v Old Chestnuts - Last month and next - Jack Cole
The best laid plans go astray, and so we began 2008 at Barry and Mary's place, instead of our usual Chestnut home. Thanks again to our hosts for a most wonderful night of song and community. Not often we have both homemade chocolate cake AND trifle with our "Four Strong Winds"! Even less often we have leftovers!
Illness (sorry) and 90th birthday parties (congrats!) took out a few of our regulars so it was good that 3 Newbies and some returnees rounded out the circle of nearly 30 folks. Welcome to the new singers, and we hope to see you back soon. Rise Up Singing got a good workout as we sang many old favourites.
This month the circle is on February 23, back at the usual location (he said hopefully). There is no theme, but despite having a half-dozen songs in the works and at least one request … I'll be re-learning a Willie P. Bennett song this week. If you can do the same that would be great.
March's circle will be on the usual date, but April's moves to the second Saturday. Mark that on your calendars!
v Allison Lupton with Crabtree&Mills - Jack Cole
We managed to find a wee crack in the frigid armour of this wicked winter, just big enough to sneak Allison, Jay, Geoff, Ian, Denis, Joanne and Paul into town for another terrific Folk Night concert.
Crabtree&Mills gave us a longer-than-usual opening set, leading off with a stunning version of "Oh Susannah", to which our famous singing audience (reputation only slightly tarnished from the last concert) responded with vigour. Paul and Joanne led us through a half dozen more old-time and original songs, with their exquisite guitar picking and warm, comfortable harmonies. The duo are expected to play a house concert in the area sometime soon, and I will spread the word when that happens.
The Allison Lupton Band then performed 2 sets of material drawn mostly from Allison's new CD, "fly like swallows". The musicianship of these five is outstanding. Allison (flute and whistle), Jay Weiler (fiddle), Ian Bell (guitar, accordion, mandolin), Geoff Somers (fiddle, guitar, mandolin) , and Denis Rondeau (acoustic bass) are as fine a group of players as you could find anywhere, something that the capacity audience at The Registry fully appreciated.
Both sets were a mix of tunes and songs. The first half ended with a set of reels, and a jive-y version of "Foolish You", and the second continued the up-tempo pace, including Ian performing his famous Charles Atlas song. My favourite instrumental moment came when Jay, Geoff, and Denis all bowed strings together – it was harmony magic.
The songs throughout tended to the gentle and sensitive, from "Blue Willow" about a shard of china found on Allison's family dairy farm near Embro, to "Father Was a Fisherman", an Ian Bell song based on the true story of the death of a fisherman on Lake Erie. Allison's lead vocals are ethereal; so pretty, soft, and delicate that the words just seem to ease their way into the air.
The integration of these fine musicians shows through in the song list – every member of the band had a hand in writing songs and tunes for the new album. And one of the finest moments came in the encore, when the band set aside their instruments to sing "Our Lady of Autumn" in a perfect blend of 5 voices. (That song's in our Old Chestnuts songbook, so we should practice it!)
Thanks to the whole crew (especially Robert on sound) for making it work, and the audience for supporting this great night!
v Genticorum - Jack Cole
If you saw Genticorum at the Goderich Celtic Festival or Cambridge's Mill Race Festival, then you already know just how good, and how much fun, these three guys are. Singing in French, with hilarious introductions in English, the trio has drawn rave reviews from everyone that hears them!
Genticorum are fast becoming one of the most sought-after proponents of Québécois musical culture. The energetic and original trio also incorporates the dynamism of today's North American and European folk cultures in their music.
Weaving wooden flute, fiddle, acoustic guitar, jaw harp, bass and foot percussion with strong vocal harmonies, they offer a blend of traditional songs and tunes, as well as original compositions. Their distinctive sound, sense of humour and stage presence make them a supreme crowd pleaser. Since their debut in 2000, Genticorum has forged a solid place for itself on the folk and world music circuit, playing festivals, concerts and dances.
Their sophomore album, "Malins Plaisirs", won the 2005 Canadian Folk Music Award in the "Best Ensemble" category, and was nominated for JUNO and Felix (Québec) Awards. Their success in England, Scotland, Scandinavia, Germany, Malaysia, Israel, Egypt, Australia and New Zealand forecasts a sparkling international career for these slightly naughty 'bons vivants'.
Genticorum is Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand (flute, bass, vocals), Yann Falquet (guitar, jaw harp, vocals), and Pascal Gemme (fiddle, feet, vocals). This concert is the second stop on the CD release tour for their hot-off-the-press third album, "La Bibournoise".
Here's a recent quote from a musician on the Canadian folk music mailing list: "Pascal Gemme is not only a virtuoso fiddle player, but an expert in the stupendous Quebecois traditional fiddle music, AND a superb composer of music in the traditional vein.
Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand is likely the finest flute player in Canada today, but is also terrific on bass and fiddle too. He also, is a terrific composer. Yann Falquet is likely the best guitar accompanist ever, and is certainly the finest Jew's Harp player on the continent. "
Guelph-based singer-songwriter Jack Cooper will perform an opening set. Described by Robert Reid of The Record as " .. a gifted songwriter with a graceful voice and fluid guitar style", Jack has released two very well received recordings of his original material. Jack used to be a regular at The Old Chesnuts, before moving to Guelph. Please come out and welcome him back to KW!
Tickets for the concert are only $15 in advance, and $17 at the door. Bring some friends and let's go for a fourth straight sellout Folk Night concert!
Looking ahead: in May The Dixie Flyers and Nonie Crete come to The Registry for the second annual Merrick Jarrett concert. Then October kicks off a new season with Archie Fisher, November features a night with the staff of the Riverside Celtic College, January brings Girls With Glasses, and May 2009 Finest Kind with Beverlie Robertson. A couple more concerts still to be worked out for March and April will complete the series. I hope to have that information very soon.
v Remembering Willie P. Bennett - Jack Cole
"When I was younger, in the days of my youth
I used to sit down and watch the river go down
Send my dreams, there around the bend
Hoping they'd come back again
Now long times go by and at least once a day
I sit and think about when we were holy
Eager to see what we could find
Funny how we lost the time"
Those words come from one of my favourite songs, "Music In Your Eyes", written in 1975 by Willie P. Bennett. Willie would have been about 24 at the time, way too young to be writing songs from such a perspective. But he lived in an exciting place at an exciting time, that fostered creativity like few have before, or will again.
Willie P died on Friday, in Peterborough, at 56. He had suffered a heart attack last May, and, while not confirmed, speculation is that it was the heart that gave out. Later this month he was scheduled to appear in Waterloo at The Princess. It seems completely unreal that he won't perch on his stool, pull out his harp, or his mandolin, or his beat up old guitar, and blow us away with his words. The loss to the folk community is tremendous, and the sorrow is deep.
Willie P. Bennett was part of the London, Smale's Pace crowd. Going to university in the 70's, these people were my heroes. Writing the songs, making the music, making people question and participate. Stan Rogers, Michael Lewis, Billy Hughes, Colleen Peterson (now all deceased), David Bradstreet, David Essig, Doug McArthur, Brent Titcombe, the Dixie Flyers, Rick Taylor, Paul Mills, Laura Smith, and many more. Such incredible songwriting, such amazing energy. Something in the water or the air, as they propelled each other forward.
I can't recall when I first heard Willie P. It might have been as one of the Dixie Flyers, or at the Home County Folk Festival. I do remember, vividly, one night at the short-lived Campus Centre Coffeehouse at the University of Waterloo; I have a grainy black and white photo from my friend Frank to prove it. Red checked tablecloths and candles, the lights all the way down, except for the spotlight on the guy on the chair. Willie, his crazy hair shorn, mesmerized the crowd with his stories and hard songs – hard because they weren't the sugar-coated nice folk songs that we were used to, but edgier songs of the cold and of misery, fallen heroes, and sadness. Songs that are with many of us today, I'm sure.
Later Willie joined up to tour with another fine songwriter, Fred Eaglesmith. If you flip channels to the country stations you can sometimes find videos of Fred and his band, with Willie on mandolin, burning up the place. Later still, Blackie and The Rodeo Kings was formed by Colin Linden, Tom Wilson, and Stephen Fearing to pay tribute to Willie and songs. They took their name from Willie's 1979 album:
And the stories he told her were enough, For him to hold her, and her to hold on to him
But the faces the Lord put on us
Are the actions of a heart that love can fill
Heart to heart they're living now
Blackie and the Rodeo King
I don't know what the Princess will do with February 28th ; it is now just a black square on their calendar, with no mention of the reason. I don't know what we will do, either, as our heroes keep disappearing into those black spots. I guess it's a thing that every generation faces, that someday there will be no heroes left. And I guess the best we can do is keep singing their songs and stories; that will be enough.
Music in your eyes
I can tell by your surprise
You've been doing fine
So don't give me no more lies
We'1l understand it all in time
UPDATE Feb 20: I've been told that it's "99% likely" that the Princess will host an evening to remember Willie P. instead of the concert. Several local musicians are on board, and a couple more (mentioned in this article) are expected. Watch the Grand River Folk site for information.
Photographs are © Frank Kolnick. The outdoor photos are from Summerfest 77, at Cayuga, which also featured Colleen Peterson, David Bradstreet, Michael Lewis, and Doug McArthur. The other is from the Campus Centre Coffeehouse.
Closing Notes - jc
# Stephen Fearing is coming to The Registry Theatre! In what is certain to be a memorable concert experience, Stephen will perform on Thursday, April 24. Details, when announced, will be posted at grandriverfolk.org . (This concert is being presented by The Registry, but is not a Folk Night concert.)
# If you want to travel a bit and catch more music from the last Folk Night concert, consider riding down to St. George on March 5 to hear Geoff Somers and Ian Bell, or a little further to Brantford to hear Crabtree&Mills this weekend, on February 24th. Contact info for both concerts is at grandriverfolk.org.
About this newsletter..... It's on the Web at http://www.mgl.ca/~jhcole and available at Circles. Call 519-578- 6298 or write firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. The winter than wouldn't die - just turn to slush and re-freeze. Just about had enough!! And with the winter cold thing too! Arg!