It’s great to revisit an open mic to find it going strong years later. I was at Irene’s in Ottawa over 6 years ago on a lovely summer day. On a wintery February afternoon a couple of weeks ago it was even more lively and bustling than the first time I visited. Geoff Johnson is still multi-tasking as soundman, host, and musical collaborator. (Alternate Saturdays are hosted by Sean Tansey.)
Many different styles were represented and the music was steady all afternoon. A house piano and guitar make some musical spontaneity possible. Despite the busy-ness of the venue the audience was friendly and appreciative. If you don’t happen to be in the area on a Saturday, Irene has live music several other days of the week, including a women songwriters circle the third Monday each month.
[Irene’s Pub 885 Bank Street, Ottawa; Saturday 1:30 – 4:30; licensed. No cover]
Ottawa has a lot of open mics to choose from and a relative newcomer to the scene is Quinn’s Ale House. If you are looking for a laid back, small venue, Quinn’s has an open mic on Sunday night with local brews on tap. The pub has a relaxed candle-lit ambiance and no stage – just a mic set up in the corner in front an comfy chair. Brad Alford is a welcoming host who starts the evening off with a few tunes then opens it up to the room.
As a alternative to the usual sports events shown in pubs, one of the two TVs was showing vintage movies – with close captioning – so I could listen to live music while watching Doris Day and Rock Hudson spin a romantic comedy! I had to avert my eyes while singing so the plot didn’t distract me from the lyrics.
[Quinn’s, 1070 Bank Street, Ottawa; every Sunday, about 9-11 pm; no cover]
It is the time of year when we dust off our favourite Christmas themed songs, the ones we don’t sing the other 11 months of the year, and let them loose in public. Christmas carols have a way of creating impromptu ensembles out of neighbours and choristers out of usually reluctant singers.
If you are anywhere near Guelph, Hamilton, Cambridge, Kitchener, Toronto or Ottawa, here are some ideas of where to go to share in some seasonal and participatory music:
Sing along with Sam & Jane
Friday, December 14. 8-10 pm. *Holiday edition*
Magnolia Café 88 Yarmouth Street, Guelph
Reservations recommended, but not required: 519.766.4663
The usual singalong, plus a few holiday songs & carols!
Mill Race Folk Society presents Pub Carols with the Orange Peel Carollers.
“These carols are not the standard Christmas stock we hear piped into every mall; they are often more boisterous and secular in nature than the familiar fare. . .
If you would like to hear more, or better yet come out and sing along with the group, they invite you to join them at the Kiwi on Sunday, Dec. 16, from 3 P.m. to 6 P.M. Admission if Free, but donations for the carollers are welcome.”
First Open Stage Adventure road trip – song writing workshop at the Ottawa Folklore Centre followed by a visit to Irene’s Pub where I met up with my daughter. Genny and I were tickled by the friendly reception and positive feedback on the songs we sang. We had spotted a young man from our little village (before he spotted us) and I got a chuckle from how fast his head whipped around to face the stage when I mentioned where we were from – I thought he might have a case of whiplash! Small world. There were invitations to return, suggestions for other open stages to visit and shared perspectives on why people come to Irene’s. “If you want to get into playing music this is a place you can test it” said Ryszard. “Everyone is so appreciative, so forgiving – they love the live music” said Lesle-Ann. It is a place to leave behind your work week, collaborate with other musicians, relax with friends – and you never know when someone new might show up!
This Saturday afternoon open stage started out in 2000 and had different people running the show over the first few years. The current host, Geoff Johnson, who has been at the helm for the past 7-8 years, doubles as sound man and also contributes his own dynamic voice and energetic guitar several times throughout the afternoon.
The session is miked and is quite flexible about how many songs each person/ensemble plays (anywhere from 2-6). The event used to run from 3:00 to 6:00 but now has been extended by an hour (starting at 2:00) to accommodate the increasing number of people who want to participate. Musicians and listeners drifted in and out of the room which never seemed to fill up – probably because it was such a nice day and there is an adjoining outdoor courtyard.
Host Geoff & friends
To all the folks at Irene’s Pub in Ottawa, thanks for the warm welcome – we had a blast!
[Irene’s Pub, 88 Bank Street, Ottawa, every Saturday 2:00-6:00 pm]