Month: October 2010

Venue: Sing Along with Sam & Jane

This weekend we checked out another kind of sing along – instead of being hosted in a private home, these sing alongs are held in Ashuré’s restaurant in Guelph. Sam Turton and Jane Lewis use their voices, a guitar and some occasional accordion to lead audience members in song.  Participation is encouraged by songbooks placed at tables along with slips of paper to make requests.  The songbooks cover a wide range of singable songs, from John Prine to the Beatles to U2.  Last night we had the pleasure of singing one of Sam’s originals and a “cameo” appearance of Trish Brubacher singing a Patsy Cline number.  With patrons scattered around the room, and Jane & Sam miked, there is less a feeling of singing as a group than singing along with Sam and Jane (which is, to be fair, the name of the event).  One solution:  bring a group to share a table and some harmonies.

The Guelph sing along has been going for three years and was a response people saying they wish they had a place to sing (other than the shower).  A year ago Jane & Sam started another sing along event in St. Catharines.

Sam & Jane’s website, All Together Now: Music for Everyone, has detailed information and resources on how good singing is for you.  To allow more people to reap the benefits of music, Jane & Sam host sing alongs in a variety of settings and promote workshops that help develop your inner musician (harmony singing, chord progressions, and a women’s choir are among the offerings).

[Ashuré’s has closed. Sing Along with Sam & Jane, Ashuré’s Restaurant, 259 Grange Road, Guelph, last Saturday of most months, 8-10 pm, no cover, tips welcomed]

Venue: Old Chestnuts Song Circle

Song circles are real examples of community music making, like a campfire or family sing along but with a broader invitation list.  Old Chestnuts has been meeting since 1995 to give people the opportunity to sing together.  Here, the merit of the song lies less in the performance than in the ability to get people to sing along.  This song circle is held in someone’s home, giving it the feel of a family gathering where you are the welcome guest.

This week the group was asked to come up with songs with women’s names in them.  There were many familiar folk tunes sung but participants also brought lyric sheets to teach new songs to the group.  If needed, there were Old Chestnuts binders full of lyrics and many “Rise up Singing” books around for reference.  In addition to guitars, fiddle, mandolin, banjo and whistle all added layers to the songs.  Songs could be humourous, tragic, old standards, contemporary or originals – the only rule is that they have to have some sing along component.

The host, Jack Cole, is a local champion of folk music.  He hosts a web page promoting the various places people come together to play music: Old Chestnuts also has a hand in organizing Folk Night at the Registry, an award winning series of concerts in Kitchener.

[Old Chestnuts, 4th Saturday of most months, Sept-May; call 519-578-6298 for location]

Competitive Song Writing?

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:  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.

The Sandbox – with Ken Brown & Jay Moore

Not ready for microphones, stages and crowds?  This may be the place for you.  “The Sandbox” is intimate, not intimidating – all acoustic and very relaxed, held in the community room of the First Unitarian Congregation of Waterloo (which is actually in Kitchener).

We (fellow jamchasers Pete & Trish & myself) were particularly interested in catching up with the hosts: Ken Brown and Jay Moore.  Ken & Jay invite people to share songs, laughter – and a cup of tea.  This week there were 6 players and up to 5 listeners over the course of the evening, and plenty of stories and conversations interspersed with music.

If you come to listen, Ken’s voice, accompanied by his own bass or guitar will keep you mesmerized while Jay’s original songs are engaging.  You are welcome to bring your voice, instrument, covers and compositions.  Don’t be surprised if you find your music enhanced by warm harmonies and brilliant bass lines.

[This venue is no longer hosting a song circle. The Sandbox, First Unitarian Congregation of Waterloo, 299 Sydney St W, Kitchener, Thursdays 8-11 pm]

Elora Acoustic Café – again!

Friday night I had the opportunity to play a feature set with my friends Trish & Pete at the Elora Acoustic Café.  Although I have already posted twice about this venue I just want to thank the open mic musicians and all the friends who came out to support us.  What a warm room to sing our harmonies to!  And we appreciate everyone who added their voices and kazoos to our finale.

Once again the Elora Centre for the Arts provided a beautiful venue for an evening of music.  Thanks to Steve Royall for inviting us and Rob Morris for the balanced sound – so important for three part harmonies.  And to those who were visiting for the first time, I hope you enjoyed yourselves enough to come back for more.  Rumour has it that Kevin Breit will be playing the feature set on Friday, November 12th.  You won’t want to miss it.