December 2001/January 2002 * Volume 7, Number 3

v OCSC Last Month and This - Jack Cole

With the weather doing it's best to co-operate, the theme of summer warmed up the Song Circle in November. Actually, we had our first (and so far only - touch wood) snowfall of the season earlier in the week, so I was sure that James' jinx had worked. But by week's end we were basking in warmth again. And still.

About 25 people, including 5 newbies, made the trip from Goderich, London, Aylmer, Mississauga and environs. Songs ranged from Wild Mountain Thyme to Summertime to Far End of Summer. It was a very 'hot' summer-winter night.

Missing were Pat and Robin, the latter of which was busy having hip bones connected to wrist bones, or some such Frankenstein- ian thing. Hope you are back in January!

At the end of the evening I did a pop quiz for the next theme, which I have expanded to "Cats & Other Green Eyed Monsters". Bring songs of puddy-tats, jealousy, evil and beasts! Actually, bring any song at all, that we can sing along with. See you January 26.

News: Louise is trying to start a Song Circle in London. The first meeting in December was small, but she vows to try again. If you are interested, get in touch with me and I'll connect you.

Meantime, have a happy holiday season and a great start to the new year! (Maybe see you January 12th.)

v Merrick Jarrett Tribute - Jack Cole

Patrons of the Old Chestnuts, and readers of this newsletter will know a bit about Merrick Jarrett. He regularly brings wonderful traditional folk songs to the Circle and writes detailed (and objective!) articles. But Merrick has been a quiet force in the folk music community for over 50 years. Here are just some of the things that Merrick has done:

  • 6 years as a cowboy singer in the 40's, on Montreal and Toronto radio.
  • hosted and performed on folk music programs, including on the CBC with Edith Fowke, in the 40's & 50's.
  • several albums of cowboy, folk and children's music.
  • performer at the very first Mariposa folk festival (and many others since).
  • teacher of 2 University of Waterloo courses in folk music for 17 years, reaching 3000 students.
  • touring children's performer for the Ontario Library Service, teacher/entertainer in schools & libraries in Kitchener area, teacher of music courses for seniors in Elderhostel programs.
  • continuing inspiration through song, story telling and his entertaining autobiography.

Some folks from the Old Chestnuts and the Baden storytelling group have decided that it's time we had a bit of a celebration to honour Merrick and his music. We are organizing a tribute and benefit concert for Sunday afternoon, April 28, 2002. Many of Merrick's musical friends, including Merrick himself and the Jarrett family, will perform. Confirmed guests include Rick Fielding, and Sharon and Bram.

At Merrick's request this concert will be short on tributes, long on music and a fund raiser for a cause that he and his wife Mary have chosen - KW's Hopespring Cancer Support Centre. We hope to raise a significant amount to help Hopespring continue its vital work for cancer victims and their families.

So please mark down the weekend for music (there is also a Song Circle on the 27th), and let your friends know about this very special afternoon of traditional and contemporary folk music.

v Three Concerts A Coming - jc

Our riches in concerts continues to grow with two new series, and possibly a third, launching in December and January. One very interesting aspect of all three is that they feature multiple, local musicians - a tremendous boost for the performing folkies in KW! (For details see below.)

December 15 is the first Other Voices concert at the new 140 seat Registry Theatre on Frederick Street in Kitchener. This concert is being organized by veteran Bierdo Brother Glen Soulis, and features 7 musicians including Nonie Crete. Glen hopes to turn this into a regular event.

January 11 kicks off the new Folk Factory concert series at the Button Factory in Waterloo. The concept behind the concerts is to place several local musicians in a workshop setting. I like this idea a lot, and it will certainly be a great venue for those performers ready to do more than a 2 or 3 song open stage. First up are Andrew, Terry and Geoff.

And in January the Mill Race starts its new "third Saturday of the month" venue at 13 Main St. Grill in Cambridge. Each evening is divided into two parts; first an open stage, with time for several people to sign up and play; followed by a concert, beginning with Ian Bell on the 19th. Future acts include Aengus Finnan (May) & Eve Goldberg (June). This should be a very fun evening, and of course will help fund the (free) Mill Race Festival.

Having trouble keeping track of all the great concerts? Me too! That's why a group of us are trying to create a combined calendar, mailing process and newsletter. Here' hoping that we manage it in the new year!

v GreenWood Review - Merrick Jarrett

I was fortunate enough to be present at GreenWood's folk music concert in aid of Amnesty International, hosted by Mary and Barry Baldasaro of Kitchener.

I have followed closely the increasingly professional rise of this trio, consisting of Jack Cole and James Morgan of Kitchener, and Jean Mills of Guelph. Instrumentally they are a very eclectic group; Jack plays bowed psaltery, guitar, and lap dulcimer; Jean plays guitar, recorder, and lap dulcimer; and James plays mouth harp, guitar, dulcimer, and the small Irish rhythm drum, the bodhran.

In combination, sometimes with just one or two instruments, the trio mixes accompaniments, sometimes singing a capella; what results is one of the most pleasurable performances that I have heard from a folk trio.

In many ways, they remind me of my favorite group, the Golden Ring, consisting of some of the finest folksingers in America, who recorded a couple of LP's for Folk Legacy many years ago, and who, for me, are the ultimate in group singing.

GreenWood is very rapidly approaching this level of excellence.

And talking about group singing! What a responsive audience! Many of them were regulars at Jack's monthly Old Chestnuts Song Circle, where Jack is strong on group participation. Listening to the taping I made of this concert, not only is the trio's choice of songs and their close harmonies & instrumentation excellent, but so too is the truly joyful and enthusiastic chorus work from the audience. Quite remarkable. Obviously everyone was having a wonderful evening, and the full-throated response to song choruses, along with 2- and 3-part harmonies, was something to hear.

There were some numbers I particularly enjoyed.

The opening number, "The Gypsy Rover", was an excellent choice to warm up the audience, who really needed no warming up. "April Monring", sung a capella, would be a tough song for any trio to sing, relying as it does on tightly knit 3-part harmony and words and phrasing to be sung as one singer; the three of them carried this off very successfully. I also enjoyed the modal "Cold Wind Blowing", with James, and Jean on dulcimer and Jack on bowed psaltery providing a somewhat ghostly sound to the song.

James sang, again with great audience approval, the humorous "Dr. Freud". And later, as he and Jean sang the Irish courting song, "As I Roved Out", he provided an unusual bodhran accompaniment. What better than an Irish traditional instrument for an Irish traditional song, eh?

And Jean's delightful dulcimer playing, and her recorder accompaniment on "Healing of Her Heart".

An outstanding song, and one that never fails to impress both my wife, Mary, and I, is Jack's singing the story of "Augustus and Catherine", with great work on the choruses, and even greater response from the audience joining in.

In earlier performances GreenWood seemed to me to be a little stiff and uncomfortable with the usual small talk and interaction with an audience, caused, perhaps, by a bit of stage fright. But this is no longer in evidence, and all three members of the trio are now completely at ease with an audience.

I have to admit that I am somewhat biased, since I have been part of the Song Circle almost from its inception, and have enjoyed listening to Jean, Jack and James as individuals; and at the same time, I have enjoyed listening to them as they have matured into a very professional group. As a critic, there might be a couple of little things that I noticed, and I am sure that the trio noticed, but which would not have been apparent to the audience, but it would be nit-picking on my part, and did nothing to detract from their performance.

So, having said all this, on a scale of 1-9, I would give GreenWood a 9+. They don't get a 10, because the only piece with which I was not happy was the excessively slow rendition of Ed McCurdy's "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream", which to me dragged and turned into almost a dirge.

However, that is my opinion, to which, as a critic, I am entitled, and did nothing to detract overall from one of the most enjoyable evenings I have spent over many years listening to various groups. I am looking forward to GreenWood's next performance, and hopefully sometime a CD from them.

Finally, the singing of Jean Ritchie's "Dear Companion", with Jean Mills' lovely dulcimer playing, ended a great evening of song.

Congratulations to all three members. Truly, a concert to remember.

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

Dec 15 Other Voices. Glen, Nonie, Fernan Enriquez, Paul MacLeod, Helen Basson, Gordon Shawcross, Perry Joseph. Registry Theatre, $15. 843-2960
Dec 21 Black Walnut Folk Club, Mill-Courtland Centre. $3. Open mic. With host. (Third Friday of each month)
Dec 23 Mill Race Trad Sessions, Cambridge, Golden Kiwi, 4:30. Also January 13, 27
Jan 5 Mill Race Folk Club open singaround. Ernie's, Cambridge. $3
Jan 11 Geoff Lewis, Terry Golletz & Andrew Kerth in the first Folk Factory Concert. Button Factory Waterloo. $10 886-4577.
Jan 12 Hill Top Cafe‚ Live, Father's House, 89 King N., Waterloo. open mic. Jack Cole hosting. Music starts at 8 PM.
Jan 19 Mill Race Concerts at the Caf‚, Cambridge, 13 Main St. Grill, $10. Open stage+concert Ian Bell. Feb: James Gorden. Mar: Anne Lederman.
Jan 26 Old Chestnuts Song Circle. 578-6298. Cats & green eyes.
Feb 2 DANU, St. Jacobs Church Theatre, 1376 King St., $20, 664-1134. Best Overall Tradiional Band - 1999 Irish Music Awards.
Feb 8 Winter Song Fest Weekend, Feb 8-10 at Five Oaks near Paris. $150 includes a bed and meals.

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. So my time of freedom is about to end - back to a day job January 2. How you gonna' keep `em down on the farm.. Hope to see some of you at the Hill Top on the 12th, and plan to come to MerrickFest - it will be a showcase for traditional music! Have a great Christmas!!! - jc

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