October 2002 * Volume 8, Number 2

v OCSC, The Musical - Jack Cole

September brought the start of another season of Old Chestnuts, and what a joyful start it was! Following a theme that had been proposed by several of the “regulars”, nearly every song came from a musical. We started the night, appropriately enough, with “Do Re Mi”, and, in addition to The Sound of Music, we sang songs from Mary Poppins, Camelot, Showboat, Joseph (5 of them!), Oklahoma (an entire medley, lead at the piano), Godspell, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, and more. We learned the hand actions to Edelweiss (who knew??), not to mention re-discovering those for We Are From the Mountain, from my very first Woods. We were altogether very silly indeed, and it was a lot of fun.

There were some serious folks songs too, not to mention several Newbies (from as far as Owen Sound), a good collection of regulars (from as far as London, Goderich and Durham) and a half dozen younger members. A good start to a new year - nice to see you all!

v OCSC, The Next Month(s) - jc

For, I believe, the very first time I began the last Circle with a theme in mind for the next one! I even announced it part-way through the first half of the evening. Then, people started telling me what a good idea it was, and darn, they weren’t going to make it in October, and couldn’t we do it in November instead?

So - no surprise to those who think you know me - I caved. October 26’s theme will instead be “Spooky Songs”. Witches, ghosts, mysteries and monsters. Songs with lots of bodies and gore. Or maybe pumpkins. You get the idea.

October’s Circle will also feature a special guest, Barrie Davis, an Australian folksinger presently on tour. He enquired about a gig for the Old Chestnuts, but when I wasn’t able to help with that I extended an invitation for a place to stay instead. As it turns out, Barrie and his wife plan to be here on October 26, and will come to the Circle. As we did for Robin Laing, I propose to give Barrie a short set in the second half of the evening, and we can show our appreciation by supporting his 2 CDs, and/or passing the hat. (www.barriedavis.com)

One last note about October 26. Due to the chaos of getting ready for Lori’s annual pottery sale on November 9, Mary and Barry Baldasaro have kindly agreed to host. So go to their home on Frederick Street, not our place! (Call if you need more specific information).

So that leaves us with a leftover theme for November, for which you can begin preparing now. November 23 will be “All Things Rogers”. Not the cable company, but the musicians: Stan, Garnet, Sally, Richard (oh oh - more musicals!), James Grafton, David, Roy, Mr. . First name can work too (but in plural - “Rogers Miller and ???” :-)). I spoke with David Rogers the other night at the Aengus Finnan concert and told him about it, and he was amused. Hey, you never know....maybe there will be some “Rogers” in attendance!

My apologies if you have been busily learning “The Idiot” etc. Now you can practice until November, but if you can’t be there then, spring some on us in October instead.

Hope to see you here. Roger that.

v Don Kavanagh - Wayne Cheater

Don Kavanagh,
a Dubliner and His Harmonica
A report on the Beginning Harmonica Class at Celtic College, Goderich Ontario, August 5-8, 2002

The title is "lifted" from Don’s 1998 CD which is fitting, since Don never failed to "lift" the spirits of his class of raw beginners. There were eight of us, and a raw bunch of beginners we were.

After showing us all which side (not the end) to blow (and suck) into, he shoved us headlong into his world of tunes, jokes, harmonicas and Irish culture.

The tunes, starting with “Amazing Grace” and ending with "Come Down from the Mountain, Katey Daly" were learned by group and individual coaching, and at the end Don performed a session of the entire set of tunes which we all recorded to take home. The recording included extra elaborate renditions of "When the Saints Come Marching In" and "Danny Boy", in response to requests.

Don was born in Dublin Ireland, 72 years ago into a family which included fiddlers, a pianist, flutist and a tin whistle player. He started playing traditional music on a harmonica given to him when he was eight by his father. He has played all his life. He came to Canada in 1954 and settled in the Ottawa Valley in 1958. He has been playing in groups, ceilis, house parties, concerts and sessions since then. He has been inducted into the Comhaltas.

Don’s style of harmonica is very colourful, with an abundance of ornamentation with bouncy, cascading notes, entirely free of bluesy note-bending. In concert he adds some very flamboyant whistling and at all time he starts every discussion with a joke. His standard equipment is a "gattling gun" which is an arrangement of multiple harmonicas mounted on a rotating holder for rapid changes in key.

An extra highlight for me was a workshop at the Festival’s small "Water Stage" on Sunday. The workshop was called "Mentors" and featured Don with his backup in the person of Nathan Curry (guitar and fiddle), and also featured Frank Maher (button accordion), supported by Jean Hewson (guitar) and Christina Smith (fiddle). Frank was this year’s recipient of the Festival’s Ernie King tradition bearer award. It was another special treat to hear Frank, Jean and Christina perform "Up the Pond". It got me all choked up.

The Celtic College and the 10th Anniversary, Earth, Air, Fire and Water festival which followed were outstanding in many ways. The 240 or so College participants included a generous contingent of OCSC regulars, many of whom returned to the College. In fact so many of the students return each year that the organisers have no choice but to continue to allow its size to increase. The classes, teacher concerts and the numerous jams and sessions which continued at late hours were so great that I didn’t notice how little sleep I got until it was time to end my holiday and return to work the next Monday.

v Octoberfolk 2002 - Robin Jones

The first workshop of the day was Allison Lupton and Patricia Murray (Patricia hosted this workshop). This turned out in hindsight to be the best workshop of the day. Allison’s band for the workshop was Bob McLean and Anne Lederman, while Patricia was accompanied by Mark Haines. Patricia opened with a Gaelic song about the Isle of Lewis, (lovely song, beautifully sung) and this tune showed us just how good a guitarist Mark is. Next Allison sang “Bantry Girls Lament,” and you could see Mark's eyes nearly popping out at Bob’s playing. Patricia then sung “The Lowlands of Holland.” Anne started joining in, and that triggered the rest on stage to really turn it into a workshop. I can still hear the incredible harmonies between Allison’s, Anne’s and Patricia’s voices. It is very hard to pick a highlight from this workshop, it was all so good, but I was impressed with Mark’s intro to “My Johnny” finger picking his 1914 Gibson Mandolin, and the memories of the vocal harmonies on Allison’s “Final Trawl” still give me goose bumps. This was easily the best workshop of my summer.

The next set of workshops meant a choice between Valdy, Cindy Church, and Alfie Smith, (a Brantford Folk Club regular) or Aengus Finnan, Eileen Laverty and Mark McNeil, (a Brantford Folk Club regular). I decided to flit between the two. Valdy hosted in his usual light-hearted way, and managed to get people playing together. Valdy was also his usual fashion statement - red shoes and long red socks, clashing beautifully with a yellow shirt and khaki shorts. This workshop was running nicely so I moved in to the next room to catch Mark McNeil. He appeared very nervous, and actually made a mistake; I’ve never seen him that nervous before, and he did calm down by the second song. I like the voice of Eileen Laverty. She has a pleasant sound and a nice mannerism, and a good stage presence. Aengus was exactly the same as he always is, good voice, good stories. Now my beef! They did not workshop. One performed a song, sat down, another performed a song, sat down. The only ones who tried to play along with the others were Mark, and Aengus’ bass player. This is a great pity because Aengus and Eileen could have sounded very good singing with each other, but maybe they did not know each others songs. I returned to the Valdy workshop, which turned out to be much more entertaining, with Valdy giving Alfie unexpected banjo breaks, and flirting with Cindy.

Next workshop choice was “Brantford Folk Club Sampler”, featuring club regulars Terry McBain, Alfie Smith, and Mark McNeil, or ”Unplugged,” where Danu and Allison Lupton’s band played together in a jam session. I opted for the latter. Danu to a man, looked bored and disinterested, and exhausted. Even brilliant musicians - and despite their lack of energy they played very well - cannot always create magic. They did answer a few questions about the Irish bazouki played by one of Danu’s cast. Allison tried to space it a bit by singing “Franklin’s Lament” but the magic just wasn’t there. Both Pat (my wife) and I found it very difficult to stay alert.

Next was a choice between “Songs that make you laugh, think, or cry,” with Valdy, Aengus, and Eileen or “Songs that remind me of home,” with Cindy, Patricia, and Terry McBain. I opted to flit between the two. Neither of these sets were much of a workshop. In the former Valdy played along with the others, trying to make it into a workshop, but when he was singing the others did not join in. In the other room Mark Haines played along with everyone, but Cindy and Terry attempted very little outside their own performances. Cindy has a very nice voice and a very nice Gibson guitar. Terry appeared out of his league; he played his songs well, but seemed too daunted to join in. The audience were really starting to warm to Patricia.

The last workshop was a mini concert by Danu. They apologized for being half asleep, and in their comatose condition proceeded to wow the audience. Fast paced foot stomping magic. My beef - only one set of tunes featuring the Uilleann pipes.

The evenings shows started with Allison Lupton. She was joined by Dennis Rondeau to fatten the band. Dennis, Bob, and Anne really put the body language in to their performances, seemingly feeling every note they played. Everyone looked like they were enjoying themselves. The band, smaller than Allison’s usual band seemed perkier, punchier and more alive than the large ensemble is. Audience participation was up to the usual Brantford standard when Ally got everyone to join in on “The Water is Wide.” Allison surprised us all with the inclusion of two of Danu’s crew, Benny on button accordion, and Donachy on bodrhan in the last song/set “Jock O’ Hazeldean.” A really good set.

Next was Aengus Finnan, backed up by David Rogers on guitar and Trevor Mills on bass. He started with a three-part harmony acapella song. This was really much better than good, the best I have ever heard Aengus. There were many good guitar breaks and one good bass break. Big complaint with Aengus is that all of his songs were in approximately the same tempo, his patter is the same patter as when we first heard from him three or four years ago. He really needs to liven up his show by varying the tempo, and changing his patter. He is much better with his band, but we started to feel drowsy again; it was like a thirty minute long song, or maybe it is just that we see him too much?

Following Aengus was Eileen Laverty. Contrary to what I was led to believe, (pssst- I was told I wouldn’t like her because she was a singer /songwriter) I really enjoyed this lady. Eileen did repeat one song she had done in the afternoon: “Song for Sarah.” Her voice and phrasing gave us a very nice version of “Song for Ireland,” and it was also pleasant to hear the audience, unprompted, singing along with her. A clever change of tempo was a Joni Mitchell song: “Kerry get out your cape, I’ll put on some silver, ooh you’re a mean ole daddy but I like you“. Also "Tread softly," a song version of a Yeats’ poem. I enjoyed this set.

Next on stage was Patricia Murray, backed by Mark Haines. Patricia opened with a song in Gaelic, explaining that it was a weaving lilt, then proceeded to reap the crowd. Her set varied from fast to slow, quiet to rowdy. Patricia has a crystal clear voice, and a wonderful stage presence. She had Dennis Rondeau come on to help back up on “My Johnny,” and despite it being a repeat performance, was so different from the afternoon version, it was worth it. Dennis is a really clever musician, and he and Mark really got into things; what a treat. Patricia closed with Dougie McLean’s, “Caledonia”, which most people in the room know very well, and I had the added pleasure of harmonies from Dianne Kennedy (who was seated just behind me). I think I can safely say that the crowd belonged to Patricia more than they belonged to Danu later on in the evening; she was, in my estimation, the hit of the festival.

Valdy, good ole Valdy - still a fashion statement. Blue shirt, blue pants, orange suspenders, scarlet shoes and socks. I think he got his dress sense from Brian Taheny. Valdy was the same as ever: “Fee fi fiddliei , oh fe fi fiddelii oh oh oh.” Dancing the old fashioned waltz with Peter and Lou, playing a rock’n’roll song, breaking strings in mid song, stopping that song, singing an acappella song as he changed the string, then going back to where he had left off in the previous song after he had changed the string. Sort of left me breathless. A very entertaining set that even included a rap song

I missed Cindy Church. I snuck out for a beer, fell in to a conversation with the bass player from Men of the Deep, and by the time I had finished talking, I only caught the last line of her last song. Pat told me she was very good, but probably a bit too country for my liking. I will not comment.

Danu, a bit more awake, and a bit more interested in what they were doing. This is an excellent band, they sang two songs, played two small sets with the pipes, but all but the songs were the same tempo - fast. When you are this good you can show off, and show off they did. Julie Marie-Innes was at the back, dancing up a storm. Now she’s not working at our local TV station, where she could help us, we find she likes folk music. I did notice that a fair chunk of people left before the set started.

The evening was closed in the normal Brantford Folk Club Fashion, where the massed choir was led by Don McGeoch in singing “Wild Mountain Thyme.”

One wish: we had Mark Haines, Valdy, Mark McNeil, Bob McClean, Alfie Smith and David Rogers there. Why no guitar workshop? I bet Don didn’t know soon enough who was coming.

Another terrific festival Don and Brenda - Thank-you.


v The Canterbury Festival - Susan Cole

On July 12th and 13th, I made my first visit to the Canterbury Folk Festival, held in Ingersoll, Ontario. This festival is relatively new, but has grown to an annual, sponsored event; that is, no admission charge. Ingersoll is located just off Highway 401, about 20 kilometres east of London: home to the Big Cheese, the Elmhurst Spa, and the Cami car plant - a typical small hometown. You may/may not know anyone here, but everyone looks like someone you should remember...that kinda place.

On Friday evening, one music stage was presented in the main park. Many people with lawn chairs - no fixed seating here - and local talent only, on this evening. The park was a cool escape from the surrounding heat waves, and most of the audience appeared to be Ingersoll residents doing just that. On the plus side, a dozen craft booths were already set up, and prices were great. I blew my pop money on gel floating candles, porch torches, and hand-painted rocks. No line-ups at the ice cream booth either. Concert, talent, and organization were low-key.

Saturday morning, I lined up for the Salford Baptist Church fund- raising breakfast: juice, coffee, pancakes, sausages and Canadian bacon for $6.00. OK! The downtown area of Ingersoll was blocked to traffic, and a comprehensive sidewalk sale, a few amusement park rides, dancing in the street, sidewalk chalk painting, an antique car display, and a lawn mower racing display attracted quite a crowd.

Four music stages were offered on Saturday - two in the park, and two downtown. The program was hand-written on large signs at the park entrances. At 9:30 AM, for example: (a) the main stage listed a workshop of “fun songs”, hosted by Magoo and featuring the Dixie Flyers, Brown Ale, and Heartwood; (b) second stage opened with Fathers Groove; (c) the Gazebo downtown listed songster Ted Comiskey, the festival founder, with Songs of the Sea. By the time I got there, Mr. Comiskey had been replaced by a wonderful harpist and guitar player also singing of the sea, though unlisted; (d) Stage 4, downtown (memory fails me here), but I think it was the Judith Coleman dancers. No program in hand was definitely a challenge.

This article becomes lengthy, so I will summarize. This was a folk festival - a community event - a celebration and a portrait of who we are/were. Talent was sometimes questionable, sometimes rare, sometimes unexpected. Sound quality was acceptable at two of the four stages. No air conditioning, but a tent with shade if you’re an elderfolk (who me?). I had breakfast one table down from the “Temporary Tattoo” artist. I learned how a cool kid’s swing can be made from an old rubber tire. In the blazing heat, on Saturday morning, the Dixie Flyers played a personal concert for me - me and the other guy - and I discovered Heartwood. Yes, I enjoy Home County and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, but I would go back to Canterbury. Hey, I might even get involved (Open Stage anyone)!

v Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer - Merrick Jarrett

Many years ago, in the dim mists of time (or so it seems), when LP's were "in" records, and such innovations as DVD's, etc. were far off in the future, I first came across the team of Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer. What a wonderful pair they made. Their children's records were best sellers, numerous awards came their way, and they were always a delight to listen to. Many a performer in the children's entertainment field, (the author included) learned more new songs and ways of presenting them listening to these superb performers or watching their videos..

So when they were going to be in the Toronto area, they approached Jack Cole to see if he could set up a house concert. He did, and what an evening! A marvelous and eclectic choice of songs, interspersed with Cathy's warm and oft-times very funny comments, followed generally by a song that illustrated her virtuosity on the 5-string banjo particularly. At one point, as her fingers seemed to blur over the strings, each note clearly played, I remember looking at Jack as we both wondered with awe how she did it. And Marcy -with her quiet and gentle funny interjections and remarks, and her superb melody guitar backup to Cathy's songs, and her equally fine mandolin playing, made this truly a night to remember. And how many women yodellers have you heard? They don't take a back seat to any of them.

Over time Jack has presented many exceptionally fine concert artists, and for those of us lucky enough to be present, again, it was a superb evening of beautifully presented folk, both traditional, and their own compositions, to remember.

v Closing Notes - jc

<> Brian Pickell called the other night to tell me about his upcoming CD release tour. The CD is a collection of fiddle tunes written by Brian and performed by 10 different fiddlers, with two vocal cuts thrown in. It’s a gem. The tour is coming to the Paris Presbyterian Church (in Paris) on October 19 at 8 pm. The band will consist of Mark Sullivan (Canadian Open Fiddle Champ), James Stephens, Sahra Featherstone, Pat O'Gorman, and Julie Schryer. They play in Owen Sound the night before and Toronto the next night. brian.pickell@sympatico.ca

<> Speaking of Paris, Robin Jones writes that “I highly recommend the concerts that are held in the Paris Plains Church. I caught the first and last shows of the series, Finest Kind and Bobby Watt. Both concerts were well worth the money, and both were very easy to listen to. … The acoustics of this little church are really nice. There is no electricity, so no sound system. The natural reverb of the room is very pleasing to hear. So come along some time enjoy the magic of a candlelight concert in the country. It will really be worth your while.” Watch the GRFC site…

<> Aengus Finnan recently held a concert in St. Jacobs as part of the celebration of his new CD, north wind. Fans of Aengus will find lots on the CD to be happy about, and there are some nice chorus songs which should show up at Old Chestnuts in the future. I have a couple of extra copies available as part of supporting the CD creation effort; let me know if you would like to purchase one. (By the way, I have Cathy Miller, Eileen McGann and Darrell Grant CDs available too.)

<> Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer have an amazing discography: 21 CDs, several instructional videos, and 3 instructional book/CD combinations. The Old Chestnuts is now the proud owner of their book+3 CDs Harmony Singing workshop. I’d like to make this set available to OCSC members, for a small rental fee. Interested?

<> I recently shared with you the sad news of Peggy Linton’s sudden passing on September 8, due to an unknown illness. We sent a sympathy card to George and his family on behalf of the Circle, to which we received a postcard in reply. On the front of the card is a picture of Peggy, taken just a month before. She’s got a big smile, her arms spread wide… and she’s bouncing on a trampoline. On the back is printed: “Always supportive and thoughtful of others, she never diminished anyone, belittled them, rained on their parade, or took away their joy.” George added in ragged capitals: “Good times at your house … we know Peggy wants us to keep singing!”. May we all live life so fully and be remembered so graciously.

<> Darrell Pick is looking for more Song Finder help. “Can anyone provide the words and some info about these songs: "I must be some kind of a fool" by Ian Tyson and "Three sheets in the wind" by The Willis Bros and Ben Coultor?” darrellpick@hotmail.co

v Some Events in The Area (as space permits!) Check out the Grand River Folk Conspiracy site for more.

Oct 13 Mill Race Trad Sessions, Cambridge, Golden Kiwi, 4:30. Also Oct. 27.
Oct 18 Black Walnut Folk Club, Mill-Courtland Centre. $3. Open mic. with host Tom Nunn. (Third Friday of each month)
Oct 19 Brian Pickell and his all-star band go to Paris. See information above.
Oct 26 Old Chestnuts Song Circle. Songs about Hallowe’en Stuff. 578-6298! Mary & Barry’s 8 pm.
Nov 2 Mill Race Folk Club open singaround at Ernies, Queen Street, Cambridge. (First Saturday of each month)
Nov 3 Big Bill Morganfield, Church Theatre, St. Jacobs. 664-1134
Nov 7 Grand River Dulcimer Club, Folkway Music, Guelph. $3 (Confirm with Jean!)
Nov 9 Fergus O’Byrne and Jim Payne at Waterloo Community Arts Centre. 886-4577

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 or write jhcole@mgl.ca for more information. If you are getting this by mail and have eMail, please let me know! I’m writing this on Thanksgiving Day, thankful for the beautiful weather and that I’m not chained to my toxic workplace. Thankful, too, that so many of you pitched in with fantastic articles this month. How ‘bout you? - jc

Back to Old Chestnuts Home Page.