Home Made Music
vWade Hemsworth - Merrick Jarrett
[ In the past month we've lost at least 3 Canadians who made me smile: Peter, Frank and Wade. All 3 wrote songs - or at least 1 song - but it was Wade Hemsworth whose music pleased us all, so completely. - jc]
I first met Wade Hemsworth in 1961 at the first Mariposa Festival in Orillia. I remember the two of us, on a blistering hot and muggy Saturday afternoon, sitting in the audience and talking folk music.
I didn't see him again until about ten years ago at the "Songs of Sail" festival in Penetang. He had come out of retirement to do a performance that was nothing short of magical. He would never win any prize as a vocalist or guitarist, but so what? Bob Dylan wasn't known for his voice, either, but for the songs he wrote and sang. Sitting in the audience, listening to this icon of Canadian folk music in his late seventies, singing songs like "'The Log Driver's Waltz", "The Black Fly Song", "The Wild Goose", and other wonderful songs that have been a part of our Canadian folk music heritage for years, lighting up the stage with his performance at an age when most of us are relaxing in retirement.
One of the finest Christmas gifts I ever got was from my family, who gave me his book of songs, which reminded me not only of the songs of his that I have sung so many times over the years, but also how many of his beautifully crafted songs that I did not know.
We don't have that many major song writers in Canada who seem to be equally at home in both traditional and contemporary folk, such as Ian Tyson, Stan Rogers (whose untimely death shocked us all), Tom Connors, Bill Gallaher, and Rick Fielding, to name a few who come to mind...but Wade Hemsworth was unique.
This remarkable songwriter will be sadly missed. In comparison to other writers, he did not produce that many recorded or published songs, but so many that he did write were pure gold, and have become embedded in every folksinger's collection -- to be sung, not cold print sitting on a page of an unused songbook.
It was my pleasure and privilege some ten years ago, to see him again, and to watch him, in his late seventies, electrify an audience at "Songs of Sail." He will be sorely missed.
vMerrick Jarrett Tribute - Jack Cole
This is such a great event, I can't resist putting in a plug each and every month. (See last month for details.)
Please mark down Sunday, April 28 for a fun afternoon of traditional and contemporary folk music. I guarantee that this will be a show the like of which you have never seen before! It's a tribute to Merrick, but also a fund-raiser for the Hopespring Cancer Support Centre.
The venue (Waterloo North Mennonite Church) can hold over 300 people, and our goal is to fill it! All musicians (and at this point we have more than a dozen acts) are donating their time. All profits will go to help Hopespring improve the lives of cancer victims and their families. April is Cancer Month - let's finish it off with a bang!
With performers spanning the last four decades of folk music, you will be sure to hear a wide variety of music for the entire family. Next month I will be able to say more about that. The afternoon will also feature food and drinks and a social hour to chat with Merrick and his musical friends.
Tickets are available now from me, other Old Chestnuts, Words Worth Books and Twelfth Night Music (both in Waterloo). The cost is $5 for children 12 & under, $10 for students and seniors and unwaged, and $15 for everyone else.
If you can't come but would like to make a contribution or donation please let me know. If you would like flyers to pass out, or tickets to sell to your friends please let me know. And spread the word!
v* The Natural Instrument - Sue Goldberg
[When this newsletter first began, we featured a couple of Sue's articles about the joy of singing. I am absolutely delighted to continue them now! Some have previously appeared elsewhere. - jc]
You'd love to make music but you think musical instruments are expensive and you say you can't afford them? Think again! There's one instrument anyone, no matter how fiscally limited, already owns: the human voice. You say you have a horrible voice and you can't carry a tune? How do you know that? When did you find out?
When I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the mid 1970's, I joined the singing classes led by Annabel Graetz at a now legendary music store and school called The Music Emporium. One of the most popular classes was called "Singing for Non- Singers." I myself didn't take "singing for non-singers". In fact, I fell in love with and learned my first song (MacNamarra's Band) while still in nursery school. But I came to the Music Emporium, and could hear the non-singer's class while waiting for my own to begin. Since Annabel had a student concert every term, I heard many of the non-singers progress from term to term. Some even went on to perform at local cafes and coffee houses.
I was very impressed, and asked Annabel what she did in these classes. She told me that in the first session each term, non- singers were asked to tell how they discovered their inability to sing. What was remarkable was that, with only minor variations, each person told the same story. At some point early in life, they'd been told they sounded terrible and were so humiliated they never tried again. It might have been a teacher in school who asked them not to sing at the school concert ("just mouth the words so you don't spoil it, dear"). It might have been a sister or brother who complained or taunted. But each person had been bullied into silence. By sharing their stories, learning simple songs together, getting practice in listening (and most important, moral support), these students learned that they could sing and sing well.
Of course, like everything else, singing is a skill...if you do it more, you can get better at it. But you don't need a beautifully trained voice to sing folk music. The very appeal of folk music is that it easily sung without special training. One of my personal (and narrow minded) criteria for a good song (one I want to learn) is that after hearing it once I can go away humming the tune.
What most of us think of as "singing" is what our school teachers admired and tried to train us to do: "bel canto" with its pear shaped tones and operatic style. But there are many other styles of singing. I remember a wonderful workshop in which Ethel Raim taught Bulgarian songs. The exercises we did were imitations of phrases she spoke to us, phrases that capitalized on the natural pitch changes we all make in our speech. (Most people who think they are "tone deaf" hear and imitate these pitch changes perfectly.) Then we repeated the words to a song, still using the speaking voice but stretching out the sounds so they were all connected and smooth. Ethel said "After a while, it will sound just like singing, but tell yourself 'I'm not singing, I'm speaking!'"
Another example: two years ago, I took a class at the Worlds of Music School in Toronto with Sadie Buck who leads the Six Nations Singers. She told us that in her culture, the function of singing is to provide music for dancing. The job of a song leader is to know the lead-in phrases of songs in which the large group joins. "Anyone," she said, "can be a singer, as long as they know the song and are willing to sing when needed. Old men who can barely get enough breath, lead songs and are appreciated as singers." In our classes, she taught songs and taught how and when each is used. There was no instruction in producing sound, breathing, phrasing, the things most singing teachers work on. This is an approach to singing that has nothing to do with the aesthetic quality of the voice.
So...Ye who have been bullied into lives without song, take heart! There are many ways of singing and one is probably right for you. Singing is not just for a special few with trained voices. It's for everyone and it's one of the few pleasures in life that costs nothing. Take back your voice!
vOCSC Last Month and This - Jack Cole
My theory of attendance lows in January were shattered this month, when over 40 people turned out to sing about "Cats and Other Green Eyed Monsters". It was a great night, with a host of Newbies, a good number of younger singers, and a slew of terrific songs.
We sang about cats in cradles, others that `came back' and others named Syd, and The Flea; and about radioactive frogs in swamps, weiner dogs, seals, shirts, racehorses, Riel and Tom Burleigh ("curiosity killed him"). We had songs in English, French, German, Dutch and Hebrew! And we closed the night with a great new song by Bill Gallaher. A marvelous Circle.
Now, something to spark ideas for February 23rd. Sometimes themes are hard to breed, sometimes very easy. On February 20th we will have a palindromic date - 20 02 2002. The numbers are the same backwards as forwards. I just happen to have a couple of songs in my "to learn" pile with numbers in the titles. So there it is - songs with numbers.
But a warning - excessive "zipper songs" cause brain damage!!!
See you then.
vSome Events in The Area (as space permits!)
Feb 7 Grand River Dulcimer Club, Folkway Music, Guelph. $3
Feb 8 Allison Lupton, The Button Factory/Waterloo Arts Centre. With her amazing band!
Feb 8 Ron Hynes, Acoustic Traditions, Fergus, 519-787-3241
Feb 9 Aengus Finnan, Registry Theatre, concert for the Food Bank. $10 / $14 575-9081.
Feb 10 Mill Race Trad Sessions, Cambridge, Golden Kiwi, 4:30. Also 24th, and same dates in March.
Feb 15 Black Walnut Folk Club, Mill-Courtland Centre. $3. Open mic. With host. (Third Friday of each month)
Feb 16 Mill Race Concert, James Gordon at the Galt Room, 13 Main Street Grill.
Feb 23 Old Chestnuts Song Circle. 578-6298. Songs with numbers. Like: 111 and 20:00.
Mar 2 Mill Race Folk Club open singaround at Ernies, Queen Street, Cambridge. (First Saturday of each month)
Mar 2 CFMU Benefit Concert, Oakville. Brent Titcombe, Fireweed, Tim Harrison and more. 1-877-263-9632
Mar 9 Mill Race Annual Spring Preview - Cambridge Arts Centre, 621-7135.
vAbout this newsletter..... It's emailed if I have your address. It's on the Web at http://www.mgl.ca/~jhcole and 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. Call 578-6298 for more information. A great start to the new year! Thanks to Mary and Andy for the honour. AND watch for March's Canadian Living, with a house concert article featuring the Old Chestnuts concert series! See many of you in Paris this weekend! Thanks VERY much to Sue and Merrick for filling this issue. You out there - why not write a review, or an article, or a rant???? - jc