The Old Chestnuts Song Circle Newsletter
April 1998


Modabo in Kitchener! Robin Jones

[ Please note that I am reviewing this without taking notes, so my memories might not necessarily be in order. ]

Let me first of all note my impression of the performers. The three of them Darrell, Jon and Mike are all excellent singers, with tremendous control over their voices. After the show I congratulated Michael the sound man, only to be told that he had done nothing, and that Modabo had controlled themselves. Those who were there will vouch for the quality of the sound.

The strongest voice belongs to Mike Doyle; the groups "sound" being molded around this powerful instrument. Most people can only dream about sounding this good. Mike enjoyed repartee with the audience, just ask "Buddy". He covers really well while the other two are re-tuning, doing things like giving bananas out as quiz prizes. Pat, my wife, said "you might want to say how good they are with interacting with the audience and hope they never give it up when they become famous". Note what she said: "when they become famous."

Jon Weaver projects a happy go lucky look to his area of the stage, almost gleeful in his enjoyment of what he does -" he likes his job." Jon plays the guitar, flute and drum. I particularly like his staccatto, rock like, flute accompaniments. This stood out on both "Heard it through the Grape Vine," and "Fire". This man got a big kick out of the audience singing along with the band; you could tell we were doing well at singing "Northwest Passage" by the look on his face.

If Mike's voice is the core of the sound, Darrell Grant's words are the foundation. What a foundation, what words. These are more than just words to sing. Darrell is a craftsman of his trade, able to weave the most wonderful stories and subjects into song. Darrell fascinated me all night with his constant changes to the tunings on his guitar. This man is truly a master.

Overall the sound of this group is so good that the addition of a bassist, or drummer would be truly superfluous; the sound is complete as it is.

We really got our money's worth; we did not leave thinking we deserved more - we had roughly speaking two and a half hours of performance. Take note, those people who feel an hour and a half is plenty. I think my friend Marilyn summed up the concert best by saying: "we will never get to see those guys again for just twelve dollars."

[Jackís notes: Special thanks to Michael on sound, Christa on lights, Lori, Margaret, Cathy, Dave, Amanda, James, Latte On the Loose, Readersí Ink and Zion United! You all helped make this an incredible 24 hours!]

March and Future Song Circles Jack Cole

The March Song Circle was a fabulous testament to "Canadian Icons", with songs written by, for and about people and things that define us. We had 23 people including, once again, some newbies. (A nice sized crowd - I got five turns!) I heard it said later that it was someoneís favourite circle so far. Thanks everyone!

There will be no circle in April, so May 23 is our next and final meeting until the fall. Rather than picking a theme for May, Iíd just like everyone to bring their favourites from the past year - their own, or someone elseís! New songs are welcome too, but if a particular song stood out for you, please plan to lead it or request it!

Please, if you can, let us know (578-6298) if you are coming to the May circle. Iím concerned about the numbers and would like to be prepared.

Lord of the Dance Jean Mills

This wonderful song, written by Sydney Carter and based on the Quaker hymn "Simple Gifts", is familiar to most OCSC members; it seems to come up regularly in the circle, a perfect testament to its appeal. It is also a song that played a very important role in the life of Irish harpist and singer Mary O'Hara.

Some of you may know the story of Mary O'Hara's early rise to fame as a performer of Irish traditional tunes on the harp. An untrained singer, she has a crystalline soprano voice and was one of the first to present the traditional Irish Gaelic songs to the Ďmass market' so to speak. She married young - and my facts may be faulty here, but I believe her husband was an artist. Sadly, he died early in their marriage. In her overwhelming grief, she retreated from the world and entered a conv ent. For a number of years she did not sing or play her harp.

I have a live recording of Mary O'Hara in concert. Near the end of the performance she introduces "Lord of the Dance." She says, in a gentle Irish lilt, that she must thank Sidney Carter for this wonderful song, because the first time she heard it - in her grief-filled world inside the convent - she knew it was time to return to music. This was the song, she said, that made her want to sing again.

No wonder we all love this song. Who can doubt the power of music?

The Mill Race Festival Jack Cole

In 1997 I finally made it to my first Mill Race - or more properly, the Mill Race Festival of Traditional Folk Music. Conflicts had conspired to keep me away. The August long weekend is a favourite for getting out of the city, and lately that has included being at The Woods Music and Dance Camp. But last year found us at home on the Saturday, so Lori and I were able to take in this most local of folk festivals, which also happens to be a free festival!

Unsure of our destination, we just headed into Cambridge on Highway 8 (Water Street). It wasnít too long before we spotted some Mill Race signs tacked on posts, and they lead us to old Galt, down along the Grand river. (And if I have my geography wrong, I apologize!). Racing along the main street we saw tents and craft booths and lots of people milling about, and when I spotted the candy and chocolate shop I knew we should park right there. We had no trouble f inding a spot, and other than moving the car once to avoid a 2 hour limitation, free parking was a snap! One up on London and Hamilton already!

The Mill Race is unlike any other festival Iíve been to. Most festivals have a park or compound within which everything takes place. The Mill Race festival spreads out over city blocks and establishments and feels more embraced by the community. There are 2 or 3 stages set up outside of local pubs, so you can sit and refresh yourself while enjoying the music. The crafts occupy a block or two in the middle of the street, betwixt and between local shops. So pottery and sunscreen, funky clo thes and groceries, beer and ballads are all easily accessible. And at the furthest reaches of the festival, in a beautiful old foundation of a mill / amphitheater by the Grand, is the main stage, where music goes until the sweet closing notes drift out on the warm summer breeze.

We had a very nice day, chatting with Brad McEwan (the life force behind the festival) and meeting lots of friends from the Old Chestnuts and Black Walnuts, including Beverlie Robertson who was performing on the main stage. My personal highlight was quaffing beer while discovering Greenstalk - those two lads were very, very hot. And I had the good fortune to wander by the open stage when it was in need of another singer - my first ever festival appearance! Unprepared, warmed by the sun ( and a beer or two) - the best way to make a debut!

AND, in 1998 Brad has asked me to come back to the Mill Race Festival!! But Brad is not stupid - Iíll be helping host one of the stages. I look forward to introducing people like the following, who are tentatively booked for Mill Race 1998: Eileen McGann, Simon Mayor & Hilary James, Glen Reid, Terry Bartholomew, Cam McLennan, Hobnail, Cam Kemp, Clean Sweep, Laura Cannell, Mary Anderson-Buchanan, Kiran Ahluwalia, Ragamuffins, Hunterís Purse, Sami-Da, Eko-Gemah, and many Morris dancers!

Hope to see you there - thatíll be our car by the chocolate shop. And in the meantime, if you get a chance to attend a Mill Race fundraiser, or to buy an annual membership please do so! Itís a good way to support a good day.

[Hint: Coming from the North, park for free all day in the lot just before the main stage. When you see the car dealership on the left, turn into the next open driveway on the right.]

On Recording.. Jack Cooper (Part 3 of 3)

[In Part 1 Jack talked about motivation to record, and choosing a studio. Part 2 discussed the recording process. ]

4) Mixing a Master Copy

Mixing all the parts to a stereo (two-part) master is essential in order to reproduce the recordings. Mixing is a process almost as tedious as editing piano notes, but is as crucial a process as the actual recording. Ron did all the mixing himself to a Digital Audio Tape (DAT). This format was (is?) the current standard used for creating CDís or cassette tapes. Another option would have been to have another studio do the actual mixing, as long as they can handle the format of tape us ed for recording.

 e master copy was created, I took the DAT to another local studio (Studio A) which offers tape and CD reproduction services. I decided on producing the minimum mass quantity of CDís (500). At the time, CD burners were relatively rare and the cost of buying individual recordable CDís was expensive. This has all changed. CD burners have dropped in price and are more common. The price of recordable CDís has plummeted to about $3 per CD. What this means is that it is now feasible to pr oduce and sell small batches of CDís.

 didnít make cassettes, because I could only afford one reproduction run at the time, and I was convinced CDís would be a better choice than cassettes. I had also spent money producing a sleeve and card for the CD. I could have made one master CD, and just dubbed cassette copies from the master.

 5) What Next?

I donít know. Recording was a pretty extensive and exhausting endeavor. The job of marketing and selling my songs or CDís is another daunting job and one that Iím not frankly capable of doing alone. I am currently soliciting help in selling my songs to publishers and distributing my CDís. I am interested in recording more song demos, but will probably not be ready to tackle another full scale recording for a while.

Some Events in The Area (as space permits!)

Apr 24 Beverlie Roberson and Poor Charlie, Raintree Café, Waterloo

Apr 25 Beverlie Robertson, Poor Charlie, Rick Fielding, Leyanderís in Elora, BLues, concert and buffet.

Apr 25 Mill Race Fundraiser, Mary Anderson-Buchanan and others! Call 621-7135 for info

Apr 27 Wrigley Sisters, from Scotland!, Brantford Folk Club

May 2 Mill Race Folk Club Open singaround at Ernieís Tavern, Cambridge

May 15 Black Walnut Folk Club, University of Waterloo, Laurel Room. 8 PM. $3

May 23 Old Chestnuts Song Circle, Chestnut St, Kitchener. Call 578-6298 for info. 7:30 to get ready, 8:00 start.

About this newsletter.....

Itís emailed if I have your address. Itís 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, Jean and Robin for articles this month and Michael for helping set up the circle. And to everyone at Modabo - wasnít that a night to remember! NOTE: I plan to cull the mailing list to people that I know are interested, and people that let me know they are interested. So if you havenít been to an OCSC recently you should give me a call before the fall. Especially if you are interested in fall concerts!


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