The Old Chestnuts Song Circle Newsletter
November 1998



v Last Month and Next Month at OCSC - Jack Cole

WOW! The first night of a new season is always a time of wonder. I wonder if anybody is going to come. I wonder if there will be any new faces. I wonder if magic will happen. This time, knowing that there were some conflicting events, I predicted gloom. Lori, however, kept dragging more chairs out, saying "33 people, thereíll be 33 people!". Counting Jaspur, she was right on.

"14" was the answer to my second wonder; welcome to all the new folks and I hope we see you again! As to the magic - well I sure felt it! And Iíll never think about Moses the same way again!

November brings us back to themes! Coming off a long hot summer, and heading for an even longer, cold winter (so they tell us) gives me inspiration for a topic near and dear to all Canadians - Weather. So bring songs where weather plays a part: think Singiní In the Rain and Flowers of Bermuda, not just Let It Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow! See you, snow or no! [ It would be best to call ahead to let us know you are coming - if we get too many peop le we may have to turn some away. So reserve early! No Lila Feng impressions please!]

v Rick Fielding Concert Review - Jean Mills

It felt more like mid-summer than autumn for the first house concert of the OCSC season on September 16. In a packed, warm room in Kitchener, musician/songwriter/radio host Rick Fielding invited the audience along on an entertaining ride from traditional to contemporary folk, with blues, gospel, bluegrass and even a touch of jazz thrown in.

A highly-accomplished instrumentalist, Rick's repertoire shows off his amazing guitar picking and arrangements, as well as his warm, rich voice. Switching easily between guitar, banjo and autoharp, he demonstrated his versatility on each instrument. There were a few instrumental numbers, which highlighted his great guitar and banjo techniques, but mostly the instruments were used as either subtle or colourful accompaniment to a wide range of song styles. The autoharp lent a gentle l ute-like background to one of the Child ballads. The banjo rang out on the bluegrass numbers. And the guitar was there for blues, gospel, quiet & not-so-quiet folk songs.

Rick's repertoire is very diverse, and he performed a number of songs from his Lifeline CD, including Wade Hemsworth's Wild Goose and his own witty bluegrass number If Jesus Was a Picker. For the singers in the audience - and there were quite a few - there were lots of choruses to join in on, and especially memorable were the gospel tunes that had the whole room rocking.

With a smooth, warm voice, great instrumental ability, an eclectic repertoire that includes some excellent original material, and a relaxed, rambling style between songs, Rick Fielding put on the kind of show that folk audiences long for.

v Old Chestnuts Making Music - Jack Cole

Itís been a busy fall musically for members of the Song Circle, and congratulations to all! The gigs that I know about included a house concert for Ed Barrington and Jakki Ridley, Robin Jones and his Men Of The Pit opening at Ernieís, and Beverlie Robertson and Eve Goldberg in a show called Ways of a Woman in Elora.

Friday, November 13 brings Beverlie back to Leyander's Tea Room in Elora with another Old Chestnut, Merrick Jarrett, and Toronto story teller Lorne Brown for an evening called Ballads and Broadsides. Iíve seen them perform this show before, and if youíre a fan of ballads you should find a way to be there. The show progresses in a folksy style (reminiscent of Merrickís class at UW), starting with the oldest ballads and working to modern ones.

The show is preceded by a dinner buffet, and I can testify that the food is wonderful! And Leyanderís does it right - an intimate atmosphere, and no food or beverage service while the music is in progress. Tickets are $21.95, and reservations are necessary. 7:30 PM (but Iíd get there earlier!) (519) 846-2756.

On Saturday November 21st, Jack Cooper will be opening at the Boatroom Teahouse in Victoria Park in Kitchener. I havenít seen the headliner, Ken Dunn, for quite some time, but heís just released his second album. Jack, of course, has been to lots of Chestnut and Walnut nights, and is always great. More info below.

v Coming in February! Eve Goldberg!

We have a date for our first house concert of 1999, our first at another location! Thanks to James for organizing this one, and Mary and Barry for hosting it, just around the corner on Frederick Street. Mark down Saturday, February 6 for a night of great songs! Eveís album is just out, and itís full of songs perfect for singing with, ranging from old time to present day topical, including some originals, and every one is a gem. Tickets should be on sale at the November circle.

Looking a little further ahead, weíre working on a very special concert for May. Too early to give details yet, but if plans work out we will be featuring both an old favourite and an exciting newcomer in a double header evening! Stay tuned.

v Chestnuts Learn to SING! - Jean Mills

If you really want to warm up your mouth muscles, the secret is "plateau". That was one of the useful tricks shared by singer Eileen McGann and performing partner David K. during their recent singing workshop in Kitchener. Just over a dozen participants joined Eileen and David at the home of Jack and Lori Cole - also the home of the Old Chestnuts Song Circle - for a few hours of "voice-on" exercises in warming up the voice, using the whole range, l earning to breathe properly and singing harmony.

Which brings us to "plateau." Spoken slowly, deliberately and with the involvement of all the muscles of the mouth and face, this is a word that Eileen and David swear will help warm up your instrument. Add some slow tai-chi exercises for mental focus, some range-defying vocal extensions and you're ready to sing.

And sing we did! Bravely undertaking such a workshop on the day of a concert, Eileen and David gave us lots of opportunities to practice what they were preaching. There were many pointers on breathing properly, and they used examples from their own songs to demonstrate the challenge of long lines. We learned about the various styles and sounds that each voice can produce, an important tool when trying to blend in with other singers. They suggested that we try letting the material dictate they way we sing, whether full-throated and loud, or breathy and quiet.

The harmony section of the workshop produced one of those perfect teaching moments. Having drilled into us the importance of hearing the melody when singing harmony, David took one half of the group away to learn a harmony line, while Eileen taught the other half the melody. Both lines were modal, intricate and rather difficult, so it was with some surprise that the two groups got back together and found them selves singing the same thing! David had accidentally taught his harmony group the melody - a perfect example of how intricately linked harmony and melody lines are, and how necessary it is to have that melody line fixed in place before you can start weaving a harmony alongside.

The workshop was informal but well-planned and packed with useful tips. Eileen and David were gracious enough to work their voices overtime on the day of a concert, and we all went home with something to apply to our own singing.

v Bus Trips! - Jack Cole

Let me tell you, Itís hard to watch as my most favourite people tour through the area and donít stop in Kitchener, but itís impossible to have everyone here everytime! Solution: Old Chestnut Bus Tours!!!

Iím kidding of course - like, I need something else to organize!! But with Modabo in Brantford November 27, and Trilogy nearby in December, I do hope to hit the road and catch them live! Modabo may be tough - Loriís pottery sale is the 28th (as is Song Circle) but weíre gonna try! As for Trilogy - they play several places including Toronto, but I think weíre heading for the matinee in Goderich on the 13th. It would be nice to see lots of y ou there - see phone numbers below to reserve tickets.

v Bill Gallaher Songbook

Bill writes that his songbook is complete and will be going to the printer later this month. Hooray!! Several of you have taken advantage of the presales offer and should get an autographed copy (via me) before Christmas! [If you still owe money, now would be a good time.] I will try to get a few extra copies for you last minute Christmas shoppers.

Meanwhile, I thought you might enjoy a sample of the splendid introductions that Bill has written for the songs. Hereís part of the intro for Shadow Boats ( © Bill Gallaher):

In 1989 I read a book called Rumrunner: The Life and Times of Johnny Schnarr. It was a fabulous tale told by one of the most successful Prohibition rumrunners on the west coast, so I wrote Shadow Boats for him. Whatís more, I discovered that Johnny, though well into his nineties, was alive and well and living in Victoria. I figured I should call and play the song for him. I didnít know what his reaction would be, but he was delighted and we got to gether several times over the ensuing years until he died near his 100th birthday. Of all the stories he never tired of telling, this is the one I enjoyed the most.

One of Johnnyís boats was the Kitnayakwa. (He used difficult names so that people would have a hard time remembering them.) He designed her to carry two hundred cases of liquor at about thirty knots. One dark, moonless, December night he and his mate Tom were making a delivery into Discovery Bay, near Port Townsend, Washington. Since there was only one way into the bay, and therefore only one way out, it wasnít the kind of drop-off area he liked, but a deal was a deal so he went i n anyway. He had no shortage of confidence in both himself and his boat.

Just before midnight he inched into the bay, with no lights, at about four knots. He couldnít see a thing it was so black. Then all of sudden, looking astern, he thought he saw a fire on the beach. He grabbed his night glasses and focused on the wavering light. Rather than a fire, he found himself looking at the phosphorescent bow wave of an American Coast Guard cutter! It was about a hundred yards behind him and closing fast. Johnny hit the Kitnayakwaís throttles and shot deeper into the bay. The cutter opened fire with her machine guns. Johnny and Tom were crouched in the pilothouse, their heads about two feet apart when an "orangey-red streak" screamed between them. It was a tracer shell that had ripped through the cabin wall and lodged itself in the forward bulkhead, still glowing in the dark like some tiny apparition. Neither of the men knew whether to "faint or go blind." [Öcontinued]

v Eileen McGann Concert Review - Chris Moore

There are times when our "mundane" world becomes magical. I had forgotten this basic truth until a special Saturday night of listening to (and singing with) Eileen McGann and friends. This was the third time this summer we had managed to attend an event where she and David K. performed. The first two; the Millrace Festival in Cambridge and the Celtic Festival in Goderich had been good/fun times. This concert was more, it was magical.

We were not sure when we went what would happen. Not only were we taking our two young ladies, we had managed to borrow three more of the neighbourís children to fill out the front pew of the church. I was just back (that afternoon) from Europe. Yes, I really was asleep in the front pew before the music started (it was 1:00 am in my time zone).

The three warmup acts provided an interesting contrast of styles, energy levels and performance. Jakki Ridley, Mary Anne Epp and Jack Cole did good music, well peformed. The audience was well in tune (pun) with the mood and the music when Eileen and David took the stage. Then, it became magic.

Eileen has the unique ability to make her audience feel part of the experience. The audience responded by singing choruses, including harmonies I wish I had the music for. Her introductions to the songs set the stage for the performance and educated at the same time. Where else would you learn that Kassandra (Priamís daughter) was blest with the gift of prophecy and cursed because no one would believe. When was the last time you heard utter silence at the end of a song because the entire audience was bowled over by the energy/dynamics of the whole experience.

What can I say. Eileenís CDís are good. The concert was at an even higher level. Aided by the great acoustics of Grace Presbyterian Church, a good sound system (thanks to Dan and Michael), and the added dimension of Ben Grossman on percussion, this performance was special. The kids are still humming tunes and talking about it.

I feel sorry for those of you who missed it. It was worth flying half way around the world to attend.

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

Nov 13 Ballads and Broadsides, Leyanderís in Elora. See above for info.
Nov 20 Black Walnut Folk Club, Laurel room, U of W. Open stage, $3
Nov 21 Ken Dunn with Jack Cooper, Victoria park, $5, 578-2942
Nov 27 Modabo, Brantford Folk Club, Brant Park Inn, 519-759-7676.
Nov 28 Old Chestnuts Song Circle, 8 PM SHARP. Call 578-6298.
Dec 5 Trilogy: 2000 Years of Christmas in Toronto, Acoustic Harvest Folk Society 416.264.2235. In Goderich, Dec 13, 2:30 and 7:45; Margot at 519-529-3516 for info. Other Ontario gigs in Ottawa, Port Hope, Owen Sound, Aylmer and Barrie. Call me for more info & contacts.

v About this newsletter..... Itís emailed if I have your address. Itís 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!!! Song Circle topics are suggestions only - sticking to theme is not required!! Thanks to everyone who helped with Rick and Eileen - two fabulous concerts!! Come early to OCSC to look at pots - doors open at 8 AM!


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