Tag: sing alongs (Page 2 of 2)

Venue: Corktown Ukulele Jam, Toronto

I visited the Corktown Ukulele Jam at the urging of uke playing musical friends.  Although the event is just approaching its 2nd anniversary it has a devoted following that results in 60-70 uke players coming together every Wednesday night at the Dominion on Queen.

The evening starts with a one hour workshop, led by Steve McNie, co-founder of the Corktown Uke Jam.  Steve is an intense taskmaster and does not tolerate any chatting or “noodling” while he is leading the group through the strumming patterns and chord changes of a new song.  He reminded me of a strict high school teacher who had had a bit too much coffee and not enough sleep the night before.  But the room of ukulele devotees takes the scolding in stride – the overall ambiance is friendly and laid back, lots of regulars but newcomers are welcome.

There is a break for people to order food, drinks and socialize (desperately needed after being on our best behaviour for Steve!).  Next is an open mic – for which you are encouraged to sign up ahead of time on-line (http://www.torontoukes.com/).  This part of the evening is usually hosted by David Newland, the other co-founder of the Corktown Uke Jam.  Other instruments may make an appearance in a supportive role (there is a regular stand up bass player and Steve provided Edith Piaf accents with his accordion) but the uke takes centre stage.  After a few performances, the evening continues with selections from the Jambook: words and chords projected on the screen, a volunteer to lead, and a room full of ukuleles and voices brings it to life.

One regular attendee is Heather Katz, owner of Broadway Music in Orangeville.  She’ll often arrive with uke accessories, music books, and could even bring along a uke for you to try if you get in touch ahead of time.  This week she gave us a beautiful performance of “Imagine” to honour the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death.


Come early to get a seat as the place often fills up – besides, that will give you time to eat supper there, and the food is good.  I’ll leave you with the benediction said by all participants at the end of the evening, ukes held over their hearts:

On earth we strive for earthly things

And suffer sorrows daily.

In heaven, choirs of angels sing

While we play ukulele.

[Corktown Ukulele Jam, Dominion on Queen, 500 Queen St E, Toronto, every Wednesday 8-11 pm]

Venue: Marie’s Crisis, New York, NY

Since the last couple of posts have been about sing alongs, allow me to circle back to the spring of this year when I had the opportunity to experience a unique kind of sing along on a trip to New York.  We arrived at Marie’s Crisis (a bar in “West Village”) early evening and the place was nearly empty.  My first impression was that it was pretty unremarkable and I was wondering why my cousin (host of the finest kind) would have singled it out as a place to visit on our very short stay.  Then at 6:00 a pianist arrived and a gaggle of people gathered around.  A small light shone on pages of sheet music in the otherwise dim bar and our very proficient accompanist led patrons in singing one show tune after another with flair and enthusiasm.  It was plain very early on that this wasn’t your average group of drunken singers letting loose.  The voices were strong and rich and blending harmonies as if it were a choir rehearsal.  I learned that many professionals frequent Marie’s Crisis and if it sounded as though the person beside me wouldn’t have been out of place in a Broadway musical, it was probably true.

As someone who has no trouble suspending disbelief when an actor breaks off their conversation to burst into song and who thinks that musicals are expressions of joy and exuberance, I was in my element.  Belting out songs from A Chorus Line or West Side Story is immensely therapeutic – and the singers at Marie’s Crisis were not holding back.  So – if you are in the Big Apple and want an authentic New York experience I highly recommend this venue.

[Marie’s Crisis, 59 Grove St Avenue S, between 7th Ave & Bleeker, New York, NY]

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]

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