Looking for some music to chase away the midwinter chill? Want to let a hibernating song out to see its shadow? Southern Ontario has a lot to offer – here is just a sampling (including two uke events):
Brantford Open Stage – Friday, February 1st @ 8 pm – 19 Holiday Drive, Brantford; Admission $4 (performers free)
Hamilton Folk Club – Tuesday, February 12 @ 8 pm – The Pheasant Plucker, 20 Augusta Street, Hamilton; Admission $4 – This will also mark the club’s 31st birthday!
Uke Club #2, Saturday, February 23 @ 1:15 pm – Long & McQuade in Guelph, 30 Arrow Road; Admission $6
*NEW* Open Mic at the Magnolia Café, hosted by Ian Reid – Tuesday, February 12 @7-9 pm; Admission $2 for non-performers (“pay or play”) – 88 Yarmouth Street, Guelph
Corktown Uke Jam – While the Dominion on Queen boasts a weekly uke jam, Wednesday, February 13 @8-11 pm is a special N’Awlins Theme Nite, Kevin Fox as host; Admission $5 – 500 Queen Street East, Toronto
Random Acts of Music at Schinbein’s Studio in Mitchell – Country/folk open mic & jam on Saturdays (1-4:30 pm) and Blues open mic & jam on Thursdays (7-10 pm) – 117 St. Andrew Street, Mitchell
Tuesday night acoustic jam (7-11 pm) in Elora is alive and well at the Café Creperie (no cover) – 40 Mill Street West, Elora
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.”
This weekend (September 14-15), Hamilton transformed a long stretch of James Street North into a concert and street party venue. For a day and a half the street was closed to cars to allow thousands of music and art lovers to enjoy Supercrawl. The festival hosted dozens of musical acts on four stages and filled the neighbourhood with drama, dance and visual arts installations and performances. Organized busking stages collected money for Warchild, the charity Supercrawl chose to sponsor at this year’s event.
Also the creative and thought provoking installations here and there throughout the venue.
Part of the street entertainment was “unofficial” busking. One unfortunate result of buskers setting up too close to each other was that their sound competed and it was hard to enjoy either one. I liked this unscheduled and impromptu part of the festival but some better location planning or even a friendly agreement to take turns playing sets would have solved that minor irritation.
The breathtaking Circus Orange
To Supercrawl organizers, volunteers, artists and performers – congratulations for reclaiming some street space (even temporarily) for art and music.
What is the secret to longevity in an open stage? I thought a visit to the Hamilton Folk Club – in operation since 1982 – might shed some light of this. Every other Tuesday night, musicians bring their instruments and voices to the Pheasant Plucker, just off James Street South in Hamilton. Host (and founder) Al Lindsay makes everyone feel at home and keeps the evening moving smoothly.
Pete & I were slated to do the feature set following the open stage. The big advantage of this order of events is that we were able to hear a fine fiddle player who we then asked to join us on a few songs – thank you, Steve!
As we sang and I looked around the room I didn’t see anything extraordinary that explained how they celebrated their 30 year anniversary in February. I saw friendly people, good quality sound, a comfortable room, very much in keeping with many of the clubs we have visited. Then Pete sang his song “Tuesday Night at the Copper Kettle”, a tribute to the jam where we are now regulars. When he got to the chorus: “Come on down, there’s always room for more, just park the world outside the door. Friendship’s on the house and the music’s free” I saw faces light up. The words paint a place where people come to share music, make lasting friendships, encourage, support and inspire each other. The song is about another place, a different group of people, but I could see that the lyrics resonated with them, that they told a story of self-expression and community that was very familiar.
So – our thanks to Al and the Hamilton Folk Club organizing committee for creating and sustaining a place where people can gather to share music and so much more.
[Hamilton Folk Club, The Pheasant Plucker, 20 Augusta Street, Hamilton; every other Tuesday starting at 8 pm; $3 cover, performers free]
The neighbourhood of James Street North in downtown Hamilton seems like a place in transition. It is a mix of run down businesses, vacant, boarded up storefronts, and vibrant shops, cafés, art galleries and fine dining from a variety of cultures. Just off James St N is Artword Artbar, described as “an arts hub, live music venue, artists’ hang-out”. In this unassuming brick building there is an open mic every Wednesday night. Owners Ron Weihs and Judith Sandiford make it a welcoming, familiar feeling place even on the first visit. The open mic has existed in different forms for about a year, becoming a regular event about 4 months ago.
This particular night was sparsely attended – as people came and went the house peaked at about 12 people. Ron added his fiddle to more than one piece and Judith’s poetry had an improvised bass and guitar accompaniment. I should mention that the desire to “sit in” and collaborate in this crowd is strong and if you don’t want freelance musical partners adding unexpected dimensions to your songs you need to be direct. There is a lovely baby grand in the corner for any keys players and a sound system to plug into.
I think this little establishment deserves a larger audience – all genres of music and spoken word are welcome.
[Artword Artbar, 15 Colborne St, Hamilton, every Wednesday 8-11 pm]