October 2003 * Volume 9, Number 1

Old Chestnuts Song Circle October 25 * BWFC 10th Anniversary / Valdy January 31

v Web Only Newsletter

Let me start off this newsletter by apologizing to people who are probably NOT reading this - those of you who are on my "snail mail" and "pick up" lists. Time just does not permit me to get a printed version of the newsletter out right now. I hope to remedy that in the future.

v Last Month and Next - Jack Cole

We began year number nine with a full house of over 30 people, including 5 newbies. It was a very good start to the new season, and if September was any indication, we're on our way to new levels of harmony, and another year of great songs.

The harmony was helped by the introduction of the Old Chestnuts Songbook. Monique and James worked hard over the summer to select songs, create binders, and make copies, populating 16 binders with more than 30 songs that reflect our culture. They range from "Another Train" to "Handful of Songs" to "Who Will Sing for Me". Over the next months and years we will encourage lots of singing of the songbook songs, so that people can learn the songs and harmony parts well. Songs will be added as they are "nominated" - this month 3 more songs have come into the book.

Thanks again to James and Monique for initiating the "chair fund", and to the many people that made contributions. We now have 10 beautiful folding chairs (I just wrote "folking chairs" - hmmm..) that fit perfectly under our kitchen stairs, where they will be handy and free from basement dust. AND we have a collection of odd chairs on our front porch that need a new, more spaceous home.

A big round of thanks to everyone who worked on these initiatives - especially to M&J. We are short a few dollars for the binders yet, so donations are still very welcome.

The next Circle is October 25th, and (as is our custom due to the chaos of an impending pottery sale on November 8) Mary and Barry Baldasaro will be our hosts. If you need directions to their place, please call or email me.

v Mill Race Festival 2003 - Margaret Hitchcock

A bit late you say. Never. The shorter and darker days make it a perfect time to recall the Festival. Gone is the melody and the beat, but the memory lives on. The Festival was described by the Cambridge Reporter as "a priceless addition to the fabric of a beautiful city along the Grand River." Yes, and itís free.

Working backwards Iíll start with festivalís ending. If you were part of the wall-to-wall audience who crammed the Mill Race Ampitheatre, watching the river run by and listening to the sensational Kiyoshi Nagata Ensemble, youíll know what I mean. Theyíre one of the few groups in North America who own and play on a full set of authentic taiko (Japanese drum). And what a sound they produce. The Ensemble gave us powerful music, beautiful in itís simplicity, with relentless, energetic rhythms that hypnotized the audience. Well, at least enthralled and entranced us. The Festival couldnít have ended more dramatically.

Having got the ending out of the way, Iíll pick my way through the Festival. As I didnít see every performer, itís impossible to review every act, and I didnít see any of the childrenís stage or the open stage, though Iím told they were up to their usual high standard and delighted their respective audiences. This was the first year that we didnít have stages and beer tents at the Badger and Kiwi. They were replaced with extra stages in the Market and Civic Square, and the arrangement worked very well. For those who wanted to listen to music with a pint in their hand, music sessions at 13 Main Street provided the opportunity to do both.

The dancers are worth a special mention, as our Festival celebrates both traditional music and dance. Terpsichorean artists, added much to the festivities and included four Morris groups, The Lost Dancers (a Six Nation group), Portugese Dancers, Siculi and Sciuri Sicilian Folk Dancers and Rinceoiri Celtica, a group of Irish Dancers. And letís not forget the jugglers playing with fire, the clowns clowning around, and the street Ceildh, for those who wanted something more active.

What I saw and heard and liked:

  • Crucible, a dynamic young folk group from Sheffield, England, entertained us hugely. I caught three of their performances, and they hooked me. Theyíre four performers who have danced, sung, written and performed music together since their teens. They bring tremendous energy, an impressive array of instruments and richly layered harmony singing. Lovely.
  • Galitcha knocked my socks off. I love world-musicís eclectic mix, and Galitcha provide all that in abundance as they play an array of instruments and sing in Urdu, Punjabi, and Hindi, with explanations in English or French. They bring East and West together in a most satisfying way. And they have fun with it.
  • I particularly enjoyed Calasaig, a five-piece band Scottish band that played traditional songs from Ireland, Scotland and England. The bandís three CDS have been included in the top ten of several traditional charts in Europe and North America. Listening to them, you could see why. Bonus...they are very funny on stage and look like they are having a great time together. Very infectious.
  • Geoff Lewis delighted the audience with his songs from the North East of England. Singing from the heart, he has such a gentle way with him that stills and hushes the crowd. Forgive my enthusiasm, but he is the resident band for my Rose Cottage Concerts. To paraphrase an Irish country woman, "Heís a lovely singer. Wouldnít you stand on your head in the river to hear him." Yes.
  • George Sapounidis Trio was the band of a choice for one delightful three-year old boy who, with toy bunny in hand, danced with glee in front of the stage. Could be the rousing and engaging performance of songs from Greece, China, Africa and Western tradition that got him going. Or the variety of instruments. Or the drumming. Only shyness kept me from joining the little dancer.

As I said, unfortunately I couldnít see everyone. I chose to see performers that I hadnít seen before. So unsung go the performances of Beverlie Robertson, blue grass band General Store, Pipeline, blues singer Poor Charlie, Tsufit, local a cappella group Cavaan, and all the childrenís performers. Thanks from the crowd of about 9000 people to Brad McEwan, the Board and the 135 volunteers who bought all these wonderful musicians to us. Memorable. At no cost. Well done. Hereís to next year.

v Octoberfolk 2003 - Robin Jones

After the Terry Tufts concert on Friday night, it was difficult to get going on Saturday morning, so this year again, we were late for the Welcome Concert by the Shards.

I was able to get to the second half of Songwriters (part one) with Dave Mallett, Garnet Rogers, and Madviolet. Madviolet are two beautiful talented young ladies, Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac, yes Ashley's sister. I entered while Garnet was singing a song about the first day of spring "Open your heart and let it in ---" Lisa hesitantly was adding little bits of fiddle. Madviolet were next, and this was the introduction of some rich echoing fiddle and beautiful harmonies but the song content got lost. Dave Mallett then sang Dangerous Times, Garnet played lead guitarsigns of a workshop developing? Really something, this is the first time I have heard David, and he is a very pleasant singer to listen to. Garnet then got in to talking about his Gibson guitar collection.Garnet was talking about the 1944 model in his hand having been built by women, because the men were all at war work. He said something like being built by the Gibson version of Rosie the Riveter; Lucy the Luthier. He then went on to say that he believed that all instruments showed the characters of their builders, some warm some bright. Lisa then asked if that particular guitar got moody every month? Garnet wouldn't get in to that joke, but Lisa added that she thought it was amusing to have a guitar with PMS, that wasn't afraid to ask for directions. The room was doubled up on the floor laughing. Garnet then sang "Lets ease in to it," with David on mouth organ and Lisa on fiddle - really good! Madviolet then sang another pop song. If these kids ever write songs that have real folk content: that is with a decent storyline; they will blow the top off the music scene. Dave Mallett then sang "Angel Standing By.", Garnet played lead guitar, and Lisa fiddle, - opportunity plus, a great way to end the workshop

The next workshop I opted for was The Art of The Instrumental - tťada, Adam Joseph Gesjorskyj, and hosted by Ken Whitely.

Ken Whitely really shines in a workshop, and this is the genre where I like him best. He started with a very tricky mandolin piece. He was followed by Adam on guitar. Adam is a Brantford Folk Club Regular, and Don has given him a deserved opportunity. He is really clever, and you could tell he was even impressing Ken. tťada an Irish traditional band, all very young, and creating a very well balanced and well crafted sound. After they finished a round of five jigs, Ken asked the fiddle player to play the last tune solo. Then he asked the guitarist to play his accompaniment to that piece solo. Found out that the guitarist was in DADGAD tuning, and proceeded to explain to the audience how the group had very cleverly structured their harmonies. Ken then asked the fiddle player to play again, only this time with himself a dding guitar chords. He used the same progressions, only using jazz chords, and showed the audience the difference in sound: very clever. The whole workshop was this clever.

My next workshop choice was Keeping The Tradition Alive - The Shards, tťada, Bethany Jones and Adam Joseph Gesjorskyj The workshop was split in two, due to the logistics of getting all involved on the stage at the same time. First up were the Shards The Shards were the weakest band of the festival. That does not mean they are bad. They are a very good band, and I would describe them as Funky Celtic. They have an interesting sound. The lead singer has a better stage presence than voice, and the band is at it's best when they are all singing for they have some really fine vocal harmonies. Next up was Bethany and Adam. Bethany has beautiful voice, and Adam's sensitive accompaniment shows her voice off in the best way that you can. I like to see club attendees boosted to show off their talents. There was a bit of juggling to get tťada on and off stage so both sets of performers could show off their talents. tťada were as good as their first workshop of the day..

The last workshop was Heather Dale, Ken Whitely and Madviolet in "Songwriters part two." Madviolet started with a song "Montreal", very tasteful fiddle, Ken joined in on guitar and heather on bodhran. Next was Ken and he had the audience singing with him, ĒSo my friends, sing with me, sing with joy, sing with sorrow "---- fiddle accompaniment from Lisa, oh be still my beating heart. Heather accompanied herself on a piano. This lady has a really beautiful rich mellow voice. She writes in the traditional style drawing on medieval times for her stories. Her first song was about war between brother, fathers and sons, where nobody wins. Ken joined in with his guitar, gave a good guitar break, and you could see that Brenley (isn't that a nice name?) was fascinated with his technique. Good workshop.

Supper --- nap

Evening performances:

Shards These guys are very good, very well rehearsed, their timing was perfect, they were having a really good time but something was missing, there was no vital spark. I don't know if was their material or what, but the standards of their performance should have left me feeling better than it did?

Lisa and Brenley; Madviolet. These ladies gave a very polished performance. You can tell they have been the opening act for Ron Sexsmith for a while. Their music is aimed at a much younger audience, but they held the crowd. Only complaint; the usual complaint for me; too many repeats from the afternoon. I'd go and see these two again.

Scarlett, Washington & Whitely. We are so comfortable with these guys; we tend to overlook just how good they really are. They gave their usual stellar performance, except for Scarlett forgetting some words that were immediately relayed by Ken Whitely. In hindsight, I think that these guys are really under rated, and I think it is because they are like a favourite sweater, always there.

Dave Mallett David also started by repeating one of the songs he did earlier in the day. David then went on to capture the audience with his "Garden Song." As is usual with the Brantford crowd, the harmonies were incredible, and it seemed nobody was afraid to sing out. He made great use of Lisa McIsaac with a song he wrote about P.E.I. where he used her playing "The Mason's Apron," to punctuate his song, and compliment the story line. (I think it was the Mason's Apron, if not it was one of those very familiar tunes that all fiddle players seem to know.) David told a wonderful story about his father being taken back to the town in Nova Scotia where he was born, by two of his sons. When they got to the town, the homestead was gone, half the town was gone, but the general store was still there. The three of them went in and waited until the storekeeper responded to the bell, only to be greeted with, "Hi Aubry, how are you." As if he had been gone only days instead of forty years. A most engaging man, I would like to spend an evening listening to him.

Heather Dale This time she had her band on stage with her band. Her band was very good; at least as good as she is. The only time this lady stops smiling is to play her tin whistle. Her songs, as I said before are all set in Arthurian times. By herself at a piano, the stories come across better, but altogether very satisfying. Another act I would like to see again.

Garnet Rogers He repeated a song, "Let'sEase in to it," but did it differently, using a different guitar. Garnet admitted he stole the line,"It takes all night to do what I used to be able to do all night," from his father. Very humorous. Garnet came on with a rack of guitars, and used all but one of them. The arch-top Gibson used to belong to Jackie Washington, and just before Garnet came on, Jackie had been giving a private recital on it in the green room, that Garnet found to be a very humbling experience. He intr oduced a song about a veteran war hero being denied the right to lay a wreath to fallen comrades in Normandy, by saying that a song should not really be written while being pissed off. He sang the song with extreme passion, and I had goose bumps. I have not seen Garnet this relaxed and at ease for years WOW !.

Garnet said that the next band was going to blow the roof off the place - they did!

tťada pronounced "Tayda." With kids like this, I think that the tradition is safe in their hands. They sang a song Sean Nos; traditionally in Irish Gaelic. The audience picked up the chorus, I was sitting behind Dianne Kennedy again this year, and again I was entranced by her singing and the Brantford harmonies. This band does everything very well, especially the bodhran player Tristan. In my opinion may be even better than Ben Grossman, who is a great bodhran player. Keep the name tťada in mind we will be seeing them again.

A wonderful day

Thank-you Don and Brenda.

v Closing Notes - jc

<> Margaret Christl appears Friday, October 24, as part of the Rose Cottage Concert series accompanied by her guitarist son Simon. Maggie has played every major music festival and concert hall in Canada, as well as playing for World Fairs in Vancouver and Australia and the Winter Olympics and touring extensively in the States. Well known local musician Geoff Lewis performs the opening set (complete with his new CD). The concert begins at 8.00 p.m and costs $10.00.

Though originally from Scotland, Maggie has lived in North America for many years. But her ancestry reveals itself in her love of Scottish folk songs and the traditional style in which she sings her own compositions. Music critics speak very highly of her talent. The Calgary Sun describes her this way: "She is a woman who has taken the pain and suffering of her life and translated it into an irresistible, joyous music that engulfs those exposed to her talents." Roy Harris of The Living Tradition speaks of her big, strong, edgy, laser beam voice and likens her to Jeannie Robertson, an icon among Scottish traditional folk singers. No mean praise indeed, and one that gives Maggie much pleasure.

For ticket information and directions please call Margaret Hitchcock at 519-621-4649

<> The Chequegnat Festival - our backyard folk music and community festival - was one of over 60 that were recapped at the Festival of Neighbourhoods (FoN) at Kitchener City Hall earlier this month. The grand prize - $10000 in community improvements - was given by random draw. But there were also two awards that were decided by judges, and the Chequegnat Festival won them both! The Spirit Award and Artistic Merit Award were based on the presentation at the FoN and the information that was conveyed to the judges in our registration. The t-shirt, compilation CD, posters, programme and photographs of smiling faces helped carry the Chequegnat story. Thanks to the co-organizers (and especially Susie, Keren and Andy) for sharing our idea with The World! Thanks to everyone who participated - it was a fun day and it's nice to know it shows!

<> Desperados is a new folk club that rides into Ernie's in Cambridge (7 Queen Street W) on November 8 at 8 PM at. The style will be that of the "early" folk clubs, and the format will be a featured performer doing two full sets, augmented by one or two open mic performances.

The first featured performer will be Mary Anne Epp. Mary Anne has been a driving force in the Kitchener folk seen for many years (and is a contributor to this newsletter, too!). She has produced 3 collections of songs with another in the works. Her beautiful voice, fine songwriting and community activism have earned her nominations for "Woman of the Year" in 1995 and a KW Arts Award in 1997.

Other folk clubs and presenters in the area are rolling out an amazing lineup of events and musicians. See the GRFC website for more information. And watch for another new series from the Mill Race in 2004.

<> Kitchener-Waterloo's Black Walnut Folk Club is celebrating its tenth birthday! Hard to believe that it's been that long since Margaret Hitchcock, Jack Cooper and the late Robin Bruce Ward (and my apologies if I've missed anyone else or messed that up) launched this open performance venue. It's moved around a few times, and the executive has changed, but the dream continues.

The Black Walnut has decided to throw a concert to celebrate, and they are doing so in great style! Valdy, Canada's quintessential folk "superstar" will make his first appearance in KW in recent memory. The concert will be held at Zion United Church on Saturday, Janaury 31 at 8 PM. Valdy is being presented with the assistance of The Old Chestnuts Song Circle.

There will be much more on this concert and the Black Walnut anniversary in the near future. For now, mark your calendars and get ready to party! Tickets for Valdy will go on sale at the November Old Chestnuts, and will be available at local retail outlets as well as some of the local folk clubs. There is even rumour of a special price for early birds.... to be announced.

<> Eileen McGann paid us a visit on October 18, and left another audience enthralled by her incisive songwriting, amazing voice, and thrilling interpretations of traditional songs. Many of the audience had travelled a long way to hear Eileen (with Kalamazoo taking the record), and were not disappointed. We filled Mary and Barry's house to capacity, and raised the roof yet again with singing. As Eileen said "I love playing in Kitchener". Her great time was, I think, only exceeded by our own.

Thanks to everyone that helped with this concert, and especially Mary and Barry for taking us in at the last minute! Also Christa, George and Debbie on lights and sound, Margaret and Maria on the door, Lori and Anthony in the parking lot, and James and Monique who helped Barry set up those new (and old) chairs. It was a delight.

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! Thanks Robin and Margaret, who made this newsletter possible! Watch this newsletter for another BIG concert announcement soon for mid-January. Welcome back everyone - enjoy the singing! Sorry for the late newsletter, but this teaching thing is WAY more work than anyone told me! (rant) jc

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