St. (519) 578-6298
(originally prepared for the KW Arts Awards, 2001)
In 1995, as a
lifelong lover of folk music, I decided to do something to extend KW's
community and help spread the music. The
Old Chestnuts Song
informal gathering for group singing - has grown to include concerts,
benefits, and a newsletter which helps bind the folk community
A trip to The
Music and Dance Camp re-kindled a love of folk music and singing.
It introduced me to real, live folk musicians, and opened my ears to
brilliant concept of the "Song Circle". Upon return from Camp, I
knew that the music had to find a permanent place in my life, and in my
So began the
Old Chestnuts Song Circle. Eventually the Old Chestnuts took root and
into all that follows…
… as a Founder…
- In 1995, I
Old Chestnuts Song Circle, which has over 200 members from ages 8 to
While most are amateurs, there are also some professional
We meet each month in our living room - as many as 45 of us - to sing
- In 1999, I
member of the Grand River Dulcimer Club, which formed after a
workshop in our home. This was the only mountain dulcimer club in Canada, before
it was retired in 2007.
- In 2001, I
of the Chequegnat Festival, an afternoon of music, crafts, food, and
in the open backyards of five neighbouring homes. Ten musical
were featured, and 175 people attended from as far away as Toronto. Since then
the numbers have grown to about 300, with musicians from across Canada.
- In 2001, I
the first Central Frederick Artisans Craft Tour
(now the Frederick Art Walk), a walking tour of
artists’ studios, including my wife’s pottery studio in our home.
- In 2002, I
an umbrella organization to promote folk music in the region.
Grand River Folk Community invited sixteen presenters and clubs to
first meeting, and has grown steadily since then.
- In 2006 I launched
Folk Night at the Registry, an annual
series of 6 concerts, in conjunction with the Registry Theatre. This is the most ambitious folk music series in KW
in many years. I have been artistic director since the program began.
… as a Presenter…
Community section of the March 2002 Canadian Living magazine includes
article (to which I contributed) about house concerts. The story
them as "part musicale and part party…the absolute best". They
an essential oasis for traveling musicians, providing an outlet for
art as well as amenable food and lodging. House concerts (ours are
not-for-profit) often make such a tour feasible. My wife
I began inviting people to concerts in our home in April of 1996.
As far as I am aware, the Old Chestnuts house concert series is the
running, among active presenters, in Southern Ontario. Some musicians
we have hosted:
Juno nominee (BC)
Juno winner (Quebec)
Harmony Road (BC)
- Cathy Fink
- Darrell Grant (New
performers develop a following, it is possible to evolve their house
into larger venues. I have organized, publicized and hosted
in local churches and halls, including
The Registry Theatre in Kitchener and The Button Factory in Waterloo.
These events have featured both local and touring musicians, including:
- Modabo (NB)
Tour and 2005 (BC and France)
(PEI & Ontario)
- Valdy (BC)
- The Tannahill Weavers (Scotland's premier traditional
- The Pomelos (Ontario)
Archie Fisher (Scotland)
- Penny Lang (BC)
Steel Rail (Quebec/BC)
Dixie Flyers (Ontario)
- FInest Kind (Ontario)
James Keelaghan (Manitoba)
Ron Hynes (Newfoundland)
- Dave Gunning (Nova
- Ken Whiteley and Mose Scarlett
- The Marigolds (Ontario)
Katherine Wheatley and Wendell Ferguson (Ontario)
and many more.
are wonderful entertainment, but workshops are ways to learn. I
organized workshops in singing techniques, harmony singing, and
… as a
community has its heroes. One in our community was Merrick Jarrett, a
singer, story teller, teacher and mentor. I co-organized an April
2002 tribute concert, featuring over a dozen musicians, with all
going to the Hopespring Cancer Support Centre. Each spring we celebrate
Merrick with a special concert as part of the Folk Night series.
In 2008 I conceived and co-developed a concert remembering Stan Rogers,
which was performed in Kitchener and London.
- GreenWood is
trio of James Morgan, Jean Mills and myself. We harmonize vocally and
guitars, dulcimers, whistles, recorders, harmonicas, drums, and
We have performed three benefit concerts for Amnesty International, as
well as opening sets in venues from Waterloo to Toronto, at the
Festival, the Sandhills Festival, and other local events.
- As a solo
have performed at folk clubs; hosted, MC’ed and given opening sets at
venues; played at the Central Frederick festival, and at the Black
Folk Club summer series in Victoria Park. I have performed at an
opening at the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, and at the Latitudes
Storytelling Festival (2008).
- In 2000, I
to create a "Singing Our Songs" night as part of Millennium Mondays, on
stage in Weber Park. Five other musicians and I led a group of 50
neighbours in singing favourite folk songs. I created a booklet
24 songs which was distributed to the audience to help teach the music
and encourage participation.
- In 2004 I
organized and participated in a workshop-style performance at the
Central Frederick annual festival.
- In 2005 I hosted and participated in a
"traditional roots" workshop as part of the Kitchener songwriterfest.
- In 2005 I organized music for and
participated in the opening of the Downtown Community Centre.
- In 2006 I performed at a memorial concert
for Merrick Jarrett in Toronto and a fundraiser for Artscan Circle
- In 2008 I was part of a concert remembering
Stan Rogers, which was performed in Kitchener and London
… as a Writer…
- The Old
Circle Newsletter is published occasionally, between song circles.
brings Circle events to subscribers, along with news and reviews of
concerts, and articles of general interest to the folk music
It is emailed to nearly 200 subscribers from coast to coast and around
the world, mailed to 30 more, and posted on the Old Chestnuts Web site
for countless others. There have been more than 50 issues.
I am the editor, publisher and main contributor to the newsletter, and
creator of the Web site.
- My love of
and writing have been combined in song writing, and one
of my songs (The Canadian Tire Song) was included on a fund raising CD for the Black Walnut Folk
Club. Of one of my recent appearances, The Record’s Robert Reid wrote
Chestnut Song Circle guiding spirit Jack Cole opened…In addition to a
of popular original songs…he offered inspired covers…".
… as a
… as an Optimist…
songwriters is a passion for me. Besides presenting them in
I sell and pre-sell their products. Pre-sales often enable folk
to complete recording projects.
- I help to
musicians by offering them opening and feature spots at concerts and at Chequegnat.
- I have
assisted several artisans, organizations, and musicians by creating and/or and maintaining Web
sites for them. Among them are:
- I have been an
MC and singaround host at
the Mill Race Festival of Traditional Music for the past several years.
- In 2004 I was
a panelist at the Ontario Council of Folk Festival's annual conference
- In 2009 I created and co-presented a
seminar on Canadian folk music for a professional development seminar at
Not all ventures
prove successful, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth trying! Some
enterprises that did not take flight:
for a History Channel TV series, that has yet to be accepted. The
series would feature a regular host and guest musicians, who would
songs about historical events and tell the stories that go with them.
- A proposal
In The Square’s 20th Anniversary Community Festival was unsuccessful.
proposition (a joint proposal of the Old Chestnuts, the Black Walnut
Club and the Mill Race Folk Club) was for a community singalong night,
led by local and nationally known folk musicians.
- The Singing
was a short-lived venture in St. Jacobs. The Kettle was a monthly
venue with a featured performer.
- A proposal for a Canadian Folk Music
course at Conestoga College has not yet been accepted. This is by far
the most important!
various activities, I was honoured to be nominated for a 2001 KW
in the Open category. In 2008 The Old Chestnuts Song Circle was nominated
for the YMCA Strong Community Award.
In 2010 "The
Old Chestnuts Song Circle presents Folk Night at the Registry" received the
Kitchener-Waterloo Arts Award in the
"Festival or Event, Community Achievement" category.
definitely had the show to end all shows in Kitchener; they've had some
good ones since, but yours is the one they still marvel about." -
Hennell, Manager of Pied Pumkin.
"I know I speak
all of us when I say that your contribution to the Trilogy project was
unsurpassed and our relationship was not only good in a business sense,
but it strengthened friendships that will last forever. Our
to Kitchener and to Chestnut Street were always a bright spot on every
tour: we always knew everything would be perfect when we got
Thank you for your professionalism, your hard work to build our
in the area, your hospitality and your friendship. We want to
you." - Cathy Miller (Trilogy)
"Jack Cole of
Ontario, showed once again that he is a good person to have on your
Not only did he encourage me to do the book; he volunteered to pre-sell
it so that I would have money to put towards production costs. A man of
his word, he did exactly that and without him this book wouldn’t exist.
Thank you Jack." - Bill Gallaher, in the Foreword to The
joy to watch your love and commitment cause you to contribute so much
your music community and everyone all around you. Maybe you don't
hear it from your community often enough, so on behalf of the music
I want you to know we (that's every single person whose life you touch)
all love you very much....and you deserve extra large king-size
- Mary Anne Epp, local folk singer, about the Canadian Living
"I am SO glad
folks do what you do for the music community. Tonight's concert
have been a wonderful experience no matter what, but knowing the rarity
of these performances, and how hard you worked to make it happen made
even better." - Rosemary Stewart, Stratford Folk Guild
"In a few short
Jack Cole has turned Kitchener-Waterloo from just a name on the map to
a prime and valued destination for folk and acoustic performers.
The spirit and enthusiasm for roots music that Jack has engendered
the people of this community through song circles, house concerts and
events is an extraordinary achievement. Because of Jack
and what he has accomplished as an arts organizer, with all of Canada
choose from, I made the decision to hold my official CD release concert
in Kitchener last fall, and it was the highlight of my international
year." - Eileen McGann, 2002 Juno Award Nominee
letting me play during your awesome day. What a great event for a
great neighbourhood." - Matt Osborne, KW musician and
"I have had the
pleasure of performing at a house concert in Kitchener-Waterloo
by Jack Cole. I can say in all honesty that the concert that Jack
was the most rewarding and enjoyable of any and all the house concerts
we have performed at, before or since. I do not make that statement
There are many variables inherent in the format; the performer,
host and the audience, any one of which, if left unattended could
significantly from the success of the evening. I was astonished at
ability to organize every aspect of the event in such a manner as to
all involved feeling they were in the most capable of hands.
limited to the perfect number for the space, they were personally
and introduced to the format of the evening, and were made to feel
to the evening’s proceedings. The same may be said for the performers.
We wanted for nothing and were thrilled to find ourselves in front of a
warm, friendly and informed audience. The audience singing that evening
has yet to be surpassed in our experience. It was a thing of beauty, as
was the whole evening.
I would say in
that if recognition is coming to Jack for all his efforts in the
in Kitchener-Waterloo, of Canadian folk music, then it is long
due, but richly deserved. He has earned the respect, thanks and
of many in the folk community. More power to him." - David Francey,
multiple Juno Award Winner
not just be left up the those who have become professionals.
music is an essential form of personal expression that benefits the
and psychological well-being of everyone. Jack Cole has
many people to feel confident about making music. He has invited
people into his home, encouraged and supported many in this. He
been tireless in his advocacy of grassroots music making, and of folk
in particular." - Brad McEwen, President, The Mill Race Folk