This weekend I treated myself to a Beatles harmony workshop offered by Sam Turton in Guelph. I spent so many hours listening to the Beatles as a youngster that I feel their songs have colonized my DNA. Do I really have more to learn about this catalogue?
Apparently I do! As Sam deconstructed the oh-so-familiar harmonies and shared his enthusiasm for Beatles song craft, I heard things in a different way and was able to notice subtle details that make the songs so memorable and their style so unique. And then, the best part of all, we got to sing. I found myself gravitating to George’s part on most songs – who knew?
There are more workshops coming up February 12th, March 12th and April 9th. Get in touch with Sam for details: http://www.samturton.com/contact.html
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!
After Guelph’s Magnolia Café closed – and along with it, the Magnolia open mic – I was wondering if another event might spring up that would welcome the Tuesday night regulars. In addition to the charming Ian Reid hosting and the wonderful Arvi & staff supplying delicious food, the group itself had grown into a community and the Tuesday night gatherings were sorely missed.
Enter the Joint Café – a new venue with a new vibe – but full of folks from the Magnolia Tuesday night crowd along with some new faces. The Joint Café provides treats for your eyes as well as your ears and palate. The art displayed changes about every 6 weeks (and is for sale).
Hosted by Andy Hughes, this open mic has a familiar format: sign up as you arrive, 3 songs per performer but, if the roster is a full one, as the evening goes on the songs may be down to two or even one song per performer to allow more people to play. The sound system was acting up the night I visited so everyone played acoustic sets. This meant the performers stepped forward a little and the listeners gathered closer – worked out just fine.
As it is a new event, check the café’s FB page to confirm that it’s a go for music on a given night.
Thanks Andy and the Joint Café for creating a space for shared music!
[The Joint Café, 43 Cork Street, Guelph; Tuesday 7-10pm; no cover; licensed]
Up until this week I have stayed away from the songwriting groups that some of my musical friends frequent. My justification: I generally work on a song until I am happy with it and once I’m happy with it, I don’t want well-meaning suggestions about how to change it. It would be like suggesting another name for my child. And if I’m not happy with it, why would I perform it for others when it is clearly not ready?
I think participating in the SAC songwriting challenge shifted this mindset. First – instead of songs that came from a very intimate place of experience and emotion, the songs were assignments. “Write this style of song, with this tone, for this audience, for this voice.” That made it easier to step back from songwriting and look at it as a craft, not just a vehicle for personal expression. Second – writing a song a week for six weeks did not leave me time to edit lyrics or improve the song structure as much as was needed. So, I was left with six songs that need attention. (Actually just five – I wrote one that I like just the way it is.)
Prepared with a song in just the right state (not too rough, but not a fait accompli) I set off for the SAC regional writers group in Guelph with a few copies of lyrics. The group (facilitated by Peter Light) seemed a good size; large enough for some variety, small enough for every songwriter to be heard. After each song was played we went around the circle and heard feedback from every person. Sometimes listeners contradicted each other with their advice, other times there was agreement about what did or didn’t work in the song.
I liked the feedback I received. Most of the suggestions were great and I could see how even small changes could improve the song. One big surprise: almost every person wanted my poignant little uke song about heartache and loneliness to have a happy ending. There was one other female songwriter in the group – she and I were the only ones who wanted to preserve the longing, unresolved theme. Different target audience? Or did the ukulele bring out the romantic in those men?
I found this to be a great learning experience. To search for a SAC regional writers group in your area visit http://songwriters.ca/regionalgroups.aspx I would suggest it particularly to musicians who tend to write alone. You never know, an exercise like this could be a gateway experience to co-writing!
[SAC Guelph Regional Writers Group, West End Rec Centre in the Parkwood Gardens Community Room, 21 Imperial Road South, Guelph; 2nd Wednesday of the month, 7-9pm]
Oh the music was sweet at the Magnolia Café in Guelph. But the occasion, not so. March 31st marked the last open mic at the Magnolia Café and the last day the Café would be open for business. Host extraordinare, Ian Reid, shared some stats on the many performers who have passed through the doors since the inaugural open mic in February 2013 and thanked his stand-in hosts for covering the dates he was on tour (Dan Pharaoh, Mo Kauffey, Greg Denton). The usual 7-9pm event stretched to 11:00 to allow time for the almost 30 performers (beating the record of 26). Every seat was taken and there was barely room left to stand.
Instruments were well represented: Ian’s blue guitar (as well as others), banjo, ukulele, fiddle, washboard, harmonica, mandolin, a gusli (in case you were wondering what George was playing – a kind of psaltery), and a strange hybrid horn (looked like part brass, part garden hose); plus some brave a cappella performers. Ian fulfilled both host and soundman duties, as usual.
I enjoyed my last Green Goddess bowl – such a treat! Arvi’s sumptuous food will still be available from her catering business. And we can follow Ian’s musical adventures here.
The question of the evening was: will this gathering resurface in another location? It has a loyal following and there seems to be an appetite for a “listening room”, one where all ages and genres are welcome. Several people mentioned in their thanks to Ian and Arvi that the Magnolia is not just about the music; there is a real sense of community that brings regulars back and draws newcomers in. Some folks have been inspired by this gathering to start playing and performing (see Rob’s story here).
I was happy to be at the first Magnolia open mic and thoroughly enjoyed the last. Thank you Ian & Arvi for creating this music-friendly space. I hope to be writing about its reincarnation sometime in the future.