February/March 2004 * Volume 9, Number 4

* Next Old Chestnuts Song Circle March 27 *

v Rick Fielding - Jack Cole

As I was fretting about the trivial, like putting this newsletter together, I received news that Rick Fielding passed away on Saturday evening, March 20 after a long battle with cancer. Newer readers of this email may not know Rick, but they should.

Rick Fielding Rick was one of the first performers to be featured in an Old Chestnuts house concert. Jean Mills wrote about that concert in September 1998: "With a smooth, warm voice, great instrumental ability, an eclectic repertoire that includes some excellent original material, and a relaxed, rambling style between songs, Rick Fielding put on the kind of show that folk audiences long for."

A few months earlier Rick had driven from Toronto to join fifty of us at a party in honour of our own Merrick Jarrett. The party quickly became a song circle, and Rick brought out a song he'd written for the occassion - The Cowboy From Kitchener. A few years later, Rick was one of the first to volunteer his talents at a public tribute concert for Merrick, and was the first performer to take the stage that afternoon. He'd made the trip once again, for 15 minutes on stage.

You see, Rick loved folk music and he loved the people that made it. The story goes that Rick's fondness for Merrick resulted from a meeting in a bar, somewhere in Northern Ontario. Merrick was passing through and Rick was earning a living with his guitar. Merrick took the time to tell Rick how much he enjoyed his music, and Rick was thrilled to meet one of the "fathers of (Canadian Folk Music) Confederation" (as it were). Their mutual respect and friendship continued from that day.

Here's a bit more about Rick, from his web site. "Originally a native of Montrťal, Quebec, Rick was smitten by folk and blues music as a teenager. He later moved to Toronto and in a career that spanned over thirty years toured extensively throughout Canada, Great Britain and the United States. He recorded albums for Folk Legacy and Borealis and happily managed to finish his latest album "Acoustic Workshop" while struggling with his illness. Apart from touring and playing his own music Rick taught acoustic techniques on guitar, banjo, mandolin and dulcimer, ran workshops on songwriting and professional development for musicians, did custom leather work, and hosted the radio show Acoustic Workshop on CIUT-FM 89.5.

Above all Rick was a giving person as a performer. teacher and friend.He will be missed deeply by all who knew him. A celebration of Rick's life and music will probably take place in late spring. Please watch the Borealis site for information."

On behalf of the Old Chestnuts Song Circle, thank you Rick for bringing your music to our door, and for sharing it so generously. Our condolences go out to Heather, family and friends, which include the Toronto Song Circle and The Woods Music and Dance Camp communities. The last words go to Rick.

"I'm gonna sing with the angels
When my time comes around
This earth is just rehearsal
For when I'm heaven bound
I'll be well prepared to take my place
With harmony and rhyme
And sing with the angels when it's time"

"Ridin' the trail for some good old time songs
You shared them with others and passed them along"
- Rick Fielding

v Last Month and Next - Jack Cole

January's song circle was probably our best New Year turnout ever, and one of the best song circles too! The living room was filled with 30-plus singers, 11 guitars, 2 dobros, a mandolin, a banjo, and assorted drums, harmonicas, whistles and shakers. It was great to hear Linda again (continuing her tradition of performing songs less than 4 hours old!), Dan was back with some songs that rocked, and we dabbled in French and Yiddish, with a healthy dose of mini-themes for the New Year and Robbie Burns. Three newbies kept that streak alive, and "welcome" to the Old Chestnuts.

We also had an abundance of handouts. Here's the list of songs that were passed around and sung, and from them you can get a good sense of the diversity of the night! Wilder Than Her (Fred Eaglesmith), A Red Red Rose (Robbie Burns), Let The Lower Lights Be Burning (Trad), Tell Me Why (Neil Young), Jackson (Lucinda Williams), Keep Me In Your Heart Awhile (Warren Zevon), St. James Infirmary (Trad), It Rains Everywhere I Go (Don Cusic), Sunshine (Jonathan Edwards), Red Is The Rose (Trad), Lost Together (Blue Rodeo), She's Like the Swallow (Trad), Come By The Hills (Trad), V'La L'Bon Vent (Trad), The Ballad of Martin and Gibson (Rick Speyer) and There Will Be Music (Rick Speyer).

Thanks, everyone, for breaking the cycle of "January blahs".

Spring is here - or is it? Never sure, but I do know that March is Lightfoot Month. Okay - maybe not officially, but the recent round of tribute concerts and CDs and (oh my) dance remakes of Mr. Lightfoot's songs has made it ever so obvious that a night at the Circle would be a wonderful thing. We havenít had a themed circle in over a year, and it makes me a bit nervous to have one again. So let me stress - this is just a suggestion for songs to bring. It is perfectly fine to bring other songs, of any shape and size. But if you have one of Gordon's that you've been saving, this would be a good month to trot it out.

According to sources on the net, Gordie has recorded about 220 songs, almost all of them his own. And in that list, there are precious few with choruses. Just not his style, I guess. I would therefore encourage you to bring words to hand out, even though many of us will already know many of them. If we are organized maybe we can cover all 220! Yeah, right.

The date is Saturday, March 27. In view of the popularity of the theme, I am recommending that you drop me an email or give me a call (578-6298) to reserve a spot. I hope to see lots of you here!

v Song Circle in Windsor - Sharon Light

Well, what to say - this year's first Lug-A-Mug Song Circle was a great success. The 14 of us plunged to the depths in a "Yellow Submarine" and then soared to great heights on the "Wings of a Dove", with many a stop in between.

It has however, been a bit of a road to get there. When David and I first moved to Windsor we found a small but thriving folk music community - but no song circles, so...........we started one ourselves. It's been a bit of a task to get the concept out there, understood and appreciated. Windsor musicians like to get together for open mics and jam sessions - so all kinds of instruments arrive, acoustic, electric you name it and when you try to emphasize that the circle is for singing, well they just look at you blankly - especially since they've left spouses and family at home - all potential singers!

We had a few runs at the Circle last year about this time, had enjoyable times but never quite got the concept right. But.....we're not ones to give up. We analyzed, and analyzed, talked, discussed and worried our way through the whole problem - lots of people were willing but we realized that we were going to have to provide step-by-step guidelines.

Our location was also a problem. We were very kindly offered the use of space in a local church and took up the offer, only to discover a few months later that some people were not coming because they assumed a "religious affiliation". So what to do? Well, our friend and fellow musician Dan Levesque came to our rescue. He and his lovely partner Darlene had just purchased a home with a more central location and more importantly a very, very large rec room, with its own washroom and everything! The Lug-A-Mug had a new home!

So in preparation for the year's "new and improved" Circle, David and I sat down. We put together sing-along booklets with 20 or so suggested songs of many types. We emailed and phoned all of the people we could think of and explained the Song Circle concept in great detail. We even wrote up a mission statement and laid down some rules.

Our first night this year was a nervous one - lots of familiar faces turned up and a few new ones, and then oh my goodness, an electric guitar and amp! Dave was quick to the mark, explaining our predicament and asked that the amp be turned way, way down - which in the end worked quite well, as the player is a good musician and provided excellent back-up when needed in a "kinder, gentler" way.

We got round our circle twice and sang our hearts out. We had several guitars, a banjo, tambourines, shakers, the whole lot, but everyone was determined to make it work and we let our voices lead us with the instruments providing support. We had a break for coffee, tea etc., and pronounced the "Lassy Mog" as our official cookie. Pretty well everyone "lugged their own mug" in order to keep as much waste and "styro-junk" out of our community.

One of our biggest accomplishments was getting non-players to come out. We had one fellow from down east with a beautiful voice and once we taught him melodies he was off and singing. Others picked songs from our booklet or made requests - nothing stumped us.

Most of the musicians arrived with lyric sheets for everyone and the two or three original pieces were taught to the group for sing-along on the refrains.

As we gathered at the door putting on coats and packing our instruments away, I heard people talking about how much fun they had and were suggesting songs for the next session. The Lug-A-Mug Song Circle had come into its own for sure.

So, next week's open mic at the Windsor Folk Society will have Dave and I pitching the Circle and distributing business cards with details and a map on the back to all those interested.

We've set a "permanent" date as the 3rd Saturday of the month, starting at 7:30 p.m., finishing by 11:00 p.m. We hand out leaflets and cards at open mic sessions. We ask that people call us to confirm their participation so that we can keep numbers reasonable.

It's been a rocky ride, but worth it. Last week we bought 2 bags of Lassy Moggs in anticipation of need. It felt good.

So, if you find yourselves down our way and its the 3rd Saturday of the month, give Dave and I a call and come join us in our Circle.

Cheers. Sharon Light (519)251-0827

v Closing Notes - jc

# Elora School of Traditional Celtic Music After a very successful Winter session with almost 40 students enrolled in a variety of classes as varied as Scottish Smallpipes, Irish Bodhran, Traditional Celtic Guitar, Irish Mandolin and 3 levels of Irish Fiddle classes, the school is offering a new slate of classes starting April 22nd. New courses are Irish Gaelic Language, and a Tune-Learning/Slow Session course. Classes run for 90 minutes or more, for 10 Thursdays at a cost of $190.

These is also a new Comhaltas Branch in this area (the Grand River Comhaltas Branch), for all those in the Kitchener/Waterloo, Guelph, Fergus/Elora, Cambridge, Hamilton, Stratford area and beyond. For information on either the School or Comhaltas, call Eva McCauley at (519)848-5970.

# The 4th Chequegnat Festival is entering the planning stage. We are targeting one of the first 2 Saturdays in June for this unique backyard music festival and picnic. Last year's event brought a couple of hundred people to our yards to hear folks like Maggie Christl, Debbie Carroll, Mary Anne Epp, Matt Osborne, Paul MacLeod and many more. If you would like to help out please let me know. This is a chance to give something back to a neighbourhood that puts up with the bustle of our Song Circle throughout the year! AND have some fun!

# And speaking of festivals, the Dandelion Festival takes place on Sunday, May 2, 2004 in Waterloo Park. The festival features environmental themes - it's more about how to enjoy harmonious co-existance with dandelions than it is about getting rid of them - although I understand there is some ritualistic eating of said plants. On the performance bill this year will be GreenWood, making its first appearance in quite some time. Please come out and sing!

Coming up later in May is the Grand Gathering, a meeting of all Ontario arts organizations hosted this year by Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge. The present plan includes some performances by local musicians and a panel discussion on folk music in the 21st century with Brad McEwen, Jean Mills, Robert Reid and myself. Should be an interesting time, complete with some music!

# The Old Chestnuts is being used as the model for a 6 week series of Thursday night song circles at one of the local churches, as part of its music program. I've be leading these circles, which are intended for church members but are also open to a limited number of other singers. I would seriously love it if a few of our strong song leaders and harmony singers could spare a couple of hours on a Thursday, to help keep things flowing. The circles begin after Easter. If you are interested in passing on the songs, please give me a call and I'll fill you in. Thanks!

# There are some great opportunities for singers coming up, that I will certainly be looking at much more closely! Last year featured the first Sing! at Eaglewood, and they're offering the weekend of singing again on May 7 and 8. The weekend features workshops on Friday night and all day Saturday, followed by a Showcase concert on Saturday evening. Leading the weekend again this year are the amazing Tom Leighton and Carol Hanson Hasek. Cost is $75 and you can find out more from 705-437-1634. The Eaglewood resort is near Pefferlaw, Ontario, near the toe of Lake Simcoe.

There is also a workshop in choral singing at the Haliburton School of the Arts, July 12 to 16. There are two concurrent workshops, one lead by Andy Rush (Open Voices Community Choir in Kingston) and the other by Isobel Bernaus (Common Thread Community Choir in Toronto. Information can be found at http://www.flemingc.on.ca/programs/haliburton/default.asp

# The Bills (formerly the Bill Hilly Band) are renowned for their great concerts. They come this way from the West once in a while, and are playing a special conccert in the village of Langton on March 30, at 7:30 PM. Langton is about an hour away, in the Woodstock-Simcoe area. For more information check out the online information.

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! Very sad news about Rick. If anyone could be said to truly love this music, it would be him. Folks - a True Believer in the music and community that we share has left the race. So there's more for us to do. Pass them along. (The photo of Rick is (C) Mose Scarlett.)

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