Archive for February, 2009

Hockey Day in Canada

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Lo, How a Rose

Happy Hockey Day in Canada, whatever that’s all about! I guess I just wasn’t paying attention, or maybe this is something totally brand new*… talk about heads-up hockey! Speaking of which, I’ll never forget arriving for the first game of our international tourney in Iceland, only to have some young locals mock-bow and chant  “Ca-na-da, Ca-na-da…!!” in our general direction as we walked past with our hockey gear. Admittedly it’s pretty cool when ones reputation precedes you, though I guess at that point, jet-lagged and adjusting to the early darkness that had descended, we just hoped that we were up to the task!

The verdict? Undefeated against those feisty Nordic Vikings!

So here’s a soundfile for you, though apologies if it doesn’t open clearly – ongoing technical problems, what can I say – arriving last December at the storied Saint Michael’s Arena, and as these two cops looked on, here is an acoustic sampling of this historic rink with a scrimmage well under way! Okay, I have to get back to the overtime shoot-out between Toronto and Sundin’s Vancouver Canucks!

As they say, it’s a Canadian game, eh?

* Oops, I just discovered it’s the 9th annual…where have I been all these years??

High School Confidential

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Alma Mater Improv

Here is the direct link to Alma Mater, which describes the adventure I had in Oakville late one dark, rainy night last November. After following the link, just click on the smaller image to the right, kick back and let the sound of my flute lead you through the pitch black labyrinth of corridors and boiler rooms of this abandoned, old Victorian building!

Following the example of my esteemed colleague, saxophonist and photographer Bruce Redstone, this is the first set of photos that I have posted on Phanfare, and, considering the fun it was to put together, it likely won’t be the last! A rather evocative slideshow, I like to think that it captures the mystery of returning to my old high school in search of an almost mythical stairwell, a wonderfully reverberant space where I used to read through flute rep when I was cutting class between classes.

Read the full story here.

Happy Birthday, NAACP!

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Faure, Automne

Appropriately perhaps, on the day of Lincoln’s 200th birthday, the NAACP marked its 100th anniversary earlier this week on February 12th.

I had jotted this info down in my daytimer weeks ago, and can’t recall just now what the source was at the time. Yet nonetheless, with such a significant date smack-dab in the middle of this year’s Black History Month, I couldn’t just let it slide by without marking the occasion in some fashion. In doing a little reading, I was surprised to learn that the U.S.’s National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People was founded not from within the black community as I had perhaps naively assumed, but largely by a panel of white guys: of the 60 individuals who comprised the original committee that founded the NAACP, apparently only three were black.

Okay, so it’s late on that Thursday night and I still haven’t got my act together, but I’m as resolved as ever to make a salutation with my humble flute…somehow…somewhere. Just past midnight I realize that I still have time to make it to a local TTC station before it closes, where I know there is a wonderful echo-chamber.

As 1 a.m. rolled around, in the middle of sorting through soundfiles and archived photos, I pulled up the TTC hours of operation, and to my pleasant surprise discovered that the Spadina Station, just a few blocks away, is actually open until 1.30 in the morning. As I grabbed my 1948 Schirmer edition of Marian Anderson’s Album of Songs and Spirituals and headed out the door, I reminded myself that if this is good enough to be considered TTC’s ‘Thursday hours of operation’, well surely it can still be considered officially the 100th birthday of the NAACP, even though it was well past midnight!

Upon arrival, the doors magically yielded, still not barred for the night. Toronto’s TTC system would likely do Rosa Parks proud.

Here are the random sounds of the deserted subway entrance in the wee hours of the morning, along with the first piece that I randomly turned to in the collection of songs that Anderson made famous as she toured Europe and the Continental U.S. back in the 30’s and 40’s. This is the first time I had ever encountered Faure’s evocative song ‘Automne’ – and I call myself a musician! Yet I can’t think of more poignant circumstances to revel in this haunting vocal line, and can only imagine what this acclaimed singer might have sounded like singing this haunting song.

Happy Birthday, NAACP…who knows what the next 100 years might accomplish!

And here is a more complete rendition of Automne pulled from YouTube…thanks, Jimmy, for your fine performance, as well as the complete text of the song that you have tucked in on the right-hand sidebar so that listeners might fully appreciate the poetry of the music.

Moose on the Loose!

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Who will guide me thro’ the Wood?

What does one play for a herd of moose, forgotten by time and relegated to the back corner of a car dealership at the edge of the Don Valley Parkway? This was my dilemma recently when I received an invitation to record some music in the company of some of Mel Lastman’s those infamous moose, not to be confused with Charles Pachter‘s treatment of this same iconic, Canadian symbol. As I was running out the door, I just happened to grab my copy of Canadian Folk Songs (1946), recently acquired from Ten Editions Books on Spadina, and I’m so glad that I did!

Personally I can’t think of a better adventure to have had on my birthday!  And as it turns out, this has ended up being like the proverbial gift that keeps on giving as I assemble this post and learn more about such pioneering Canadian artists as Ernest Gagnon, Charlie Pachter and, uh, our former mayor!

With the sounds of the city in the background, here is a recording of Ah! qui me passera le Bois? (Ah! who will guide me thro’ the Wood?). You will find the music (page 92) contained in this delightful on-line version of Ernest Gagnon’s Chansons Populaires du Canada, a compilation of traditional songs that first appeared in print as early as 1865.* (What would Gagnon have thought if he could see his book on line like this?!?) The song itself would be much older than this of course, passed down from generation to generation as it would have been before finally being transcribed.

The steady din of DVP traffic, as well as the clickety-clack of a train passing on a nearby railway track – listen midway through the recording –  typically might all be dismissed as the unwanted din of the city. However what otherwise might be considered noise pollution actually creates a wonderfully rich tapestry of urban sounds, especially when juxtaposed against the strains of this quintessential Canadian folksong.

Funny to think that centuries ago the lower Don River’s marsh and grasslands were more than likely home to this land’s early moose populations! Learn more about the Don River and our human impact on it at Don Watcher blogspot.


* The following information provided by The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada:

“Gagnon is best remembered for the Chansons populaires du Canada, a compilation of folksongs (‘collected and published with annotations’) which first appeared 1865-7 in six issues of Le Foyer canadien. The second revised edition appeared in 1880 and was reprinted 13 times to 1955, making it one of the most widely published music books in Canada. In its historical context, the collection is exceptional in that it contains complete textual and musical renditions with selected variants for over 100 songs. The individual song annotations and opening and closing essays reveal Gagnon’s thorough knowledge of traditional song which he had gained through careful study of contemporaneous French sources. He took care over the texts and, although he fitted words to music in the manner customary at that time, he clearly understood verse forms; moreover he respected the modal inflections of the tunes in his transcriptions. (See Folk music, Franco-Canadian.)

Gagnon was an organist in the virtuoso tradition and a fluent improviser. In 1902 he became a member of the Royal Society of Canada. He was a corresponding member of the Société des compositeurs de musique de Paris and an officer of the Instruction publique de France. He was described by Arthur Letondal as a ‘personality richly endowed with artistic talents, a man of rare discrimination and high ideals, guided by a deep love for the spirit and the characteristics of his country.’ “

Smokey Folk – Feeding the Cuban Soul

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Smokey Folk @ Castro’s Lounge

Recently I discovered a local musical treasure! If you have a chance to drop by Castro’s out in the Beaches on any given Monday night, you really should check out Smokey Folk! I’ve heard these guys a few times now, and this group of five young students from York University are brilliant – very laid back, yet wonderful, consummate musicians as they churn out one Rockabilly-infused Bluegrass tune after another with an infectious performance style. Smokey Folk brings a little Nashville-style vitality and warmth to the Beaches Queen Street strip, especially in midst of this long Canadian winter.

Where Toronto bars and clubs are concerned, Castro’s Lounge is like none other, and is an inviting, intriguing place to hang out, talk business, maybe hone one’s backgammon skills, or simply enjoy a beer or two while perusing the incredible photos that festoon the walls.

Speaking of things-Cuba, you might want to check out Anna Maria Tremonti’s recent edition of The Current that I happened to catch while listening to the CBC earlier in the week. Vic Vogel is a legendary, Montreal-based jazzer who is spearheading an initiative to help revitalize the Music Conservatory in Havana, after the island was recently devastated by several powerful hurricanes, including Hurricane Ike. Part of this heart-warming Canadian-Cuban story is to rebuild the instruments available to young musicians. If you wish to support Vic in his commendable initiative, or perhaps donate to the instrument bank that he is assembling for the Conservatory, his e-mail is (Note: Having just heard back from a rep for Vic at 529Jazz, here are photos of the instruments that have been amassed to be sent off; although this was somewhat of a one-shot deal, I’m sure that donations and/or instruments would still be welcomed!)

As far as the acoustics go at Castro’s? Well, high Fidel-ity would be one way to describe them, bien sur! Smokey Folk take the stage in a most informal manner on Monday nights around about 9.30pm – see you there!