mill Race Folk Club, Open singaround at Ernie's Tavern, Cambridge, 8-12 PM. Also March 7.
Feb 20 Black Walnut Folk Club, University of Waterloo, Laurel Room. 8 PM. $3. I'm hosting!! Please come out! Also March 20.
Feb 22 Cuckoo's Nest Folk Club, London. Cooper & Nelson, $10. 519-673-0334
Feb 28 Mill Race Folk Club fund raiser, Cambridge Arts Theatre, 730 PM, 622-1175, 624-1175. Ken Brown, Janice Crewe, etc $10
Feb 28 Old Chestnuts Song Circle,
Chestnut St, Kitchener. Call 578-6298 for info. Also March 28.
7:30 to get ready, 8:00 start.
About this newsletter..... It's emailed if I have your address. It's available at OCSC and BWFC get togethers. Also available by regular mail, but for that I request a few stamped envelopes or a contribution to postage. Thanks to Jack and Jean for their articles this month. It makes a HUGE difference. Hope to see you at BWFC & OCSC, and especially at Modabo; should be a great concert. Call 578-6298 for more information!!!