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]
While some open stages welcome anyone who wants to play, there are some that are by invitation, often as a spin-off of an open stage venue. When Callisto was invited to a “Best of the Open Stage” night at the Free Times Café we were looking forward to returning to the great food and ambiance but also anticipating some great music and new music connections.
On arrival, we were somewhat deflated to find the two other acts for the evening had canceled. Having traveled an hour and a half to get there (and our food already ordered), we weren’t about to go home. We looked at the evening that stretched out ahead of us and decided it would be more fun with some company. Using the various electronic gizmos at our disposal, by the time we had finished eating we had arranged some fine company, indeed. Rachael Cardiello , James Burrow and Andy Cragg (aka Runaway Brides) decided to forego a band rehearsal and join us. They invited friends Kate (accordion) and Rich (clarinet) to add their sound and Victoria Dobbs rounded it out with her original (and cover) tunes on ukulele. Add a few friends and family who answered the last minute call and we went from deflated to delighted. Thanks to the spontaneity and support of everyone who came for a fantastic night! [Photos courtesy of Tricia Brubacher]
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]
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!