The Old Chestnuts Song Circle Newsletter
March 1999


v Last Month and Next Month at OCSC - Jack Cole

February's Song Circle saw a last-minute change of location, to the Baldesaro residence just around the corner on Frederick Street. We all want to thank Mary and Barry for giving us a home at the 11th hour, and making us all feel so welcome. It was actually a bit of a preview - M&B had already offered to host April's Circle, so now at least a few more of you know the way!

The night seemed a little extra wintry as we gathered to sing about "Foolish Love" (maybe because I spent the half hour before we started, out on the front porch pretending I was a beacon). With only eighteen singers the rounds went quickly, and by the time break came most of us were running low on prepared songs! I had to head home at break (where Lori was nursing a failing Jaspur), so I missed the second half of the night. But I'm betting we sang enough love songs to last - oh, about a month!

"Welcome" to the four new singers, including 2 members of Rathlin, fresh from their concert at the Button Factory the night before. And thank you to everyone who brought songs, munchies and helped with the night.

After I left, James took over the hosting chores, and had the nerve to pick a theme for March without me! (Yay!) So, on the 27th come prepared to sing about "Earth". My guess is, that includes songs about dirt, mud, farming, mining, digging ("God Bless The Backhoe!") and the whole blessed planet. Is that a big enough topic? See you on Chestnut Street!

As I mentioned April's Circle will be back at Mary & Barry's place. The May circle - our last until the fall - is scheduled for the Victoria Day weekend so I'm thinking of changing it from the 22nd to the 29th. Please let me know if you have comments on the date, and be sure to check next month's newsletter! And I hope we can pack people to the rafters again one of these months!!

v Eve Goldberg Concert Review - Margaret Jackson

More than forty people packed Mary and Barry Baldesaro's double living room on a cold winter's night in February. The house literally hummed and harmonized as we were expertly entertained by Eve Goldberg in her first Kitchener appearance.

It was a delightful musical evening, enhanced by the intimate atmosphere characteristic of house concerts. Every seat was close and provided a clear view of the performers. Break time was an excellent opportunity to mingle with other concert-goers, chat with performers, buy CDs and have them autographed, hear about upcoming concerts, win valuable door prizes and enjoy home-baked goodies!!

Three Old Chestnut Song Circle members, Jack Cole, Jean Mills and James Morgan opened the concert with favourite folk songs from both traditional and contemporary sources. In their first performance together as GreenWood, the trio delighted us with their expert harmonies and relaxed style. The audience was warmed up and ready to sing as Eve began her first set.

Eve sang many of the songs from her CD Ever Brightening Day, including some of her own compositions such as Cold Wind Blowing and Waiting For A Train, as well as some from contemporary song writers like Cathy Fink and Jean Ritchie. She also treated us to numbers like Harriet Tubman from her earlier tape, and fun songs from her childhood like Papa's on the Housetop.

Her style flowed seamlessly from a confident a capella, to a cheeky swing-jazz, to traditional Appalachian. Audience participation was at a maximum, adding harmonies and unusual percussion to Eve's mellow, clear voice.

Eve shared some interesting stories with us as she introduced each song, putting them into personal or historical context and giving them added meaning.

The evening was over much too quickly. People left slowly, reluctant to break the mood. My friend Barbara, sharing her impressions after her first house concert said: "The music went straight to the heart. It was a powerful emotional experience. I especially appreciated the combination of very professional performances with an informal non-threatening atmosphere".

[ Thanks to Eve, the hosts, & everyone who made the concert a success, and to Margaret for the review! - Jack ]

v May Workshop Update

I've been preaching for a couple of months about the Cathy Miller and Paddy Tutty concert and workshops. I heard from both of them that, following one of Paddy's recent concerts in Alberta, they got a chance to prepare a few songs together. Now I'm even more excited about the concert - we will be making a bit of folk music history, bringing two of Canada's best folk musicians, one traditional and one contemporary, together for a house concert.

But I'm still working on finding enough people to make the workshops happen. We have just enough dulcimer players for Paddy's workshop, but we could sure use a few more. If you know anyone who has a dulcimer and might be interested, please tell them about the workshop! We will even offer a pre-workshop workshop to help novices get ready for what is planned to be a lesson for players with some experience.

I have several people interested in Cathy's proposed Singing or Songwriting workshops, but we still need about a half dozen more for either one. Cathy is an excellent teacher, and I can promise that either workshop will tremendously enrich your enjoyment of folk (and other) music. It worked for me! Before I took Cathy's songwriting class at The Wood's, I couldn't even spell Canadian Tire!

Workshops (numbers permitting) will happen on Saturday, May 8th. I will try to schedule them so that singing, songwriting, dulcimer players can attend all the music that day!! A dream come true, from breakfast until bedtime!

Because Paddy and Cathy are sharing the concert bill they are in fact performing for about half of the usual amount. (What can I say - they must really like us!) These workshops (along with CD sales) are a way to make their trip to Kitchener more rewarding. So if you can, please join us!

[Concert tickets are $14 minimum donation. Workshop prices depend on the number of participants - $10 to $15.]

v The Woods and Celtic College

It's an interesting time of year when the various festivals start announcing who will be where, and when. Even more exciting for me are the staffing announcements from Ontario's two institutions of higher folk music learning, Celtic College and The Woods Music and Dance Camp.

I've written at length about both of these wonderful, life-changing places, so I'll limit myself to the main details.

The Woods Music and Dance Camp is scheduled for August 17-22, 1999. On staff this year are Jeff Davis, Bob Franke, Jim Morrison, Ragged But Right, Christina Smith and Jean Hewson, along with Eve Goldberg and Grit Laskin, two of the tireless organizers that create this musical community. Courses are being planned in voice, fiddle, guitar accompaniment, Newfoundland traditions, banjo, dulcimer, Appalachian clogging, songwriting, mandolin, and traditional singing styles.

Celtic College convenes August 2-5, followed immediately by the Goderich Celtic Festival. There are 38 teachers in total, teaching art, culture, & music. The musical staff are (take a breath): Maureen Mulvey (set & step dancing), Ernie King & Joe Melady (instrument repair), David K. (recording), Stephen Darke (acoustic sound), Lynette Segal (ergonomics for musicians), Brian Taheny (banjo, Sligo fiddle), Loretto Reid (flute & tinwhistle), Simon Mayor (mandolin), Eileen McGann (traditional ballads & songwriting), Ben Grossman (bodhran & rhythm techniques), Nathan Curry (bodhran building), Frank Edgley (concertina), Janice Crewe (flute & tinwhistle), Brian Pickell (guitar & tune writing), Julie Schryer (piano), Hilary James (singing & double bass), Pierre Schryer (fiddle), Paul Haslem (hammered dulcimer), Pat O'Gorman (flute, tinwhistle & Breton music), Christina Smith (fiddle & Newfoundland music), Jean Hewson (guitar & Newfoundland music), Jacey Bedford (harmony), Brian Bedford (harmony & songwriting), Hilary Spencer (harmony), Anne Lederman (fiddle), Patrick Orceau (fiddle), Sharlene Wallace (harp).

v Dulcimers Forever! - Jack Cole

There's been a lot said elsewhere in this newsletter about dulcimers, but I suspect that some of you are still wondering what on earth we're talking about. Here's my 2 minute lecture on dulcimers.

First of all, we're meaning the fretted dulcimer, also called a lap, plucked or Appalachian Mountain dulcimer. This instrument is believed to be descended from a variety of Old World instruments, with names like hummle and epinette. But it was virtually unknown in the New World, until Jean Ritchie brought it out of the Kentucky hills and into the concert halls of New York, just over 50 years ago.

The dulcimer is, in many opinions, the easiest to play and most personal of instruments. Within a few hours of picking up a dulcimer one can be completely enchanted with its soft and meditative sounds. It's perfect for simple singing accompaniment, or for hypnotic melody creation.

Dulcimers are about 30 inches long. They travel well - they sit perfectly on your lap in the van, or around a campfire. Sometimes they are played on a strap like a guitar, but not by traditional players! They have (usually) 3 or 4 strings, tuned to 3 or 4 notes, forming a chord. They can play "lead" by fingering the strings, or "rhythm" by making chords, or be "noted" with a "noting stick", all with the left hand. Meanwhile the right hand is finger picking or plucking or strumming, or even hammering or bowing! They don't have all of the notes a piano does - the dulcimer is "modal" - but some have an extra fret to make it closer. It all depends on the tuning.

Tuning. The only thing really complicated about dulcimers is the tuning, and that's because avid dulcimer players will tune their instruments in a variety of different ways, depending on the song and it's mode. My first frustration when I acquired a dulcimer was "why won't they just tell me the best tuning to use??". The answer is because all of those tunings really are useful! But, as a dulcimer hobbyist, I've come to love D-D-A-D, and I rarely change it. That's a Mixolydian tuning, if you care! There are at least 17 more if you don't like that one!

So pick up a dulcimer, tune it to D-D-A-D and play. Start with Frere Jacques and you won't ever stop! Find other players to teach you more!!! Which bring us to..

v Dulcimer Club Forming!

The Grand River Dulcimer Club: a club for everyone who plays or wants to play the dulcimer. First meeting is Monday April 19, 8pm at 1 Darren Place in Guelph. Contact Jean Mills (763-8092 or email for more information and directions.

An in-depth article on Jean's plans for the GRDC will appear in next month's newsletter - before the 19th!!

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

Mar 14 Mill Race Traditional Music Sessions, Golden Kiwi, Cambridge, 4-7 PM. Also 2nd and 4th Sunday or most months.

Mar 19 Christina Smith & Jean Hewson, at the Button Factory, with GreenWood opening! 699.4322 or 578.6298 for info.

Mar 19 Black Walnut Folk Club, University of Waterloo, host Mary Anne Epp. Also Apr 16 (Alfie Smith). $3

Mar 19 Beverlie Robertson at "Latino's Chilean Restaurant" Cork Street, Guelph

Mar 27 Old Chestnuts Song Circle, theme "Earth". Call 578-6298 for information.

Apr 3 Mill Race Open Singaround, Ernie's Road House,Cambridge.

Apr 3 Northern City Limits, at the Arkell Schoolhouse, 519-763-7528,

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

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


v About this newsletter..... 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. End of an era as we lose Jaspur after 17 and a half years. The old house just isn't the same - much too quiet. Even the sound of GreenWood rehearsals doesn't fix that. Thanks to those who have tried over the past 2 weeks.

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