Hillside Festival (in its 34th year) is my favourite event of the year – a weekend of fabulous food, music and community – and this year my contribution is to run a group singing workshop. So many benefits of singing together and such a fitting place to celebrate this.
Thank you to everyone who took a precious festival hour and shared it with us at the singing workshop. For those of you who attended the workshop (and maybe even those who didn’t), you might be interested in having some of the links and resources I mentioned. Here they are:
All Together Now – workshops, women’s choir, co-ed choir, women’s music weekend
Choir Nation – has drop in choir groups in Toronto, Niagara and Hamilton
Choir! Choir! Choir! – drop-in group singing that also does lots of performing (Clinton’s Tavern, Toronto)
Choir Place – helps you find a choir (international)
Sing Out – supports and promotes traditional and contemporary folk music
Research on the benefits of singing:
Singing & Health – research review
Singing Changes your Brain – article in Time magazine
The Neurochemistry of Music – Mona Lisa Chanda & Daniel Levitin
Looking for a place to share some ukulele joy? The Mighty Uke Club of Guelph has reconvened, Sunday evenings at the Red Papaya in Guelph. This is a relaxed group where you can join in as you like, lead a song (or not), learn some new uke chords and hear creative versions of music you’ve heard before – Guns & Roses, John Sebastien, Feist, Rolling Stones, and Leonard Cohen were just a few of the artists given a ukulele interpretation.
Hosted by our fearless leader, Kim Logue, the group is still sorting out how often it will meet so confirm on FB. Next meeting is Sunday, March 5th: https://www.facebook.com/events/1575065992511382/?active_tab=discussion
More good news for ukulele aficionados! There is a ukulele festival coming to Guelph this fall. The Royal City Uke Fest will offer workshops, group strums and a concert by the fabulous James Hill and Anne Janelle. Tickets for this September 30th event are already on sale.
[Mighty Uke Club, Red Papaya 55 Wyndham St N, Sundays 7-8:45 pm, no cover, licensed.]
I had the opportunity to visit a brand new acoustic jam in Orangeville. Nando, owner of the Orange Café, seemed to really enjoy the music and his son was the by far the youngest (and bravest) participant. Hosted by Mark Ostrowski, the format is that of a song circle: everybody gets a chance to lead and this moves around the circle evenly. Once a song gets going, people join in with harmonies, instrumental breaks, whatever the song calls for. There were plenty of proficient musicians there, making it a lot of fun.
The menu includes a fresh pasta bar and local brews on tap.
This was just the second time the group had come together. The plan is to have an acoustic jam the third Thursday of every month; check the Orangeville Live Music Scene website to confirm the next date. And – one good thing leads to another – I learned about an open mic that will be happening in Acton starting this spring/summer. Details to follow!
[Acoustic Song Circle, Orange Bistro, 20 Dawson Road, Orangeville; third Thursday of the month (usually); no cover]
The Moonshine Café is known for showcasing live music and for offering many opportunities to share music (acoustic open stage, dinner & jam, songwriter showcase). Once a month there is a uke circle and, being a uke aficionado, I had to check it out.
As opposed to an open mic or jam, the uke circle is more of a social event than one focussed on performance. The Flying Uke songbooks (I was immediately loaned a set) allow everyone to join in as they provide lyrics, chords and chord diagrams for any new chords players might encounter. This is a great place for beginners to challenge themselves to keep up with a group tempo.
Each person, whether playing or just singing, has a turn to choose the song, and signals to the group when they are ready to start with a few plinks on Charlotte, a toy piano. Charlotte makes her way around the circle so that it’s clear whose turn it is. This format makes the event very inclusive the and the group is relaxed and welcoming.
Host and facilitator, Monique of the Flying Ukes, had her work cut out for her as the enthusiasm of the group sometimes made it hard to rein them in, start together, play together, etc. But when we did come together we pulled off some fun ensemble work. “Another one for the bus!” was one response to a good sounding song. Attendance can range from 6-10 players to the 25-30 exuberant participants of this week. Usually on the first Sunday of the month, check the Flying Ukes FB page for schedule changes (like this month) due to events or long weekends. No cover but you are encouraged to buy a drink/snack as a thanks to the Moonshine Café for hosting the uke circle.
[Flying Ukes Night, Moonshine Café, 137 Kerr Street, Oakville; 1st Sunday of month (usually), 7-11 pm]
If you’ve been to a few jams or open mics you have experienced this: the person – usually unwittingly and often well primed with the establishment’s beverages – who sabotages the song. The person in question sings louder than the song leader, often changing the tempo, the lyrics, sometimes out of tune. Although it is usually non-malicious enthusiasm or the effects of too much “liquid courage” that leads to this behaviour it doesn’t change the fact that it is distracting and – frankly – rude.
How to manage this situation? The performer can gamely try to wrestle the song back into their own control by singing louder. A real pro somehow works a good natured comment into their banter like a stand up comic turning the joke around on a heckler. It takes a bold open stager to stop and ask to do the song without the added accompaniment, but this can put a real damper on the ambiance of the room and risk the label of “diva” being applied to the beleaguered performer.
Have you used or witnessed any elegant (or not-so-elegant) solutions to this situation? Please share your stories!