March 2003 * Volume 8, Number 6



v Last Month and Next - Jack Cole

A winter storm nearly ruined the February Old Chestnuts, but a hardy 20 people (including 3 newbies) braved the roads to make it to the Circle. We had another good night, our second success in a row without themes. Several folks took the idea of an "Old Chestnuts culture" to heart, and we had quite a few songs repeated from previous months. They were familiar and comfortable, and the singing was good (although we miss our harmony experts!), and we can begin to sing these songs focusing on the singing, not the paper the words are on.

I don't want to mess up a good thing, so let's remain themeless for March. Come out on March 22, with whatever songs you feel like singing and sharing.

Note:This is early warning that May's Song Circle - the last of the season - is being moved from the fourth Saturday to the fifth Saturday! This will avoid a conflict with a Mill Race concert (Sara Grey) and also with our personal schedule. So mark it on your calendar now - May 31, 2003.


v Upcoming Folk Books - Merrick Jarrett

[This is the second of two parts about upcoming Canadian folk music books Last month Merrick told us about Gary Cristall's history of folk music in Canada.]

The second book is equally interesting. I have a letter from Ed Whitcomb in Ottawa, who, with Arthur McGregor of the Ottawa Folklore Centre, is producing what looks to be a fascinating compilation of songs about Canada. The title: "The Great Canadian Songbook" - and they are looking for input on songs that could be included that they may have missed in their own selection.

When I looked over the list of possible titles, I was impressed, to say the least. The great majority of the songs are those by singer-songwriters, and I can't see anybody they've missed that I would have included - including many I have never heard of, since you know that my field is almost all traditional.

A book like this, with its preponderance of singer-songwriter selections, contemporary or based on traditional songs or music or happenings, doesn't bother me at all. Indeed, it is just the kind of book to follow as a natural progression from the seminal works of Edith Fowke's - "Folk Songs of Canada", "Singing our History", etc. For years now, ever since the fifties, we have become familiar with great songs from these books, most of them from the oral tradition. So what is more natural than to have the ne xt generation of songs, those written by Canadian performers, many of them known country wide and internationally, others not so well knows, also writing songs about Canada?

This will be a book with twelve sections and about ten songs in each. That's 120 songs; many of them will be well known and others recommended to the compilers that were felt to be deserving. And there are a number of our favourite traditional songs included throughout.

Seems to me this book will become a welcome addition to "Rise Up Singing" as a book to be carried to song circles, campfires, seminars, even folk music lectures, wit songs, as the organizers put it, " ... different types (folk, easy listening, country, popular) from all regions and all themes".

One question I raised was the fact that although there is a section on Quebec and Ontario, there are no French-Canadian songs listed - such as "Alouette", "Les Raftsmen" "Au si mon moin' voulait danser", etc. It seems to me that leaving even a small representation of Quebecois songs out somewhat dilutes the title of "The Great Canadian Songbook". Apart from that, and I am sure these is a good reason for this omission, I am, as I was with Gary Cristall's book, I awe of the works Messrs. Whitcomb and MacGregor have put into this book.

I am also delighted to know that there is a melody line (with chords) for each song.

Once it has been published ("The Great Canadian Songbook" is scheduled for early spring), if you have this book, those mentioned above, "A History of Folk Music in English Canada", "More Folk Songs of Canada", "Chansons de Quebec" and "A Song History of Canada" in your library, there isn't much more you need to know about Canadian Folk Music. McGregor and Whitcombe are to be congratulated.

For further information on "The Great Canadian Songbook", you can contact Ed Whitcombe at: 4whitcombs@sympatico.ca


v David Olney Concert - jc

On Sunday afternoon, March 9, I decided to check out a new house concert series in Guelph, just a few short blocks from our old friends at Folkway Music. The series is run by Shawna Cooper, and the concerts are always posted on the GRFC web site (although notice is usually pretty short).

Shawna has hosted some pretty interesting names so far this year (Harry Manx, Martyn Joseph), and capitalized on touring artists with weekend gigs in Toronto, looking for another local stop.

This particular concert was for David Olney, a Nashville based singer-songwriter of quite some renown. The other musicians in the audience, plus a local reviewer present on his day off, attest to that. Connections that I have to his music are the song "Love's Been Linked To The Blues" (recorded by Garnet Rogers) and "1917 (The French Prostitute)" which has been sung at the Circle a couple of times. This told me that David could really turn a phrase, in the style of Guy Clark or Townes van Zandt.

As it turns out, he is a veteran musician, with over 16 albums in 22 years to his credit. That much material gives him lots to choose from, and I have to say that I was disappointed in what he picked to play for us. There were some brilliant songs in the list - especially the closers of both sets - but by and large he did not deliver the energy or distinction that I had expected. It was clear, though, that he can, and reports from the Saturday concert at Hugh's Room were much more positive.

David was certainly low key, and perhaps some of the problem was his self-admitted "worst hangover ever" - a hazard of Sunday afternoon concerts, I suppose. My other gripe is his routine use of coarse language. I'm not a prude (really!), but it seemed inappropriate for the setting.

Still, I was glad to hear this songwriter that I never expected to, at a convenient location, a great price ($10) in a nice room with a sound system! Let's hope the series continues!


v Artists Wanted - Jeff Beckner

We [Mr. Beckner and associates - jc] are presently developing a series of events to nurture and support the performing arts in the Waterloo and Wellington Counties. The focus of these will be primarily on smaller, original works that can be combined with other performances in a single evening. This is meant as an opportunity for performing artists (singers, musicians, actors, dancers, etc.) and writers, composers, choreographers, etc. to present work that heretofore has not had much of a venue in the area. This is a chance to showcase original pieces and to experiment, originate, hone, and develop new work. It is also an opportunity to collaborate with others in other performing arts disciplines. Short plays, music, poetry, short dance pieces, original storytelling, mime, comedy sketches, and mini musicals are ju st a few examples of what are presently being explored.

At least one local arts centre is seriously looking for such a program, while others are being considered. Spring/summer 2003 is the targeted timeline. If interested, please phone Jeff Beckner at (519) 749-1901.


v Closing Notes - jc

<> Remember to pick up tickets for the next Old Chestnuts concert on April 12, with Eve Goldberg celebrating her new CD release and Jack & James opening (tickets are at jhcole@mgl.ca or 578-6298). That same night the Mill Race is holding a fund-raising ceili, and the Waterloo Community Arts Centre is hosting Bob McLean at the Button Factory. Buy tickets to all 3, and send your friends!

<> Cam Kemp - local folksinger and co-presenter of the Black Walnut Folk Club recently released a new recording - with a very long title! Much to Cam's delight, Sing Out! magazine reviewed the album, and said "[a] winning combination of a sure moral compass and ready sense of humor. Nice stuff.". Congratulations to Cam! Now if only we could get him out to the Circle sometime. :) Cam's album is available at the Black Walnut or from his Web site . (Sing Out!, unfortunately, is not available anywhere in the area that I know of.)

<> And speaking of reviews, Old Chestnut member Jack Cooper was recently written up in Penguin Eggs, the Canadian folk music magazine (available at a couple of local book stores). The album, Land of Plenty, was released a few months ago. The lengthy review closes with "His understated vocal style is a good match for the songs, the end result being both disarming and unpretentious.". Check Jack's website at www.jack-cooper.com .

<> Wrapping up this section on close-to-home recordings is Debbie Carroll, about to release her first album of "music for the very young" - Up And Over The Moon!. Debbie, from Toronto, has only visited the Old Chestnuts a couple of times, but even people who know well her voice, harp, dulcimer, and piano will be even more impressed at the richness of this album!

Debbie, producer / arranger Ken Whiteley and executive produce Kathy Reid-Naiman have created a gem of a kid's CD, with 26 tracks of traditional and original songs and tunes. (Sadly, "The Ballad of Herman the Dog" is missing!) Guest musicians include Ben Grossman, Arnie Naiman and Eve Goldberg. A CD booklet of lyrics and actions (remember - it's for the very young!) will be included when the album is released within the next week. Check www.debbiecarroll.com (operational very soon) for more information.

<> The 2003 edition of the Winter Songfest is in session as I write this. (Why am I typing this instead of singing? See the footer...). This year a few less people are here in Paris, but the spirit and energy is still high. And it helps that spring arrived today!

There are some changes. Besides an extra day and dance - most people arrived Thursday night - optional informal workshops were added this year. Friday afternoon was devoted to music by Canadians, and Saturday featured a form of Russian Roulette - draw a challenge from the hat and then meet it! Lots of fun.

<> Will there be a Chequegnat 2003? Stay tuned, and keep the first couple of Saturdays in June open. Planning is about to start, but at this point it's very unclear.


v Some Events in The Area (as space permits!) Check out the Grand River Folk Community site for more.

Mar 21 Black Walnut Folk Club, Mill-Courtland Centre. $3. Open mic. with. Also Apr. 18.
Mar 22 Old Chestnuts Song Circle. 578-6298! 8 pm. Themeless!
Mar 23 Mill Race Trad Sessions, Cambridge, Golden Kiwi, 4:30. Also Apr. 6
Mar 27 The Waifs, Boathouse, Guelph.
Mar 27 Concert with James Gordon, Jory Nash, more. U of Guelph.
Apr 3 Grand River Dulcimer Club, Folkway Music, Guelph. $3
Apr 5 Mill Race singaround at Ernies, Cambridge.

v About this newsletter..... Itís emailed. Itís on the Web at http://www.mgl.ca/~jhcole and available at Circles. Also available by regular mail, but for that I request a few stamped envelopes or a contribution to postage. Call 578- 6298 or write jhcole@mgl.ca for more information. If you are getting this by mail and have eMail, please let me know! So I was all looking forward to 3 days in Paris (the one on the Grand and Nith), and I go and wreck my back on Wednesday morning. Stepping out of the shower, no less. So it's been a tough weekend - thank heavens for scotch whiskey and other muscle relaxants! Thanks Robin ... Although I hear you never read my newsletter! :-) Mary - we're thinking of you. xxox


Back to Old Chestnuts Home Page.