v Last Month and Next - Jack Cole
We started season 11 with a small, construction-defying crew. We had limited access to Chestnut Street for some parking but it was about 18 inches below sidewalk level, so I dug steps into the dirt for Merrick, Charlotte, Don and the rest. We totalled about two dozen, from as far away as Toronto, Goderich, London and Italy! One of many highlights (for me) was "Bring 'Em All In" - thanks Monique - a song about which I have more to say later. We managed a few (other!) songs from Celtic College, but alas most of us had trouble remembering the harmony parts to Blue Murder and Bushes and Briars. Better luck next month! Thanks to everyone who made it out, and welcome back!
We're looking forward to the return of even more folks on October 22, the next Old Chestnuts. Due to Lori's upcoming pottery sale on November 12 (www.frederickartwalk.org) we are moving the circle back to Mary and Barry's place on Frederick Street this month. Thanks to them for offering to host. If you need exact directions please email me and I will gladly send them. It's the usual 8pm start, and I'm sure everyone remembers Mary's wonderful treats, so we'll take an extra long break! :-)
Also on tap for this month - if all parties are willing - is pumpkin decorating while we sing. We have a two pumpkins and Jim and Irena are bringing more. The plan is to paint them up for the Pied Pumkin concert the next Saturday. Little miniature musicians or scary faces or funky designs or Pied Pumkin logos.
Anyone know what kind of paint material or tools one uses on a pumkin? Anyone have any? Thanks.
v The Pumkin is Coming! The Pumkin is Coming! - Jack Cole
What: Pied Pumkin Concert
When: Saturday, October 29, 2005. 8pm
Where: Waterloo Community Arts Centre
How: Tickets are $16 in advance, $18 at the door
There aren't too many musical legends in this country, but The Pied Pumkin String Ensemble is one. The Pumkin is an essential part of the history of folk music in Canada, as important to their branch of the genre as Ian Tyson or Valdy or Lightfoot or Mitchell are to theirs. And even more significantly - they are still a total riot in concert!
Pied Pumkin is a legend from the West. In the mid 70's, Pied Pumkin's mixture of timeless music, fearless arrangements and irreverent humour defied categorization and made the group a West Coast favourite. Their combination of dulcimer, violin, guitar and flawless harmonies created a sound completely original and enduring. They self-produced two albums which sold over 30,000 copies for their own Squash Records - one of Canada's first independent labels.
Shari Ulrich, if my math and memory are correct (which they often aren't anymore) was in her mid-teens when she drifted north from California to meet Rick Scott and Joe Mock, and take the university and festival circuit by storm. They were hippie/funky kids, making hippie/funky music. Their audiences swooned and danced and laughed. It was the seventies and the Pumkin were about going back to the farm, making love not war, blessing kind hearts, and changing the world. And very fine musicianship.
After Shari Ulrich departed for the Hometown Band (backing Valdy), Joe Mock and Rick Scott continued for eight years as Pied Pear. It was in 1978 that I saw them at a festival, with special guest Shari Ulrich. I was hooked, captivated, and in love with the way they interacted with the audience, and with the music that was so fresh, optimistic, and contagious.
The Pumkin regrouped in the late 90s for a reunion tour, then two, and are now officially reformed - in the good sense! Their music is still hippie/funky, and they are still timeless and irreverent. We were lucky to have them play for us in 2001, a concert about which one folkie veteran of The Woods said: "I was completely blown away at how GREAT they are. It's one of the best shows I've EVER seen. Shari Ulrich, Rick Scott & Joe Mock are eclectic, entertaining and full of energy, humour, musical skill and vocal excellence."
The Pumkin are back on tour and headed our way, arriving on October 29. Unlike 2001, when they opened their tour in KW after rehearsing in our home for 4 days, this time they are finishing their tour with shows in Barrie, Waterloo, and Hugh's Room in Toronto. Imagine how much better they will be when they're so well rehearsed! :-) There's a review of one of their concerts just a week or so ago in which the author, Peter Rusland, claims that the Pumkin "deserves the Order of Canada for its uplifting messages during depressing times", and gives the concert a rating of 10 out of 10. Oh yeah, oh yeah and Yo De Do Do.
We've got another 10 out of 10 planned for the Button Factory on the 29th. Please come - we need to fill the place. The Pumkin needs to play for a big crowd. And if hippie/funky music about farms, love or kind hearts are in your world, you need to see them. Bring your dancing shoes and plan to Change the World.
Tickets are available from me, WCAC, and Twelfth Night Music.
v Octoberfolk 05 - The Last Waltz - Robin Jones
This is to be the last Octoberfolk. Don and Brenda need to rest, and I think this couple deserve a community award of some sort for all they have done for folk music.
The first workshop was titled Songwriting and was hosted by Jez Lowe. Also on stage were David Francey, backed by Shane Simpson on guitar, with Geoff Somers on fiddle and mandolin; and Lynne Miles, backed by Keith Glass on guitar This was a very good workshop! Jez started with an anti war song - something about Old Bones, Lynne joined in chorus with some really nice harmonies. Keith was playing along with the song so well I thought he was Jez's accompanist, and Geoff was his usual brilliant self on the mandolin. This was an excellent start to the festival, with everyone joining in. Jez has a rich clear voice. He and Lynne sounded good together. Lynne's song was more serious "Everyone is all giving up on me - I wanna go home." A bit hard to join in on, but this is when the penny dropped and I realized that Keith was Lynne's accompanist. David then sung the song that goes: "The heart that is breaking never makes a sound." Lynne joined in the chorus, while Keith played along all through the song. Jez then performed "Spitting Cousins," bloods no colder than the cold North Sea. Lynne continued with a song about 1,000 lovers. Followed by David with a rendition of "Astubula," a song he wrote about a Lake Erie coal port. "High Part of Town," was next from Jez, then "Flames of Love" from Lynne, and the set was finished by David with "Mill Town," - don't follow me in boys, don't follow me in boys, don't follow me down. This was a lesson on how workshops should be presented - everyone worked with each other, and the result was memorable.
The next workshop theme I took in was String Driven Thing with Montana Skies, Jonathan and Jennifer, a husband and wife duo; Kate Bramley, Jez Lowe's fiddle player; and Matt Woodward, the fiddle player from the Polyjesters. Matt presided and started with a fiddle solo. Kate also played a solo on her five string fiddle. Montana Skies played a South American folk tune, Jonathan on classical guitar, and Jennifer on cello. Very skilful musicians, interesting sound. Matt played African Farewell, and we got a taste of work shopping, when everyone joined in. Kate performed another solo. It seems like people don't like to join in with unfamiliar tunes. Jennifer then introduced a six string electric cello that has a built in waist rest, so she can play standing up. The duo played, with great virtuosity, a jazzed up version of America the Beautiful; this pair never stop smiling. What followed was one of those rare moments that should have been recorded - a jam on "The House of the Rising Sun," each swapping leads between the fiddles, guitar and cello, and harmonizing when not on lead. This was very tasty, especially good with the extra string on the five string fiddle being used as a harmonizing drone. Kate then followed (with the permission of the audience) to sing a song, while accompanying her self on the fiddle. Her drone string was put in to use again, the cello gave us some good bass lines, and the guitar was used to punctuate with simple but effective chords. The set was closed by Montana Sky with "Gringo's Flamenco," - so different from our usual folk fare. I would like to live that workshop again.
The next workshop I took in was "On the lighter Side," with Haines and Leighton, and the Polyjesters. The set started with the Polyjesters, whose folk music is highly influenced by the Western Swing style of country music. Tom and Mark were right in there jamming along. My notes say: Leighton right in there on piano. Haines, mean guitar, this rocks. Haines sang a song, about working for a living and missing his girlfriend, with Tom backing him on piano and accordion at the same time. Haines, while he performed, put on a tie, tied it to look like a bow tie, tucking the pointed end in to give the squared look, donned an apron, and cooks wedgie cap. Difficult to jam with that, but was worth the watching. The Polyjesters followed with a song about blowing up a Jeep to get the insurance money - no jamming on this one. Then Tom after much feigned protest, performed his Bodhran song about a Kid (baby goat) who wants to grow up to be a drum. From the Polyjesters - a song of admiration from a distance, "Stalking"? Despite the subject, there was humour there. Nice piano break from Tom. Tom and Mark followed with I'm a Going Fishin'; Leighton played the Jew's harp to great effect. The Bass player from the Polyjesters was really getting into the song. The Polyjesters kept up that verve with their version of Spiderman. Mark Haines was looking very impressed with their performance. The last two songs of the set were both extremely funny. H & L performed "The Duck Song," which was so funny people in the audience were crying from laughing so hard. The Polyjesters countered with a song about a Mafia Don. This is easily the funniest work shop I have ever witnessed.
The next workshop I went to was East meets the Middle, with the Polyjesters, and Madviolet. Lisa McIsaac and Brenley MacEachern were even more polished than when we saw them two years ago. They starting off with "Hait Ashbury." They sang this song mostly in unison, inserting the odd harmony when it was needed. Lisa McIsaac was sick with a cold, but worked hard to do a good job. No Jamming, bah, humbug. "Back Home Again," was the next song by the Polyjesters, no jamming; it was beginning to look like a mini concert. Madviolet then performed a song about having a blue collared father, the Polys joined in. Not a mini concert after all! Lisa was very tentative in joining in with Stone Cold Sober, which was an almost country song. There was some interplay between the guitar, and ukulele; simple but very effective. One of the songs by The Polyjesters was a spoof on Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head. The Poly's proved to be experts at spoofing people, aping and mimicking Madviolet after almost all their songs, and threatening to steal the material. There was definitely a lot of mutual admiration going on, up there on stage. This was a really good set, but not much of a workshop.
The next workshop's theme was: It's hard to say goodbye but let's have fun doing it Hosted by David and Louise Szwarc, with Bill Crawford, Dave Jensen, Don McGeoch, Larry Aul, and Jerry Budnark. (Old Uncle Tom Cobley and All) grin. There were various familiar songs and tunes performed. Some sentimental, like Bill Crawford singing "Time to Say Goodbye," and "We'll Meet Again," some humorous like "Malt Whiskey Blues" and "The New Teacher" from Don, along with some lively music from all of our favourite Brantford Folk Club performers, such as Dave and his accordion tunes. This got some of us a little teary eyed knowing that this was the tenth and last Octoberfolk. Don and Brenda's two grandchildren performed the song "The New Teacher" with Don on guitar. These tykes are pretty good at remembering this tricky song, but it is their antics during the song that had the audience laughing. I don't know about these two being future folk singers, they more than likely will be in the next generation of comedians. This was a very enjoyable workshop all around.
The evening concerts started with Lisa McIsaac and Brenley MacEachern; who are Madviolet. These ladies are still giving a very polished performance. They have been touring parts of Europe, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and the U.K., as well as a three month tour of Australia. Their set was well designed with a variety of paces, and sounds from songs written mostly by themselves, and an oldie from Charlie Pride. These two are well worth seeing at another concert, and I am going to keep my eye open for them.
Next performer was Jez Lowe, with the Bad Pennies. Jez, and the Bad pennies take a back seat to nobody with their musicianship. Jez writes songs in the traditional way - they all tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. The impression I got was that Jez writes within the tradition and does not write pop songs. The Bad Pennies are: Shawn Taylor on Bass, Kate Bramley on Fiddle, Adam May on Northumbrian pipes and piano accordion. Kate and Adam have separate solo careers outside of the group. Adam also makes his own pipes. Their skills were most evident, and this was an excellent part of the evening.
David Francey followed, supported by Geoff Somers, on mandolin and fiddle, and Shane Simpson on guitar. This was the first time for me to see Shane, and found his style of facial expression fascinating; it was as if he was chewing and tasting every note. David deliberately repeated one song that he did in the afternoon, and he said that he made no apologies for doing so. It was a love song. What can we say more about David that we have not said before? He is one of our finest poets, and my only beef can be that he did not sing my two favourite songs; Flowers of Saskatchewan, and Torn Screen Door, on this night. This was another good set.
Next up was the most daring departure from the normal fare presented by Don: introducing us to the group Montana Skies. What a pleasant diversion this was. For those of you old enough to remember a programme called Palm Court on the radio, this was a cross between Palm Court and Flamenco. My only criticism of this couple was they repeated at least four tunes that they had played in the workshops. Jonathan was the staid straight grinning man on guitar, while his wife Jennifer was the flamboyant extrovert on the cello. Jonathan studied classical guitar with Christopher Parkington; a famous guitarist, out in Montana, thus the name of their first CD, Montana Skies, which this Atlanta couple took their stage name from. These are two very skilled classical musicians who have created a very interesting folk sound. Thanks for daring to be different!
I have never seen Haines and Leighton, who were up next, in better form. They entertained us with a variety of different colours from their huge palette, such as "I once was a Buddhist, "The Millar's Song," and many others. I was so rapt up in the entertainment that I could not take notes. They earned their standing ovation. Bravo!
Lynne Miles had to follow that exuberant exhibition. Lynne was a little sarcastic toward the sound man during the set up, which was not needed. Lynne, as in the afternoon, was backed up by Keith Glass, from Prairie Oyster. Keith tended to upstage Lynne, he was so good. I know, I spent most of the set watching him. Lynne started with: "I'm over you," a nice country pop song; you know - nothing can take away my pain ----, then more songs in a similar vein, but with an interesting variation in tone and pace. Lynne put a lot in to her work, singing with full throated abandon, a powerful set which reminded me a lot of Fred Eaglesmith's work.
The last set was left to The Polyjesters. They blew the lid off of the place! The band is made up from two brothers, Jason Valleau on Bass, and Sheldon Valleau on Ukulele, with Matt Woodward on Fiddle. They started with "You are my Sunshine," and their act was varied by giving a potpourri of many types of songs, such as a wild version of "The Masons Apron," to a jazzy version of "Sugar," from Billie Holiday. Most songs were greeted with applause in the middle of the songs. You can tell a band is good when all the other performers are standing in the back of the room clapping and howling with the rest of the audience. They also left to a standing ovation. Bravo! Bravo!
The night was ended with all the performers and volunteers on stage singing Wild Mountain Thyme, and the audience in full throated voice with them, as in the normal Brantford Folk Club tradition.
Thank you Don and Brenda, you are really super people.
[ And thanks to Robin for his reports from Octoberfolk for the last few years. They've been fantastic! We'll have to find Robin another event to cover next year! ]
v Folk Venues Closing - Jack Cole
Things always go in cycles they say, but I'm not liking this one very much.
As you read in Robin's article, the Octoberfolk festival has come to an end. This festival will be greatly missed by hundreds of folk music fans in our area.
The demise of the festival coincides with a revolutionary change at the Brantford Folk Club. After 23 years of open stages and concerts, Don, Brenda and the club have decided to switch to "soft seat" concerts, on stage at the Sanderson Centre. As with all concerts produced by the Club, these should be exceptionally fine opportunities to hear the very best in folk music, and we should all look forward to their lineup. We wish you the best.
While Don is not ruling out a return to open stages (and perhaps even Octoberfolk) in the future, it appears that for now the Brantford Folk Club is gone as a place for amateur and up-and-coming artists to play and be heard. It will be sorely missed. I hope it will not be long before someone in the area steps in to fill the void.
Within a couple of weeks of the announcement from Brantford came news that the White Oaks Folk Club in Oakville would be suspending operations for an indeterminate time. In this case, it wasn't a desire to move in a new direction, but the closing of their venue that prompted the change. They are looking for a new home, but in the meanwhile another open stage is gone.
Singers and songwriters in Kitchener have been very fortunate to have Mary Anne Epp working for them. Her Saturday afternoon sessions at "One-Eyed Jack's" were looking like they were going to become an institution, attracting songwriters from around the region and the province. Mary Anne was eyeing even bigger things to include as part of the series, but once again the venue has become a problem. As of a couple of weeks ago, Jack's is closed for the season (at least) and Mary Anne is looking for another place to host her open stage and featured sets.
And finally - at least I sure hope this is the last one in the list - another fall event, Guelph's Canadian Songwriter Festival, was cancelled this year. While often criticized as being more songwriter than Canadian, this weekend- long festival brought many inspired and inspiring songwriters and performers to the area, and will also be missed. The demise was due to poor attendance despite great critical acclaim.
So, the moral of the story is, I guess - "Hold On To What You've Got"! These fine events could disappear at any time, for any number of reasons. Get out and support the Black Walnut Folk Club (October 21) and the Mill Race sessions (first and third Saturdays at Ernies, second and fourth Sunday at the Kiwi), and the Song Circle, and the Crooked Penny Sessions, and all the rest. See the "complete" list at the Grand River Folk Community website.
Closing Notes - jc
# Rise Up Singing, that bastion of folk songs, has released a couple of new editions. The songs are the same, but the spiral-bound 2004 release has been retypeset to make it easier to read, and includes corrections. The 2005 edition is a larger format, 9x12" spiral bound book. At 20% bigger, it is called "the song leader's edition", but "large print edition" seems more appropriate! While it may be good for old and tired eyes, the always careful Sing Out! web site is quick to point out that it is "not intended for the blind or sight impaired".
The interesting part is that these are available directly from Sing Out! for a very hefty discount. That's how I got my first copies of Rise Up Singing, and it's still a good thing. In quantities of 30, the 2004 edition is available for about $14 US per copy, including shipping and handling (is there duty?). The "large print" edition doesn't have such a "case rate", but if we order more than 6 the price would be about $24 US.
If there is enough interest we can put together an order. Let me know.
# Cara Luft, is the one that left the Wailin' Jennies just before their album won a Juno this year. She was also one of the most fun teachers at Celtic College in 2004! So when I heard she was coming to The Boathouse last month I really wanted to go. After hearing "Bring 'Em All In" at song circle - a song that Cara and the rest of the Jennies taught us in Goderich - the seed was planted. I spent 3 days singing that wonderful song in my head, and had to go hear Cara for therapy.
I walked up to the Boathouse door a couple of minutes after 9 on September 27, to hear "Bring 'em all in, bring 'em all in, bring 'em all in to your heart" reaching out from the stage. Cara had just started, and for the next 2 hours (she took a "wee break" halfway through) she entertained us with almost entirely original songs plus stories, from her two albums and the Jennie's disc. While the song that brought me there is NOT one of hers, she is a very fine songwriter, not to mention a very, very good guitar player. Her playing - both acoustic and electric - was something to watch. She even played the banjo on one song.
The audience - which included Tannis Slimmon, Lewis Mellville, and Poor Charlie - thoroughly enjoyed the show, and Cara is sure to be making a return to KW sometime in the near future. Thanks to the Boathouse for bringing Cara Luft to the city. Thanks to Charlie for the fries.
# Two new Song Circles have started up thanks to a couple of Old Chestnuts. Wayne Cheater has started one on the third Sunday afternoon of the month, at St. Mathias Church in Guelph, and Deb Smith has launched one in Goderich on the second Saturday night. Both are similar in format to the Old Chestnuts. Talk to Wayne and Deb at the next OCSC, or the Pumkins concert.
About this newsletter..... It's on the Web at http://www.mgl.ca/~jhcole and available at Circles. Call 578- 6298 or write firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Great Chequegnat this year, and a belated thanks to everyone that helped out. Somehow it just seems to get more and more wonderful. Construction started a week or two later - July 4 - and is still going on. But at least we are no longer woken up at 7 AM every day! YAY! Bring your voices to B&M's place, and DO NOT MISS the Pumkins on the 29th! Tell your friends too - we still have more than half the tickets to sell!! Like the pumpkin colour? :-) Next concert is in the works for the spring......