April 2006 * Volume 11, Number 4

* Next Old Chestnuts Song Circle April 22, May 27 * Artscan Circle Benefit April 22

v February/March/April Old Chestnuts - Jack Cole

Despite the, umm, labour dispute where I work, somehow time flew by without a report last month. I really need to reduce those part-time jobs!

February, typically a low attendance month, brought 25 Old Chestnuts out to sing Simon and Garfunkle songs. It was a fun and rocking night, with many well known and well sung songs, spanning 40 years of Paul Simon's work. It was great to hear so many of them again.

March had a Celtic theme, and the 34 people who made it out had a great time singing many old songs and some new ones too. We also welcomed back some members of the Toronto song circle, and a couple of parents of Old Chestnuts. Thanks to James for leading the circle, as I was nursing a lost voice. Terrific songs, a wonderful feeling, and "Pass Them On" for Sue's birthday.

Apparently "Celtic" also means "food" - we had an amazing feast at break, which included cherry cheesecake, homemade chocolates, Dan's trifle, 2 chocolate-chip loaves, Mary's cookies, and much more. My doctor would not have approved!

April's circle - the second to last one this year - is just a few days away on the 22nd, a very busy day for folk music in the area! It's also Earth Day, so if you have any Earth songs please bring them (and the words) to sing to the planet. See other articles for more things to do on Earth Day!

By the way, Chequegnat 6 is being planned for June the third. Mark it on the calendars; as always it will be "not to be missed"! We have some more interesting performer possibilities this year.

v Artscan Circle Benefit - Jack Cole

We all owe a great debt to Mike Stevens, the Sarnia-born harmonica genius who stopped one day in Northern Labrador and decided then and there to try to help the kids.

Maybe you heard Mike on Sounds Like Canada a couple of weeks ago. I first heard his story at The Woods, where he was teaching harmonica. He brought a video along, so that we could see the things that he had seen. It was a moving and life-changing presentation, unequal parts of despair and hopefulness, ... and I cannot possibly praise Mike Stevens and his dedication enough.

Mike was touring, performing for our armed forces, when he took an opportunity (without authorization) to see for himself the tragedy of hopelessness, solvent abuse, and suicide that the kids in the northern communities deal with - not so well - every day. They wanted to know what he did, so he played some harp for them. Then he showed them how it worked, and they were interested. Mike was moved to a course of action.

He founded Artscan Circle, a group of musicians who collect used instruments and truck them into the northern communities, then stay and teach the kids how to play them. They have established instrument lending libraries in several northern communities, and make many visits every year to keep the music happening and keep the kids e ngaged. You can read all about Mike and his colleagues at artscancircle.ca .

Local musician Loretta Fullerton is organizing a concert in Kitchener on Saturday, April 22 to raise funds and awareness for Artscan Circle. The concert begins at 3pm and carries on until The Boathouse (in Victoria Park) closes.

Performers (times are tentative) are: Keith Thompson (3 pm), Charity Brown (3:30), Jack Cole (4, come help!), Kate Ashby-Croft (4:30), Christopher Willes Trio (5), Gail Selkirk (6), Randy Rollo (6:30), James Gordon (7), David Gillis (8), Laura Fernandez (8:30), Laura Bird (9), Heather Katz (9:30), Tannis Slimmon (10), Chris McKhool and Sultans of String (10:30). Additional musicians (Mary Anne Epp, Glen Soulis, Cam Kemp, Loretta) will be joining in as the day goes by. I have a PDF poster, if you area able to print and display one.

All donations (including used instruments in good working order) are gladly accepted. The suggestion admission donation is $15. Please consider supporting Artscan Circle, and then coming over to the Song Circle later in the evening. Help Mike, Loretta, Laura and the rest make a difference in the lives of the kids of the north.

v The Pomelos Roll into town - Jack Cole

There are times in the life of a concert goer that the experience exceeds the expectation by such a wonderful amount, that you just can't imagine an evening better spent. The Old Chestnuts concert series has been blessed with many of those occasions: Modabo, Haines and Leighton, Pied Pumkin, and more. The Pomelos concert on March 10th was another such night, part of International Women's Week observations.

A triumph is even more satisfying when it caps a difficult race to the finish. Slow ticket sales ultimately evolved into over 80 enthusiastic people (and thanks to Rob Reid and The Record for that!). Numerous logistic problems (one small example: only 60 chairs set up and the rest locked away) were all solved by sweat of brow and helpful volunteers. Good preparations and last-minute saves by experienced helpers overcame a few dropped balls. In short, this was the most trying, yet one of the most rewarding, concerts that we have ever presented.

The rewarding part came straight from the Pomelos - Heather Katz, Laura Bird, Marianne Girard, Katherine Wheatley and Tannis Slimmon. They put on more than just a concert, turning the evening into a celebration.

Each of the five took two turns per set, favouring the appreciative audience with 20 songs, plus a two song encore. Another encore was imminent after over two hours of music, but the MC looked at the time and instead thanked everyone for coming.

On most songs they backed each other up with vocals, instruments, and percussion, although some songs were predominantly solo efforts. Most were originals, with a couple of familiar covers and a closing Eve Goldberg 'anthem'. A few singalongs helped cement our reputation as a singing audience, and this despite the fact that (tsk tsk) only a few Old Chestnuts were present (a fact that concerns me some!).

Among the many highlights were some familiar Song Circle favourites (Katherine's Hallelujah, Tannis' There's a Lift), great vocals from Heather on jazz/blues standards, thoughtful lyrics from Marianne, and a beautiful bit of harmony around a new Laura Bird song, that, according to Katherine Wheatley, the others had just worked out while she was in the bathroom before the concert! We were all - including Katherine - jaw-dropped, suspended on those particular harmonies - there was a lift.

The Pomelo experience was more than just the music, though. At break, they drifted around the hall chatting and signing, and offering samples of the pomelo fruit, which they had peeled and prepped before the concert - not a trivial job! Besides CDs from all 5 artists, there were Pomelo aprons and shopping bags for sale, and absolutely wonderful homemade pomelo marmalade, some of which is waiting in our jam cupboard.

Thanks to the Pomelos for a great night, to Jim and Dan for the extensive sound setup, the many last-minute fill-ins for covering our backsides, and the audience for a terrific vibe. This was an evening very well spent.

Closing Notes - jc

# The Mill Race Folk Society seems to have come to terms with the difficulty of scheduling events opposite other peoples'! :-) In March their Spring Preview was the same night as the Old Chestnuts, and unfortunately they have to do it again in April and May. Oh well, most times you have no choice but to book the night that's available. My biggest frustration is not the competition - the Mill Race Festival is a good cause that needs our support - but that it means that I can't hear a couple of terrific concerts! But you can!

Ian Robb's new band Jiig is playing their first area concert on April 22. If their debut recording is any indication this quartet (James Stephens, Ian, Ian Clark and Greg T. Brown - hence Jiig) will be every bit as enjoyable as Ian's other group ventures. Jiig is $15 at the door of Cafe 13, in downtown Galt.

By the way, there are several other events on the same day, including a ceili, Maeve Donnelly and Tony McManus concert, the Artscan Circle Benefit, an outbreak of Morris dancing, and (of course) the Canadian Idol auditions! Spend your music time wisely, but please spend it on April 22 as we will all need your support!

Then on May 27 the competition really gets tough, as the Mill Race folks bring Tanglefoot back to the area. The concert is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre, 47 Water St. S. Tickets are listed as $1500, but I have a feeling it is really $15, and available at several outlets. Check grandriverfolk.org for more details. They put on a grand concert last year, and never disappoint.

# A favourite of all lovers of Canadian tunes and songs, the Brian Pickell Band is performing a pair of weekend concerts on April 28th in Guelph and the 29th in Waterloo. Brian is known around the world as a tune writer, but its his songs that have become favourites at the Old Chestnuts. See the May 2005 newsletter for more about Brian and the band. Tickets for the Waterloo concert, at the Church of St. Columbia, are $20 at the door.

# Midnight Clear CDs are now available from the Old Chestnuts CD store. Midnight Clear had a great CD release party, performing songs from their entire history, starting with Christmas carols! They've been guests at Chequegnat a couple of times and are favourites of our appreciative crowd. If you would like a CD ($15) let me know, or come on out to the next Circle, where I believe at least one member of MC will be available to sign it! It's a ton of fun, and yes, Pretty Pink Socks is on there!

About this newsletter..... It's on the Web at http://www.mgl.ca/~jhcole and available at Circles. Call 578- 6298 or write jhcole@mgl.ca for more information. Congratulations to Paul Schultz for a terrific concert at the St. Jacob's Country Playhouse. Nice venue and great music. Congrats as well to Midnight Clear on their CD and party - what a party it was! Nice to see a few Old Chestnuts in the audience, and to hear MC plus Chris Lobsinger again. Hope you can make it to Artscan!!

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