Tag: sharing music (Page 1 of 3)

Sharing Music During a Pandemic

So, it’s been a while since my last post. Since March, the places and events where we share music have been closed, postponed, cancelled.  It has been such a hard time for touring musicians and venue owners, and also for their patrons. And yet, many of us are finding ways to share music.

I have watched some great live stream concerts with virtual tip jars. I’ve participated in an on-line song circle – not exactly a jam since only one of us plays at a time, but still nice to have conversations and see familiar faces. To celebrate Hillside Festival , we watched pre-recorded videos of some wonderful performances and then had a small number of people – nicely distanced – around a campfire. Coming up next weekend is Play Music on the Porch Day – I envision people playing music from their balconies, front steps, driveways, and filling their neighbourhoods with music. (Visit http://www.playmusicontheporchday.com/ to learn more or to add your location to the music map)

It is clear to me that, even though current times has made it difficult to gather, live music is as important as ever:

The ability of music to lift spirits in times of uncertainty and grief.

The role of music in amplifying the call for human rights and solidarity.

The social interactions that are created and nurtured by making music together.

To quote songwriter and performer Alysha Brilla: “All these shut downs have confirmed the sneaking suspicion I’ve had my whole life that gathering together with music, dance and celebration are one of the best parts of the human experience.”

What can we do to help our musical community weather this storm? If you have stayed employed through the pandemic and have the means, consider making a donation to your favourite arts organization or festival. Support a musician by purchasing their music or buying a ticket to a virtual concert. Check in with someone you would have normally seen at a jam or song circle, share a story or maybe a song they are working on. Share your music whenever you can.

How have you been keeping your musical connections alive? Share ideas, links, upcoming events in the comments.

Review – The World in Six Songs (Daniel J. Levitin)

The World in Six Songs by Daniel J. Levitin (author of Your Brain on Music) seemed like a gimmick, categorizing music into 6 boxes to show its influence on human evolution and culture. But I got past this premise to see the book as a vehicle for exploring the role of music in our lives – individually, socially and historically.

Levitin groups music in the functional categories of: Friendship, Joy, Comfort, Knowledge, Religion, and Love. His supporting evidence for the importance of music in human culture is heavy on evolutionary biology and biochemistry. How did music become a part of every know human culture? The ability to create and/or appreciate music gives a survival advantage; for example, the ability to act in a unified way when battle is imminent, the sharing/memorizing of important knowledge without written language, or (more obviously) the ability to attract allies and mates. The experience of engaging in music stimulates the release of various neurchemicals that make us feel good (dopamine) and facilitate bonding (oxytocin). Levitin uses everything from hymns to punk  rock, from national anthems to lullabies, as examples of how music is linked to human endeavours.

I found that Levitin’s arguments were rambling, with a good dose of name-dropping. The six categories overlapped and some of the examples used were stretched to make them fit the chapter heading.  In the end, Levitin does not make a convincing case that  music’s role in human culture can be captured in those limited categories. But – maybe because it resonated with many of my beliefs about music – I enjoyed the discussion of music as catalyst for social bonding and sense of well-being.

[The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature, Daniel J. Levitin (2008) Viking Canada, Toronto]


Street pianos, Guelph ON

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!]

Venue: The Elora Acoustic Café – One Year Anniversary

It has been a successful first year for the Elora Acoustic Café thanks to host and organizer, Steve Royall, sound man Rob Morris, the many volunteers who set up, take care of the door and clear everything away at the end of the night (Dale, Judy, Irena, Owen, just to name a few). Thanks to the many musicians that came out to share their songs on the open stage – there were regular tentative newcomers, unexpected gems and regulars that you could count on from month to month. Another major part of EAC’s success is the support from friends, family, neighbours and music lovers who have come out to listen – thanks to all of you!

The March 2011 open stage featured: Steve Royall, Julie Corey, David Wilcox, Donna McCaw, Ian Reid, Peter Mandic, Owen and Dave Hamilton, Pam Davies (with Rein Rutnik, Nick Gush and Pete Pascetta), Trish Brubacher, Peter Balka, and Mary Vandermarel.

Ashley Condon & Ria Mae provided us with this month’s feature set, visiting us from the east coast. These performers captivated Elora crowd, singing heartfelt songs of growing, changing, and relationship angst. They seemed to like us, too, saying they want to move here!

To keep abreast of upcoming open stages and feature performers, visit the Elora Acoustic Café on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Elora-Acoustic-Cafe/130838053633520 There is more great music ahead!

[Elora Acoustic Café at the Elora Centre for the Arts, 75 Melville St, Elora, once/month, usually 2nd Friday but check FB page first]

House concert: Chris MacLean

Our second house concert was resounding success. Award winning songwriter, Chris MacLean, delighted us with her stories, lyrics and music. The after-concert jam was positively celestial as several of Chris’s singer-friends joined voices to create divine harmonies – another perk of hosting a house concert. Wonderful music attracts wonderful musicians!

To learn more about Chris and her music visit: http://www.chrismaclean.com/

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