Old Chestnuts & Black Walnuts Newsletter

April 1996

Condolences to the friends, family and admirers of Edith Fowke, the great collector and proclaimer of Canadian folk music, who passed away a few days ago. Her influence is strong, even in our small Circle, and without her life's work there would be fewer songs to sing and fewer voices singing them.

March Old Chestnuts Jack Cole

I continue to be amazed that new people keep turning up! In addition to the one or two first timers we had about 20 folks this month. And we might have had more - I've since had a couple of phone calls from people who had read the incorrect date in the Acoustic Cafe newsletter and tried to come a week late!

The theme for March was Songs of Ireland and I think we had about as many on-theme songs as not! Handouts were: Whiskey In The Jar, Long Black Veil, Tell My Ma, The Lilly of The West, Blue Eyes Cryin' In The Rain, Mary And The Seal, and Maybelle - a bumper crop! My personal hilights were Maybelle (Jakki's upbeat song about a little girl's pet cow being sold for leather scraps) and (of course) the Growden family doing The Bridge Witch, a classic story of obsession, starring someone near and dear (who copies these newsletters without actually reading them! - I hope). And it was wonderful to hear Merrick sing the first folk song he ever learned - Froggie Went A-Courtin' - for a certain short carbon unit who gets mentioned in this newsletter every month! For those who missed it and are receiving this by mail, I've included a couple of songs from March. Enjoy!

And thanks to all who helped me rehearse The Potter's Wheel. I hope I can do half as well without you on April 18 at the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, Waterloo. Of course, if you'd like to come sing........

Black Walnut Folk Club Pats Itself on the Back Margaret Hitchcock

The Black Walnut Folk Club celebrated one continuous year of musical activity on March 16. On that occasion, it was standing room only as twenty musicians strutted their very substantial "stuff" to an appreciative audience.

Prior to the evening of music, the BWFC committee held an open meeting so that club supporters might have their "say." The small but select number that attended contributed valuable suggestions. Among them was a request to make the stage safer by extending it lengthwise. It is deep enough, but those trios or even duos have to be awfully fond of each other to fit on the stage! We'll look into that. Volunteer carpentry, anyone?

The "no smoking" request the club makes was applauded. The consideration smokers show for those with allergies to smoke is greatly appreciated. For those smokers who have braved the winter cold for their ciggie breaks, take heart--the end is in sight. Soon you'll be able to lounge outside on Jester's terrace by the lake and smoke in comfort.

There was much discussion about the pros and cons of purchasing sound equipment (probably used). We have been and still are delighted with our present arrangement of renting from G.K and Austin, who do a fabulous job on sound for us. It was decided, however, to explore the possibility of one day getting our own sound system.

GOOD NEWS--BWFC, which meets every third Saturday at Victoria Park's Jester's Court, have just had it confirmed by proprietors George and Sheila that they will be pleased to have us continue meeting there. Dates to circle on your calendar are April 20, May 18 and June 15. We haven't decided about the summer yet. Last year, we enjoyed a free folk night in July and then took August off. We'll keep you posted on future plans. Again, a big hand to all of you--performers and audience--that have made our first full year so enjoyable.

In Our Van We're Goin' to.... (continued)

...(North) Carolina. On March 2 Lori and I jumped into Cathy and Dave's brand new shiny white van and headed south for a week of recovery from this dismal winter. Why am I telling you this? Because it turned into a very musical trip, and I thought some of you might find it interesting. Sort of an Old Chestnuts field trip.

The first thing we discovered was that a dulcimer and guitar in the back seats can actually propel a van all the way to the Smoky Mountains. I'm still picking dulcimer slivers out of my fingertips! 15 hours after leaving Kitchener we arrived in Lake Lure, NC, tired, hoarse and a whole 20 degrees (F) warmer! (shiver....)

I knew we were headed into a cradle of American folk music, but I didn't fully appreciate what that meant. Without really trying, just by doing the typical tourist stuff, we found 3 instrument builders within a 60 mile distance. The first was in Lake Lure itself - The Dulcimer Shop. Blaine is pretty new at this, and his dulcimers were appropriately priced, starting at $99. He obviously loves to build them, and is in that neat, experimental stage, building everything he can think of.

On Wednesday we braved the thunderstorms and headed through the mountains to Cosby, Tennessee. Cosby is the home of the Cosby Dulcimer and Harp Festival, Mountain Musicrafts, and Jean and Lee Schilling, who have organized the festival every June for 19 years. We followed the faded billboards to their shop, and as we jumped out of the van the thunderclouds parted and the sun sliced down. (This sort of omen became the norm for this entire trip!) Lee came out of their house to meet us and open the shop up; this is the off season, so we were lucky that they were both home.

We spent the next 2 hours sorting through the store. It's actually a small outbuilding, with cracks in the walls, low ceilings and sloping floors, chock full of mountain and hammer dulcimers, psalteries, music books, kits and everything else you could hope for. We tried a bunch of instruments while Lee and Jean demonstrated, tuned, ran out to find more, copied music for us and generally showed us a good time. Jean even took a turn on my little dulcimer! We left poorer in dollars, but much richer for the experience.

We stopped at the Folk Art Center in Asheville, NC, which is loaded with arts and crafts for sale, plus an exhibit and demonstration area. But NO instruments! They did, however, point us down the road to Song Of The Wood in Black Mountain, where Jerry Read Smith runs a (more typical) store selling hammer dulcimers and psalteries that he builds himself, and a variety of other instruments, books, CDs etc. After an hour agonizing over which bowed psaltery sounded the sweetest, we found that he offered workshop tours! How could we resist?? His workshop is a two story building beside his home, on top of a mountain near Asheville. He didn't have many instruments in process at the time, but as a bonus he played a couple of cuts from his next album (oh yeah, he's a recording hammer dulcimist (?)) and even asked our opinion! After inviting him to play for the Old Chestnuts someday (maybe next February) we took our leave.

We also found a song (well, Cathy did) in the mountains - see above. We discovered the Swanannoa folk music school - its like The Woods, but goes all summer, with a different theme each week. Then there's the John C. Campbell Folk School, which offers over 2 dozen folk music courses throughout the year. A very musically rich area. And we came away with: a McNally StrumStick, a dulcimer kit, a plucked psaltery, a bowed psaltery, Catspaws, several books, and instructions on how to make clay ocarinas! If you don't know what all these are, don't worry - NEITHER DID WE! Come to the next Song Circle to find out!!

But you know what? Both Jean and Jerry were selling dulcimers built by Lynn McSpadden from Arkansas. Very nice ones, too. Hmmm.....Now, where can we go to get warm next year.......????

Future Song Circles

April 27 is, of course, Modabo night. All tickets are sold, and I have a handful of names on a waiting list. So, if you would still like to come, you can always call - you never know. (Or, you can drive to Brantford the next day - see below).

The next song circle - and the final one until fall - is the fourth Saturday in May - the 25th, 111 Chestnut, 578-6298. There may still be a concert or two in May or June - I'll let everybody know about that! The barn dance in August has hit a snag - the barn is no longer available. If anyone has a suggestion of another location I will resume looking for a band. Otherwise.......

It now seems almost certain that we will have Eileen McGann for a concert in September. The very tentative date is September 13 (a Friday). She and David Knutson are also hoping to offer workshops on singing, writing and playing - is anyone out there interested? If so, let me know as soon as you can! Is anyone interested in hosting the September circle? If we have a house concert in September then I would like to hold the Circle somewhere else...you need a BIG room and an easy to find location.

Reviews (and what John would pay for....)

Ashley McIsaac - Hi - How Are You Today? Review by John Hennessy Rating: $15

At the outset I have to declare that Jack and I have a serious disagreement about this one! He grumbles at the very mention, but I quite like it. Young Mr. McIsaac is a frighteningly good fiddler; he's managed to rub shoulders with many of the boring old f...s of popular music, he's a CBC sweetheart, got a Gaelic song onto the charts and he's only 20. It's hardly surprising that when someone gives him a whole studio full of electronics to play with and a big fat budget, a recording like How Are You Today emerges. This isn't traditional music. It's probably not folk music. It is interesting as an insight into a musician's mind and the way he can have fun with and build on the traditional form. In fact, the last album (yes, one of those big black plastic things) that I remember with the same sense of playfulness and promise of things to come was Are You Experienced. You older folks may remember that one - Jimi Hendrix' first album.....

Upcoming Events (please let me know about any that you feel are appropriate for next time!)

Apr 13/96 The Whitely Brothers, Theater on the Grand, Fergus Apr 19/96 Fund Raiser, Brantford Folk Club

Apr 20/96 Heather Bishop, Zion United Church, Kitchener $14 / $17 Apr 20/96 Black Walnut Folk Club

Apr 27/96 Modabo, Old Chestnut's House Concert Series, $14 Apr 28/96 Modabo, Brantford Folk Club

May 1/96 Ani DeFranco, Waterloo $15 / $17 May 17/96 Brendan Nolan, Brantford Folk Club

About this newsletter......

Thanks to the folks who have responded and subscribed to this newsletter - some who have never been to the OCSC and some from well out of town. I hope you continue to find it useful! As a reminder, I ask for a small donation for copies that are mailed. And I anxiously solicit articles! Thanks to all contributors this month! Next month - Modabo and The Woods! ttfn jc