The last time I was at the ANAF in Guelph it was for Jack Cooper’s Two Rivers Song Circle (which has now moved to Wednesday nights). The open mic has recently had a change of stewardship with Kent Smith stepping down and Trevor Hall taking over as host.
The night I visited there was an appetite for collaboration and there were both planned and impromptu shared performances – enabled, I’m sure by the welcoming and relaxed atmosphere. The room is unassuming but the sound surprisingly good. Variable turnout means you could be joining an intimate gathering or – on a busy night – you’d need to get there early if you want a spot to perform (7:30 sign up time).
One note about the location – it is easy to miss driving down Gordon Street. One entrance is around the back so turn off Gordon onto Fountain and again on Freshfield to find it.
A huge THANK YOU to Brad, Pete, Mo’, and Amy & Julie (of the Hazy Maidens) for letting me indulge my love of harmonizing. Sweet sounds!
[ANAF Open Mic, 32 Gordon Street, Guelph; Second Thursday of the month,8pm – 12am, no cover, licensed]
I paid a visit to this fledgling open mic at a new Guelph venue: Sapphire Café & Lounge.
Here is a description of owner Dino Busato’s vision for Sapphire: “Music has been Dino’s passion since he was a young kid. He dreamed of having his own club to host music in. Sapphire was born in June 2013 and the music just keeps getting better and better!” In addition to the live music presented other nights of the week Dino launched an open mic at the end of September 2014.
Hosted by Donny Sawchuk, the open mic runs 9 pm until closing on the second and fourth Saturday of each month. Songwriter Donny kicked off the evening with an original tune and added a few more between open mic participants. Sapphire is a relaxed, intimate venue where spontaneous musical collaboration is encouraged. The menu is unique and carefully prepared (avocado fries, homemade ice cream, individual thin crust pizza, fair trade organic coffee, intriguing cocktails).
[Sapphire Café & Lounge, 17 Macdonell Street, Guelph; 2nd & 4th Saturdays 9 pm – 1 am, no cover]
Having watched the Tuesday night open mic at the Magnolia Café fill to capacity, I wanted to visit the Wednesday expansion project. Our fearless leader, Ian Reid, was away, likely busy performing and introducing folks to his new CD: Delivered on Delhi Street . In his stead, Mo Kauffey was at the helm.
Wednesday night routine is slightly different than Tuesday: in addition to the open mic there is a feature performer. At the end of the evening, the following week’s feature is drawn from a hatful of hopefuls.
At my first visit, Chris Hierlihy, an unassuming, low key performer, gave us half an hour of engaging originals. Inspiration for songs ranged from extreme weather to the moons of Jupiter, with credit given to a 4 year old muse (aka his son).
Since Wednesday night isn’t as full as its predecessor, early performers got to play three songs instead of the usual two. So come out on a Wednesday night while there’s still elbow room.
[Magnolia Café, 88 Yarmouth Street, Guelph; Wednesdays 7 pm start, feature at 8:30; $2 cover – “pay or play”]
I have been to the Cornerstone Café for the popular and boisterous Cornerstone Campfire (last one of this season is April 20th) and was curious about the new open mic that has started on Monday nights.
Hosted by the sweet-voiced Patrick McCauley (think Paul Simon from S&G days), the open mic doesn’t yet draw the crowd that the campfires do.
Considering how much ambient noise there is to compete with (exuberant conversations, mostly) the patrons are appreciative of the live music coming their way and the sound quality is good. At one point we had a whole table waving their arms in the air to the slow rhythm of a Leonard Cohen classic.
Each act has time for 4 songs, although I imagine this might change as more musicians show up to play.
This venue brings Guelph a step closer to having a participatory music event every night of the week!
(Cornerstone Open Mic, Night 1 Wyndham St Guelph, every Monday 9pm, – 12am)
Pianos have a way of gathering people around them – and this summer those gatherings happened on the streets of downtown Guelph. As part of the “Happy Making Pianos” project, eight donated pianos were placed in downtown Guelph for anyone to play. Ian Findlay (Ward 2 councillor) started the project with one piano and then put a call out for others to be donated.
The idea of pianos in public places has been catching on. “Keys to the Streets” is the initiative that placed 4 pianos in Vancouver this summer. “Play Me I’m Yours” was started by Luke Jerram in 2008 and has seen 1000 pianos placed in over 41 cities around the world.
Street pianos have been credited with building community, improving people’s moods, bringing musicians out of the woodwork by giving access to instruments, and providing a public place for self-expression and shared music.
We took advantage of the last weekend the pianos would be on the streets of Guelph by gathering to do some singing with our fearless leader and pianist, Sue Smith. We got smiles from strangers, people joining in on the chorus, a toddler who climbed up on the piano bench to play along, and even an impromptu dance interpretation – happy making pianos, indeed.
The pianos are scheduled to be put into storage September 30th. Given their positive influence, what we will do when the pianos are gone? In the Ontarion, Jessica Avolio asks, and then answers, this question: “As residents of the community, we should seize the opportunity to create improvisational music on our own in the streets of Guelph, because as demonstrated by this project, the happiness is infectious.”
[Look for pianos on the streets of Guelph next summer!]