vLast Month and Next - Jack Cole
October’s Song Circle was one of those rare times... when things just don’t work. A poorly chosen theme and a less than stellar hosting job can take the brunt of the blame (hey - both jobs are available at any time!). On top of that, we had several new folks, too few strong leaders, and a number of difficult songs.
But there’s still no excuse for the way I butchered "The Prickle Holly Bush". Sorry! (Blame it on a burnt thumb and the abundance of pain killer.)
So it was a huge relief when Barrie Davis took over for the second half. Barrie entertained for nearly an hour. He is gifted with a notable deep voice and a bag full of great songs by great Australian writers, each with a story. It was a pleasure to listen, and I know that Barrie will be back again sometime soon.
Thanks to Mary and Barry Baldesaro for hosting in October. November’s song circle is back on Chestnut Street, on Saturday, November 23. The theme is “All Things Rogers” - songs written by, sung by, or connected to people of that name. Let’s try for a night of uplifting and singable songs! See you then.
vSome Things Rogers - jc
“I never saw Stan Rogers…
sure I wish I had.”
That regret comes up a few times every year. Or “I hadn’t even heard of him until after he was gone” or “I discovered his music just a couple of years ago”.
The regret comes, now, from every part of the world. Last month it was Barrie Davis, from Australia. He recorded a Stan song on his first album, but had only found the music a few months earlier when he heard a cut on a folk music program. Then he bought everything he could.
But the saddest stories come from ones that “coulda’” and “shoulda’” and wish they had; the folkies who hung out in Ontario in the late 70’s and early 80’s, who, to there everlasting regret, never made it to a Stan Rogers concert, or a coffeehouse, or caught him at a festival. It’s like Haley’s Comet came by, and they were napping on all the clear nights.
So, for them, here are my memories of seeing Stan often in all 3 settings.
It was quite an amazing time. The water was right, or the magnetic lines were just perfect. Whatever it was, it was centred in London Ontario, and the 70’s were a great time to be a folk music lover. We didn’t know it, but we were the lucky ones, being carried along by a “single tide” of truly gifted musicians “passing through”.
David Bradstreet, David Essig, Doug McArthur, Garnet Rogers, Paul Mills, The Dixie Flyers, Willie P. Bennett. How many from this list have you seen or heard in the last couple of years? Add lost friends - Stan Rogers, Colleen Peterson, Billy Hughes. A few others who were there too - Michael Lewis, Rick Taylor, Valdy, Brent Titcombe. They all hung around Smale’s Pace coffeehouse, and played extensively in Southern Ontario.
That so many of them are still active is a testament to the quality. I didn’t appreciate how exceptional this was.
Stan Rogers was one of the more gifted, one who demanded your attention. He was larger than life; it took him to make me understand what that phrase means. When he played, you listened, and he carried you along.
Stan, Garnet and their bass player (David Alan Edie, in those early days) always stood, and for the Rogers boys that only added to their imposing presence. Ten minutes into a set, Stan would be covered with sweat, his nearly bald head shining in the stage lights. They rocked, they roared, they lulled. It was high energy bliss.
Garnet and Stan were a treat on stage together. You can get a sense of that from the patter on Home In Halifax. I’m sure the basic banter was well rehearsed and similar from one show to the next. But the chemistry between them was so strong, that the whole package – ad libs, interruptions, chats with the audience, breaks for laughter – flowed seamlessly from the two brothers.
When Stan played in the area it was either at James Gordon’s Carden Street Café (yes, the same James Gordon) in Guelph, or Resa’s Dessert Rose Café in Elora. Both held about 40 people, charged a modest cover, and served good food.
At Carden Street the foot-high stage was at the far end of the room, and it was from there that Stan helped name the Old Chestnuts Song Circle, 20 years later. An older woman requested Eric Bogle’s And The Band Played Waltzing Mathilda. Stan gracefully declined, saying that he didn’t do that song anymore, as it was “a bit of an old chestnut”. When we started the Circle I was determined that it be a place where old chestnuts would still be heard.
I don’t remember much about specific songs. I have a flash of them singing a line from Rolling Down to Old Maui; a “feeling” of singing along on Barrett’s Privateers; a pang of jealousy, approaching the stage at Home County and hearing Stan singing my favourite performance songs, Doug McArthur’s Skyway; a sense of well being from 45 Years, and thinking how cool it was to actually be “23 years”.
I vividly recall getting a lesson on the power of a song. There was a bunch of us at Carden Street on a snowy December night. One was a friend who had just split from her husband. It was the first time we heard First Christmas Away From Home, and my friend left the room in tears.
I never spoke with Stan Rogers. In those days I was much too intimidated to even consider such a thing. I never got him to autograph the LPs I bought. It was an earlier Home County when I acquired the first one - Fogarty’s Cove. I remember the orange cover, with the price ($5.99, I think) written in marker on the plastic wrap. Those were student times, and a new record was a treasure. Now, I come home from a festival with 4 or 5 $20 CDs, and most get played a time or two. Fogarty’s Cove lived on the turntable.
It was Thursday June 2, 1983, when the plane Stan was on caught fire. We all heard about the immediate tragedy, but that Stan was on board didn’t come out for a day or two. There was just a small notice in the papers that among the dead was one Stan Rogers, Canadian folksinger.
My friend Cathy called me at my parent’s home, shocked, and many tears were shed that night.
It doesn’t seem like 20 years ago. Yet in ways it seems much longer. So many of Stan’s songs feel like they’ve been around forever, and he’s become a legend. We’ve all changed, but those songs are timeless.
A few months later, I heard that Garnet was committed to keeping his brother’s tour dates, and was coming to play in Elora. I went, curious really, at what he would do. I was expecting a sort of “Stan Tribute”, with lots of Garnet’s weeping fiddle and a collection of Stan’s best.
Our table was at Garnet’s extreme left; I remember him, clearly, in profile. He surprised me when he came out with a guitar instead of the fiddle. He amazed me with his playing, since I had never seen him touch a guitar before. And he had the incredible good sense to be his own musician, leaving Stan and his music for our memories to enlarge.
That night, Garnet played cover songs by people like Bim, Bob Franke and Connie Kaldor. He introduced me to one of my favourite traditional songs, Broom of the Cowdenknows (which I wish he would record). He impressed the heck out of everyone in the room.
After midnight, as Lori and I drove home, a meteorite streaked over the car. I am not making this up. As we watched, it split in two. One half glowed red and dove earthward; the other half continued over the horizon, burning white. The symbolism was not lost, and someday that night will make it into a song.
A few years later I caught Garnet again at the Maryhill tavern, the last time I’ve seen him in such an intimate setting. The concert was recorded live as part of the album Summer Lightning. He impressed once again with his own songs this time.
I’ve never spoken with Garnet, either, but I have met Ariel and David Rogers, fine musicians and nice people.
A few summers ago – before there were Old Chestnuts – I sang Mary Ellen Carter at a local community event. A person (and you know who you are!) came up to tell me what a difference that song, that “Rise again” chorus, had made to his life.
My regret is that I never said the same thing to its author.
(For more on 70’s folk: http://www3.sympatico.ca/dugimac/index.html). For more on Stan Rogers: http://stevebriggs.superb.net/stanrogers/main.html ).
vMill Race Folk Society - Brad McEwen
[ Some time ago Brad offered to write a few words about the regular activities of Cambridge’s Mill Race Folk Society. Unfortunately, since that time the task has become smaller, with the demise of their Saturday concert series. These activities are vital to the continuation of the Mill Race Festival, and need our support! - Jack ]
This event occurs on the first Saturday of each month from September until June. In this informal, acoustic setting, people are able to share folk music socially. Everyone who wishes to sing and/or play takes a turn, going around the room until completing a circle. A quick break, and we do it again. Everyone can attend, no matter what your level of playing or singing. You can just come to listen if you like.
Admission is $3.00 per person with all proceeds going to the annual festival. 8-11 pm, 7 Queen St West, Cambridge.
TRADITIONAL MUSIC PUB SESSION
The focus of these gatherings is to bring together people whose main interest is traditional folk music, mainly of the British Isles. Based on similar activities in the UK and Ireland, fiddles, accordions, whistles and voices are heard over the clinking of glasses.
A very informal gathering held on alternate Sundays at the Golden Kiwi on Dickson Street in Cambridge. 4:30-ish to 8- ish. No admission fee.
ANNUAL SPRING PREVIEW
This event is held each year at the Cambridge Arts Theatre, 47 Water St South in Cambridge. Four acts are chosen that will be appearing in the upcoming festival lineup. Tickets are available in advance through specified outlets. This years lineup will include Beverlie Robertson, Cavaan, General Store and another TBA. Doors open at 7:30 pm. The bar will be open during the interval.
For further information, please contact Brad at 519-621- 7135 or at email@example.com
vClosing Notes - jc
<> It took 15 years, but the company I work for is finally biting the dust - after being purchased by our American competitor. So I’m looking for things to do, and one that came to mind is making more music. Over the years a few people have asked me about beginner guitar or dulcimer lessons. I’ve even given some, and most of the students have recovered! I’m not a fancy player by any means, but can share folk-style accompaniment for singing. So if you’re interested, please get in touch.
Other Circle members offer more formal, professional and advanced lessons, and I’m happy to spread the word. If you teach voice or an instrument, please let me know and I’ll pass the information on.
<> Eve Goldberg is working on her sophomore album, for release in January or February 2003. We hosted a CD release house concert for Eve’s first album, and Mary has kindly offered to do the same this time around. The date is Saturday, April 12. Our concerts with Eve are always very warm and enjoyable, so mark it down on your calendars!
<> Cathy Miller stopped in at the pottery sale on her way from Woodstock to Ottawa. She’s on the home stretch of an amazing tour, promoting her latest quilting CD. Amazing, because here we have a Canadian folk musician on a 3 month tour, with more gig days than not. One week of the tour includes nine concerts! Congratulations, Cathy!
<> I received a request to move the events section to the top of the newsletter. I think this is just a clever ploy to make reading the rest unnecessary! But, always willing to help, I’ve done it (in the printed and emailed versions). Feedback is welcome.
vSome Events in The Area (as space permits!) Check out the Grand River Folk Community site for more. Nov 23 Old Chestnuts Song Circle. All Things Rogers. 578-6298! 8 pm.
Nov 24 Mill Race Trad Sessions, Cambridge, Golden Kiwi, 4:30. Also Dec. 8
Nov 30 Ceili, St Louis' Hall, Waterloo. 8:30pm
Dec 1 Eric Bogle. The Brantford Folk Club, 7:30 pm $16. 519-759-7676.
Dec 5 Grand River Dulcimer Club, Folkway Music, Guelph. $3 (Confirm with Jean!)
Dec 7 Mill Race singaround at Ernies, Cambridge.
Dec 20 Black Walnut Folk Club, Mill-Courtland Centre. $3. Open mic. with host Ezduzit.
vAbout this newsletter..... It’s emailed. It’s 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. If you are getting this by mail and have eMail, please let me know! A depressing time, but glad to get those memories on paper before my brain lost them completely. Am looking for a new career - any ideas? (besides NOT singing and NOT writing!) - jc