I’m always excited to see a new forum dedicated to songwriters. There are many places to share well-loved covers and old classics but not enough where original songwriting is celebrated and given the spotlight. Jay Moore has launched just such event in Waterloo: Songwriters’ Showcase at the Churchill Arms – or just “The Churchill” as it is referred to by owner Bob Ringwood. Bob is a fan of folks coming together to share music. The Churchill is also home to a Tuesday night open jam, Wednesday Celtic jam, Thursday Blues night, and karaoke on Friday.
The inaugural event was held October 16th and featured Sing Me a River and David Lum. Performers shared stories (including tales of life-changing Nashville trips) and inspiration behind their songs. Hosting the event on a Sunday is a welcome change for those whose workdays don’t allow for late weeknight events.
The Songwriters’ Showcase will continue every Sunday afternoon with 3 song sets followed by a half hour feature set. Contact Jay (firstname.lastname@example.org) in advance to request a spot on the performers’ list.
[Songwriters’ Showcase at The Churchill Arms, 355 Erb Street West, Waterloo; Sundays 2:30-5:00pm, licensed, no cover]
The “Sunday Kitchen Table Jam” has been happening at the Pick & Shovel in Cambridge for about 6 months. It is (mostly) acoustic, held in an area just off the main room of the bar so people can come and go but the music has less competition from TVs and conversations.
While I wouldn’t have initially pegged this place as a live music venue, the atmosphere is very friendly and casual. Musicians take turns choosing the songs, or fielding requests from bar patrons. It’s great if you bring along songs people can jam to as this is more a participatory than performance event. The afternoon I went had a definite classic rock theme to it. Usually hosted by Scott Rhodes, regulars Barb & Peter stepped into the role this week.
Be forewarned – the bar does not serve any food (unless you count a bag of chips or peanuts) so don’t make the same mistake I did of arriving hungry.
[The Pick & Shovel, 30 Water St S, Cambridge; every Sunday 3:00-7:00, no cover, licensed]
There seem to be a lot of neighbourhood porch parties springing up in my region (Hohner Avenue, Schneider Creek , Preston). Matching a porch host with a musical act, they are great from so many angles. If it is your neighbourhood, it is a great way to bring people out to mingle with each other. If you are from somewhere else, it is a fun way to explore a new part of town that you might otherwise never have known about and sample some live music. I’ve watched the Grand Porch Party (Kitchener) grow over the past five years – every year including a featured partner that raises consciousness about some social, artistic or environmental issue.
Last weekend my trio (Callisto) sang at the inaugural Junction Porchfest in Guelph. Weather didn’t keep away a small but appreciative audience. It was a nice atmosphere for residents (or nearby residents) to connect/reconnect, time for musicians to listen to other performers, and opportunities to sing along! I look forward to watching this event grow and build an annual following.
Now I just need to figure out how to get one started in Elora!
A new addition to Elora, Lost & Found Café has started off well with a Saturday night jam. The café has a warm ambiance and great acoustics, which suit the unplugged music being played.
In addition to providing a lovely sounding place to play & hear music, owners Amanda & Kayla prepare scrumptious food and drink (the carmelized pear and aged cheddar pannini was delicious).
The website doesn’t mention the jam but you can find current specials and other info on their FB page. Lost & Found Café is off the main street, tucked inside “The Mews”, just next door to the Gorge Cinema, and it is definitely worth looking for.
[Lost & Found Café, 45 West Mill Street, Elora; Saturday 7-11 pm; no cover]
While it has taken me a long time to finish this book, I have really enjoyed it. Reading How Music Works is like having a rich conversation with David Byrne about what music does for people and what people have done with music. Byrne describes the role of music, from earliest communication to ritual and religion to selling records, as an integral part of being human. For fans of his music, there are plenty of references to his creative journey, from busking alone to Talking Heads to making a building into a musical instrument.
“We don’t make music – it makes us. Which is maybe the point of this whole book.” (p.162)
Each chapter focuses on a different facet of music – the creative process, performance, collaboration, technology, business – drawing on diverse disciplines and musical traditions to show how much music is woven into our lives. In addition to discussing the gifts of the incredibly talented, the innovators and the birth of a “scene”, Byrne also talks about more mundane issues like funding and accessibility. Financial support can bolster an elite, conservative view of the arts or create meaningful social change in reducing barriers to participation.
“Music as social glue, as a self-empowering agent, is maybe more profound than how perfectly a specific song is composed or how immaculately tight a band is.” (p.314)
While the whole book is about connections, the last chapter brings it all together by linking musical intervals, mathematical ratios, architecture, neurology, dance and visual arts. There seems to be nothing that music doesn’t touch.
(My thanks to Tony for the gift of this book!)
[How Music Works, David Byrne; 2012, McSweeney’s, San Francisco]