Old Chestnuts & Black Walnuts Newsletter

March 1996

February Old Chestnuts Jack Cole

February was another month for growth - more than a third of the 25 people were first timers. This is wonderful to see, and I look forward to the day when we have a room full of floor sitters! I missed getting many of the new people's names and addresses; sorry about that. Also, thanks to all who brought drinks and munchies - it is really appreciated.

The official non-themes of the night (loving or leaping) were once again mostly absent. My loving and leaping song (David Essig's Albert's Cove) never even got dusted off.... Roses, however, turned out to be the big theme, appearing in at least a half dozen songs. Several songs were handed out; I'll prepare an index again for the May mailing.

As is often the case when we have a lot of 'newbies', we ended up requesting many songs that no one was ready to lead. That's okay sometimes, but please remember that everything works better if people and songs (like banana cake) are prepared well ahead.

In Our Van We're Goin' to....

...(North) Carolina. On March 2 Lori and I jumped into Cathy and Dave's brand new shiny white van and headed south for a week of recovery from this dismal winter. Why am I telling you this? Because it turned into a very musical trip, and I thought some of you might find it interesting. Sort of an Old Chestnuts field trip.

<< We interrupt this story until the next newsletter, so that we can bring you hot-off-the-press news! But come to the March Song Circle to see some of the instruments we acquired - a McNally StrumStick, a plucked psaltery, Catspaws, a bowed psaltery...... ??? >>

The Winter Woods Sue Goldberg

For anyone who loves singing and singing in harmony, the Winter Woods this year was a real treat. The core of the staff was a trio called Finest Kind....Ian Robb, Anne Downey and Shelley Posen. They specialize in a cappella 3 voice harmony, although they sing other music and use various instruments (guitar, concertina, banjo, bass) as accompaniment too. Ian and Shelley have both been at The Woods before and besides being excellent musicians, are among the most thoughtful singers I know. The very first time I went to The Woods, I went to Ian's song clinic. (No, a song clinic is not where you take sick songs to make them better! It's a place where Ian pushes you to think about the choices you make when you sing.) The experience was definitely a lifetime highlight and has had a major impact on my own singing. So I eagerly joined Ian's song clinic this time, and was not disappointed.

Shelley Posen introduced a lot of us to Sacred Harp singing and on this occasion offered an introduction to "pub carols". I had never heard of pub carols, but in parts of Yorkshire, particularly Sheffield, there are 4-part seasonal songs that are sung in pubs in November and December, and we had a grand time learning a few. Shelley and Anne also led a Country and Western session (which I can't say much about because I went to something else!) and I got in a little work on the banjo with Anne. The trio led two community discussions...one on "To Accompany or Not To Accompany: That is the Question" and one on finding harmonies. The latter was an opportunity to see how the trio works. They were game enough to pull out a song they are still arranging and just work on it in full view of 30 other people and answer questions about what they were doing.

I haven't mentioned the dancing. How could I leave out the dancing? Lanie Melamed was our dance caller. Lanie has a special place at The Woods because she's the person who started it all. She was very excited to come back and see that her creation is still alive and well and still consistent with her original vision. Lanie taught a class in Playford dancing, a rather elegant form of English country dancing named after the dance master who created and recorded details of many of these. (If you saw Pride and Prejudice on TV recently, you saw a lot of these dances.) We all did some Playford dances in the evening, along with contras, mixers and general fun. I also treasured the time I had to chat with Lanie about The Woods, community building, and LIFE.

And of course, we had a song circle every night! One of the nicest things about this event was that with about 35 people in total, it was very much like the first few summer camps....intimate enough to get to know everyone and feel connected. A magical weekend!

But it's like describing the taste of chocolate. You can say all you want, but one taste is worth a thousand words. So (here's the plug) if you really want to know what it's like, try it. We expect to be mailing out the summer flyer in a week or so and you can get on the mailing list by contacting the Laskins (Grit and Judith at 18 Simpson Ave., Toronto, M4K 1A2, or 416-461-1864).

March And Future Song Circles

The March song circle is on the usual date, the fourth Saturday, being the 23rd. It is again at 111 Chestnut Street, 519-578-6298. Hope to see many of you there, for what turns out to be the next to last song circle for the season. The theme (should you choose to accept it) is Songs of Ireland. Okay, okay, as a theme it's a little obvious, but work with it!

The March Black Walnut (on the 16th) will be preceded by a kind of annual meeting, to talk about what is or is not working with the Folk Club. If you have anything to contribute please show up early at Jester's Court.

April 27, as you all know by now, is Modabo night. For those with tickets (there are a couple left yet...) the opening concerts start at 8:00. We have some of the Song Circle folks playing a couple of songs each - please be there on time to give these folks the support they deserve! We also have some door prizes, munchies, coffee and tea. Folks are still welcome to bring additional munchies, but there will be something for everyone! If you have good folding chairs that you could bring please give us a call in advance and bringing them along. Thanks.

May 25th will be the last Song Circle until the fall, although I am still working on a coffeehouse-style concert for this spring, a barn dance in August at Barb's and (ta da - this just in) it is now looking very promising for an Eileen McGann house concert in September!! Details as they become available!

Reviews and what I would pay for....

Alex Beaton - The Water Is Wide Rating: $18

This album of covers by "the premier Scottish entertainer in North America" was kindly sent to me by the organizers of Mr. Beaton's two upcoming concerts in Fergus (see the events section). Alex is sort of a U.S. (?) version of Toronto's John McDermott, but with what I find to be a more pleasing voice. He has included several Stan Rogers songs, a Dougie MacLean anthem (Caledonia) and several traditional tunes in a collection that will have you saying "Oh, I love that song!" a lot. The arrangements are excellent; my only reservation is that I like to discover new songs on albums, and the only discovery on this one is Mr. Beaton himself. Not insignificant though, as I find myself liking his versions as well as some of the originals. Comfortable and quite enjoyable, but only available (for now) at his concert in Fergus.

Eileen McGann - Journeys Rating: $22

I've been wanting to review this album for some time, and am finally going to do it! This is a very fine collection of songs (her third) by an enormously talented songwriter now living in Calgary. At first listen I found 4 (four!) songs that I want to learn. Produced and co-mixed by Eileen, she wrote most of the 12 songs, sings and plays guitar. Accompanying musicians include Anderson & Brown, Stephen Fearing, David Knutson, Anne Lederman, Cathy Miller, Oliver Schroer, and David Woodhead. There are a couple of songs that I don't really love, but Rolling Home Canadian is worth the price alone! Not to mention the artwork. Available from Dragonwing Music, 4818 Dalhousie DR. NW, Calgary, T3A 1B2.

Upcoming Events (please let me know about any that you feel are appropriate for next time!)

Mar 16/96 Black Walnut Folk Club, Jester's Court, Kitchener 7:30, $3

Mar 23/96 Old Chestnuts Song Circle, 111 Chestnut St., 7:30

Mar 29,30 Alex Beaton, benefit at & for Theater on the Grand, Fergus, tickets $16 / $18 (includes reception) 787-1981.

Apr 13/96 The Whitely Brothers, Theater on the Grand, Fergus

Apr 20/96 Heather Bishop, Zion United Church, Kitchener $14 / $17

Apr 27/96 Modabo, Old Chestnut's House Concert Series, $14

May 1/96 Ani DeFranco, Waterloo $15 / $17

I asked Mary Joy Aitken for information about her upcoming concerts, and she wrote the following:

"One is with the classic folksinger Heather Bishop (from southern Manitoba) and the other is with the dynamic, young, neo-folksinger Ani DeFranco (from Buffalo). Heather sings of place and home and is tremendously inspiring. She is also wonderfully humourous (especially her hilarious rendition of the Nancy White classic "Les Moutons" or, in English, "Dustballs" -- you gotta be there!!) so the whole evening ends up to be one of tremendous entertainment value. Ani's show is sure to be much more dynamic and loud. But this young woman is a tremendous poet and guitar player. A tremendous talent! " Mary Joy also mentions that Natalie MacMaster will be featured at the Fergus Scottish Festival on August 10th. Tickets ordered before April 30th are 15% off - 519-787-0099.

About this newsletter......

I'd like to thank the folks who have responded and subscribed to this newsletter - some who have never been to the OCSC and some from well out of town. I hope you continue to find it useful! As a reminder, I ask for a small donation for copies that are mailed. And I anxiously solicit articles! In that vein, could any OCSC members with albums available let me know - I'll compile a list for a future newsletter. Thanks to all contributors this month! See you March 23! ttfn jc