vThe Ultimate Song Circle - Merrick Jarrett
It is 7 a.m. Sunday morning, May 27th. I am driving along looking for a place where I can buy milk at this hour, since we have visitors with children at the breakfast table, and we have run out of milk.
It being so quiet at this hour as I drive along, I start thinking about the evening before, and not for the first time I reflect on the Old Chestnuts Song Circle, what it has meant to so many of us, what an inspiration it has been over the past years, how much fun and joy we have had, and the friends we have made.
And last night's session in particular, which I have called 'The Ultimate Song Circle" for reasons that follow.
Those of us who have been fortunate enough to sit in on the Circle that Jack Cole helped start some six years ago know that he runs a tight ship. He doesn't let singers or musicians break off into little groups to do heir own thing, as I have seen in other song circles, resulting in what sometimes approaches chaos. He likes to have us supply lyrics if possible, so everyone can sing along and enjoy the choruses, and generally feel a part of the songs, resulting in an evening of great participation and enjoyment by all.
And as he goes around the circle, everybody involved either has a song, or 'passes' to the next singer. We all know that when thirty- odd people are involved, it is not likely that any one of us will get to sing more than a couple of songs before the break....but nobody is disappointed, or gets their nose out of joint.
And as I mosey along, still looking for a variety store that was open, I start thinking of some of the singers, musicians, and volunteers who help Jack and Lori set up for these occasions and for house concerts, all of whom joined together to make last evening one to remember, and a fitting close to the season.
How could a song circle go wrong, with singers and musicians like Charlotte Burnstine singing a Yiddish version of that lovely line from Psalms 121, "I will lift mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help", that she learned from a rabbi, then following this with a funny parody on "This Land is Your Land"..... only about how Israel is surrounded by Arab lands. Louise Carroll, with her young Sofie sitting on her lap, leading us in that beautiful old Pentecostal gospel song, "Farther Along"...Wayne Cheater, fine songwriter and guitarist....and what would a song circle be without cheerful Debbie Smith picking out great songs from "Rise Up Singing", "Sing Out"s great songbook of lyrics, both traditional and contemporary folk, a book that every singer should have....
.....And Jean Mills, great dulcimer player, part of the "GreenWood" trio, organizer of the Dulcimer Club in Guelph, who, although she was not feeling well, dragged herself out from Guelph to the Circle, because she didn't want to miss any of what turned out to be a magical evening (That's dedication, eh?)
Jakki Ridley, her strong lovely voice and fine guitar picking always a welcome addition to any circle, and passing it along to granddaughter Ariel ...Monique Hobbes..... what a lovely voice and selection of songs..... and our resident A-1 five-string banjo player, Margaret Jackson, who I doubt has ever missed a Song Circle...
And no Song Circle would be complete without Mr. Old Chestnuts Song Circle himself, Jack Cole, singing the two songs that everybody asks for, "The Canadian Tire Song", and, as a fitting end to the evening, "The Potter's Wheel", to rousing cheers and claps, whistles, yips and hurrahs and other enthusiastic noises, along with full-throated choruses....
Now, here I must admit that I am somewhat biased on how the evening went, because my wife, Mary, and I were fortunate enough to have our daughter Kate Jarrett, her husband John Hart, and their three children, Terry, Martha and Rachel, come from Peterborough; our son, Stephen, from London; our oldest granddaughter, Lindsay, a budding penny whistle player and possible fiddler, this summer working as an interpreter at Doon Pioneer Village (she has gone real "folkie" and has done some excellent essay work on Canadian traditional folk music for her course work at Queen's U in Kingston); and our oldest daughter, Linda, would have been with us as well, but she had to be in Ottawa.
Many years ago, before they all got busy with careers, raising families, etc., we used to do concerts as "The Jarrett Family". Kate, John and I also formed the children's trio, "Young at Heart", and Stephen was a member of the trio, "Lord Gord and the Benchwarmers", doing wonderful parodies poking fun at the legal profession (since all three of them were lawyers!)
We thought the Song Circle was a good place to have a musical family reunion.
It brought tears to Mary's eyes as she saw 8-year old Rachel get up and sing with Kate, and 10-year old Martha, who had worked out some lovely harmonies, also with Kate; and Lindsay was thrilled with the wonderful rousing verse-and- chorus treatment we gave of Stan Rogers' "Northwest Passage", since one of her essays was on him....and "Hang on the Bell, Nellie!" is one of Stephen's favorites....it sure gave Mary and I a great feeling to see the songs handed down for who knows how many generations to come? Guess we all have planted some great musical genes!
And taking advantage of the fact that I am writing this, a very personal note from me. (Unless Jack excises it from this article as is his editorial right!)
Now that I'm retired from work as a KPL librarian and my part- time position as a sessional lecturer in traditional folk music at U. of Waterloo, what a nice feeling it is see "folkies" like Jack, Cathy, Jean, and others, who took my courses, carrying on their love of folk music....and in turn, through the Song Circle, spreading the gospel, so to speak. Nice.
Something else that made a memorable evening at OCSC was not only the wonderful singing and playing, but the goodies that Lori Cole and Cathy Byberg served up when we took a much needed break at around 10 p.m. Delicious enough that it was hard for Jack to roust out people from the kitchen to get them back in time for more singing!
Another event that turned the evening into a magical one for me was to see seven children of varying ages all sitting in their own "song circle" on the floor, but still being a part of the larger group, since Jack made sure that the children all had input as he went around the circle. Jakki's granddaughter, Ariel...Louise's daughter, Sofie...Cathy and Dave's daughter, Amanda, and her brother, James, for whom I promised a Zulu war chant next Circle...and John and Kate's Terry, Martha and Rachel.
Especially Amanda Growden, who I have seen grow from a wide- eyed little "folkie" to a poised, pretty, competent young lady, contributing her talents as a flautist.
As Sally Rogers sang in her great song, we "pass it on".
So all in all, it was an evening to remember. I know there have been great evenings before - in six years of Song Circles, there had to be - but I doubt if there has been one to top this one. A fitting end to the season, and I'll stick to calling it "The Ultimate Song Circle"; and I only wish we had recorded it for posterity.
We all owe a great debt of gratitude to Jack Cole, who has masterminded the whole concept of the Old Chestnuts Song Circle from its inception. He has encouraged so many performers and singers to take part and "rise up singing" that have resulted in song circle evenings that have attracted many friends, not only from the K/W and Guelph area, but from out-of-town points. His monthly informational bulletins are a delight to read, and keep all of us, including retirees like myself, in touch with what is going on in the folk world.
Jack, if there was an "Emmy" for top host, or an "Oscar" for outstanding performances in our folk music world, we would definitely cast our votes for you!
I am sure I echo the feelings of everybody who took part last night, and who have been part of previous Song Circles, who love you, respect you, and stand in awe of how, in your busy professional life, you manage to put it all together; and at the same time, organize house concerts, write songs, absorb even more material at "The Woods" and Celtic programs, and become an increasingly proficient instrumentalist. Take a bow.
(And a personal note of thanks from the Jarretts for singing "Duncan's Cove". As you know, the song means a lot to us.)
vChequegnat 2001- jc
It rocked. Majorly. The music was fantastic, the crafts beautiful, and the weather superb! We had fresh popped popcorn, a lemonade stand, games and prizes, about 150 people from all over the place. Thanks to everyone. Looks like we might go for a 2002 edition!
vA Letter to the Editor
[ This letter arrived before the final Circle. It is printed here with permission. And blushing. - jc ]
Dear Jack and Lori,
The days are warming. Green shoots poke their heads up toward the welcome light. What has been brown and grayish for months is now gradually, then suddenly, making way to green. Anticipation fills the air.
There is one important thing we want to do before the seasons switch and everyone gets to doing more running around.
Thank you Jack and Lori, for holding the Folk Music flame so steady. We appreciate the monthly song circles in your home, and although we don't make it every time, we "hear" the sweet sounds of Old Chestnuts voices nonetheless.
And the house concerts. Fabulous musicians, eager audiences and tasty goodies. What a combo! We have never attended any house concerts before so it's been a very special experience.
Because of your generosity and dedication our lives are considerably richer.
With much gratitude,
Don and Charlotte Burnstine
PS Terrific newsletter too. Articles and schedules of concerts, etc. are very welcome.!!
vHome County 2001 - jc
As many of you will remember, London's Home County is my "must see" festival every year, not only because the energy is always extraordinary, but also because it's free. This year's lineup contains some much heralded newcomers (at least, new to me) along with some old favourites. I'm really looking forward to it!! Hope to see you there July 20-22.
Mae Moore, Tom Burns, Terry Tufts, Juke Joint Johnnies, Jenny Whiteley, Mitch Lewis, Chris Whiteley, Doug McArthur & Jeffra, Celtic Offspring, Gordon Stobbe, Sam Baardman, Eileen Laverty, Willie P. Bennett, The Good Brothers, Fred Eaglesmith, Randy Morrison & Al Widmeyer, Dennis Pendrith, The Laws, Dave Woodhead, Romeo Blanco, The Dixie Flyers, Jackie Washington, The London Playford Dancers, UWO Scottish County Dancers, Alumni from Berea College, Local Morris Dancers, Steve Corssen - Sword Dancer.
vUpcoming Music - jc
Hey everybody - it's summer time and the music is plentiful. Other years, in another life, I tried to search through the media to bring you a list of highlights. Well, sorry, this year there is just no time!! I will recommend you instead to the Web and Northern Journey - everything you might need is there.
But I do want to put in a plug for some of our OCSC friends. This coming weekend (June 29 and 30) catch all of the Borealis recording artists, including Eileen McGann, Haines & Leighton, Smith & Hewson, and Rick Fielding in a free birthday party at Harbourfront in Toronto. It should be quite the day!!
The next weekend Eileen McGann is at Mariposa, and so is David Francey. Both are appearing on the main stage on Sunday night. The list of performers and workshops is incredible. For example, a workshop on Saturday features J. P. Cormier, Dan Whitely, David K, Geoff Summers and Dave Clark. Oh my. August in Orillia!
Pied Pumkin and David Francey show up at Summerfolk in Owen Sound later in the month. Always a great weekend.
And in the fall, right here on the Old Chestnuts stage, we have Scotland's Robin Laing in September. Robin is a wonderful singer and songwriter, mixing traditional and contemporary music in a captivating way. And in October the same (and one and only) Eileen McGann will be at Zion United! Eileen will have her new album ready, and from the snippets I've heard it will be another recording of rare beauty. So, order tickets now !!
vSome Events in The Area (as space permits!)
Aug 4 Mill Race Festival, Cambridge. Free!
Sep 22 Robin Laing house concert for OCSC.
Oct 12 Eileen McGann concert for her new CD release.
Nov ?? GreenWood benefit house concert for Amnesty International.
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. Summertime. Already the heat is oppressive. But nothing some cool festival music won't cure. Hey hey - it looks like I will be on sabbatical from August into the fall!! So watch out Ontario folk festivals - I intend to set a new record for attendance!! Another year of Circles passes, with four concerts and our own festival to top it off. Maybe time to retire! (no) Thanks for the kind words everyone!!
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