The Robbie Burns Bush Dance

The Masons Robbie Burns Celebration, Saturday January 18, 2014 5:30 to 10:30pm at the Cranbrook Anglican Church. Music By Angus MacDonald (fiddle) and Rod Wilson (Irish Bouzouki and Irish Cittern), and M.C. Wally Smith. The following is  a brief story offered as entertainment by Rod Wilson, Angus MacDonald and Wally Smith.

A ROBBIE BURNS BUSH DANCE

On the Western plains of New South Wales at this time of year it is hot, hot, hot. Far different from the cooler climes of a traditional Robbie Burns night celebration. Never-the-less, the farmers and their families from miles around travelled to the local school house  to celebrate “The Bard”. At this particular Robbie Burns celebration it was no different from the usual and yet……….

Up to this point things had gone well. Glasses had been raised, drinks had been drunk, food had been consumed in copious quantities and the speechifying was over. Trestles, The Dancerstables and chairs had been pushed to the wall and every body was ready to dance. On stools running end to end along one side of the room sat twenty more or less blooming country girls ranging in ages from fifteen to twenty odd. On the rest of the stools running end to end  along the opposite side of the room sat more or less twenty robust lads. But it was evident that something was seriously wrong.

None of the girls spoke above a hushed whisper. None of the men spoke above a hushed oath. Now and then two or three of the men would sidle out into the darkness to vent their frustrations.

‘TAP, TAP, TAP ……..

The rows moved uneasily and some of the girls turned pale faces towards the side door and the mysterious sounds.

‘TAP, TAP, TAP ……..

The tapping came from the kitchen at the rear of the teacher’s residence and was uncomfortably suggestive of a coffin being made: It was also accompanied by a sickly, indescribable odour – more like that of a warm cheap glue than anything else.

In the schoolroom there was a painful scene of strained listening. Whenever one of the men returned from the outside, or put his head inside the door all eyes were fastened on him in a flash forcing him to withdraw. At the sound of a horse’s step all eyes and ears were on the door ’till some one muttered “it is only the horses in the paddock”.

Some of the girl’s eyes began to glisten suspiciously and at last the belle of the evening – a great dark haired pink-and-white Blue Mountain girl, who had been sitting for a full minute staring before her, with blue eyes unnaturally bright, suddenly covered her face with her hands and started to sob. She rose and blindly stumbled from the room, from which she was steered in a hurry by two sympathetic and almost equally upset girl friends. On passing she hysterically sobbed…..

“I can’t help it. I did want to dance. It’s a sh-shame !. I can’t help it. I rode twenty miles and I want to dance.”

A tall strapping young bushman rose, and without disguise, followed her from the room. The rest started to loudly discuss stocks, dogs, horses and other bush things; But above all the chatter rang the voice of the distraught girl. “I can’t help it Jack! I did want to dance. I had such a job getting father and mother  to let me come  – and – now – …. ” The two girl friends came back into the room  and whispered to the school mistress “he sez to leave her to him while he tries to calm her down. ” It’s no use Jack!” came the voice of grief “You don’t know what it is like with father and mother. I, I won’t be able to g-get away – again for – for-  not until I’m married perhaps.” The school mistress glanced uneasily along the row of girls – “I’ll take her into my room and get her to lie down and maybe that will calm her.”

A final ‘TAP, TAP, TAP from the kitchen and then a sound like a squawk of a hurt or frightened child. All faces brightened and turned expectantly in the direction of the new sound. And then there came a bang and the sound of “dam” and everybody settled back down in a depressing funk.

Then there came a shout from the darkness and most of the men and some of the girls hurried out to investigate. It sound like the paddock gate rattling and the snort and plod of more horses. “Who is it Tom?” There were voices from the yard yelling “I think it is young Angus MacDonald”. And then were cheers all around because young Angus never travelled anywhere without his fiddle.

Out in the kitchen Wally Smith was still struggling with his button accordion. He had just retrieved the battered and bruised device from the opposite side of the room where, The Kickafter an hour of struggling to patch the bellows, he had despondently thrown the instrument. Finally he picked it up and headed towards the door and holding it forward between the palms of his hands, as a football is held, he let it drop, and neatly fetched it on to the toe of his riding boot. It was a beautiful kick out into the darkness where upon it was immediately greeted with a yelp of pain as it collided with some one’s head.

But from the school room the M.C. yelled “Yes, yes , yes  it’s Angus MacDonald with his fiddle. Every body hurry up and  take your partners for the first dance ……..”

(In the movie version there would be a joyous scene of dancers flying around the room to the sound of Angus MacDonald’s fiddle belting out a very lively reel and then, in true Hollywood fashion, the scene would fade to black)

Bush Wackers Dance Book(Stolen and freely adapted from the BushWacker Dance Book (published in 1980) who in turn lifted it from Henry Lawson’s Collection of Short Stories Joe Wilson’s Mates.

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Symphony of the Kootenays – the new board

38th Annual General Meeting of the Symphony of the Kootenays Association, Wednesday, September 18, 2013, 7pm at the Christ Church Anglican Hall, Cranbrook B.C. Symphony BoardThe new board members (in no particular order) are Steen Jorgensen (President), Ronald J. MacDonald (Vice-president), Ruth Sawatsky (Secretary), Michael Grossman (Treasurer), Ian Adams (Director), Lorraine Butler (Director), Helen Duckworth (Director), Shirley Hansen (Director), Terry Jeffers (Director), William Newsome (Director).

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La Cafamore String Quartet with Nicola Everton

 

La Cafamore String Quartet Fall Tour with Nicola Everton at the Knox Presbyterian Church, Saturday September 29, 2012 , 7:30 pm

The evening program was like a fine meal. There was the pre-dinner snack (Bill Douglas’ CELEBRATION II), the entre (Beethoven’s String Quartet, Op 18 #4), the main course (Brahms’ Quintet for Clarinet and Strings) and for dessert some classic Etta James. All of this offered by some of the Kootenays finest chamber musicians performing in the wonderful setting of Cranbrook’s Knox Presbyterian Church.

With the music’s renewed sense of space, surprise and unusual sonorities I happen to like modern music. And although the name Bill Douglas is unknown to me his composition  Celebration II contained all of the above elements. This Canadian born composer wrote the piece back in 1979 and, although it has not been published, word of mouth recommendations prompted clarinettist Nicola Everton to contact the composer. Most graciously Bill Douglas provided Nicola with his  copy of the manuscript plus detailed instructions on the performance of the  wordless vocal section. I would like to describe the performance in detail but that would be superfluous. You needed to be there to appreciate the clarinet riding over the top of the sustained strings, the wordless vocals in the middle section and the rhythmic tapping of Jeff Faragher’s wedding ring on the body of his cello. I noted that there was a sound engineer recording the performance and I hope that sometime in the near future we will get to hear this performance on CD.

Except for this particular circumstance Beethoven’s music is always much more than an entree. Although, in a historical context, this particular string quartet could be viewed as exactly that – an entree, a harbinger of things to come. At the time Beethoven was reaching back to the music of Mozart and Haydn but was also projecting forward to the music of the Romantic Era. An entree, so to speak, of what was to come. Elements of looking back and looking forward abound in this quartet.

Classical musicians have a real thing about the Romantic Composers and their music. Considering the thrust of their education and professional training this is hardly surprising. Unless they train as specialists in older music music any emphasis on early music is merely preparatory exercises for the real meat of the Romantic Era. Although the world has moved on classical musicians and their audiences are still mining the mother load of the Romantic Music of the 1800’s and early 20th century. Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Dvorak, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Mendelssohn,  etc, and of course, Brahms are staples of the classical repertoire. So it should come as no surprise that a string quartet and a clarinetist would home in on the music of Brahms and, in particular, his Quintet for Clarinet and Strings. When describing the piece clarinetist Nicola Everton’s enthusiasm and love of the the composition was very evident and this came though in her performance of the piece. Like any good meal there needed to be a desert and for this concert its came in the encore with a spirited rendition of the classic Etta James tune At Last.

For concert goers who missed the quartet’s previous outing at the Knox Church the performance has been made available on  CD. Can I look forward to a possible release of Saturday night’s concert on a CD in the near future?

This is the third concert of chamber music by the quartet and guests at the Knox Church and it is extraordinary that each concert has been a completely different program. These musicians and their guests are spread around the area, the province and the the USA. Angela Synder flies in from Virginia. To prepare, rehearse and  showcase such diverse programs in such a short time frame is an outstanding tribute to their passion, ability and the quality of their musicianship.

This was a very successful concert for at least 50 patrons in this wonderful venue. Also of note was the number of new members of the Symphony of the Kootenays Board that attended the performance.

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 Post Script: The La Cafamore String Quartet will be returning to Cranbrook and the Knox Presbyterian Church for a concert in April 2013. Once again they will be performing a mix of the romantic and the modern. For the romantics they will play F. Schubert’s Death and the Maiden and for the moderns they will play G. Crumb’s Black Angels. Both of these compositions have a musical connection. If I may, here is a quote from the KRONOS QUARTET recording of Black Angels. 

“BLACK ANGELS (1970) Thirteen Images from the Dark Land by George Crumb. ‘Things were turned upside down. There were terrifying things in the air ….. they found their way into Black Angels . – George Crumb, 1990.’ Black Angels is probably the only quartet to have been inspired by the Vietnam War. The work draws from an arsenal of sounds including shouting, chanting, whistling, gongs, maracas, and crystal glasses. The score bears two inscriptions: in tempore belli (in time of war)and Finished on Friday the Thirteenth, March, 1970.”

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What is a Beannick?

Well may you ask. In “days of olde“ when Jill and Gordon Johnston ran the Swing Street Coffee shop there was a paper mache beatnick like figure that bestrode the building. Aptly named Beannick he had to come down from his perch when Jill and Gordon sold the business. For many winters he sat under piles of snow biding his time for some future role in the life of the community. During their tenure at the Swing Street Cafe Jill and Gordon ran a subscription series of concerts every winter at the Studio Stage Door that, for years prior to the Key City Theatre, was pretty well the only concert venue for live music in Cranbrook. During that time we were treated to outstanding performances by the likes of Martin Simpson, Garnet Rodgers, Stephen Fearing, Alex Houghton, `Four Men and a Dog`, Ron Kavna and Andy Irvine.   Jill and Gordon had the incredible knack of finding performers of tremendous ability and talent. They established a concert standard for the relatively unknown performers who were, in reality, music legends. Well all things come to an end and so did the concerts series. However, with some recent prompting from Terry Miller of Cranbrook Community Theatre fame they have, under the patronage of the once famous Beannick,  resurrected the subscription concert series. This winter will be the fourth series of concerts in this the modern Beannick era.  Over the recent past I have been fortunate to hear and photograph some of the outstanding performers in the series. Here are some images to stir memories of great music:

                                                                                                                                      

(The above images are  from a few of the concerts in the series. A number of the concert reviews have been published in The Townsman and over the next little while I will transfer them from my archives to the JOURNALISM tab in this blog).

The Winter 2012 subscription series is already under way with a performance by Garnet Rogers a little while back. The blues guitarist Sue Foley and her musical  partner Peter Karp will be performing on Tuesday October 16, 2012  and the blues slide guitar legend Kelly Joe Phelps will be performing on Wednesday December 5, 2012. The subscription series is sold out in advance but occasionally tickets are turned in for resale on the night of the performances. For more information contact Terry Miller at  tmiller@cintek.com             .

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Celtara at Centre 64

CELTARA at Centre 64: Wednesday August 15, 2012, 7:30 pm

Celtic music can cover a pretty wide spectrum of styles and places of origin. From the “green beer and shamrock”, rip up the floor boards and blister the paint of a St. Patrick Day bar music scene to the precise, somewhat academic music favoured by the Chieftains. The blister the paint school grew out of the music of the Clancy Brothers, the Dubliners and the Irish Rovers in the 1960’s. They are well  remembered for their recordings and the repertoire that has filtered into mainstream music. To this day this style of music is mostly song based and is great fun for a party. Occasionally a few dance tunes are thrown into the mix to get the feet tapping. Great Big Sea and the Pogues are recent popular manifestations of this school of Celtic music. Since the heady days of the Dubliners there has been steady growth in the number of musicians who have chosen to delve deeper into the well of traditional dance music. The Chieftains are still on the scene with their somewhat sedate ambience but they have been joined by bands with a more robust interpretation of the tradition. The Bothy Band set the pace in the seventies and since that time bands like Altan and Lunasa continue to expand the tradition. So between the Pogues and Lunasa there are various shadings  of how Celtic music can be played. And off to the side, there are various regional styles of the music. Fiddle music from Cape Breton and Scotland and bagpipe music from Galicia (Spain) are just a couple of examples. While guitars are used the music is more noted for its reliance on the traditional flute, penny whistle, fiddle, harp, concertina, accordion and more recently Irish Bouzouki.

And where does Celtara fit in this scheme of things? Well they are some where in the middle. The traditional songs are there (“The Bonnie Ship the Diamond”, “P Stands or Paddy”) as well as the traditional dance tunes. They string the dance tunes together in the time honored tradition of three or more played without a break. The normal predictable cadences that end a Bluegrass or pop tune are missing.  Like most Celtic bands of this ilk, tunes are strung together  and the aim for a good, or even great, performance is for flawless smooth transitions from one tune to another. In some instances it is like the shifting of gears in a luxury car, smoothly without notice and then all of a sudden things can just take off. Like motoring a mountain road the musicians navigate the twists and turns of the tunes in the set. Remember this  is dance music and a one tune dance doesn’t cut it. There is a huge reservoir of tunes to pick from and Celtara is adding to the list with their own original tunes. In their “The Gap Tooth Set” they included a new tune by Tammi Cooper called “Spillamacheen”. Included in another dance set was the tune with the unusual title “Grannie Hold the Candle while I Shave the Chickens Lips” (????).

The musicians are from Edmonton and include Tammi Cooper (flute and Irish whistle and vocals) Bonnie Gregory (fiddle, harp and vocals), Steve Bell (keyboard and accordion), Andreas Illig ( Irish Bouzouki and Guitar) and Mark Arnison (percussion). The flute, fiddle, harp and accordion all have well established pedigrees in traditional Celtic music. Although it should be mentioned that Bonnie’s harp was built in Western Canada so it is somewhat home grown. The Irish Bouzouki is a recent invention, if that’s the right word. Irish musicians visiting the Balkans in the 1960’s became enamored with the Greek Bouzouki and they took it back to Ireland where they had them built with flat backs and changed the tuning to fit Irish music. The Irish Bouzouki  is a common feature in Celtic bands.The band Great Big Sea uses the Bouzouki and even Steve Earle showed up at the Key City in Cranbrook recently with an Irish Bouzouki. Andreas Illig plays a beautiful Irish built Foley Bouzouki. Guitars are a fairly recent addition to Irish traditional music and generally requires a  different approach to tuning and how it is played. Andreas plays a Collins dreadnought guitar tuned in DADGAD (guitarists will know what that means) . Bones and Bodhran (Irish Frame Drum) are the only traditional Celtic percussion instruments that I know of, but that is changing.Traditional bands are now known to use Congas, Darbukas, and Djembes and just about anything that they can hit, shake or rattle.   Mark Arnison uses a Djembe (from West Africa), tube drums (home made from plumbing pipe) and a variety of cymbals and shakers. He also plays the Bodhran but not always in the Irish style. During performances he switched back and forth from the traditional beater to a Middle Eastern hand drumming style where the Bodhran is nursed in the lap and played with both hands. His percussion accompaniments were subtle and always there. Never loud or overbearing. Like all good percussionists he was under the music adding colour and pulse. Celtara plays very finely crafted music that places an emphasis on being in tune with smooth transitions from one instrument to another. Tammi explained that they way back they had a teacher who had the motto “Tune or Die” tacked to his wall. It is a lesson that has stuck. So the music was a superb mix of traditional songs, sad and happy, and a great sampling of dance tunes. The sound system was superb and transparent. It was easy to forget that they were even using a sound system.

This is the the Edmonton band’s first visit to the area and one hopes it is the first of many.

Here are more images from the concert: (click on the images for a larger view)

                                                                             

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Music in the Mountains – The Performance

The Performance: Friday June 22, 2012, 7pm on the grounds of the St. Eugene Mission Resort. This was a free concert and the last one of the 2011-2012 season.

As expected the day was a typically unsettled Rocky Mountain June day. Sun, cloud, rain, and finally more sun just in time for the out door performance of the Symphony of the Kootenays.  I am stealing Amanda Ball’s words here  – “Set against the stunning backdrop of the Steeples range, ‘Music in the Mountains’ will showcase Ktunaxa storytelling and dance, along with music that expresses the majesty, mystery and magic of mountain landscapes. The Symphony of the Kootenays is thrilled to join with the Ktunaxa Nation Council and the St. Eugene Mission to bring this unique cultural event to the community.National Aboriginal Day is an excellent occasion for Aboriginal groups to share their diverse cultural heritage. By being a part of this day, the Symphony not only gets to showcase its local talent but we become a part of increasing awareness of the cultural traditions and opportunities in this region.” Included on the program were:

  • John Burge’s ‘Rocky Mountain Overture’, a sonically vibrant overture written specifically for outdoor performance, to reverberate around a valley in the Rocky Mountains.
  • Barbara Croall’s ‘Stories from Coyote’. A piece filled with the sounds of the mountains – bird calls, rustling wind, crackling ice – its premiere in Kamloops in 2000 met with critical acclaim, with local media reporting that “The stories were both interesting and fun, and the music fascinating.”
  • Michael Conway Baker – The Mountains (from Through the Lions Gate)
  • Johann Strauss’s best-loved compositions – including ‘Radetzky March’, ‘Klipp-Klapp Polka’
  • Dimitri Shostakovich: Second Waltz
  • Mussorgsky: Night on Bald Mountain   

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                               

                                                               

Music in the Mountains – Rehearsal

Rehearsals:

The Symphony of the Kootenays wrapped up its 2011-2012 season with a blockbuster free concert on Friday, June 22, 2012 as part of the Aboriginal Day Festival at the St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino. A number of pieces, particularly Barbara Croall’s ‘Stories from Coyote’ required some intensive rehearsal. This was done on Thursday evening in the music department of the Mount Baker High School.