May 9th - July 23rd 2003
Friday May 9
A night with the Orchestra
The Blue Skies Orchestras (Fiddle, Beginner and Celtic Heritage) were
in fine fettle at the Perth High School. Myself not being a fiddle
player, am impressed with anyone who can get a sustained, pleasing
sound out of a violin. The sound was pleasing indeed. It has been over
a year since I sat in with them and they can now play Wade Butler’s
Bus Lines (a fiddle tune I wrote for the tune Newfoundland Paradise
on Shirt Pay) at the recorded tempo. Next time they are going to want
to go faster, and it’s going to be me who has to play catch up.
Kirk decided to keep the number of instruments to a minimum for his
portion of the show so the audience only got the Brittany Pipes, a
re-tuned fiddle, a medieval violin, a concert violin, mandolin/harmonica
combo, and his prodigious bass playing talents. Too bad, otherwise
they might have seen just how versatile he can be. Note the Kirk and
Magoo workstation in the photo. A place for everything and everything
in its place, we always say. I played a couple of tunes and we grabbed
the Orchestra leader (Carolyn Stewart) and had her play music without
thinking about organising/conducting/fundraising/bookeeping etc. Lots
of fun and Bon Voyage as the orchestra sets sails for Cape Breton.
Tuesday May 13
Invasion of the Food Snatchers
More music exchange, only this time we changed direction and turned
towards the west. Two of our kids are participating in a Band Exchange
with EP Scarlett High School in Calgary. The west landed here tonight
and we were given 3 teen feeders to hang at our house for a week.
Monday May 19
Six days with 6 teenagers. Food was consumed, endless conversation,
one or two card games, and some pretty good music. Our new friends
from Calgary were busy touring and playing. The band is very good and
took the opportunity in Toronto to do music clinics at U of T and Humber
College. There was a concert on Wednesday night that featured both
schools in their regular band/choir formats and various integrated
combos. Oh those young people today, with their crazy clothes and that
wild music they listen to. Why back in my day we wore sensible clothes
and sported smart haircuts... Speaking of which, five of us geezer
types, including Dax Andrews the music teacher from Calgary managed
to creak onto the stage and play through a version of Summertime for
all to see and hear.
Calgary leaves today, the respite is not long. On Thursday Sutton
High School goes west and they have hornswoggled and labelled me as
a responsible chaperone to peregrinate with them (good word huh? It’s
a new one on me but it popped up in the thesaurus so what the hey).
Thursday May 22
43 teenagers, 5 responsible adults, 43 instrument cases, a complete
drum kit, a mountain of suitcases, stirred and shaken on a Westjet
for 3 or four hours pointed west, will get the parade to Calgary. Pretty
much painlessly to everyone’s effort and credit. Here’s
University of Calgary...a great clinic for the band.
Heritage Park...the Wainwright Hotel at the park has the exact same
tin ceiling that we have in our home in Udora. Hands across the continent,
or at least a mail order tin ceiling across the continent a hundred
Mountains... Still there.
Ice Fields... The sun shone, which it hasn’t done a lot of lately,
the Monster Snow Coach Bus run was a new one on me, and the glacier
was spectacular. Of course in the mountains everything is spectacular.
I try to check myself from thinking ‘Ya Ya , there’s another
spectacular vista, pass the chips’. Lake Louise still looks like
the old ten dollar bill.
My Hosts...Graham and Carolyn Sewell were gracious hosts. Most hospitable,
a pastoral view of the Bow River valley tossed into the accommodation.
They toured me about the Turner Valley/ Longview/ High River neck of
the woods on our day off, I’ve never been down that way. I was
ready to run home for my boots and trick rope gear. The next day we
did a little trail riding near Banff, and I needed those boots.
Hot Springs...rejuvenating, and everything went a little slow motion
after 20 minutes or so.
Sulphur Mountain Gondola... It was just like the old gondola at the
Ex. You know the one that went from the Food Building over to near
the Better Living Centre with the Mountain scenes painted near the
gate as you got on, except it was longer and steeper and greener and
the mountains weren’t painted and I couldn’t see the Gardiner
Expressway, maybe because those Mountains were in the way, and instead
of the Sea Breeze Motel near the lake they had the Banff Springs Hotel.
We drove around it, but it costs 5 bucks a head if you unload your
bus there for photo ops. I don’t think it costs 5 bucks a head
at the Seaview. I yodelled my way to the top, and it was beautiful.
Concert Day...A mad day of rehearsal and roadie work for the show on
Tuesday night. Both bands and choirs in all their incarnations played
very well. There were poignant moments. This was the last show many
of them would be doing before graduating. It was very cool hanging
out with a group of music room keeners.
Day... Ever since Kirk and I released We Are the Dinosaurs, we have
had young friends come up to us at shows and say something like ‘Did
you know that the Veloceraptor didn’t exist in the Jurassic Period?’,
or some such other factoid, followed by , ‘ Last summer I viewed
the evidence at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller Alberta when
we went there on holidays. Have you ever been there?’. To which
I have had to answer, ‘No my young friend, I have not had the
pleasure.’ Well no longer I say, for I have indeed been to the
Museum. We saw Dinos and plants and all the evidence and toured about
the badlands, another corner of Alberta I had never been to. Roaaaarrrr!
Boot Scootin’ fun...It might not have been pretty, but I was
the last ‘Adult’ standing in the line dancing contest at
Spruce Meadows for the wind up Barbeque. I had no boots (no room) so
it was sandals and satin shirt, it’s a new fashion trend that
all the cowboys will soon be sporting.
Home...We made it back in about the same number of pieces that we
left in. Thanks to our new friends in Calgary, thanks to Doug Robertson
the Sutton Music teacher who got the ball rolling on the whole trip,
and the young people who took it easy on the geezers.
Sunday May 31
Welcome to the new ‘Greenroom’ at Eaglewood. A riser,
a curtain, a light grid and Neil Numanen at the PA controls and whammo,
you’ve got a performance space that Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney
would be happy to hoof across. Doug McArthur has put together a great
new playing space, and a bunch of us from the Greater or Lesser Pefferlaw
area took it for a test drive. Organised by Outdoor Ed Winnacott we
had Jen Ives and Don’t Panic from the North, Blain Fullbrook
from the West, Naffin and Wright from the East, Doug McArthur, Kevin
Fullbrook and Ed from the Central and Me and Edith Hawkins from the
Southern reaches of the Greater and Lesser Pefferlaw folk music catchment
basin or as it is known to municipal bureaucrats and tax collectors,
the G&LPFMCB. A full house, fine music and a new space.
Mount up for Mount Albert
We begin at 9:00pm with the bicycle dress
up Parade. A well decorated bunch this year, and nobody blew out a
training wheel or crashed into another costumed competitor. The decision
was a tough one but the judges came to the conclusion that everyone
deserved a medal.
Next up, at 10:30 the main
parade. It was a good opportunity to try out the rope spinning I have
been working on since I got the Lariat and ‘how to’ book
for my birthday. Spinning in Cowboy gear on rollerblades, with a side
order of juggling is a recommended activity, especially fresh back
from the west! Watch that the rope stays out of the wheel’s path.
I can’t really do much more than a flat spin at this point, although
I am getting the hang of a vertical spin. It’s ‘The Wedding
Ring’, and of course the Butterfly that we are working towards.
If anyone is interested, do a google search for a guy named Carey Bunks,
he produced a downloadable book that explains in scientific detail
the physics and how to of Trick Roping. It is a whole world, like Ukuleles
or yo yos or pogo sticks or unicycling.
11:30 it’s time to do a show at the Mount
Albert Grand Stand, or as it is otherwise known, the flatbed stage
with bleachers. Superb sound by the one and only Richard Horbatiuk,
our old buddy. He accompanied Kirk and I on a couple of tours, and
not only ran the big rig sound, he played bass for us while mixing
sound. It was always fun to watch people in the audience looking for
a bass pedal, or tape machine when it was the guy at the back of the
room sitting behind the board. He brought his instrument along today,
so I was once again accompanied by the mystery bass man.
Walter Scott Public School
A very keen group of K’s. They wanted
to sing, they clapped along, they listened and laughed and made like
a great audience. Thank you, thankyouverymuch, I’ve left the
Actually just call it Flowers Day. The garden speaks for itself.
Samuel Cunard and Co.This is good one about serendipity and small worlds
and confluence of purpose. I think the first gig was four years ago.
I get a call from the Port of Halifax Authority (yikes, is there
something from my Halifax past and days at sea coming back to bite
me?) No they somehow got my name as a professional ‘Animateur’ and
are looking for just the right fellow to portray the late great Samuel
Cunard, Haligonian and founder of the famed Cunard Shipping Line
at a reception in Toronto sponsored by the Port of Halifax.
Well says I, “Of course, Samuel Cunard has been part of my repertoire
for many a year, why I remember well the maiden crossing of 1839 aboard
the Britannia, 14 days 8 hours Liverpool, Halifax to Boston. It was
steam that steered us into the future, a railroad at sea and I was
quick to form the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet
Company”. It goes on from there.
So I get hired, go to Malabars in Toronto and get a great ‘Empire’ era
costume (as Kirk says “where did men’s fashion go wrong,
they really knew how put the wardrobe together”), and show up
at the Old Mill ready to be Samuel Cunard. So who is there as the fiddler
for the gig? Kirk, along with October Brown (great player/writer/singer,
google up her website), and who is there shooting it for the Port Authority?,
Donna Griffith, professional photographer, partner of Kirk. Each of
us was hired separately without consultation, we didn’t know
who would be there or who else was hired. It’s like they went
to some cosmic phone book and said, ‘right then, lets see....photographer...
Griffith, fiddler ...Elliott, animateur ....Magooman, that should do
Anyway it has been good fun, this was the third year we have
done it. I strut about as Samuel, Kirk and October play jiggs, reels
(I joined them for the last set for a little value added bonus to
the client this time) and Donna shoots it all. The highlight for
the invitees is the 24 boxes of Nova Scotia Smoked Salmon that get
away as door prizes. If you are reading the next edition of the Port
of Halifax magazine, look for Samuel Cunard and the smiling faces
of 24 smoked salmon winners.
Harbourfront Centre’s cup ranneth
over with good cheer, music, and that human mosaic, not melting pot,
sociologists and human study experts like to attach to Canada. I hosted
the CIBC Stage (it used to be the Molson Stage), and got to work with
Ian Harper again. He did the sound and recording for Kirk and I when
we shot the Kirk and Magoo video concert at the Uxbridge Music Hall.
There’s good reason that Cap’n Andrews has him driving
the big rig at front of house on the big stage...he’s good. Pamela
Morgan, Le Vent Du Nord, that musical conflagration from Peterborough
The Silverhearts, Serena Ryder and Gian Ghomeshi all took to the stage
for a very festive day of music. The band Flapjack and Ian Bell and
his Dawnbreakers were on the other stage and all in fine musical fettle.
I really liked the crowd. A diverse slice of what we are. From the
Maritimers among the many other fans of Pamela’s, to the Persian
fans among the many others of Gian’s and everyone in between.
All ages, from casual onlookers to keen fans. It was a crowd of Canadians
(someone asked how many Americans were in the house...not many...it
got a laugh) and there was this ...smile...a smile that seemed to permeate
the day. As a matter of fact I will be so bold as to call the gathering
not a bunch or a flock or a group, but a Smile of Canadians on that
day. My Flag tattoo has yet to wear off.
Sudbury July 4,5,6
It has been 5 years since I last played the Northern Lights Festival
Boreal. It was the first big time festival event that went for my little
homemade tape in 1979. They treat you right in Sudbury, feed you well,
provide musical opportunity, introduce you to new friends and then
let it all ferment for three days and nights.
I did Derek Armstrong’s CKLU Radio program Friday night just
as the festival was getting underway. Hey, he reads the news in the
Muse-ic Room, so we had lots to talk about, I sang a thing or two,
and before we knew it the show was done and we were at the site. Saturday Valdy, Chuck Roberts and I did a session called Road Warriors.
From our own sensitive songwritings to car crash classics, Born to
Be Wild to The Happy Wanderer, nobody got hurt.
Made it to dinner chez Robert Dickson, mon frere in Sudbury who I am
proud to say won the Governor General’s Literary Award this year
for French Poetry. Not bad for an Anglophone who grew up in Erin Ontario.
The GG (that’s what we in the know call it) is quite cool. Hand
bound in leather, each one unique, by a venerable bookbinder near Ottawa.
As for the musical ferment, I met new friends from North Bay. Peter
Cliche is a rather competent fiddle/guitar/mando/harp/whistle kind
of guy, known for his sideman capabilities. This time he came with
his brother and another guitar player John McDonald as his own band,
and I’m now a fan. We’ll see those lads soon I hope.
Alan Piggins is a songwriter I didn’t
know from a fencepost, and we got tossed together to “be funny” in
a workshop.It always feels kind of funny being told to be funny on
the spot. He had the wherewithal to drag Darlene into the proceedings.
No blood was spilled, friends were made, I even tested out the rope
spinning on them while Darlene gave them a side order of hoops. We
sang songs, there were shenanigans, we were funny, festival mission
Speaking of Darlene she received
the Jackie Washington Award. Local gal done good, way to go. And speaking
of Jackie Washington, may I say Ladies and Gentlemen the Good Doctor
is in. Jack is Back. He has had a bumpy medical ride over the past
couple of years, and last fall was thinking that was
about it for his playing
days. No, Jack say it ain’t so! But things turned around this
winter. I think since McMaster University bestowed a Doctorate upon
him this spring he has a knack for this doctoring stuff and he is his
own best patient.
Aside from playing officially at many different
stages over the weekend, he was holding court and playing when I cashed
in on Friday night at 1:30 am. He was moving over to the piano when
I called it quits at 3:30 on Saturday night and was still singing and
playing (better than ever...yes indeedy) at 2:45 am Monday morning.
Not bad for an 84 year young fellow. Doctor, Doctor, get me on the
Back in 1997 when I last was at Northern Lights, I had some van trouble.
It was made better because the amazing Mc Taggarts who are the festival
volunteer standard by which all others are measured fixed me up. This
year Cam McTaggart presented me with a Celtic amulet of pin cherry
that he carved. It is beautiful and I wear it with great pride. Thanks
you guys. This is me and the family about to drive around the site.
The garden club judges are coming on Sunday. We have been weeding
to prove worthy.
Saturday July 12
Beautiful Ingersoll Ontario.
Actually it was overcast and had been raining, but Ingersoll is still
a scenic town, the crowds were the biggest yet as this new little festival
steadily grows, and everyone had a smile on their face. My mother used
to call Ingersoll ‘the hub of the earth’, because as a
young girl her parents would take the kids there from Toronto to visit
uncles and aunts and cousins, and they were all very keen on the town.
I think there is a family connection to Laura Secord as well through
Ingersoll, but I have yet to get nipped by the geneological bug and
follow the trail. I have friends who are up to their eyeballs in census/graveyard/library/family
bible documentation and the winding pathways and obsessions they create.
Anyway Ted Comisky and his dedicated committee have put together a
great little one day festival. The main drag is shut down, the merchants
decorate up their windows, there is music in the new gazebo, rides
and old cars and clowns and all that good stuff is featured downtown.
Just a short walk to the park brings you to the main event. Big old
trees, a gentle stream, lots of food, a kid’s stage, mainstage,
two workshop stages and a beer tent make for a place to celebrate
a venerable town in the middle of July.
Google up Canterbury Folk
Festival, and you’ll find out all about
it. As a matter of fact dial up the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals
(ocff.ca) and you’ll get the lowdown on the whole Ontario Festival
Workshops were good fun, some great fiddling, Valdy, Alex Sinclair
and I had a grand time with ‘Songs that made a difference’.The
mainstage goes early at 4:30 with a march in by the award winning Ingersoll
Pipe Band, a few words from the Mayor, then we’re off. The crowd
is all ages, and I get to penalty kill while the crew sets the stage
for each act. No need to go on and on, though, Mike and his crew at
Armour Sound know their stuff. I love doing that, messing about out
front and getting to know the locals. I gave them a taste of rope spinning,
a wail on the uke, and some straight up singing of the song, it all
worked I even got the kilt out.
Great music from everyone who performed
till just after 11:00pm.
Way to go Ted! Thanks for the fun. Oh yes it’s all free. Donations
Sunday July 13
Down the road to the world famous McMichael Gallery, don’t you
know. Through the efforts of Christine Lynette, the gallery has been
doing live music for families every month. I came to sing some songs
about Canada. You get to play in a most beautiful sqared log, huge
fireplace, art all over the place space.(I think it is called the Founders
Room) It is a wonderful room to play in. This time there was cause
for extra celebration. They wanted to cut the ribbon to the new play
area for the kids outside and thought a parade would be a good idea.
I thought that was a good idea too, so we revved up the kids and off
we went through the gallery and out through the trees to the new sandbox.
I love a parade. The official opening was conducted with great pomp
and ceremony, and piles of sand.
I had never been though galleries 8 &9. There is a collection of
Inuit art there right now that is truly magnificent, enhanced by these
two beautiful rooms. Go there. The McMichael Gallery Kleinburg ON.
The Tilly Hatted Garden Club judges came
poking through the garden Sunday morning. We have not heard from them
since. Oh well, in my humble opinion, Patricia has done a superemium
job on the gardens and I give it two minutes for looking so good.
Back home Sunday evening and me and the girls zipped up to Cottage country
for 3 days with our pal Red and Kaitlin.
Patricia and Woody joined us Monday along with our good buddy Art
and his two lads. Me and Art and Red have rendevouzed here on and off
since 1965. It is an Isle of Respite in the turbulent seas of life. Aahhhh.
Now ain't that just like the group of Seven.
Thursday July 17
Back on the road. This time to the Listowel Agricultural Fair. I had
never played in Listowel. I had never been to Listowel. I was at the
beautiful new library (the beautiful old library, redone and added
on to), on the open Plaza that now sits on the side of the building.
Piles of kids and parents, blazing sun, imminent storms that didn’t
happen, happy people to play for. I like that. Go Listowel Go. See
Wednesday July 23
So now we prepare for the event of the summer. It is soon time to
travel to Blue Skies. This will be the 27th trip along hwy 7 during
the end of July. Heck we’d done it 8 times before any kids arrived,
now they can drive us. It is the 30th anniversary his year. Big doin’s,
a special commissioned musical offering, lots of effort, plenty of
care and ten days in the bush... there will be a report.