Old Chestnuts & Black Walnuts Newsletter

October 1996

September and Upcoming Song Circles Jack Cole

We started off the new season small but determined. We had 5 first-timers to go with 8 old pros (hah!), with a couple of potters joining in for the last round or two, making this the smallest Old Chestnuts so far, but, on the alternate rating scale of munchies per capita it was a huge success! Thanks to everyone who brought goodies and helped out with chores.

With the small crowd and the Newbies mostly passing, there were lots of opportunities for those wanting to lead songs! We did multiple Harry Chapin (thanks Mitch) and a lot of folk songs from My Youth (thanks Margaret). Several songs were picked spontaneously from The Book. Often this doesn't work well and is not the preferred way to operate, but, thanks to excellent leading, it worked out nicely.

There were three songs handed out for learning: Bill Staine's October Winds, Richard Thompson's Pharaoh, and Fred Small's Heart of the Appaloosa (the last one being dedicated to a certain Appaloosa in distress...and it seems to have helped). I really enjoyed seeing Dan and Ellen's Old Chestnuts songbooks, filled with the handouts from last year. I hope that others are making collections - we actually sang 2 or 3 songs from "our own" songbook this month. Remember, if you missed them, I have copies of many of last years songs yet. And please bring new songs to teach and add!

The next circle will be on October 26, at 111 Chestnut St. Please be here and ready to go by 8:00 - come earlier if you need to tune. Time for a theme this month. Remember, songs matching the theme are not compulsory - it's just to give people something to focus on. October's Circle, coming about halfway between Lori's and my birthdays, will be about "Growing Up and Growing Older". (No, this is not just another ploy to let me sing The Cape again!)

Report on "EileenFest '96" Colleen Duncan

On September 21st the Old Chestnuts Song Circle hosted a workshop and house concert with Eileen McGann and David K. The afternoon harmony workshop began with advice on how to get the most from our body instruments. We were taught the importance of warming up our chest, face and neck muscles with stretching and limbering exercises. Then to start our chords a hummin' they taught us their world famous, patented cow call, that they engage in before every concert. Only then did we progress to humming, scale singing and deep, abdominal breathing. Once we were breathing properly and singing with confidence our delightful cacophony continued on a more melodious note as we began to learn about harmony. Eileen assured us we could learn to feel those harmonies by listening to ourselves. To practice, we sang 2, 3, and 4 part rounds in groups. Then we walked around the room trying to keep our parts despite being surrounded by competing lines. David offered an analytical approach to harmonious perfection by counting up notes from the melody line to 3, 5 or 7. The session ended with an exploration of different types of harmony singing from gospel to Celtic including a beautiful 6 part version of Braw Sailing. What a way to mellow out on a sunny afternoon!

Everyone staying for the evening concert then partook in a barbecue hosted by Lori and Jack Cole, Cathy Byberg and Dave Growden. To accompany the burgers, salads and treats, we participated in a sing-along and slow jam on the front porch which lasted right through to concert time. With full stomachs and high spirits we then gathered in Lori and Jack's cozy living room to welcome 4 performers who graciously offered to warm up the crowd. Jack started off, followed by Stewart Netherton, and Merrick Jarrett with David K filling in at the last moment for an absent OCSC participant. Each sang two songs with the repertoire ranging from political satire to traditional folk. Much to their own surprise and to Jack's dismay, both Jack and Merrick sang their own versions of a beautiful traditional song, Blow The Candle Out.

Then finally, the big moment! We all welcomed Eileen McGann and her one-man band, David K as they opened with See My Journey from Eileen's latest album. As the evening unfolded, she treated us to songs from all her albums and managed to include every one of my favorites, including "Rollin' Home", "Turn It Around" and Braw Sailin'. Each song was introduced with a poignant story or personal anecdote which gave the words a depth of meaning and filled the room with energy, sparkle and a rich sense of community. The rapport between Eileen and Dave was light-hearted and yet supportive as they glided smoothly from song to song. The beautiful and creative arrangements of the pieces incorporated all kinds of delightful and unusual instruments including David's steel guitar, sounding like a cross between a bass, xylophone and Hawaiian guitar. Of course, Eileen sings with such a clear tone that seems so effortless and pure it is impossible not to become entranced. Their voices blended wonderfully with harmonies that were soft and full often belying the serious messages that Eileen shares with her audience - the messages of genuine social and political awareness and concern that one finds in traditional folk music.

Between sets we had a munchie and door prize break, with a chance to mingle, get to know our fellow concert goers, chat with Eileen and Dave and purchase CDs which Eileen autographed. As the evening began winding down Eileen and David played a memorable Beggarman medley, starting with the Scottish, then English version and ending with a fast, furious and foot-tapping instrumental by David on the mandolin. Their encore songs, Another Train and More Joy (sung a capella) brought the day to a close around 12 with everyone feeling wonderfully satiated in every sense of the word.

When things run so smoothly and seamlessly there's always a reason. So.... a big thank you from all of us to Jack, Lori and Cathy for their hard work in planning and organizing this event. What a great way to spend a day!

Some Reflections on Mariposa-By-The-Shore, Cobourg, 1996 (Part 2) Merrick Jarrett

Merrick was a performer at the first Mariposa, and played his retirement gig this year in Cobourg. He has very kindly put his thoughts on the matter to paper, and has been even kinder in allowing me to serialize them in the newsletter. This is part 2. (For those who can't wait, Merrick's entire text is available on the OCSC Web site) Jack

(Merrick has been describing some of the workshops at Mariposa '96............)

An amusing incident, for my family and I anyway, was seeing Bill Russell lying flat on his back behind the audience at the Folk Play stage, while Kate, John and I were performing. He looked to be sound asleep, and I thought, "Oh, oh...our show is boring and Bill has fallen asleep....perhaps the audience has too and our show is down the tubes....". But it turned out that Bill had a sore leg and was merely resting it as he lay on his back.

And Les Barker with his witty on-stage readings as he MC'd the Saturday evening show. The job of MC is a tough one, as one tries to think of interesting or funny things to say to fill in the gaps as the stage guys get things ready for the next act. Les and his alter ego Holmes Hooke carried it off beautifully.

And what would a festival be without Bobby Watt? This big, bluff, hearty Scotsman, with a wonderfully ribald sense of humour, cracking jokes, bawdy and otherwise, and entertaining us with stories and great traditional songs.

And what a pleasure to hear Kathy Reid and Arnie Naiman perform, both individually and together. I first met Kathy many years ago when she took part in a memorable ceilidh I had organized for one of my classes when I was teaching a traditional folk music course at U. of Waterloo. For me, one of the "magic moments" was listening as she and Arnie entranced the audience, singing and playing with such a deep feeling and love for their music. No wonder she was involved in five workshops on Sunday.

As unexpected pleasure was listening to Jim and Maggie Yates during a "Strange Strings" workshop. Maggie played a small hammered dulcimer, possibly the only hammered dulcimer at the Festival, and Jim had made a banjo out of a tin can and other odds and ends, as well as a homemade fretless banjo. A very creative guy.

As I talk about all these people, I think, "What a wonderful group of interesting, warm, and friendly people to gather together at this Festival...musically talented, entertaining, with a deep commitment for the material they are using," and how fortunate we all were that weekend to have the privilege of listening to their music.

And then, as I was writing this, I thought of the background to the whole Festival. The number of people behind the scenes, the many volunteers, without whom a festival would never get off the ground, the people on the sound systems, the committees at both the Toronto and Cobourg ends, who smoothly coordinated their efforts to put it all together; and to the Mariposa Board and executives who had the courage to move Mariposa from its home in Toronto to not only one, but two new venues; in Bracebridge for one day and Cobourg for the weekend.

A successful festival like Mariposa doesn't happen by accident. Months of planning go into it, and I'm sure the organizers are already planning for next year. More on this later.

2000 Years of Christmas

Well, I finally have some concrete news about this great Christmas show, featuring Trilogy (Eileen McGann, David K. and Cathy Miller). The show will take place:

Tuesday, December 10, 1996 at 7:30 PM at Zion United Church, 32 Weber St. W. Kitchener

The ticket price is $12 for adults and $8 for children (12 and under) in advance, $2 more at the door. Tickets will go on sale at the next Old Chestnuts Song Circle, on October 26th. I am also imploring OCSC members to take a poster and a book of tickets home with them, and sell to family, friends, co-workers, etc. etc.! If every OCSC member attends and sells 5 other tickets we will be sold out! Why should you care? Very simply, because there is no other way that this program and others like it will come to Kitchener unless we make it happen ourselves! That's how we got Modabo, and Eve Goldberg, and Eileen McGann. So, if you think this is valuable, put up a poster or sell a few tickets! It all helps! Tickets will also be available directly from me (519.578.6298) and from Readers' Ink Bookstore in Waterloo.

I am enclosing a description of the concert, courtesy of Cathy Miller. What she doesn't say is how entertaining the show is. Yes, you will learn lots about Christmas traditions and customs, but you will also laugh, sing and cry along. Cathy's version of Christmas In The Trenches is the best I've heard, and they do a mean Grinch. The harmonies and instrumental work are exquisite. Cathy tells me that they have performed the show for kids, and it went very well, especially with the older ones. So if you know children who would appreciate this sort of thing, please bring them!

Upcoming Events (Check Acoustic Café for even more!)

Oct 17 Hoot Night at Angies, Waterloo. Every Thursday, open mic. with Beverlie Robertson

Oct 19 Black Walnut Folk Club, Jester's Court, Victoria Park, $3. Also, November 16

Oct 26 Old Chestnuts Song Circle, 111 Chestnut St., Kitchener. 7:30 until about 11:30, 578-6298. Also Nov 23

About this newsletter...... This newsletter is emailed if I have your address. It is 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. I would love to have articles submitted, please! And event announcements are always welcome. BUSY this month with Eileen, OCSC and 2000 Years…..but what a thrill!