Old Chestnuts Song Circle Newsletter

November 1997

Two Thousand Years of Christmas? Jack Cole

As I write this, there is exactly one month remaining until Trilogy again graces the stage at Zion United Church. I had hoped to be able to write that the concert was already sold out, but alas this is far from the case. In fact, it looks like we are in a bit of trouble, so consider this an appeal.

We are behind last year's ticket selling pace and, to put it mildly, I am shocked. We moved the concert from Tuesday to Saturday; many people championed for the concert to come back and said that they would bring tons of friends; the CD would be spinning on lots of CD players. At the wrap-up meeting last year we talked about having two concerts this year.

So what has gone wrong? Well, part of it is that many company Christmas parties are conflicting. That was an oversight on my part; maybe Sunday would have been a better night for us. We raised the ticket price a bit to reduce the crowding and still be able to pay Trilogy as much as last year. I don't really think that's a factor. One big difference this year is that fewer people have taken books of tickets to sell - only 7 versus 16 last year! Does anyone know why?

Two Thousand Years of Christmas is a fantastic show by three of Canada's best folk musicians. There are stories, folk songs, Christmas carols ancient and new, spirituals, snow shoveling songs, funny songs and poignant ones. If you come, or if you recommend it to your friends and family, you will be so very very glad that you did. I promise.

So, if you can take some tickets and convince folks to come, or want to give them a really nice, early Christmas present, please call me at 578-6298. Give ticket selling a try! Or go to Readers' Ink Bookshop and pick up tickets there. Thanks.

October Song Circle Jack Cole

I find it quite remarkable that, among the 39 people who came to song circle in September, and the 29 in October, there were only about 6 who attended both! If my Math degree is still functioning (I haven't kept up the payments) that means that we had over 60 different folks. It's nice to see the group growing.

[Now, with over 60 active members, it shouldn't be that hard to sell 250 Trilogy tickets! But, see above…]

The theme in October was songs about celebrations, festivals and so on, and the aforementioned 29 people managed to stretch the topic for all it was worth! I wasn't surprised that Roseville Fair was in 4 people's plans for the night. But I was surprised at just how rare such songs are - we found very few that truly fit the topic. Songwriters - start your keyboards!

On another interesting note, we featured songs in Spanish, French, German and Scottish……and they all managed to be sing-alongs. Good work folks!

The theme for November 22 was decided on the spot - we're looking for songs about famous people. They can be fictional famous people, as long as they are famous, and of course, lots of liberties are expected!

While the first two circles have been well attended, and the number of new members is gratifyingly large, I would like to remind folks (especially "newbies") of a couple of Old Chestnut "rules".

First, it is important to remember that we are here to listen and participate. When another person is leading or introducing a song everyone should be respectful; talking, searching loudly through notes and so on is just not polite.

Second, people should try to think of songs before coming to the circle, and sing them through beforehand at least once. Many people practice all month for song circle, and it is only fair that we try to minimize the "hunt and peck" method of singing. There will always be occasions when songs come up spontaneously, and I am not saying that if you haven't prepared you can't participate. But please try to practice ahead as much as possible. Again, thanks.

Celtic College (Part 1) Jack Cole

Veterans of the Old Chestnuts know that I am fanatical about The Woods Music & Dance Camp. But for The Woods, there wouldn't be an Old Chestnuts. This year, however, the needs of a sick family member (currently sleeping and purring beside me) required that I stay home. My sadness at this was lightened somewhat by the realization that there was still one open window.

Goderich hosts a Celtic Roots festival every August, and while I've yet to attend, I know several people who rave about the music and the site. In the last few years the festival has been preceded by the Celtic College - 4 days of singing, playing and crafting. Since The Woods and the College overlap, the latter has remained a mystery….. until this summer.

Goderich is a manageable 90 minute commute from Kitchener (75 minutes in a pinch!), north-west to Lake Huron. The College takes place in the local high school…but that's just the day part. As I was to re-discover, to my chagrin, some of the best parts of college life are what happens outside of the class!

Tuesday through Thursday consist of four class sessions of 90 minutes each. However, the college actually begins on Monday. This was fuzzy to me and, apparently, to others - several showed up Tuesday morning. Monday consisted of registration, a sampler session of classes being offered, and (here's the rub) the first lesson in all classes.

I was disappointed to miss the sampler - always entertaining and a good way to size up the staff. But the "first class" concept is confusing. The intention is to select a 'major' on Monday; that way there are 4 classes in the major, versus 3 in the minors. But, that means that Tuesday finds people one class ahead of some classmates in their major, and one class behind others in their 3 minors.

Well, the outcome was that Janice Crewe, my beginner tin whistle teacher, spent much of Tuesday bringing half of the class up to speed. But we got there….so the bottom line is that it is possible, with some exceptions, to miss Monday altogether. The exceptions are classes like the one that used the school's wood shop to build dulcimers. Those classes need all four sessions; in fact, those students took only the single course all week.

But not me. After tin whistle it was Open Tuning Guitar, then lunch, followed by Ballad Singing ("Love, Death and a Catchy Chorus") and Children's Music. Other classes included fiddle, harp, advanced tin whistle, voice, dancing, bodhran, Celtic jewelry making, puppet making and so on. There was also supposed to be a children's stream, but too few registered.

The College is officially over on Thursday but tuition includes a pass for the 3-day Celtic festival, and one of the festival stages hosts a Friday showcase for classes who wish to participate. My guitar class was planning to do Dark Eyed Molly - I hope they had a blast! My vacation was over; Friday I was coding.

The teachers were terrific. While I obviously didn't see all of them in action, the staff included Pierre Schryer, Loreto Reid, Brian Taheny and Mary Anderson. They were having fun, were enthusiastic and glad to help. The setting made it seem more like school than The Woods does - we sat in desks, ate bag lunches in the cafeteria, and so on. The cafeteria, by the way, was not open; coffee was sometimes available, but other food and drink were up to the student. Classes were generally small - 10 students was pretty typical.

All in all, I found the daytime portion of the College a success, and will happily return. But I skipped the nights (I wanted to be home before dark) and that was a mistake. I'll tell you what I know about them though, next month. Celtic College is quite different from The Woods, and in Part 3 I will try to compare the two experiences, and give a preview of next year at both. And the exciting news is… that next year they won't conflict! Music camp glutons, rejoice!

Black Walnuts Reach New Heights! Jack Cole

The Black Walnut Folk Club has made the move to the University of Waterloo this fall, and it's a move up - literally and figuratively. The Laurel Room is located in the South Campus Hall - its the building that you would run into if you went straight after turning off of University Ave. After a hike from the parking lot and a climb up the outside steps, it's some big doors and another set of stairs to the warm, quiet and friendly Laurel Room.

The night is worth the workout. The organizers have made a few changes this year, and I'm pleased to say that they all seem to work really well. The room is pleasant; square, with a small stage set up on one side, with a bar and coffee and pizza table across the back. Several tables are scattered around, the chairs are comfortable and the windows provide great thunderstorm views!

The format is an open stage. Registrants can do two songs (more or less, depending on the crowd). This year each night is hosted by a different performer who plays the first half hour. It's a great idea for people looking to develop a set, and for listeners who wish they could hear more by a favourite. With the improvement in atmosphere, and excellent sound, the performance level seems to have risen dramatically too. Sure, there are some characters who are on the fringe, but on the whole, it's a very nice night of folk.

So come on out on the third Friday of each month. Bring $3 admission, $1.50 to park, and $1 a slice for pizza. Bar drinks are the usual prices. No smoking and free coffee!

Some Events in The Area

Nov 12 Garnet Rogers, Brantford Folk Club, Brant Park Inn. $12. 759-7676 for info.
Nov 21 Black Walnut Folk Club, Waterloo. Wow - the night before OCSC!! $3. Also Dec. 19.
Nov 22 Old Chestnuts Song Circle, Chestnut St, Kitchener. Call 578-6298 for info. "Famous People" theme.
Nov 28 Borealis Grand Concert, Toronto, $18. 416.530.4288. J.P. Cormier, Whiteley's, Christina Smith/Jean Hewson, Grit Laskin, more!
Dec 4 Robert Atyeo, Waterloo. For info contact Jack Cooper or myself.
Dec 6 Two Thousand Years of Christmas, Zion United Church, Kitchener, $14 & $8. 578-6298 for The Best Christmas concert!!!
Dec 6 Mill Race Folk Club, Open singaround at Ernie's Tavern, Cambridge.

About this newsletter..... It's emailed if I have your address. 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. Great excitement as Modabo CDs arrived this month!! And they are likely returning in April for another concert! That's if we survive this one! Trust me, this is a stressful thing to do. Modabo, Eileen McGann, Bill Gallaher CDs for sale!

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