I really appreciate the tips I have received from readers recommending musical happenings even if it takes me a while to make the trip. It took me 6 months to follow Greg Murdoch’s bluegrass tip but I’m really glad I did.
A couple of weeks ago I visited a gem of a jam hosted by the Waterloo-Wellington Bluegrass Music Association. This event (in its third year) has a unique layered structure that attracts very proficient, experienced musicians while providing space for emerging players.
In the first room I found with Pete (fellow jam seeker), the music I heard made me hide my guitar under a table. The group playing (a combination of instruments including guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, bass) seemed to be communicating using telepathy – the tempo, changes and breaks all happened seamlessly without anyone speaking – and they played fast! At the end of the song we learned that this was only one of several rooms where bluegrass jams were happening simultaneously. We declined their invitation to sit in and made our way to the “slow jam”, a room where various levels of musicians were working together to build their skills and work on songs. Here you can add some basic chords, lead a song or take an instrumental break based on your experience and comfort. There are songbooks to facilitate everyone’s participation. I was introduced to some bluegrass etiquette as to how to lead a song, allow for instrumental breaks and (ideally) all end together!
Activity tends to slow down with the summer months but Nancy Tellier said that there are usually 45- 50 musicians at the jam from September – June. Check the facebook page as some musicians will continue getting together over the summer.
This jam is welcoming, inclusive and motivating – a great place to hear some top notch bluegrass as well as expand your bluegrass repertoire.
[Waterloo-Wellington Bluegrass Jam, Galt Legion, 4 Veteran’s Way, Cambridge, Tuesdays 7-11 pm, September-June; slow jam from 7-8:30, no cover]
Needing an antidote to a weekend filled with minor sports and arena vibes I headed to Cambridge for the Mill Race Folk Club Singaround. The Singaround is just one branch of a thriving tree full of music events supported by the Mill Race Folk Society. Every August Cambridge draws thousands of guests to the Mill Race Festival of Traditional Folk Music. There is a concert series at Café 13 (up next is the Saturday Saints on February 24th) and English Music Sessions at the Golden Kiwi.
Although the Mill Race Folk Society is primarily interested in traditional folk music, the Saturday night Singaround welcomes any (acoustic) genres. Ballads, Beatles and blues all had their time in the spotlight with a few original compositions for good measure. Barry Cull was our host for the evening, a responsibility that has rotated through different members since the group began meeting in January 1994. The atmosphere is low key and relaxed. For more info about the Mill Race events and upcoming Singaround dates visit their website: http://www.millracefolksociety.com/
[Mill Race Folk Club Singaround, 4 Veteran’s Way, corner of Ainslie & Walnut, Cambridge; usually every other Saturday 8 – 11 pm, $3 cover]
I signed up for a songwriting competition. A crazy thing to do, really, for a couple of reasons. The first one: I play music with other people; nothing tops the great feeling of blending our styles and sounds to make something sound richer and sweeter. What an odd concept that I will be competing against other musicians, with somebody, at the end of the day, winning. The second and more deep-seated: I left music because of competition and the pressure of high expectations. I rediscovered music as something joyful, not attached to an adjudicator’s comments or audition result or exam mark, but something I do for fun. The main goal: fun. The primary outcome: fun. The lasting impression that stays with me for days after a session: fun.
So what would possess me to sign up for a songwriting competition? I think I am ready to venture out of my comfort zone of playing with and for familiar faces who support and applaud my creative attempts. (I say “I think” because I am not at all sure – I’ll confirm or denounce this theory after the experience is over.) I am curious to see if my lyrics resonate with strangers as well as with my family and musical friends who know me well. And – it’s a test. A test to see if the dreaded performance anxiety monster has been tamed or is lurking in the wilds of Waterloo Region waiting to pounce when I least expect it. We shall see. . .
If anyone feels compelled to launch themselves into this creative and educational endeavour, you can sign up for venues in Fergus, Waterloo and Cambridge – just one or all three (“triple play”). The competition starts January 2011, hosted by Robbie Hancock who also hosts the Tuesday night open mic at the University of Waterloo Grad House. There is an early bird rate if you register before October 28th so don’t delay. Details and registration forms can be found at: http://rjentertainment.ca/. And if you do sign up, let everyone know about it! Leave a comment at the bottom of the post – the place beside “Read the whole story” that says “no discussion yet” or “2 comments” or something similar.