May 2001

v Last Month and This - Jack Cole

I've run out of ways to say it - but April's Song Circle was one of the most amazing nights ever. I was predicting a small turnout, especially when a few of the "regulars" couldn't make it. But we ended up at 28, and I don't think anyone was quite ready to stop at 11:30.

And that includes Jessie and Ariel (I hope I have the spelling right) who once again proved that it's sometimes the youngest who make the nicest contributions.

The last Circle for the season is May 26. This will be a very special night, as Merrick and Mary Jarrett have invited the entire family to come and enjoy the music. And most of them are going to be here! Do not miss this Jarrett family reunion, but please let me know that you are coming so I can manage the seats!

Appropriately, I am looking for "family" songs. If you have any to share please bring them along!

[David Francey's NEW CD will be out June 15. Shall we order a bunch?]

v Chequegnat 2001- jc

Okay, what's a Chequegnat? And how do you say it anyway?

I was looking out the back window one day this spring, trying to find a good reason to rake the dead leaves, spruce up the lawn, trim the branches. There's some satisfaction in just doing it, but wouldn't a music festival be a better excuse?

I called my back corner neighbour Andy (a jazz musician), proposed the idea, and Chequegnat 2001 was born!

All the neighbours and friends, including you Old Chestnuts, are invited! Bring your lawn chairs, munchies, salads or desserts to share. We'll be singing up a storm, barbecuing burgers (for a small donation to cover expenses) and maybe have some other activities organized. There will be some artisans displaying their works too.

We're hoping that some of you might like to perform. We have Nonie Crete and Mary Ann Epp on the bill, as well as Andy and myself and perhaps GreenWood. If you would like to do 1 song or 1 set, we will be thrilled to have you! All volunteer - the idea is to have fun together!!

We are also looking for neighbours and friends with crafts that they would like to share. Think of this as an artist exhibition - Chequegnat is about sharing our community!

Of course, we could really use volunteers for lots of other things - BBQ-ers, yard decorators, kid's games. We're hoping to share the work so that we can all enjoy the day. We really want this to be a low stress, high fun time, and whatever we have volunteers for, we will do. If no one else can help then we will still have music, and we hope you can all come!!

We're going to start at about 2 PM on Saturday June 9. No rain date - if the weather is bad we will try again next year. And no fee either, other than donations. Walk through our place to find the music!

[Not to be confused with the Chestnut Street block party or CFNA festival - other excellent events organized by our wonderful neighbours!!]

v Banshee: New Brunswick Folk- Jason Myers

An early sound check and home for pizza, coffee, some chat, and a few tunes for fun. Then the countdown begins and it's all business. The four pile into a red Dodge Neon, a 4 door for quick entry, thankfully, because the December wind makes it 40 below. Back to the pub, waters all round, re-check equipment. A look about to gauge the crowd's pulse, and perhaps the last chance at the restrooms without conversation about the show.

Small warm-up runs to re-establish intimacy with frets and strings. A shake of her twin ponytails, and lead singer Shelley is ready. Without warning, they're in a row on stage, and into the first number. Everyone, even the bar staff, look up to eye the sound coming from the plywood staging. And the first tune is no joke. A fast percussive guitar strum from Brian; Stacy kindles a fire on her electric fiddle. JP raises his wall of sound on bass, swaying smoothly like a snake to the charm, legs apart slightly. Shelly's Bohran thunders, pacing the attack.

Banshee screams.

I caught up with Banshee between sound check and their first set at Dooley's (a pool hall) in Sackville, NB. The conversation begins.

Folklore tells us "Banshee" might be a wailing red-eyed ghost present at the death of loved ones, but only the aggression and wickedness of the specter is present here.

The band's origins begin with siblings Brian and Shelly Chase. JP, the bass player, came to see them playing as a duo. Synergy clicked right away, and he started with the band immediately. Stacy answered a Want Ad, and when she auditioned she was easily the best choice. Banshee was born.

They have much to offer. Stacy is a well-seasoned prodigal musician. She already has 2 solo albums to her credit. Her fiddling workshops are in demand from NB to the USA, and she teaches step dance, fiddle, and piano.

Brian and Shelly harmonize perfectly. JP adds a confident, quiet element. His laid back style is friendly and approachable, and his bass playing is smooth and fluid.

They have a unique sound, and bring that to even the most familiar of songs. They write a lot of their material, but the pub crowd needs familiar ground to hammer dents in their tables. Stan Rogers and Great Big Sea for starts, but they dabble everywhere, and requests are taken readily. They are very aware of the difference between pub and festival playing. Their set lists for the tourists are much more traditional, in keeping with the Maritimes and Celtic spirit. Pubs sets mix the two, keeping things lively and up-tempo, until they feel ready to slow things down. Festivals they have played include the PEI Highland Games (with a return this summer), Yorkshire 2000 festival in New Brunswick, and the Scarlet Festival in Richibouctou, NB.

They love the festivals, but they know the dues must be paid in the pubs, with blood and sweat. Their home pub in Moncton is talked of fondly. The Old Dublin Pub in Charlottetown knows of their hard work, especially after 1 o'clock, when some better known bands falter.

The surprise, though, comes when they perform their own material. Their first album, being recorded presently, will be about 85% original. Their songs sound like long lost folk tunes, definitely impressive. Singers are aware of the magic that emanates from the older songs, the past pulling from a source of energy nearly impossible to attain nowadays. Our lives simply don't have the influences and hardiness of the past. Yet Banshee captures a very wholesome, elemental sound. Their song writing has serious potential.

The band's marriage is healthy. Other than the usual "monitor hog" problems, they are easygoing and rocking. Delegation and democracy are the norm, and everyone helps out with the set ups and tear downs. The synergy is contagious - they click. And it shows in their energetic performances.

They are lovers of the Maritimes. And that's important. New Brunswick needs this kind of tradition. It is abundant in Ontario, Nova Scotia, PEI, and Newfoundland. New Brunswick has its Old Tyme Fiddling, but could use a few more young ambassadors like Banshee.

When talk turns to the Internet, all agree it is an excellent source for learning a tune, or sourcing information. But they are loyal to the industry, and voice their disagreement with CD copying, especially with the local musicians. Not all support NAPSTER (Alan Doyle from Great Big Sea has a few fans here). They agree that the total band and live music scene cannot be captured via MP3. No matter what, they know live music is where its at.

Back at Dooley's their show takes shape. For a change-up, Stacy step dances powerfully to a few numbers. The applause echoes success. Lead vocals are being swapped between Brian and Shelley. Traditional tunes are played alone, rarely blended into other songs. With this band instrumentals stand alone, tactfully lead by Stacy's fiddle.

The band is all smiles as the interview comes to an end. There is something special here; a work of art is in progress, and the band has big plans for showcasing their talents on a grander scale. I'll be keeping a tab on them. An album review will definitely be in order.

So if you see a dark shape outside your door, red eyes and wailing like the wind - Banshee is in town. Catch them if you can. It's a scream worth hearing.

v Katherine Wheatley - Andy Macpherson

Friday nights are often given over to rest and relaxation after a full week. My usual activities might include a pizza, a beer, a conversation, a video, perhaps even early to bed! The house concert featuring Katherine Wheatley & Wendel Ferguson was better than a solid night's sleep! (even for this father of three children aged 4 and under) The concert left me energized yet content; all must be right in the world (at least for a magical moment) when Katherine's sweet music and Wendel's tasteful guitar embellishments can be savoured in the living room of Jack and Lori Cole, in the company of friends, new and old.

A house concert can be a wonderful thing! This particular event was packed with house-concert regulars and lots of newbies, many of whom are wondering when the next one is... and, "could I host such an event in my house?" A musical concert is such a marvelous way to honour a home. For the night to be so magical, so memorable, so perfect, it is important to talk more about Katherine's music, especially for those who have not yet heard her.

The concert featured mostly tunes from her new album "Habits and Heroes" as well as a few from her first release "Straight Line". Lyrically, Katherine's music is thoughtful and reflective, sometimes funny like the songs "Mrs. McIvor" or "He Keeps Calling Me Baby"; often poignant like the love songs "Ninety-nine Feet of Snow" and "Jimmy". Melodically and harmonically, all of her songs were beautifully crafted and expertly performed. But it's her performance of the songs that remains so memorable for me. Sometimes the words were whispered, sometimes belted out, sometimes both, in the same phrase. Like a great instrumentalist, Katherine varied the timbre and tome of her voice with great affect. Her guitar playing perfectly matched her varied voices by pulling hard or gently touching the strings, all in the right places.

Wendel Ferguson accompanied all of her songs and it was a savoury treat to hear him share the bill. His playing was always tasty and sometimes surprising. Wendel, a giant (literally) of a musician and song-writer in his own right knew exactly how to accompany Katherine's music. His lead playing on an autographed-by-everyone-in-the-business-including-Willie-Nelson- and-Gordon-Lightfoot guitar was inspiring for all guitarists in the room. He also shared a couple of original songs of his own. "Rocks and Trees" and "Should've Chewed" were light-hearted and wonderful sidebars to the often more serious songs by Wheatley.

As a duo, Katherine and Wendel really present a well-balanced, solidly entertaining, intimate presence which invites us to be attentive and open to magical musical moments. Are all house concerts such rare treats? Thanks to Jack & Lori for hosting this event, and so many others like it.

v Bill Gallaher's "The Promise" - jc

The Promise

Most of you are familiar with Bill Gallaher. Bill remains perhaps the finest writer of historical songs in Canada. On his latest album (with Harmony Road) Bill introduced us to Sophia and John Cameron, in a story and song called "The Promise".

Bill has now turned that ballad into a "work of creative nonfiction". Told from the point of view of Robert Stevenson, friend and companion to Cameron, The Promise tells of Sophia's dying request to be buried in Glengarry County, Ontario, and John's quest to carry her home from the Cariboo gold fields of British Columbia.

Published by TouchWood Edition, "The Promise: Love, Loyalty and the Lure of Gold - The Story of "Cariboo" Cameron" is available now in book stores, 180 pages, $17.95. If yours needs to order it, the number is ISBN 0-920663-75-3. Or get in touch with me, and I'll order some copies.

And watch for Bill at a house concert (or a book store) near you!!

[ More info is available at Bill's Web site, accessible through the OCSC site listed below. ]

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

May 18 Black Walnut Folk Club, Mill-Courtland Centre. $3. Open mic.
May 18 Cathy Miller, Stratford Folk Club
May 19 Ceili, St. Louis Hall, Waterloo
May 24 Songwriter's Circle, Centre/Square. (June 4: Barrage)
May 26 StreetFest, in Guelph, feature the Grand River Dulcimer Club!
May 26 Old Chestnuts Song Circle. 111 Chestnut Street. Family!
May 26 Right Song and Dance. Mill Race Fundraiser. 621-7135
June 1 Mill Race Folk Club, Ernie's, Cambridge. 1st Saturday of each month.
June 9 Chequegnat Festival! Chestnut St. 2 until 6?. 578-6298 to volunteer! Old fashioned FUN!
Sep 22 Robin Laing house concert for OCSC.
Oct 12 Eileen McGann concert for her new CD release.
Nov ?? GreenWood benefit house concert for Amnesty International.

v About this newsletter..... It's emailed if I have your address. It's on the Web at and 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. Thanks to Jason (in NB!) and Andy (on Pequegnat) for articles! And to ~~dc for the 'chat'. The Promise arrived today! Can't wait to settle back and read it. Also can't wait to kick this DARN COLD! See you on the 26th and June 9th - they WILL BE FUN!!

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