December 1999 / January 2000

v The "Best" Folksongs of the Last 1000 Years! - Jack Cole

One often hears disparaging comments about the lists of "Bests" that inevitably appear at the end of each year, each decade, each century and each millennium. (Okay - I'll be honest - the last two are new for me, but I can just bet)! I don't agree myself - I find them fascinating, especially if the author is either a well respected world authority with eons of experience or a Joe or Jane Average with a passion for the subject.

Well, we had input from both categories to construct our list of Best Folksongs of the Last Thousand Years! Here are the songs that were nominated, with the occasional comment from the nominator or myself. I have not edited the choices in any way, so please do not send me your disagreements! Any other feedback on the list is most welcome!

I've broken the list into two main sections. First come the songs that received more than one nomination; then the rest. Within each section I have listed (alphabetically) the "older" songs first, and then the more modern ones. I've tried to assign proper credit, and apologize in advance for errors.

Multiple Nominations:

Single Nominations:

That's it! I keep thinking of a few more I would add and some I would remove, not to mention a few songwriters who surely deserve a spot. But so it goes. One thing that struck me: the list is dominated by 'topical' songs, and contains few love songs. Not the typical mix of popular music in general, and it says something about what singers of folk songs believe will endure.

Happy Year 2000 everyone! - Jack

v Last Month and Next Month at OCSC! - Jack Cole

Well it absolutely never fails. Never. Not ever. I put a plan in place to handle the overflow crowds and immediately attendance falls to half. We were just about 20 people in November, including two Newbies, and a visitor from Vancouver and another from Munich. The theme was "The Best Folksongs of the Last 1000 Years", so I expected lots of folks to come out to cheer for their favourites, ogle the candidates and savour the history of he moment. So much for my ability to predict!

The best folksongs have their own space in the newsletter, so here I will simply say "Thank You" to everyone who participated. It was a fun night and a fun bit of speculating. In hindsight, I should not have been surprised that the night contained a lot of what I call "campfire songs". They are what they are, because people love to sing them, and will continue to sing them for many, many years. Enjoy the list!

The next circle is January 22, 2000 when the theme will be "songs about songs". Since this is a little tough (I've only come up with a couple!), I've broadened it to include songs about singing and singers. Of those there is certainly no shortage. Please let us know that you are coming, and help us kick off the next 1000 years in proper style!!

I must also mention that the Grand River Dulcimer Club is in full swing, with their next meeting on Thursday January 13. Details are below. Jean Mills reports that the December meeting was an "all Christmas music" night. The dulcimer is the perfect instrument for Christmas music, and I hope they saved me some copies of the songs! Please come and join the GRDC!!

v Aengus Finnan House Concert - Jack Cole

I haven't heard so much praise for a new folk performer since Modabo appeared a few years ago! Aengus is a fantastic singer and songwriter from Cobourg, who not only plays original material, but dips into the tradition and borrows from his contemporaries. I'll have more to say about him next month.

But the important bit is that Aengus is coming to Kitchener for a house concert for the Old Chestnuts, either Saturday April 29, or Saturday May 13. Either way, we will probably skip the Circle that month. So mark those 2 nights on your calendars. I hope to have the date finalized and tickets on sale at the next Circle.

v Trilogy - Good Things in Threes! - Jack Cole

On December 11 Trilogy gave us yet another amazing performance of 2000 Years of Christmas - their third visit in 4 years. And for the third time we won the "best singing audience award". I know that Trilogy was thrilled with the venue, the audience, and the entire evening. (Topped off by a post-concert trifle! How could we go wrong?). It was an uplifting night.

Most of you have seen the show, so I will not go into details. It was as fantastic as ever, and got all our Christmas spirits flying. Trilogy tells me that they are writing a (mostly) new show for next year so, when the time comes, we will see about a fourth magical night with Cathy, David and Eileen.

I want to thank the many volunteers and door prize givers - you are all wonderful folks! My one disappointment was that so few Old Chestnuts made it to the concert. We ended up with a bunch of unsold tickets, and that made for a pretty hectic and stressful few days beforehand. It's puzzling for me, because after every Trilogy concert so many people request that they come back the next year. Whatever the reason, the ticket support did not materialize this time, and this has prompted Lori and I to (reluctantly) give up concerts in larger venues, at least for now. We have canceled the plans that were in progress (Valdy and Artisan), and will stay with house concerts from now on. With one exception - Trilogy is always worth the extra mile.

v Passing of a Musical Friend - Keith Tobey

In late November, we at the Mill Race Folk Society in Cambridge mourned the loss of one of our favourite visitors to our monthly sing- around. Hugh Ogilvy Carson passed away at the age of 49.

It's seven years ago now that we held our first Folk Club Singaround in "The Pit" at Ernies Roadhouse in Hespeler. We organizers were a little anxious and had no idea what to expect. Happily it was a good turnout and things were going well, when John Campbell and I announced that we should now sing Stan Roger's "Barrett's Privateers", and would anyone like to take the lead? Instantly from over in the corner a voice belted out "Oh the year was seventeen-seventy-eight..." Someone shuffled the words down to the singer, which apparently was unnecessary, the roof was raised and we all applauded ourselves heartily. This for most of us was our first introduction to the man who took the lead, Mr. Hugh Carson.

Turns out Hugh, who was a folkie from his youth, was a regular at Ernies and couldn't believe his good fortune when he heard that a folk-club meeting would be convening in his favourite pub. In the subsequent months and years he became a beloved regular and introduced us to many funny and poignant songs, most of which became legendary to us all. He seemed like a bit of a jester at first but as time went on we came to realize that this generous, friendly man with the big smile had an Honours B.A. in Anthropology from the U of T and was somewhat of a scholar of '60's folk-music. Also, he was a board-member and promoter of the Eaglewood Festival, which was the baby of his life-long friend Tim Harrison whom he of course introduced us to.

Our Hugh was there only for the joy and love of music and I'm sure that we never heard him say a negative thing about anyone, but was always lavish with his praise of other musicians. After a couple of years his lovely wife Malory and two beautiful young daughters would often accompany him to the folk club, doing the occasional tune themselves. It was all very sweet.

In the last couple of years Hugh found himself working often on Saturday nights and we didn't see him enough. This past fall he was notably 'not there' and it came as a great shock to us all when we finally heard that he was in a losing battle with cancer.

We shall forget-him-not but release him from our lives, as we must, but he will stand as an inspiration to us all: that music is love; that folk music is for folks; that decency and kindness do not go unheeded; that we should live life to it's fullest for who knows what awaits us.

Farewell you Mudpuddle Sailor. Thanks for the music and thanks for touching us with your joy of living.

Note: In lieu of February 5th's Singaround Brad McEwan is organizing a memorial concert on that date for Hugh, in the Florida Room at Ernies. All details have not been worked out, but Tim Harrison has confirmed. Mose Scarlett, Bobby Watt and County Vaudeville have been mentioned. Also some of us rank amateurs will be doing some of the songs that we most associate with Hugh.

v Some Events in The Area (as space permits!)

Jan 8 Mill Race Folk Club. Ernie's Tavern, Cambridge. Open sing.
Jan 13 Grand River Dulcimer Club. Folkway Music, Guelph. 163 Suffolk St. W. 7:30 $3. 519.763.8092 or
Jan 21 Black Walnut Folk Club, Laurel Room, UW. $3. Open mic. with host. Third Friday of each month.
Jan 22 Old Chestnuts Song Circle. Songs about Singing!!. Arrive between 7:30 and 8 PM. Please reserve ahead! 578.6298.
Jan 28 Rick Fielding, Folkway Music, Guelph. 163 Suffolk St. W
Feb 5 Mill Race Memorial Concert at Ernies in Cambridge. $3. See above for info.
Feb 5 Hill Top Cafe, 91 Madison Ave. Kitchener. $2.

v About this newsletter..... It's emailed if I have your address. It's on the Web at 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. Finally a change to the banner! It's tricky making this appear nice in plain text (for email), when printed (for mail and FAX) and on the Web! A cosmetic change can lead to way too much work. The Drum Story will return next month. I was negligent last time in not mentioning the treat of a flute duet by Sarah Moore and Amanda Growden on Star of the County Down. Thanks - it was awesome! Hope everyone had a great XMAS and NY and Holiday! See you soon?!?

Back to Old Chestnuts Home Page.