After my first experience of Wordfest at the Elora Centre for the Arts I couldn’t wait for it to come around again. Combining poetry, story-telling and performance art, this event, hosted by Donna McCaw, celebrates the spoken word. Personal and poignant to rib tickling cleverness, each performer brought their own voice, their own style to the room.
Like any open mic, one of the fun aspects of Wordfest is that you don’t know whom you’ll be listening to until you are seated in the the old classroom waiting for the words – an adventure I highly recommend. With poetry and other writing for sale, you can take some of the evening home with you to revisit at your leisure.
[Wordfest, Elora Centre for the Arts, 75 Melville Street, Elora, twice/year, $6 cover, doors open @ 7 pm]
Of all the performers that take the stage I believe spoken word artists to be the bravest. No guitar to hide behind, no chorus to encourage the audience to tap their toes and sing along. Naked words conveyed directly from the poet to the listener.
Thursday night I attended Wordfest, a twice a year celebration of poetry and spoken word that has been happening in Elora since 2007. Hosted by writer Donna McCaw, the event attracted a wide range of ages and experience levels. From sentimental to intellectual, nervous neophyte to astonishingly great performers (thank you Harry from Caledon!), simple reading to multimedia presentation, there were many styles and personalities represented. While most read or performed their own work, some read from other authors.
I usually participate in the events I describe, a way of engaging in the adventure. But tonight I knew my place: in the audience. I tip my hat to the courage of the poet.
[Wordfest, Elora Centre for the Arts, 75 Melville Street, Elora, twice/year:
next event is April 2012; contact the Centre for more details]
I picked a perfect night to return to Monday Night Deliverance, this time accompanied by my daughter, Genny. The musical line-up was stellar: Ken Brown kicked the evening off followed by Douglas Watson. Spoken word from Alice was rounded out by Ken’s improv guitar. The lovely and talented Alysha Brillinger brought some polished and high energy covers accompanied by her Dad on bass. Hosts Christen Zuch and Michael Downing kept the show moving and contributed their own sounds: some original tunes from Christen and a sweet rendition of Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat by Mike. The closer for the evening was cellist and high tech aficionado Nick Storring using computer generated loops and effects to create a sound all his own. How nice to happen upon an evening of such great music!
This gathering has picked up momentum since I last visited (May 2011). There are now two nights a week dedicated to open mic music and spoken word. This fall Kristen is hosting a songwriting competition called “Beans Got Talent”. Prizes include a songwriting session with Ian Smith and 10 hours of studio time. Contact Wendy Hearn for details (firstname.lastname@example.org) – register by September 14th.
[Monday Night Deliverance, Little Bean Coffee Bar, 417 King St W, Kitchener, Mondays and Wednesdays 8:30 – midnight]
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]