So here you are in the Muse-ic Room. Just whack the handle on the pump lamp for a little more light, I’ve got a seat over there by the stack of amps for those of you who like to rock, there’s other chairs around here somewhere. Watch out, don’t trip over the patch cords, or Woody’s drum kit, yes indeed that is a 1965 Kent two pick-up Strat hanging on the wall, and it still sounds pretty good. This is where my students come for lessons, where I play and do some recording on the latest gear 1987 had to offer (I dump it to mini disc and can burn it now on the computer out in the office at KBM World Headquarters, I’m sort of on the backside of the cutting edge), and I write stuff. I like to write. Music, words, lyrics, lots of things, and I have had a hankering to set up one of these pages where I get to update a few things right from here. Gigs, adventures, thoughts, and the photographic evidence to go along with it. That’s another techno-innovation around here, a little digital camera that has proved to be a bunch of fun.
Now, not every day is filled with whizz bang adventure and glamourous fun, although if you are a mechanic or a roofer you would be up to your eyeballs in a kind of glamour. Today the truck needs a muffler and the flat roof out back needs a little tar. Those important issues aside however, there are some things I want to tell folks about, and I feel bold enough to assume that there are those who would like to read on. So listen in, read up, drop by again sometime, let me know what you think. Oh yes, turn off the amp, hang up the guitar and give the old pump lamp a crank off before you go. Thanks
Tomorrow, April 25, at Epsom Public School, we are going to debut the World Premier of Jason and the Argonauts...The Musical. I have had the pleasure of working this winter with a really great school and have helped them write the music for a most dramatic play. It has been a bunch of fun and Friday will see me in the ‘pit’ (musical director, band, vocal coach, cheerleader, roadie) unveiling this brand new score. Each class wrote one of the tunes, put together some great choreography and we are ready go. Ohhh, I’m feeling the opening day jitters. And what to wear to a premier? I think it might be basic black with a sparkle or two. I’ll let you know.
Saturday April 26, I am off to the Festival of the Maples in Perth Ontario. Yes it’s Hip! Hip! Hip! for the Drip! Drip! Drip! As it boils and boils so steamy hot! It has been a long winter, and I look forward to playing music again on the street.
Sunday it’s time to get on the executive duds and head up the line to Hopetown for a Blue Skies meeting.
More on all of that later.
What I am really interested in talking about today, as we set out a few more chairs here in the Muse-ic Room, is to talk a little bit about last week’s adventure when I joined Mike Stevens, Tracy Harrison and David Anderson for an amazing trip to a place called Mishkeegogamang. There’s plenty to tell, and I plan to do just that in the coming weeks, but for now here’s my immediate download.
April 24, 2003
How do you say ‘Mishkeegogamang’?
A little more than a week ago I was bungling my way through the pronunciation, as we drove north on Highway 599, from Ignace, in Northwestern Ontario. Three days later I could say it with much more verbal dexterity. Three days later seemed like it had been a lot longer than three days that I had been practising.
We were under the expert ‘fly by the seat of yer pants, if one thing doesn’t work we’ll try another’ guidance system that the fearless founder of Arts Can Circle, the King of Harps, the Poobah of Optimism, the Duke of Manuka himself, Mike Stevens, utilizes at all times. It is a bold technique.
We played music, made puppets, drew pictures, danced around the room, juggled up a storm, played road hockey, made one heck of a mess (we cleaned up), unleashed regularly a rip roaring racket, manufactured a sporty 4X4 and launched (in the immortal words of Washboard Hank at Blue Skies) ‘The Finest Parade... Ever!’ And that is just what jumps out of the top of my head.
Mike was last here in the fall of 2002 with musician Chris McKhool and had established Arts Can Circle as the real deal. He comes back. In Mishkeegogamang we did most of the work in the school and were treated to work in one of the most beautiful schools that I have ever seen. It is colourful, functional, has the best cafeteria imaginable (a log Tipi resting on a circle of upright 10' log posts) and it sits on the edge of a lake.
In doing the work in the school we were also privileged to be in the community for a short but effervescent time. We were honoured by the trust that was given to us by the band, the school and it’s truly amazing staff, the radio station ( Theodore, the coolest on air host, engineer, DJ, studio designer, news man, talk show guy I have ever met), and the kids for letting us hang out with them.
Mike, myself, Tracy Harrison, an artist, educator, and photographer and David Anderson, theatre director, puppet maker and musician went for the multi-disciplinary, multi tasking whole loaf, lets bring em’ a bunch of art and keep things busy for a few days approach. Busy it was.
When you go north with the Duke of Manuka (that’s Mr Stevens, there’s a story to the moniker, it’s part of the fun we had) you don’t know where you are staying, you don’t know exactly how you will be received (these communities usually have a lot more on their plates than waiting around for earnest artistes to show up), food and sleep might be taken on the run, and the weather is always at the least, interesting. But none of that matters. The point is to get music/art/creative thinking, something a kid can grab on to... get it out there so they get a chance to make it their own. If you have to do that late at night, or in the bush, or at the store, or at a house, then that’s where you take it. Make a difference for a moment or an hour and come back. Come back that week, come back the next time, return with more ideas more art and more enthusiasm. Keep doing it. It’s about going as fast as you can in your head with as many things as you’ve got in your hand keeping time to the beat of your heart. We made stuff up, then we made stuff up with the stuff we made up, and the kids made stuff up with all of that. It was a noisy, chaotic, happy, sad, up and down, exhilarating, real adventure.
Mike and I set up musical shop with a large number of instruments that have been donated to the school in the Library and Tracy and David arranged paint, paper, tape, glue, cardboard, and banner material next door. For two days we moved the classes (K-8) through both areas. Puppets were created, banners and flags made, instruments tuned, de-tuned, juggling bags juggled, songs sung and marching steps practised. When the grade 7 & 8's thought they had enough art, it was time to take our intentions onto the floor hockey court in the gym. It was a wild match sports fans. Everyone gave it 110%, there was no tomorrow, one for the record books, we dug deep, you need to put the puck in the net if you want to get on the scoreboard, I missed a penalty shot (great save). Energy is raw material in abundance in Mishkeegogamang.
On the morning of the 3rd day we marshalled up the school in the gym. Little ones first, with their colourful flags and banners, next came the puppet people dancing high over their heads, followed by row upon row of tooters, whistles, honkers, crashers and bangers, announcing the arrival of the Big Green Hummer. A spectacular 4X4 that had to do a 2 wheeled drift in order to get through the doorways.
We marched and laughed and sang and followed along as David led us with a stirring rendition of ‘The Saints’ on a bright red Stomach Steinway. We circled up in a courtyard, proudly holding our parade props, took pictures and laughed a lot. It was so much fun. It was such a privilege, and I am just beginning to think about it.
More to come.
Friday April 25
It was a splendid opening day. No need for bright lights, it was nice and sunny. No need for a big Broadway stage, the kindergarten classroom was cleared of all the tables. Dress rehearsal was conducted on the fly in each classroom and it was clear to this scribe and musical director that each class had worked carefully on their arrangements and were ready for the big show. The audience was eager with anticipation, the cast nervously pacing backstage.
In January, I had the pleasure of going to Epsom Public School (one of the coolest schools in the universe) and helping each class (K-6) write songs for a musical based on the story of Jason and the Argonauts. It is quite a tale. Heroes, villains, treachery, love, family squabbles, nautical adventure, fantastic creatures are all fine fodder for a song. In two days we came up with 5 songs that propelled the necessarily abridged version of the story (we didn’t have 9 hours to do a play) to a victorious big time ballad ending.
I dashed home and recorded
them on my very latest 1987 Tascam 246 four track machine. Note to
recording nerds... Now I dump the 4 track onto my son’s minidisc,
then saunter over to the PC here at KBM World Headquarters, load it
into the computer and mess about (fine tune, master, massage, make
like a producer) with the stereo mix and burn it onto disc. Man oh
man, pass the sunglasses.... So I burned copies of the songs and sent
them back to school for each class to work on. After 2 key change adjustments
(does that happen to Andrew Lloyd Webber?) , the classes worked on
the songs and moves.
Friday, we put it all together. We had a costumed Centaur, a fiery bull (note to Jacques Plant, here’s one more creative and practical use of a goalie mask), resplendent royalty, a golden fleece, a never sleeping dragon and a cast of hundreds. It was a great production. A sweeping epic brought to life right there on the stage in front of the coatracks, and everyone did a ‘get right in there and lets have some fun’, job. Way to go Epsom, you rock.
Saturday April 26
Yes it was ‘Hip Hip Hip for the Drip Drip Drip’ on the streets of beautiful historic Perth Ontario. Not quite ‘sunny days’ but lots of action on the streets, fun for the little gaffers and me too. Played ball with Elmer the Safety Elephant. Thanks to Mary Lambert for the use of her PA.
Have you ever had two of the four daughters of one of the guys you went to high school with and were best man for, show up in the back row of the bleachers at the gig? I have, and they stayed for the show and we had lunch afterwards, and a delightful visit. I am fortunate, such perks regularly manage to present themselves.
Sunday April 27
Blue Skies Meeting. All was well in Hopetown. Ate great food, used my Frizbee as a plate. Gave it a spin for the first time this season too.
It’s the first nice day in May (we need the rain), and I am
scrambling my brain to get a tune done for the Furry Folk Festival
at Hugh’s Room on Sunday night. There is good material running
around the house. Fender and Gibson (our guitars yes, but our dogs
too) are a couple I can think of off the bat. It should be a fun show,
with a bunch of us doing a couple of tunes, all to help out the Ontario
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Scratching my brain for a furry folk song to sing at the Furry Folk Festival at Hugh’s Room on Sunday night.
May 5, 2003
Way to go Danny Bakan and Tracy Harrison for organising the Furry Folk Festival last night at Hugh’s Room. It was woof woof woofin’ fun. My old buddy Norm Hacking who just put out a new record all about cats (produced by Kirk Elliott) was on stage with us, and had in hand a great new guitar. (the builders name slips my mind, but I will get it and update later).
The cool thing about it is that the sides and back are made of skid wood, you know, pallets, the things that fill warehouse back lots and tractor trailers and are used to keep 45 gallon drums burning away on the picket line. I think that the folks at Taylor Guitars in the US did this on a bet or something a couple of years ago, anyway this one looks pretty neat, almost spalted in appearance, plays really well and sounds good to boot.
So we had a fine time singing our songs about animals (Holmes Hooke mentioned 62 in one bit of verbal dexterity...he can go on), in Folk Festival workshop singaround style, playing along with a fine house band, and listening to some pretty hip poetry. The SPCA got helped out and Jack the Dog got valuable experience co-hosting and looking pretty sharp in his Danny Bakan T-shirt.
Wednesday May 7
We just had the pleasure of hosting a honeymoon couple.
Ken Brown, charter member of the International Ken Brown Association, member in good standing of ‘The Kens’ ( I have this band in my head called The Kens...you have to be a Ken to play, I know a bunch of Kens who do...I ken the Kens as they say in Scotland, and I could even be in the band, ‘cause I’m a Ken), fellow Past President of the OCFF, (there was an OCFF before the mighty Warren Robinson and the human dynamo Erin Benjamin were unleashed on the unsuspecting folk world of Ontario), fine player, producer, insightful folky commentator (back to you up at the board, Ken), and newly installed List-Mom on Maplepost, and Julia Phillips, a long standing, multi-tasking Blue Skies organisational, consensus oriented pal and medal winning 5k runner, just got married. It was lovely. Now they are spending a week celebrating hither thither and yon across the countryside. Last night, the love train, the travelling bouquet and Carlos the dog pulled into the Udora Station for the Tuesday night special. That means spaghetti, 2 kinds of deluxe sauce, Clara’s garlic bread, the indelible company of three ravenous teens, the determined efforts of Fender and Gibson (the dogs) working cleanup and doing the meet and greet boogaloo with their new friend Carlos, serenaded by the incomparable musical stylings of Mer-Lin the cockatiel.
Oh it was delicious, and fun, and congratulations to our friends.
Thursday May 8
Getting ready to get Mr Elliott, (the Kirk part of Kirk and Magoo), and zoom to Perth for a very prestigious concert. We have been invited to play with the Blue Skies Fiddle Orchestra on Friday night May 9, showtime 7:30 at the Perth High School.
Wow, two gigs in Perth in two weeks, it reminds me of the days playing at the Perth Hotel, when I heard tell of a picnic/festival called Blue Skies on this guitar maker guy’s farm somewhere up the line (that is for sure another story).
Blue Skies, the music festival, formed Blue Skies in the Community (BSITC), a number of years ago to help bring Arts activities to the Frontenac, Lanark county areas throughout the year (known to us in bureau-bumble-speak as the Blue Skies Catchment Area/Basin). Artists in the schools, songwriting workshops, coffee house nights, even a summer camp for a week as of last year, are the sorts of things that BSITC has helped to fund. About 3 years ago Carolyn Stewart, fiddler, fiddle teacher, Blue Skies organiser, past Artistic Director and BSITC sparkplug, decided that it would be a good thing to bring back a fiddle tradition to the North Frontenac region, so she founded The Blue Skies Fiddle Orchestra. Literally from scratch she found instruments, a rehearsal space, enough interested citizens and the time to put together a beginner level string orchestra. Right from the beginning it has been a remarkable success, her efforts reflect just how successful. The orchestra, (all ages) gets together at the Sharbot Lake Hall every Saturday and now have an impressive repertoire that has renewed a tradition that almost had disappeared from the area. The program is so successful that the original orchestra is now too advanced for beginners, so Carolyn has formed a Beginner Orchestra. Of course that isn’t enough for her to do either and her interest in the Celtic side of things has hatched the Celtic Heritage Orchestra as well.
The Fiddle Orchestra plays Kirk’s ‘Blue Skies Waltz’ and my own ‘Wade Butler’s Bus Lines’. We will be joining the now seasoned players onstage in a concert that is the last in a number of fund raising events and performances that they have been organising all winter for...get this...the trip to Cape Breton. Yes the Blue Skies Fiddle Orchestra is taking their show to the east coast. A newly revived South End of the Ottawa Valley Ontario tradition is going to the heart of the Cape Breton tradition for a little ‘Tradin’ of the Traditions! They will take in some classes and workshops, perform, get an eyeful of the east coast and maybe get some new friends interested in coming our way for a visit sometime. Now that’s the folk process, and they are going to have an amazing time.
So the Kernel (that’s Kirk, it’s a story not unlike the ‘Duke of Manuka’, only this one goes back a long way), and I are off to our concert date. We must look sharp, play sharp, be the sharp fellows our hype tells us we are, it’s a date with the Orchestra you know. I’ll post photographic evidence.
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