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!
In many ways this event has a very familiar format: an evening at the pub, 2-3 songs each, lots of variety. But there are some things that make this jam unique. Hosted by the award-winning student group Musicians at Ryerson (M@R), house instruments (guitar, ukulele, keyboard, bass, djembe) are provided to allow you to take part even if you don’t have an instrument. Despite having to compete with the background pub noise, there is a core group that is there to listen and especially to encourage any reticent or first-time participants.
In addition to the open mic, the M@R team has hosted free guitar and ukulele workshops , open outdoor jams, a darkness concert, battle of the bands and campus concerts. There is a directory to help students find musical collaborators. When a musician leaves home for university, they may be leaving behind their choir, their band or their friends they can count on for a jam. Affectionately called “Ryerson’s unofficial music program”, M@R has created a musical home away from home where people can connect through music.
Thank you to the M@R crew for sharing their talent and for making me feel so welcome!
[Ram in the Rye, 63 Gould Street, Wednesdays 8-11pm, no cover, licensed – Check FB page for updates]
Pianos have a way of gathering people around them – and this summer those gatherings happened on the streets of downtown Guelph. As part of the “Happy Making Pianos” project, eight donated pianos were placed in downtown Guelph for anyone to play. Ian Findlay (Ward 2 councillor) started the project with one piano and then put a call out for others to be donated.
The idea of pianos in public places has been catching on. “Keys to the Streets” is the initiative that placed 4 pianos in Vancouver this summer. “Play Me I’m Yours” was started by Luke Jerram in 2008 and has seen 1000 pianos placed in over 41 cities around the world.
Street pianos have been credited with building community, improving people’s moods, bringing musicians out of the woodwork by giving access to instruments, and providing a public place for self-expression and shared music.
We took advantage of the last weekend the pianos would be on the streets of Guelph by gathering to do some singing with our fearless leader and pianist, Sue Smith. We got smiles from strangers, people joining in on the chorus, a toddler who climbed up on the piano bench to play along, and even an impromptu dance interpretation – happy making pianos, indeed.
The pianos are scheduled to be put into storage September 30th. Given their positive influence, what we will do when the pianos are gone? In the Ontarion, Jessica Avolio asks, and then answers, this question: “As residents of the community, we should seize the opportunity to create improvisational music on our own in the streets of Guelph, because as demonstrated by this project, the happiness is infectious.”
[Look for pianos on the streets of Guelph next summer!]
As if by magic, the rain stayed away for two days of music and merriment at Evergreen Ranch. Musicians from the surrounding communities (Guelph, Milton, Elora, Rockwood, Elmira) provided over 14 hours of entertainment in idyllic country surroundings. There was delicious food to be had and lots of friendly people to relax with. The cherry on top was the campfire that kept the music going into the night. If you didn’t make it to Ark Fest, watch for Ark Coffee House events throughout the year (find them on FB). Thanks to the Loney family and all the volunteers who made it happen.
Here are glimpses of Ark Fest 2013:
[Ark Fest, June 29-30th 2013, Evergreen Ranch; $40 for a weekend pass]