May 2006 * Volume 11, Number 5

* Next Old Chestnuts Song Circle May 27 * Chequegnat June 3 * Merrick Tribute June 17

v April Old Chestnuts and Upcoming - Jack Cole

The April Circle was, as anticipated, the smallest one of the year. With so many other events planned for the same night (including the very successful Artscan Cricle benefit), it was gratifying to see and hear 25 people singing songs for Earth Day, and many more. It was an eclectic mix of songs, too, with Buddy Holly, Joe Jackson, and Allan Sherman competing with the likes of Dave Clarke and Brent Titcombe. Dan's "Tribute to Johnny Cash" was a highlight. With fewer people, we all got extra turns and it was a very good night for singing. Thanks to all that made it out, including folks from Toronto, London, and Goderich.

The song circle on May 27th brings our 11th year to a close, a year that has seen us lose two more of the original founders of the Old Chestnuts. We have been fortunate to hear the voices and songs of so many different people, and I'd like to take this chance to remind everyone to keep finding old and new songs that allow us to harmonize and make wonderful music together. As you think about song circles for next year, keep a watch out for good music. And encourage new folks to come! I'd love to get more young people into the circle again, so recruit those young closet folk music fans wherever you find them.

Speaking of which, Chequegnat 6 is happening (weather permitting) on Saturday June 3, for young and old alike. This year's lineup includes Old Chestnuts Jakki and Wayne, Brad Nelson, Paul Schultz, and Dan Patterson's trio. Other performers are Nonie Crete, Eve Goldberg, Midnight Clear, Shannon Lyon, Bob Maclean, Norman Liota, Mary Ann Epp, Arun Pal, Paul McLeod, Glen Soulis, and more. Music starts at 1:30 and goes until dark; supper break is about 5:30. If you come, please bring a salad, dessert, drink, or munchie item, chairs, plates, and cutlery. We will provide burgers and hotdogs and donations are welcome. Proceeds will once again go to the Matt Osborne Musician's Trust Fund.

Since song circle folks are mostly performing during the afternoon, I encourage you to come as early as possible! If we are awake enough, we will continue with a small circle in the house after everything closes down.

Please remember that Chequegnat is by invitation only and that our venue is small. Please come and bring a friend, but don't spread the word far and wide. If you need directions, please email

v Camps and Festivals - Jack Cole

My annual download of camp and festival information is coming a little late this year. My apologies to those who have already made plans, and "happy reading" to those still working on it!

The Mill Race Festival takes place on August 4, 5, and 6 of 2006 in downtown Cambridge. This is the 14th annual (free) festival of traditional folk music, that happens at several stages and other venues in the Galt area.

There is a new addition this year that will be of special interest to Old Chestnuts, and that's a continuous session and song circle running through most of the festival. According to Mill Race founder Brad McEwen this is a typical feature of English festivals, many of which grew from an extended club session into full-blown festivals as we now know them, with professional on-stage performers. Brad is re-adopting the tradition by adding the singaround component to the Mill Race, in sessions at Café 13. These sessions will be hosted by club members (such as yours truly). The room will hold up to 50 people, and food and drinks are available (and will help repay Cafe 13 for their kindness).

I hope that many Old Chestnuts come out with a song or two and help establish this as a unique and successful part of the Mill Race Festival. Old Chestnut hosts that you might care to come out and support (hint!): I'm hosting from 2-4pm on Saturday; Robin and John from 6-8pm; Wayne Cheater on Sunday 4-6pm; and Jim Galway from 6-8pm on Sunday. I hope to see lots of you there!

Meanwhile, on the main stages of the Mill Race Festival, you have a chance to hear someone that I've been wanting to see for many years - northern England's Jez Lowe. Jez wrote "The Bergen", a sailing song that's been trotted out at the Old Chestnuts a couple of times, and he has many more equally fine songs just waiting to be shared. Archie Fisher, Tom Lewis, Galitcha and Mose Scarlett are other highlights. Also at the festival this year are Alfie Smith, Allison Lupton, The Beirdo Brothers, Eddie Douglas, Failte, General Store, Geoff Lewis, Johnny Collins, and more. It sounds like one of the best lineups that Brad has put together. For more information visit .

The Woods Music and Dance Camp is (as you all know by now) the inspiration for our song circle. It takes place in Muskoka from August 9 - 14. This year's staff is: dance caller and fiddler David Kaynor, songwriters Pat Humphries (composer of "Common Thread" and many more) and Sandy Opatow, multi-instrumentalist Michael Jerome Browne, harmonica virtuoso Mike Stevens, fiddlers Raymond McLain and Cindy Thompson, and Jose Orozco and Elvis Sanchez. For more information see .

Unfortunately for fans of both camps, the Goderich Celtic College overlaps with The Woods this year, making it impossible to attend both. The College runs from August 7 - 10th and boasts an amazing faculty yet again, many of whom are world-class performers on their instruments. Classes are offered in concertina, arranging, bass, bodhran, bouzouki, accordion, ensemble playing, fiddle, flute, whistle, foot percussion, guitar, hammered dulcimer, harp, mandolin, mountain dulcimer, piano, pipes, harmony singing, Scottish gaelic song, various other song styles, songwriting, banjo, dance, storytelling, and a dozen crafts. The music staff numbers 43, including Archie Fisher, Jean Hewson, Christina Smith, Tony McManus, Brian McNeil and Pierre Schryer. See much more at .

The College is followed by the Celtic Festival August 11-13, which includes many of the College faculty plus such additions as J.P. Cormier, Garnet Rogers, and Genticorum.

There are many other fine festivals happening this summer, including Home County in London and the Canterbury Festival in Ingersoll, both in July (21-23 and 7-9 respectively). Check out all the festival information at See you there!

v Great Big Sea Rolls Over Kitchener - Jack Cole

I guess I missed the coming of things like light shows, fancy sets, and audiences dancing and shouting along at concerts. It's certainly not a part of the concerts I'm used to! But I have to say . . . I liked it!

Great Big Sea flooded into the Centre in the Square on May 4th, and the night ranks as one of my all-time favourite concert experiences. Sure, you could barely make out the words. For example, it took me nearly two verses to realize they were singing "Lukey's Boat" because most of the sold-out crowd was trying to sing along, and because the sound system was set to "fuzzify". But once I figured it out, who could stop themselves from joining in?

The energy and the enthusiasm were amazing and infectious. Most of the main floor audience didn't sit for the entire concert. They jumped, they danced, they swayed, they spun around, but they didn't sit. And they sang along to traditional folk songs, drawn mostly from the Sea's latest all-trad CD, "The Hard and the Easy". Seeing so many people - mostly under 30 - singing "Mary's Wedding" and "Donkey Riding" and "River Driver" was inspiring. It gives me hope.

The first half was all traditional, with the band (the 3 remaining GBS founders Alan Doyle, Sean McCann and Bob Hallett, plus two newcomers Murray Foster and Kris MacFarlane) standing in front of a fishnet-strewn set. A bank of 6 computer controlled spotlights on stands behind them, kept up a constant sweep of the band and audience. Fake Newfoundland fog swirled as they switched instruments with nearly every song, keeping a fleet-footed guitar tech busy running instruments on stage.

Many times during songs the band just stopped singing and let the audience carry it. And it worked! Between songs the band bantered, joked, introduced and explained the songs, dropped local references (I must see this barmaid at Molly Blooms sometime!), and seemed to have a great time.

The second set, with a new modern-looking backdrop, was a mix of even more traditional songs and all of their "greatest hits". By the end of the night everyone should have been satisfied - but the 3 song encore was still not enough for the crowd. GBS came back one more time for a most stunning second encore - the five lads stood in front of the microphones and delivered an a cappella, 5-part harmonized, un-amplified version of "Old Brown's Daughter". That one song was worth the price of admission.

About 10 years ago, when I was first booking Modabo to play for us, their booking agent asked if I would be interested in Great Big Sea. I'd heard of them, but wasn't smart enough to say yes. I was reminded of that many times that night. These guys not only rock, but they clearly love the music they are playing, and love sharing it.

If you can't see the band I encourage you to pick up a copy of "The Hard and the Easy" and watch the DVD that comes with it. And be ready to dance next time they come to town!

v Willie Nelson, Peggy Seeger in London - Louise Carroll

We went to our first concert at the John Labatt Centre last week to hear the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Willie Nelson....

And it will be a long time before we go there for a concert....probably never again.

The sound was horrible.....i'm glad I had my binoculars or I never would have seen Willie.... he had people singing along with his well known favourites.... but it wasn't satifying because I couldn't even hear myself sing, let along anyone else....

Jeff was looking forward to hearing Willie...more because he respects him as a person....and we are familiar with his music....but the biggest disappointment for me was that we really didn't get any Willie..... Everybody played a very rehearsed set....that is going to be repeated exactly the same way in every city.....but I was hoping to hear some chit chat from Willie on politics...or what he was doing when he wrote a particular song.... or who he was playing with....or a story about Waylon....but there was absolutely nothing....well.... the only thing that came close to a story was that he had a sore throat last year... so he wrote his new Superman song.

.....that was encore....and the tour bus left before the crowd had made it to the parking lot.

What a contrast to seeing Peggy Seeger at the Cuckoo's Nest Folk Club in London in March. A wonderful, intimate concert upstairs....with a grand lady of folk....who had a book filled with anecdotes and quotes.....she started off the concert with a thought for the evening....the theme for the night being aging...."We are born into this world wet, naked and hungry....and it only gets worse!". Well, for us, it only got better that night as Peggy took us on a journey of old songs and new songs and talked about the process of writing and talked about her political leanings.... (I particularly liked the Bush deck of cards that she was matter how you stood them up...they always leaned to the right.)....and we got a very personal, made for the audience that evening type of performance that was wonderful.

Closing Notes - jc

# Tickets are all sold out for the tribute concert to Merrick Jarrett taking place in Toronto on June 17. I'm very proud that about 20 folks will be coming from the Old Chestnuts, and I trust that we will make a right proper noise, and make Muk proud! I'll tell you all about it in the fall.

# I've been working on concerts for the next season, and I hope that there will be some big news on that front that I can announce soon. All I can say right now is that I have committments from both Eileen McGann and Eve Goldberg to come back and play for us in the fall or early in the new year. A couple more acts have been approached, and I'm waiting on their confirmation.

About this newsletter..... It's on the Web at and available at Circles. Call 578- 6298 or write for more information. Another year clicks over, and time just speeds up. I worked out that I am about the same age now as Merrick was when I first met him. Sort of puts life's accomplishments in perspective. Have a great summer everyone, and I hope you can make it to Chequegnat! And our heartfelt congrats to J & W!

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