The Old Chestnuts Song Circle Newsletter
April 1999


v Important OCSC News!!! - Jack Cole

The April 24th Song Circle will be at the home of Mary & Barry Baldasaro, just around the corner at 239 Frederick Street. This was planned a few months ago, but turned out to be very fortuitous, as Lori and I will be on our way to a vacation in Arizona. Yes, I will miss my very first Old Chestnut's ever! Margaret Jackson has graciously volunteered to be the host that evening. So I ask that lots of you show up to support Margaret and the Circle at the Baldasaro's!

May's Circle would fall on the long weekend, which is just asking to end the season with a whimper! So we put it to a vote last month, and agreed to move May's OCSC to Saturday, May 29. This one will be back on Chestnut Street. (As it turns out, there is now a conflict with a Cate Friesen concert that night. Can't win.) So change your calendars and plan to end the season with a bang!

v May 8, Concert & Workshop Update

By the time you read this it will be just a couple of weeks until our next major event - Paddy Tutty and Cathy Miller for a day of house concerts and workshops. Cathy & Paddy are performing together just for us - all other tour stops are individual concerts. We should all appreciate just how privileged the Old Chestnuts are, to get two such essential Canadian folk musicians to share our humble stage. There are still a few tickets left for the evening concert, but don't wait too long!

I have been surveying for weeks trying to put together workshops to take advantage of these excellent teachers. We have just enough to go with Paddy's dulcimer workshop, and a nearly equal split between Cathy's Singing or Songwriting possibilities. So it's time for me to make some decisions.

I am requesting that everyone who has expressed interest in workshops (as well as anyone new) contact me again, to confirm that you will be coming. If the times prohibit some people's attendance I may have to shuffle them around!!

Paddy's Dulcimer Workshop (for people with some experience)
Saturday May 8, 10 AM - 1 PM

Cathy's Singing Workshop Saturday May 8, 2 - 5 PM

Requested Minimum Donations (for one person)
Concert (incl. munchies, prizes) $14
Workshop (incl. munchies) $15
Concert and 1 workshop $27
Concert and both workshops $38

If the weather is nice and I can persuade someone to organize and run the BBQ, we will be able to provide sustenance between the afternoon and evening events. This would be on a donation basis, with any excess going to Cathy & Paddy.

Finally, if anyone has a dulcimer that we can borrow for the workshop it would be appreciated. We have a couple of players without instruments, and it would be nice if they could join us.


v Last Month and Next Month at OCSC - Jack Cole

The "Earth" theme seems to have been one of the tougher ones, but anything that gets 30 people out to Circle has to be a good choice! Nice to see some long-missed faces back, as well as 3 new comers. We had several songs about mining, landslides, gardening and farming, clay and the planet. I could quite happily listen to a replay of the entire night!

Since Lori and I will miss April's Circle at Mary and Barry's, someone proposed a topic of "Songs about Jack". Funny. But okay, let's try taking that in 2 directions. The first is songs with a connection to the word "jack", including jackknife, car jack, hijack, lumberjack, Kojak, playing jacks, etc. The other is songs with people names in them - much easier I think! Anway, whoever manages Hit The Road Jack first gets to write this column next month (and failing that, I'm asking Margaret to do it!).

v The Grand River Dulcimer Club - Jean Mills

For years I've played the Appalachian dulcimer by myself; a delightful pastime, of course, but lonely. Occasionally I've had the opportunity to play my dulcimer with other musicians - mostly guitarists and singers. But very rarely have I had the chance to play with other dulcimer players. All this is about to change!

The Grand River Dulcimer Club is soon to be born, probably in my living room in Guelph. The only requirement for membership is: you have a dulcimer or have an urge to get one! This doesn't mean you need to know how to play it. At the moment, the soon- to-be members of the soon-to-exist club are using mountain/lap/Appalachian dulcimers. But you never know - I recently borrowed Merrick's hammered dulcimer....

Why a dulcimer club? More to the point, why not? It's an easy instrument to pick up quickly, and anyone (including my 8-year- old daughter) can play tunes with little instruction. It's portable. It's lovely to look at and even more lovely to hear. Last spring a few members of the Old Chestnuts Song Circle gathered at the home of Merrick Jarrett for an informal "dulcimer night", and the strings were quickly ringing as we swapped songs and techniques. The members of GreenWood (Jack Cole, James Morgan and myself) have started fiddling around with dulcimers in our arrangements of traditional and not-so-traditional songs. I've been writing music and arrangements for the dulcimer for years. Why not share all this music with other dulcimer players in a club format that provides motivation and a chance to interact with other musicians?

The goals of the club? Making music! Having fun! Instruction, improving skills, learning new songs, perhaps even performing... and doing it on a regular basis.

The meetings themselves will take place monthly, with my house being the headquarters, and the new condo of Merrick and Mary Jarrett as our "satellite" Kitchener location (thanks Merrick and Mary!). I'll keep a book with notes on meetings, songs we play, news, and anything else that might come in handy as the club progresses. Nothing formal, and certainly no membership fees. I expect meetings to be a couple of hours long, starting at 7:30 or 8:00pm. The format of the meetings themselves will have to evolve, but hopefully there will be opportunities for instruction and learning (slow jams), time to play in different tunings, and the chance for people to share (and teach!) new songs or techniques they're working on. The goal is to make music, have fun, and learn something about this wonderful instrument.

First meeting: I'll throw out a date and see what kind of response I get. Monday April 19, 7:30pm, at 1 Darren Place in Guelph (Highway 6 north of Woodlawn, turn right at the Bedford Road subdivision). Anyone who's interested, let me know if Mondays (or some other night or time) will work for you. Phone number 763-8092 and email at If we can get together once, we can establish a day and time that works for us all.

So Merrick, Sheila, Jack, James, Beverlie, Rick &Judy - I hope you're all reading this. And I know lots more potential dulcimer players are reading this too. Call and let me know if you're ready to be part of the Grand River Dulcimer Club.

[ Editor's Note: With the upcoming Dulcimer Workshop, this would be an excellent chance to get the rust off the strings, or to get some needed experience. ]


v Jaspur, Our Musical Cat - Jack Cole

The last month has been sad and quiet around our home, as we learn to live without Jaspur after 6400 days and nights together. March was our first Circle without him. I hope you will indulge a few memories of our musical times together.

Jaspur had to contend with music from the time he arrived in our tiny, three room apartment on Frederick Street. And he coped pretty well, with the exception of the harmonica and the tin whistle, which he just could not abide! And he really liked those big, padded cat beds that guitars come in!

I think he loved singing as an extension of his love for people. It seemed to comfort him. We have a great picture of Jazz trying to sleep, putting up with Cathy fiddling, bouncing up and down on his bed. What the picture doesn't show are the 8 people singing and being generally rambunctious at the other end of the room. And he stayed for the whole thing.

Few people know that Jaspur himself was an accomplished singer. Since he was a kitten he would sing for his supper. Well, more of a duet. Jaspur's specialty was the word "now", and he chimed in admirably, on cue, in his supper song:

Jaspur wants his supper now, Jaspur's really hungry.
Jaspur wants his supper now, he wants to fill his tummy.
Jaspur's thinking "Holy cow!
I want my supper and I want it now!!"
Jaspur wants his supper now, Jaspur's really hungry.

Sometimes excitement would lead to harmony yowling, er, singing throughout the verse, but usually he would politely await his turn and his food.

For most of his life Jaspur was a prompt cat. He got up for breakfast at 7 AM; he ate his bedtime food at 10 PM. Within minutes. One morning I awoke at 6:59 to find him perched on the edge of the bed, staring at the clock. His secret was out. I think he only mastered exact hours, but I was never sure.

Anyway, Jaspur's first brush with professional musicians was our debut house concert with Modabo! As expected, Jaspur kept away from the busy action. But in the middle of the second set, in the middle of a song, he came marching through the living room sounding off. I checked - it was 10:02. Nothing kept that boy away from a good meal!

Many musicians have come and gone since, but Jaspur's crowning moment was our first Harmony Singing workshop with Eileen McGann and David K. Eileen was demonstrating one of her warmup techniques, climbing ever higher as she went. Jaspur was being sociable but aloof, hanging out 5 feet away, sitting with his back to the proceedings. Until Eileen showed off a little, and hit a note somewhere between the moon and the asteroid belt. As silence descended, Jaspur let out an annoyed "marrroww", rose to his feet and stalked out of the room, while we all laughed!

In the week before he died, moving around the house had become a major effort. As he lay in his upstairs retreat a GreenWood practice was happening in the living room. During the first song, we saw him make his way from the upstairs hiding spot to the main floor bathroom counter. I'm sure it was the better to hear us. We were thrilled. It was then and there that I decided that Jean Ritchie's My Dear Companion was his song. Sing loud and long, old friend.


v Blatant ad for GreenWood! - Jack Cole

GreenWood (Jean Mills, James Morgan and myself) has been asked to perform a benefit house concert on Saturday June 5! We are pleased and excited at the prospect of filling an evening with great singalong harmony songs, accompanied by guitar, dulcimer, whistle, recorder, psaltry, bodhran and who knows what else!

Tickets, which include an opening act and munchies, with all proceeds going to Amnesty International, are available from Mary Baldasaro or myself, at $10 each. Hope to see you there!

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

Apr 16 Black Walnut Folk Club, University of Waterloo, host Alfie Smith. $3. Also May 21.

Apr 18 County Vaudeville at Fiddler's Green, Cambridge. Call 621-7135 for info.

Apr 24 Old Chestnuts Song Circle, theme "Names". Call 578- 6298 for information.

Apr 24 Mill Race Fund Raiser, Cambridge Arts Theater, Call 621-7135 for info.

Apr 25 Mill Race Traditional Music Sessions, Golden Kiwi, Cambridge, 4-7 PM. Also 2nd and 4th Sunday of most months.

Apr 30 Ceili, 8:30 PM, St. Louis Hall, corner of Willow and Allan, Waterloo. Tickets at Readers Ink.

May 1 Mill Race Open Singaround, Ernie's Road House, Cambridge. Also June 5.

May 1 David Essig, at the Arkell Schoolhouse, 519-763-7528, Also teaching a guitar Master Class in the afternoon.

May 8 Cathy Miller & Paddy Tutty Old Chestnuts House Concert, $14. 578.6298 for info and tickets and workshop info.

v About this newsletter..... It's emailed if I have your address. It's 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. I guess the precedent has been set. Shameless self-promotion ads and articles of a reasonable length will be accepted for the newsletter if they are accompanied by another worthy article. So let's see them come!! Some fun writing this - we are fostering a mom cat and 4 kittens, who just wanna have fun! But it's not the same.

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