Old Chestnuts Song Circle Newsletter

October 1997

September Song Circle Jack Cole

The first Circle of the new season was unlike any before. For starters we had 39 people squeezed into our living room (some on cushions making a centre row) and another 4 who took a look at the crowd and headed home. We had a record number of first timers (at least 16) and of "young members" (5) and 11 folks who drove more than an hour to be here. And we only made it around the Circle once! "Welcome" and "Welcome back" to all! The songs were great, from Brent Titcombe to open and Stan Rogers to close….and what was that hambone thing John did? Thanks to everyone, and especially the helpers and the marvelous treat bringers!

Much of the "blame" for the large crowd can be laid at the feet of Robin Laing, who was visiting from Scotland as a guest performer. After break Robin treated us to more than an hour of fine songs, both traditional and original. Robin catered to his audience, making sure that every song had a sing-along part. There were a few devoted to Scotch whiskey from his latest CD (The Angels' Share), a couple from Walking in Time (reviewed here recently), lots of Scottish history and a few to make us laugh. Robin's voice (even though it was suffering) is a treat, and he enjoyed a comfortable and well warmed up audience. A grand opening for a new year!

The next Circle will be on October 25. It's time to get back to themes, I think. In Kitchener, October is renown for "festing". So let's have sing-along songs about celebrations, parades, fairs, festivals, polkas (and other civilized dances) and so on. Please remember that songs on theme are not required, only suggested.

Bill Gallaher & Harmony Road: The House Concert James Morgan

There are, I think, two kinds of performers. One stands on stage as if to say "Look at me, see what a fantastic musician I am, what great music I write." The other seems to say, "Here's a gift of music and story for you." The former is mostly Ego. The latter puts himself behind the music so that the music is foremost. Bill Gallaher and Harmony Road is of the second kind. What the listener attends to is the music. This is not to say that they are not first rate musicians because they are certainly superb. But their performing abilities always serve to present the listener with the music and the story.

Anyone not familiar with Gallaher's work should hear The Last Battle, his first CD (to which Jack Cole has given his highest rating) or Across The Divide. There's not a weak song on either. Those attending the house concert on August 29th were treated to songs from both. I had a front row seat and could see their set list. My first reaction was, "They're only doing seven songs!" What I couldn't have known was that Bill would give us the stories behind the story in the song.

Gallaher believes that we have much to learn from history, whether that is the capital "H" history of public events such as the Riel Rebellion or the small "h" history of private events. There was little of the "cute" stage banter performers often engage in between songs. Rather, we learned more about the sources which inspired Gallaher's writing. Hearing this rich detail, learning of context surrounding the song, took us into the heart of the music and made the evening unique and very special.

While Gallaher's style of presentation allowed the audience to get closer to the heart of his music, the style of the Coles' house concerts allowed us to get closer to the performers. The warm informality of the setting, the wonderful goodies provided at break, and the availability of the performers for personal conversation, brought us into closer contact with one of Canada's finest groups: Bill Gallaher & Harmony Road.

If you haven't yet attended a house concert at the Coles' put getting a ticket on the top of your priorities. And you had best act quickly. The next one may already be selling out!

[ Cathy Byberg has also written a review of this concert, that was posted to the Northwest Passage list. ]

Trilogy: Two Thousand Years of Christmas

No introduction to this marvelous show should be needed for readers of this newsletter. Trilogy rode into Kitchener last year on a rainy Tuesday night, and by the time they were done had worked a Christmas miracle on the 270 lucky folks in Zion United's Round Room. They sang songs, they spun tales, they explained our Christmas traditions. Everyone I spoke to after that show expressed one thought: "Will they be back next year?". Even Robert Reid, veteran arts reviewer for The Record wrote that he hoped Trilogy would make Kitchener a regular stop on their annual Christmas tour.

Well, believe it or not, the feeling was mutual. Trilogy offered us first pick of their concert dates in Ontario, and so this year we have them on Saturday, December 6. Tickets are already on sale from me (578-6298) or at Readers' Ink Bookshop on University Ave. in Waterloo. But an important part of last year's success was you, the Old Chestnuts Song Circle members. So I'm asking again for volunteers to take posters and a book of tickets and 'share' them with your friends, family and co-workers. We also need another volunteer or two to help before, during and after the show. And door prizes are always welcome. So if you can help with any of these things, please give me a call. Let's help work another Christmas miracle!

News About Recordings Jack Cole

Some short notes about recordings by a number of friends of the OCSC…. Bill Gallaher is sending me a couple of copies of his albums, and I have a few copies of Eileen McGann's Heritage. If you are interested in purchasing these fantastic disks please call. Eve Goldberg is pre-selling her next recording with some creative packages, including one that offers a house concert - watch for more info here, or call me for a flyer. Modabo has written to say that The Many and The One is in manufacture, and we will be seeing it soon; your vouchers are still worth way more than your Bre-X stock! Trust me.

Cathy Miller: The House Concert Beverlie Robertson

House concerts are fast becoming one of the most favoured ways to hear acoustic music live - favoured by both performing artists and audiences alike. On Friday evening, September 12th, a capacity audience shared a very special treat. Once again, Jack and Lori Cole opened their home for a concert by the charming, gifted singer/songwriter Cathy Miller. Those who may be unaware of her solo activities will certainly have seen and heard her perform in "2000 Years of Christmas" with Eileen McGann and David K as a member of Trilogy.

The evening began with Jack singing, playing and encouraging us to sing with him. As fearless leader [Editor's note: 'fearless' is hardly the right word !] of the Old Chestnuts Song Circle, Jack was in fine voice, especially when he sang David Wiffen's More Often Than Not. Debbie Battaglia and Jack Cooper each gave us a sampler of their own fine compositions. Cooper's Gypsy Lady is already a favourite in the Waterloo region.

Cathy Miller is a singer with a warm, melodious voice and is also an accomplished guitarist. She performed two sets of wonderful songs, occasionally calling on husband, John Bunge, a former member of the Yellowknife group "The Gumboots" to join her. She began by regaling us with anecdotes of life as a folkie, including the advancing age of some audiences. This led into a wonderful jazzy tune called "Swingeezers" in honour of a group of young-at-heart musicians in Alberta. We were invited to sing with her, and sing we did whenever there was the least excuse.

Miller is involved in an interesting project with a photographer who has published a book of photographs of coal miners and mining life. She was and is inspired to write songs about these people, and treated us to some of this new material. The songs ranged from tales of legendary characters to songs of unbearable tragedy and heartbreak. Among other offerings I especially loved hearing "Dance Beneath the Moon" - what incurable romantic can resist that song? A highlight of the evening was "Christmas in the Trenches", a song about World War I enemies sharing precious time together before returning to the horror of war. Lovers of traditional singing were delighted by Cathy & John singing a capella. Especially touching was her own version of "Irene Goodnight" written in honour of her mother, and her father's years with his beloved Irene. "Superwoman" was wildly received by all, especially the women in the crowd. We were unwilling to let her finish & she gave us the tongue-twisting "Proper Copper Coffee Pot" as an encore.

At break we all enjoyed delicious munchies courtesy of friends and M&M Meat Shops. The best coffee in town was supplied by Latte on the Loose. And beautiful door prizes from Lori, Cathy Miller and Cathy Byberg. Thanks to all!

Perhaps the best description of the evening was supplied by Jack Cole himself. "Just before the concert, I was exhausted & wondering why I was doing this. Now I remember & can't believe that it's over already!" We know too, and thank Jack and Lori for bringing us the charm, humour and fine music of Cathy Miller.

Some Events in The Area

About this newsletter..... It's emailed if I have your address. It's 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. Out of room for my intended Celtic College story - next month for sure! Articles are always needed and welcome - please try your hand at a concert, festival or record review.

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