October 2000

v Last Month and This - Jack Cole

Songs about teaching were a real hit, both with the people who sit at the front of the class and those who toil away in the desks (from which age group we had 5 this month!). There were nearly 30 of us, including (yes) several newbies.

From Harry Chapin's "Flowers Are Red" to "Don't Know Much..." to "Teach Your Children" to songs about Geography (Margaret teaches it) to songs we learned at The Woods or Celtic College, to Amanda and James leading an enthusiastic "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Burning of the School". And it wasn't until I got mail later, from someone who couldn't come, that I realized we missed a classic. Think Sidney Poitier. Think Lulu.

October's circle is nearly here and I haven't done well with a theme. So I think I'll go with the story that was everywhere to begin the month. I know that both Valdy and Jesse Winchester mention Pierre Trudeau in songs (anyone tell me which ones?). Let's bring songs about notable people. Explorers, politicians, heroes and inspirations - people whose names made the news, and preferably in a positive way.

See you October 28th!

v Voices of The Woods

The Woods - mythical, magical and gone for another year. This year's Woods Music and Dance Camp had to be experienced to be believed. Words cannot really do it justice, but I have asked the Old Chestnuts who were there to try. But first, for those who have never been, Jeff Morrison describes life at The Woods (used without permission - don't tell him!)

  • Wake up (with difficulty).
  • Feeble attempt at personal hygiene.
  • Eat (while trying to communicate with others through mono- syllabic grunts).
  • Classes with staff (professional musicians with incredible talents and insights) in your personal area of endeavor. These last all week.
  • Eat again. (Language capabilities have improved slightly.)
  • Schlep tables.
  • Community time: excellent gathering of entire camp to sing, discuss, and laugh about various topics. Redefines 'group hug'.
  • Schlep tables.
  • Workshops (similar to classes, but normally a one-time event). Topics are quite eclectic. All are incredibly interesting, and are often accompanied by much laughter and frivolity.
  • Free time (swimming, canoeing, practicing, jamming, sleeping, first approaches to beer fridge)
  • Dinner.
  • Schlep tables.
  • Camper's performances; a chance for campers to strut their stuff for others. (Note to future hosts: You will have to endure massive amounts of abuse if you attempt to bring just a LITTLE BIT OF JOY to the lives of others through quality humour and interesting points of information.)
  • Staff performances (always excellent).
  • Dancing. (Disco has been replaced by the square and step varieties.)
  • Song circle and jamming (The remaining zombies at 2AM make the best music).
  • Raiding of kitchen (eating from vats of peanut butter with your hands).
  • Token amount of sleep.
  • The cycle is repeated.
Johanna Jamnik.
"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." - Red Auberbach

My soul didn't just get a dusting at the Woods, it got a thorough spring cleaning. No computers, cell phones, radios or even a newspaper did I see the entire time. I was so immersed and surrounded by music that it is still dancing its way out of my bones.

The Woods is in a beautiful setting on Lake Rosseau complete with canoes, kayaks and sailboats - if only there was time to us them! There were classes, community time, workshops, performance circle, concerts, dancing and song circle. Not wanting to miss anything I attended everything, and called it quits after the dancing (10:30 or so), which meant I missed song circle. But you see there was the next day and the one after that, all packed just as full.

I chose beginner guitar as one of my classes. Being a self-taught guitar player that doesn't perform but loves to sing, I nevertheless picked up some theory and technique that gelled a lot of things for me. Besides, it was just plain fun learning while singing new songs. Eldon Cooper assured us that we could play at least 10,000 songs now with the nine to ten chords (all of which were "extremely useful") we had covered.

My second class was rhythm. What decided me on this class was that Tom Leighton was going to teach bodhran playing among other things, something I've been hankering to try for several years. That there were a dozen bohdran player wannabees and only five bodhrans was no obstacle. The technique was practiced on tambourines, garbage pails and three-ring binders. And everyone got a turn on the real thing.

What a collection of noisemakers we had! I couldn't begin to describe them all. We also learned how to play the triangle using the handle part of knives borrowed from the kitchen, the spoons (ibid), bones and various bells, shakers, clackers - well you name it. Tom has so much energy and enthusiasm that I swear he has Mexican jumping beans in his blood. He'd have us jamming and get a rhythm going, and before long he was dancing around and playing a jig or reel on his accordion or keyboard. We also did mood music where we learned how to add colour and intensity with our noisemakers, er instruments.

The highlight for me was the rhythm class's performance on Saturday night just before the dance began. We started with a mood piece, the soft pattering of rain in the jungle, which Tom would add to every once in a while by playing eerie strains on the synthesizer. Then he got the base rhythm going on the three jambayas, added in the bodhrans, then the bells, spoons, etc. By this time everyone was moving and clapping to the rhythm. And then Rick Fines and Mark Haines joined in playing their guitars and singing "Bo Diddley". Everyone sang and stomped and clapped along. I was grinning from ear to ear thinking "I can play the bodhran! I can create this excitement! I'm INSIDE the music!".

I also got to enjoy a lot of dancing. I attended both Playford Dancing workshops with Eldon Cooper. The music and dancing was graceful and elegant. I even learned to be comfortable (sort of) with the "flirtatious" eye contact that is part of the dance. And every night there was more dancing: contra, a few square dances and some Playford to our own live band.

It has taken a while for me to digest the experience which has improved with space and time. It was too much to take in all at once. It's wonderful to know that such places and experiences as The Woods are there to go to the next time my soul needs a thorough housecleaning. The other nice thing is that my guitar is not collecting dust the same way anymore.

Megan Piercy.
Being the kind of person that likes to try everything once, this summer was the year I found out what the Woods was all about. And I'm really glad I went. What stands out the most for me is not any one event or person, but the atmosphere. Woods has a very friendly, accepting, un-pressured, warm, inclusive atmosphere that was wonderful to bathe in for a week - something I don't find in too many places in my life. I can see why so many people return yearly!

That aside, the teachers were giving, knowledgeable and terribly supportive. The workshops had variety, challenge, and were generally a lot of fun. Everyone seemed to have one musical challenge for the week - mine was learning to play the fiddle, an unexpected surprise. It was an absolute joy to listen to a fantastic concert every night. We all seemed to laugh a lot. And the campus is rustic but incredibly beautiful if you love the outdoors as I do. Definitely recommended!

Jean Mills.

I got lost on my way the to The Woods. Not used to driving by myself on long trips, I missed the turnoff to Rosseau and ended up in Parry Sound. It was getting dark as I turned around and headed south again. I took another wrong turn off Highway 69 and stopped to ask someone for directions. By the time I arrived, I was tired, frazzled & wondering if perhaps I should have stayed home.


This year's Woods was five days of exciting, exhilarating, inspiring and motivating musical experiences. I can't say enough about the amazing staff - their concerts alone were worth the price of admission. Rick Fines did the impossible: he converted me to The Blues! The half-frenzied, half-transporting performance of Mark Haines and Tom Leighton convinced Cathy and I that we should run off with some Raggle Taggle Gypsies. Peggy Seeger brought me to tears. And Christina Smith and Jean Hewson reached me the way they always do (hey, I can't help it if Trad is my middle name...!) despite Jeanie's broken string.

And of course there were other highlights for me: harmonizing with Rick and Mark at the campfire, amazing jams at the log cabin, playing Playford tunes on the recorder for Eldon's dancers, rhythm sessions with Tom, and being part of the Kick-Ass Band. Not to mention all the wonderful, interesting, talented and generous people I was lucky enough to spend time with every day.

I plan to go again next year, but I can't imagine how it could get any better than the Woods 2000. (Well, maybe it could be a little warmer???)

Margaret Jackson.

Hello, my name is Margaret and I'm a Woods-aholic.

I have been hooked since my first Woods four years ago. I confess that I was sooo reluctant to leave this year (yes, it was the "best Woods ever"!!) that I practically had to be run off the campus! (With sincere apologies to Grit, Judith, Sue and Eve). It's just that the Woods is such an addictive experience!! Who could resist:

  • Being so exhausted after several late music-filled nights that I skipped my afternoon workshop and attempted to wake myself up by doing a dead man's back float in the lake - as I looked up I saw two fiddlers playing and dancing joyfully on the rocks!
  • Learning to dance, contra style, and getting so mixed up that I had no idea where I was, where I'd been, or where I was supposed to be - and laughing so hard I could barely stand!!
  • Having the opportunity to develop my latent acting talents in the Mummer's Play where I got to sashay around anonymously as "Old Ball", an incredibly wise yet cheeky horse! [ Incredibly! - jc ]
  • Meeting and learning from multi-talented folk musicians who not only inspire me musically, but also personally by their patience, approachability, joie de vivre and commitment to social justice.

While the Woods is a powerful mix of music, tranquil nature, joyfulness and community, it's the community that I find the most compelling. At the Woods, you relate to people on a "soul" level. Our conversations consist of shared hopes and fears, dreams and visions generously punctuated by puns, jokes, playfulness and laughter. At the Woods I have met and renewed acquaintance with some of the most significant people in my life. It's amazing.

Jack Cole.

I've raved about The Woods 3 times before. Why should this one be different?

But it was. And it was, because of the staff. The students too, yeah, sure, I love `em. but the staff made it. Tom and Mark and Rick at the Song Circles and Community Time and the Log Cabin jams, always. Christina too, and Jeannie, and Eldon and Peggy Seeger, busily listening and knitting away. Every night, always. Listening to the students run off a raggedy version of this or that, then lifting us up with something of their own. "Hey, haven't played this in years, but it goes something like this, do you know it?" And away they'd go, and take us along for the ride.

Hilights are many. Besides the feeling of being on a 20-hour per day (we had to sleep sometime) freight train, bound for glory...

  • Mark's mandolin class. Mando and more!
  • Tom's rhythm class. We're LOVING it!!
  • The rhythm class playing for the whole place. That's got to be a thrill of a lifetime!! Bo Diddley! Who knew?
  • the "dueling duos" workshop - Mark, Tom, Christina and Jean filled every musical breathing space.
  • watching Peggy Seeger (et al) doing the Time Warp!
  • being taught en masse Terry Tuft's "Never No More" as a 4 part choir. Totally thrilling!! And then reprising it the next day, and it was still there!!
  • the dance which Eldon wrote for The Woods. We messed it up bad, but it was just right. Maybe next year...
  • Jug Band workshop with Mark and Rick! A riot!

[ Cathy Byberg's Woods memories begin with "To say we had fun at the Woods this year, is like saying the Pacific Ocean is damp.", but any further elucidation will have to wait for another time. - jc ]

v Meeting a Hero - Charlene Westbrook

[ Pictures to go with this article will be on the Web version of the newsletter when it is available. - jc ]

Gord Lightfoot saw me standing with my 45 and came over. I had talked to Terry Clements in the park at Marposa 2000, and mentioned I had something for Gord to sign, and he said to come around back. When I got there Terry saw me and then Gord turned around, smiled and walked over.

I told him I had bought the 45 of "If You Could Read My Mind" in 1970 when I was 15, and I was just turning 45 that weekend! He said he was surprised I had kept it all these years and that it had turned out to be a pretty good song! He signed it and then he walked a couple of steps away and turned around with it up like you see in the photo! It was totally unexpected and very funny.

He looked great, muscular and fit. He took great pleasure in talking to the folks and signing stuff for them. He talked about him and Terry Whelan not getting accepted for Mariposa because they sounded too much like the Everly Brothers! He then proceeded to sing several lines of "Wake Up Little Susie!" He added that it didn't help that they did a few Everly tunes in their act. He threw back his head and had a private thought and laughed again. He was so humble and charming it was hard to believe I was standing and talking to the person whose music has meant more to me than any other perfomer's in my life.

The first time I saw Gord was at a Kris Kristofferson/Rita Coolidge concert at Massey Hall in 1973. I am a huge fan of Kristofferson's also. I snapped off a couple rolls of film (no camera police back then!) and 2 minutes later up comes Gord to sing "Me & Bobby McGee" with them! There is a picture of them in his Songbook booklet so I know it really happened! I was so upset at not getting any of my own pictures though, that it has bugged me ever since until I saw the one in the booklet.

He chatted with fans for almost 2 hours before his set and seemed very happy to meet each and every person. He talked with folks who knew his parents, who knew his friends when he was a boy, and total strangers who obviously loved and admired him for a long time. He had a story for all and the smiles everyone wore were from the pure joy of having spent a few minutes with Orillia's hometown boy. He introduced us to his wife and beautiful children and the proud dad beamed.

Lightfoot's music has shown that it still touches people in ways that each of us find hard to make clear to others. His fierce loyalty to his style of music is admirable and so is his loyalty to his Canadian roots. He makes me even more proud to be Canadian.

My 12 year old daughter loves his music and met him also. We told him that this year in English she studied "The Ballad of Yarmouth Castle". He broke into a huge grin and said he had heard of some other songs of his but not that one. I told him it seemed to be one thing the education system in Ontario is doing right and we both rolled our eyes and shrugged.

He is filling concert halls all over the U.S. this summer and I have heard reviews from many people that he's doing great. His voice is a bit higher now that he's pushing 62 but my goodness he can still capture the audience in his stories like it was 30 years ago.

I for one am so grateful to have had Lightfoot in my life. He's made it beautiful and a better place to be for countless numbers of people. And to paraphrase Gord in an interview - we are part of life's journey and he is part of ours...we'll keep tagging along.

I spent Sunday in Orillia and imagined a young boy with big dreams, an immense talent and fierce determination. Who in that small town besides his parents and sister, would ever have known that young Gordon's dream would become a reality with such an everlasting impact?

I'll be at Massey Hall in May 2001 like I have been 35+ times over the last 30 years and saying thanks all over again.

v Cathy Miller's Quilting Project!

Following up on her fantastic "Living For The Stars" recording of last year, Cathy Miller has just released a new project called "One Stitch At A Time". With this album Cathy takes square aim at practitioners of her new love - Quilting. Mostly written in Australia early in 2000, the album features 11 original songs all about the art, practice and history of making quilts, plus Cathy Fink's masterpiece "Names".

Cathy stopped by from her busy tour of folk clubs and quilting guilds, and talked about her fascination with the whole process of quilting. She is now a prize-winning quilter herself (whoever won her door prize at the last concert - hold onto it!). Cathy also reported that this album is doing amazingly well, setting personal sales records for her, and likely to head into a second pressing very soon.

Cathy left me a few albums to sell. If you know an avid quilter you will want to pick up One Stitch as a very unique Christmas gift. I have 12, no wait, 10, no wait, 8 available, at $15 each.

v Exciting Old Chestnut Concert News!

Y2K has proven to be a slim year for Old Chestnuts concerts, as we managed only one house concert and not a single `big venue' show. This reflects just how busy Lori and I have been, but I am (foolishly) optimistic that this will change in 2001! Just as soon as my Hal 9000 gets up and running!!

I have not one but two great concerts to tell you about for the winter months! I haven't been this excited about concerts since the very first couple we booked - I hope you will all share my enthusiasm!!

Coming in January (and still being finalized) are Mark Haines and Tom Leighton. You've just read all about how they blew the doors off The Woods this year. Mark and Tom are incredible musicians, and their energy level reminds me of Modabo; they give so much to the audience. Their music is a mixture of hot instrumentals (fiddle, mandolin, guitar, keyboards, accordion, whistle and rhythm) and great original, traditional and cover songs. Other than that, they are hard to classify. Trad one minute, bluegrass the next, Celtic, then a bit of country and a lot of folk, with some rock and roll if necessary. These guys are not to be missed at any cost!!

And, as an extra bonus, they are willing to do workshops! Those who learned from them this summer know just how much fun and erudition can be dispensed by these guys. I've asked them about fiddle, accordion, mandolin, songwriting, rhythm, choir...let me know what you think!! We will need a reasonable minimum number for each of maybe 2 workshops. But we must act fast!!

I will be booking a church or a hall for Mark and Tom; their sound is just too big for a living room. Once I have details I will be asking everyone for help selling tickets. Bring your friends - they will not be disappointed!

The second big announcement is the first visit of Quebec's David Francey to this area. David has been attracting lots of attention at festivals the past couple of summers. Aengus Finnan sang one of his songs ("Redwing Blackbird") for us, and I knew I had to hear more. As a result, I fell in love with David's album "Torn Screen Door" at first listen - it's a masterpiece.

I am not alone. Sing Out! Magazine wrote: "Not only is Francey a master of lyric, he's also a remarkable tunesmith." Rambles magazine says: "David Francey's musical artistry and turn of phrase mark him as both a remarkable storyteller and musician." And the artistic director of Blue Skies said: "David Francey gave an absolutely stunning performance at this year's Blue Skies Music Festival. He is a brilliant writer and a passionate singer who completely captivated all who heard him. His songs are beautifully crafted, highly original and superbly played. I have no doubt David will be an important voice in Canadian music in a very short time."

David will be playing a house concert for us on Saturday, March 24. All the usual extras - munchies, door prizes, Song Circle openers - will help make this a very special night!!

Tickets for both concerts will be on sale at the October circle.

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

Oct 11 Terry Tufts, Russeldale. 229-6083. Oct 13, Sarnia, 542- 9872. Oct 14, Peterborough 705.876.1082. Oct 19, Orangeville
Oct 13 Alistair Brown, Folkway Music, Guelph. Start of a new series! Oct 27 - Ian Bell. Nov 10 - Steve Schellenberg, Nov 24 - Brent Mason. Dec 8 - Rick Fielding. $10. 763- 5524. Intimate venue, wonderful music!
Oct 14 Ian Tamblyn, Arkell Schoolhouse, $20. 763-7528. Dec 2 Nonie Crete and Bob Maclean
Oct 14 James Gordon CD release, Acoustic Harvest, Toronto. Nov 11 Smith & Hewson. Nov 25 Terry Tufts. Dec 16 Trilogy! 416.264.2235.
Oct 20 Black Walnut Folk Club, Mill-Courtland Centre. $3. Open mic. With host.
Oct 21 British Pub Night fund-raiser for Mill Race Festival. Nonesuch, Geoff Lewis, Linda Dale and Rathlin. $10. 621-7235
Oct 21 Peggy Seeger, London. $15. 673-0334. Nov 12 - John Prince. Nov 26 - Artisan's Christmas Show!
Oct 24 Echoes of Erin concert, Toronto, $20. 416-446-6993
Oct 22 Mill Race Traditional Sessions, Golden Kiwi Pub, Cambridge. Second and fourth Sundays.
Oct 27 Failte, Button Factory, Waterloo with Pat Skinner Trio, $10
Oct 28 Old Chestnuts Song Circle. Arrive between 7:30 and 8 PM. 578.6298. Famous people.
Oct 28 Irish Ceili, St. Louis Hall Waterloo, 8:30, $10. 579-4586 for details.
Nov 2? Grand River Dulcimer Club, Folkway Music 163 Suffolk St. W. in Guelph. 7:30 PM $3
Nov 4 Mill Race Folk Club, Ernie's Roadhouse, Cambridge. 1st Saturday of each month.
Nov 10 Heather Bishop and Connie Kaldor, Waterloo. (Probably at UW.?) www.sentex.net/~mja/ckhb/index.htm for info.
Nov 11 Lori Cole's Pottery Sale! 8 AM. A limited number of Old Chestnuts mugs will be available! 578-6298
Nov 18 James Gordon with GreenWood. Button Factory, Waterloo. Call Jack at 578-6298 for info. $10

v About this newsletter..... It's emailed if I have your address. It's on the Web at http://www.mgl.ca/~jhcole and 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. Thanks for lots of articles this month, but boy did formatting take a long time!! PLEASE keep them coming!!

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