Michelle and I did something last Saturday night that we don’t do very often. We went out!
Woo hoo! Look at us … going out on a date!
We went to a concert in the village near us. It was a wonderful trio of women called “Trent Severn.” (http://trentsevernband.ca/) The concert was sponsored by the Tamworth and Erinsville Community Development Committee that Michelle and I are active in. Mark and Barb do a fantastic job of getting amazing groups to come and play in our village, which is pretty remarkable given the size of our village.
I think that one of the reasons we’ve been lucky at having such great musicians come to our little village is that it is harder for musicians to make money via recording contracts and selling CDs. So they have to get out and perform. When you play a gig, you get paid. Maybe it’s also that we’re a good stopping place if they’re playing Ottawa and Toronto. Why not play in Tamworth on the way through?
The concerts are held at the local Legion Hall which sounds, well, pretty small town. But Mark says that the musicians who have played hear love the “acoustics” and “sight lines” of our Legion. I think they also like how ‘responsive’ our small town audience can be. Not in a rowdy, drunken kind of way. The venue is small enough that everyone can see the performers and the performers can see us!
(Michelle and I have now seen two female folk music trios there, the previous being “The Good Lovelies.” http://www.goodlovelies.com/site/)
These exceptionally talented singer/songwriter/musicians all tend to play multiple instruments, so as they change instruments between songs they like to tell stories about where the songs come from. Which gives them lots of time for banter. And humor. And it just makes it a very up close and personal kind of experience.
Tamworth is very fortunate to have a number of great retail businesses for a village of 700 or so people. We have a bank, a grocery store, a liquor store, a pharmacy, a bakery, several restaurants and of course, my favorite … a hardware store. So when Emm Gryner commented between songs that she was at the hardware store that afternoon, I obviously had to make sure it was in fact THE Tamworth Pro Hardware, which it was. My night was made. Em Gryner shops at the same hardware store I do! She also later thanked the woman who works in our liquor store for ‘carding’ her, which I assumed meant asking for her I.D. to ensure she was of legal drinking age. Only in Tamworth!
I must admit I really love the vocalizations of a female trio. I have several Waylin’ Jennings CDs. On Saturday night Emm Gryner played a bass ukulele which was very cool, as well as guitar. Laura C. Bates played the fiddle and produced sounds I’d never heard from one before. She was the first violinist to receive a Bachelor in Jazz and Contemporary Music from Humber College, but when she plays folk music, it seems more like a fiddle. Dayna Manning played guitar and periodically switched to a banjo, and I just love banjo.
Trent Severn is a very Canadian band. They sing songs about their experience of living in Canada, and this really improves their connection with the audience. They sang about Highway 400 that Michelle and I used to drive to escape the Greater Toronto area to cottage country in the North. It’s always nice to be reminded that we no longer have to escape where we live. We live in the kind of place that city dwellers escape to on the weekends. They sang about a discovery of a burial pit in the Yukon from the Clovis people I believe they are called, the first people to come across the Bering Straight land bridge via Alaska to North America. They did only one cover song and that was a Gordon Lightfoot song they had performed at a show last year in his honor. You can’t get more Canadian than Gordon Lightfoot.
There is something unique about live music. I’m sure it goes back many generations to what we did around campfires at night. Although they were all ‘acoustic’ instruments they all had electric pickups and when I looked at the lights and buttons and the Mac computer and other equipment of their sound engineer, we have come a long way in terms of the sounds we can produce and the music we can make. In one of the songs I was sure I heard a tambourine but all six of their arms were occupied so I couldn’t figure it out. Finally I noticed Laura had a device on the ground that as she put her heel down banged a tambourine. So how do you remember the notes you’re playing on the fiddle, while singing, and still remember to tamp down on that tambourine thing? In the correct rhythm? The wonders never cease.
The other thing these evenings do for me is to help reinforce the sense of community where I live. The longer we live here the more people we have to chat with and get caught up with before the show and during the break between sets.
Our Tamworth crowd was most appreciative of them visiting our humble village and bringing some warmth on a cold January evening, so they got a prolonged standing ovation. Some might argue that the audience did this to elevate our blood flow before we all went out to start our cars in below zero temperatures. I think it was genuine appreciation. And Trent Severn returned without their instruments. They did an acapella version of “O Canada,” our national anthem, which they had performed in front of the Canadian Parliament buildings in Ottawa last Canada Day. You can listen to it here. http://trentsevernband.ca/o-canada/ (the acapella version is the third selection down the list) Heck, you can even listen to it in French! So Canadian!
I was so impressed to hear such a unique take on our anthem. This is something you don’t hear very often. I see American singers doing their own unique interpretation of the American anthem all the time, generally before sporting events. This was most refreshing.
It was such a lovely way to spend a cold winter night. Such a uniquely human experience. We really must do it more often.
Photo courtesy of Barry Lovegrove. (www.barrylovegrove.ca)