March 2009 * Volume 14, Number 3

* Next Old Chestnuts Song Circle March 28 * Dunn & Gunning April 18 * Finest Kind May 9

v Old Chestnuts - Last Month and Next! Special Earth Hour Edition! - Jack Cole

The Old Chestnuts closed out February on the 28th, with a night about books.  Well, part of a night – we didn't get a ton of songs on theme, but enough to say that we did some justice to the topic.  Books themselves were well represented - many songs were selected from the Old Chestnuts song book, and more from RUS, and 2 from the brand new James Gordon songbook (thanks Jack).  About 25 people (including a couple of newbies) started the evening, and about 30 were there by break time, and it was a good night of singing.

March 28 is our next circle, and Happy Earth Hour to us!  (By the way, this is not Earth Day; that happens on Wednesday April 22. Nor is it part of Dark-Sky Week, which happens during April's new moon.  Earth Hour is a creation of the World Wildlife Fund, to draw attention to energy conservation, and it happens on the last Saturday of March each year since 2007.)  

Since I know all good folkies will want to support the idea, I have officially signed up the Old Chestnuts, and we are making a few adjustments.

 All grid-based electric lights at the Circle will be out from 8:30 to 9:30 for Earth Hour.  So:

Now that we are happily in the dark, let me enlighten you some more. There is  a theme for this month.  I had a request for a theme of "Show Tunes".  We have had that theme before, and while it was popular, to be honest, by the end of the night I felt like nothing important had been sung.  Kind of like drinking pop when you want scotch.  So the theme I would like to propose is "Show or No Show".  The first part is obvious.  The second part can be more imaginative. Songs where people didn't show up. Songs about the end of things (like Closing the Minstrel Show or Sweeping the Spotlight Away).  Train wrecks, ship sinkings, anything involving the Titanic or the economic recovery.  Songs about things that never came to pass, or seem like they might not. The end of wars, the beginning of Mars colonization,  the next good Harrison Ford movie. Get the idea?

I know it will be hard to come up with songs on theme AND that can be sung in the dark, at this late date!  So, as always, the theme is just a suggestion.  Use it or not!

Earth Hour is once a year, but I would like to extend this "in the dark" strategy for future circles, in this way.  I propose that the first round of the evening feature only songs that people can confidently lead.  That means that they have been practiced and can be well lead (with or without paper).  It also means no requests unless the requested leader has a solid grasp of the song.  With this in place we should go around the first time more quickly, the confidence in the songs should go up, leading to better singing and more harmonies, and people who have prepared songs may get to do an extra one.  Second and third rounds would return to the present format – that is, more requests and (perhaps) more tentative leaders.  For people unable to stay after break we would, of course, still welcome requests in the first round.

I personally have been feeling less satisfied lately at the end of the night, and I am hoping that this will help us "raise the bar" a little.   This isn't the first time this has been done; we have had a couple of "no request" rounds in the past, and they have worked out well.  Let's give it a try for the last 3 circles of the year, and see what we think.

See you at the Circle (or at least part of you, in a little circle of light) on March 28th.

v Song Circle Help Needed

With Monique gone and James following, the Old Chestnuts songbooks are missing their maintainers! Would someone who is a fairly regular member like to take this on? All that is required is to periodically decide on songs that should be added (poll the circle, observe which songs work well, have a discussion), print off 21 punched copies of the words, and insert them in the binders at the start of a circle. Shouldn't take more a few hours per year, and think how happy you will make us all! Only typing skills and some sound judgment are required.

If you are willing to take this on please get in touch.

We are also finding it more challenging to get ready for Song Circle these days, and maybe it's time to ask for volunteers to come early each month to wrestle furniture around. (Thankfully we get lots of help at the end of the night, and we really appreciate that!) The setup is quite meticulous, and patience is required. I like the idea of people volunteering for this at the circle the month before, so this month, if you think you can help out in April, please let me know.

v Old Chestnuts, New Facebook

After several suggestions to do so, I have finally set up an Old Chestnuts group on Facebook! This group will be (another) clearing house for information and discussions about all of the things that we do, including the Song Circle, the Chequegnat Festival, and Folk Night at the Registry. I have been slowly uploading pictures from our various events and adding links to our web sites, and creating new events.

What makes a Facebook group valuable is the opportunity for discussions, posts, and links. If you have pictures to add, you can! If you want to talk about songs you would like to see in our songbook, or review a concert that you went to, or recommend a new CD, or post a list of songs from the last circle – it's all fair game. Put another way, if you don't participate, the group is pretty lame - check out most Facebook groups for proof!  Of course, all posts should be respectful and not of a personal nature, but you know that.

I invite everyone with a Facebook account to join the group (if you can figure out how to find it! - click the picture above), called Old Chestnuts Song Circle. You just need to send me a request to join (through Facebook) and I will admit you.

v Ron Hynes; Dunn and Gunning - Jack Cole

It was my first time seeing Ron Hynes and I hope it's not my last.  Through two polished sets of songs, mostly from his latest album, Ron held the Registry Theatre's sold-out audience in his hard working hands.  But you know . . . he could have stopped after his first song, a new one called My Father's Ghost, and sent me away happy.

Ron Hynes can craft songs as well as anyone.  When we talked about that over M&M pot roast before the show, Ron laughed at a quote calling him Canada's best songwriter.  He reeled off some names that he considers qualified for the title – Cohen, Mitchell, Lightfoot, and more.  He declined to put himself in that group, but he's a pretty modest guy and maybe he hasn't heard himself lately.  Ron's stories pull you in, whether they are funny or tragic, personal or universal, and that's the hallmark of a great writer.

We sang along with "Dirt Poor" and with Ron's extended version of "Sonny's Dream" (see below) and with a few more – once Ron knew we would sing he encouraged us.  He also called us "brutal" at one point, but I'm sure that must be the Newfoundland version of "wicked".  An appreciative audience would have kept him onstage for many more hours, but Ron ended his encore with a bit of an anomaly – he stepped in front of the mic and sang "The Parting Glass", I believe the only non-Ron song of the evening.   

Ron Hynes has spent 35 years touring the world with his music, alone, with others, and as part of The Wonderful Grand Band (soon to be available on DVD, he says).  He tells stories about  the night he borrowed Bono's guitar when his missed a flight, of being on the road with Mary Walsh and Cathy Jones (of 22 Minutes), of how Sonny's crossed the Atlantic and picked up strange verses thanks to Hamish Imlach and Christy Moore:

Many years have gone by, Sonny's old and alone,
His daddy the sailor never came home
Sometimes he wonders what his life might have been
But from the grave mammy still haunts his dreams.

Oh my!  "Sonny's Nightmare", perhaps!

We were privileged and favoured to have Ron Hynes come to Folk Night in March.  Thanks to every one who worked on the show (Robert, Dan H., Christa, Janette, The Registry), who donated door prizes (Lori, Rainbow Flowers, Union Benefits, Lisa Walsh at TD Canada Trust), and took care of Ron during his visit (us and Dan P.). A memorable first time, indeed.

The next Folk Night, on April 18th, features two younger performers that I know we will be listening to for years to come.  Maria Dunn (from Alberta) and Dave Gunning (from Nova Scotia) will each perform a set, and then combine forces for a few songs, in what is certain to be an inspiring night.

Dave Gunning co-wrote "Hard Working Hands" with Ron Hynes, a song that was first place winner of the 2008 Indie competiton and a finalist in the 2009 John Lennon Songwriting contest.  He also co-wrote "Cowboy's Dream" with George Canyon, a finalist in the (still open for voting!) 2009 International Songwriting Competition.  He has already won East Coast Music Awards for "Male Artist of the Year", and "Folk Recording of the Year" (twice).

I have several of Dave's albums, and each one is a masterpiece mix of original and traditional songs.  Besides his natural talents, Dave is a very hard working musician – our concert is one of 17 shows in 19 nights on his Ontario tour.  

Maria Dunn has played in Kitchener before, at the Raintree Caf้ in Waterloo, several years ago.  We went specifically to hear her, and had a great evening listening to, and singing with, her.  Since then Maria has released a couple of successful albums.  Her latest, "The Peddler", was recently voted the #5 album of 2008 by Canada's folk music magazine, Penguin Eggs, and was the #1 played album on the Galaxie folk music channel in December and January.  Maria has also received several awards from western Canada music associations, and "For a Song"  was nominated for a Juno in 2002.

Maria's specialty is songs with an historical perspective, although she writes from a modern one as well.  Maria plays accordion and guitar (I can hear the sound crew groaning already!).   For a preview of Maria you have a couple of options: Maria (and I) will be on Doug Gibson's radio show on CKWR, on Friday April 10th at 7pm; or check out Maria's web site and Sonic Bids site, which contains entire tracks from her CDs.

Tickets for this unique double bill are $15 in advance, $17 at the door.  This one deserves to sell out, so please support Folk Night and Maria and Dave, and don’t be disappointed by waiting until the end!

The final Folk Night of season two is May 9, featuring Finest Kind and opener Beverlie Robertson. This is our third annual Merrick Jarrett night, honouring our friend and mentor.  More about that next month, or at  And by then I should be able to tell you all about season 4!

For more concerts, regular club events, and even some singing opportunities, check out the Grand River Folk Community site at  .

Closing Notes - jc
# Thanks to Jack Cooper, the Old Chestnuts were given a special opportunity to purchase a bunch of James Gordon songbooks. More than half have been sold already, and the rest will become a resource of the Circle, unless you would like one for the very reasonable price of $24. These songbooks are spectacularly good, so consider picking one up!
# Coming up on the Mill Race scene, it's the legendary Mose Scarlett on Friday the 27th, at Folk at the Cafe.  Mose will be part of next year's Folk Night series, but why wait to catch his amazing repertoire of old time songs?
# And Ron Hynes has a songbook too! He didn't being any with him this trip, because they are stored in a garage that's "still under 9 feet of snow", according to Ron. But he offered to send us a bunch when they thaw out. Assuming he remembers, I will have some for sale in a while.
# Chequegnat 09 has been scheduled! Saturday, June 6 is the day you want to set aside to enjoy members of the Song Circle and the community, not to mention a pot luck BBQ. The music will start about 1:30 and carry on until dark, with smaller song circles often happening in the neighbourhood afterwards. Mark your calendars and we hope to see you there! More details will follow at

For more concerts, regular club events, and even some singing opportunities, check out the Grand River Folk Community site at  .

About this newsletter..... It's on the Web at . Call 519-578- 6298 or write for more information. Okay, time to beg for some reviews and articles!  I looked back at some old newsletters recently (to read about Rick Fielding) and found lots of stuff contributed by others. Previews, reviews, conversations - we need these to keep the newsletter entertaining!  Or...we can just collapse into Facebook :-( How 'bout it?

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