Just a few years back (1993 to 2013) GREAT BIG SEA was an almost unstoppable force in Canadian East Coast music. Over a twenty year period they dominated the scene with their mix of Newfoundland traditional music and rock and roll sensibilities. A founding member, and key performer, in the group was Sean McCann. Sean is very up front about his motivation to perform. It was about “booze, sex and rock and roll”. But every thing has a price and by 2013 he knew, for his health and family situation, he needed to get off the “Party Bus”. He quit the band and relocated to Ottowa – “That’s where all our tax money goes, so why not.” On his retirement from the band he noted he had been on the road with Great Big Sea for 20 years….. He was 46 years old and it was time to make a change. Great Big Sea struggled on for a while but it was not the same . The band is now in happy retirement. The two key performers, Alan Doyle and Sean McCann, while still tipping the hat to the “Great Big Sea Repertoire”, have gone onto solo careers.
For this evening, Sean kicked off the night in true Newfoundland fashion with an acapella sea song and followed that up with a collection varied material from his own stock of original songs and a few Great Big Sea staples thrown into the mix. Like all good singer/song writers Sean is essentially a story teller and the dialogue in, and between the songs wove the evening into a tapestry of his life so far. For the most part of that life he has traveled with his favorite guitar “Brownie”. A beat up old Takamine Dreadnought that shows the many scars of a hard life on the road . It is emblazoned on the deck with Sean’s mantra “Help Your Self”. To round out the team there was his second DADGAD guitar, a Takamine Jumbo, and his Bodhan (an Irish Frame drum). Part of the tapestry of the evening included the drinking song Red Wine and Whiskey and his recovery song Doing Fine. On the later there was some especially fine finger picking on the DADGAD guitar. Here are some images of a fine, intimate evening of story telling……. @@@@@@@@@@@@@@
The Cavaquinho – It looks like a Ukulele and so it should. The Cavaquinho is a Portuguese instrument that has, in one form or another spread around the world. In the hands of Portuguese immigrants it traveled to Hawaii in the nineteenth century and under went some changes. With the adoption of gut (nylon) strings and tuning systems peculiar to the islands it became part of a whole new genre of music – Hawaiian music. The sound of the Ukulele instantly conjures up images of the islands – trade winds, surf, palm trees, grass shirts and hula girls. Of course since that time the instrument has traveled back across the world and, in recent years, has undergone a resurgence in popular interest. In the meantime the original Cavaquinho has remained popular in Portugal, Brazil and the Cape Verde islands. Although Portugal had colonies in Angola and Mozambique the Cavaquinho doesn’t seem to have become part of their folkloric traditions. But it is in Brazilian Choro that the instrument has it’s most noticeable impact. Choro is the most Brazilian of all musical styles and it grew out of the European Salon music tradition imported into Brazil and spiced up with local samba style rhythms. In one form or other the style has been around for a hundred or more years. In that genre of music the Cavaquinho, the Pandiero (Brazilian tambourine), the Seven String Guitar and the Bandolin (5 course mandolin) create music that is very melodic, rhythmic and harmonically sophisticated and somewhat uniquely Brazilian.
Although the instrument is not in common use in Canada, Godin Guitars in Quebec manufactures a unique version of the instrument that can hold its own in the company of the more traditional instruments. It is a hybrid steel strung instrument tuned Brazilian style D G B D. Basically, that is an an open G tuning, a octave higher but almost identical, to the top four strings of the acoustic guitar. The difference is that the top string on the Cavaquinho is tuned down to D. Speaking from experience it was tempting to just tune the guitar like a Cavaquinho and play it as such. It was good idea at the time but basically it doesn’t work. The Cavaquinho has a very short scale length and the normal Cavaquinho Choro stretches from the 1st and 2nd to seventh fret are dam near impossible on the guitar. Beside it does not have the nice high traditional Cavaquinho sound. D’Addario manufactures stainless steel ball end strings (EJ93, gauges 11-13-23w-28w) specifically for the Cavaquinho and are available from a number of on line sites. It is unlikely you will find them in your local music store. The Godin instrument is equipped with their signature on-board electronics that is virtually free of feed back. In that regard, and in other manufacturing details, the Godin Cavaquinho is similar to their acoustic and semi-acoustic Nylon Classical, Multi Oud and Seven String Guitars.
So, that’s the background so now for the sounds. The first three videos below demonstrate, for me, the attraction of the Cavaquinho and Brazilian music in general. These young musicians look like they are having fun. The guitar in the first and third videos are obviously Godins. In the third video the guitarist is throwing in some very interesting chord progressions. All three tunes are pretty well classics in the Brazilian Choro repertoire.
There a lots of Cavaquinho tutorials on YouTube and the approach they use to teach the tunes has, for me, a lot of appeal. The first tutorial, Garota de Ipanema is better known as the The Girl from Ipanema, by the well known Brazilian composer Tom Jobim. The tune is probably the most recorded composition on the planet. I have lost count of the number of Cavaquinho and Brazilian Guitar tutorials that are available on YouTube so there is plenty out there to explore.
I know local musicians aren’t likely to stumble on or acquire a Cavaquinho but the above videos might just attract some interest in the instrument or also in that very rich and varied world of Brazilian music. This is only the tip of the iceberg.
Sunday January 28, 2018 12:30 – 3:30 pm: OPEN MIC AT THE BEAN TREE IN THE KIMBERLEY PLATZL hosted by Bill St Amand
This is a throw back to the good ole’ days when the Bean Tree was pretty well the only venue offering live music on a regular basis in Kimberley. Sound wise and audience wise this is probably one of the best, if not the best music room in the area. For musicians it is a joy to perform in a great room for quiet attentive audiences. This second session lived up to those expectations with performances by Bill St.Amand (guitar and vocals); AlphonseJoseph (“Fonzie”) on his new Taylor guitar with vocals; Rod Wilson on 12-string guitar, vocals and percussion; Wally Smith on Irish Whistles, button accordion and percussion; Lane on guitar and vocals and Jordan Vanderwerf on guitar and vocals. Here are some images from this relaxing, family style afternoon of acoustic music.
Once again, this was so successful that Bill will be hosting another open mic next Sunday February 4, 2018, 1-4 pm. All patrons and musicians are welcome.
A fine and mellow Christmas at Frank’s Restaurant in Cranbrook with the Dean (Dino) Smith Quartet featuring Dean Smith on Guitar,Trombone and Vocals; Zach Smith on Alto Sax; Ben Smith on Bass and Guitar and Jared Zimmer on Drums. The favorite Christmas carols, pop songs and show tunes of past eras were all there – We Three Kings, Let it Snow, Frosty the Snowman, Walking in a Winter Wonderland, Dreaming of a White Christmas, Joy to the World, Jingle Bells and Greensleeves and many, many more.
Saturday, December 23, 2017 may have been very frosty outside (minus 20 degrees centigrade) but inside Frank’s it was was warm, cosy and very “Christmassy”.
From the get go, it was a full night of rock and roll and reggae. Even the poster had a 1968 vibe. The first band up was The Choice, featuring James Neve – guitars and lead vocals; Rick Parsons – back up vocals and multiple keyboards and Brian Hamilton – drums and back up vocals. They served up a full platter of rock and roll favorites and in the process punched a lot of nostalgia buttons in the audience. James Neve is probably better known as a singer / song writer and was a key member of the band 60 Hertz. He also masquerades as a wayward solo performer known as Lonesome Jim. I get the impression that for this night James was living the dream of a 1968 rock and roll musician. He looked so happy……… Rick is also a well known local musician who just loves to hammer away at the keyboards. That gutsy, funky organ sound is no longer a feature of modern rock and roll and the scene is the poorer for it. It’s nice to have it back in the sonic arena and hear it bouncing off a dance hall wall. Who needs a bass player when you can have a full throttle organ doing the job? Brian Hamilton is just back in the area and rounds out the band with his “in your face drumming”. For just a trio this band generates a lot of music and a lot of excitement.
The Choice traded off one hour sets with the Reggae band The Meditations. The band featured the young Moroccan musician Mehdi Makraz on lead guitar and vocals. Mehdi has been in the area for a while and at a recent Summer Sounds concert in Cranbrook he played electric bass with The Dark Fire Cloud and Lightning Band. The back up vocalist Syama Mama was also featured with that band. The drummer with the mandatory dreadlocks was Morgan and along with the well known local musician Peter Warland on electric bass locked down the rhythm section. Randy Tapp is a local musician and dance instructor and he played Alto and Tenor Saxes. Normally the band has a keyboard player (Landon) but he was not available for this performance.
At the intermission, if that’s the right word, the catering crew from the Green Door dished out Tacos for the dance patrons. After that it was back to the music. More vintage rock and reggae spiced up with some original compositions from Mehdi and his band mates. Here are some more images from the evening.
The only thing missing from the evening was a Creedence Clearwater Revival tune, but as James Neve explained, there were so many great tunes and so little time that with much regret the CCR tune had to fall on the cutting floor. Better luck next time.
On the poster Moulettes describe themselves as a British Touring Electric Art Rock Band. That is quite a mouthful. When I checked out their YouTube video clips I ended up with some sense that the band may be an up dated version of the classic British Folk Rock Band Steel Eyed Span. Now, having seen and heard them perform I don’t think I could have been more wrong. There is almost no element of “folk” in their performance but the concept of “Art Rock” is probably the right descriptor. This is no “lead guitar, rhythm, bass and drums” rock and roll outfit. This is a completely original band with a configuration and a performance that is so completely out of the box that it is outside any of my frames of reference. I am speechless. I overheard a member of the audience suggesting that the performance reminded him of Frank Zappa’s music. Although I am vaguely familiar with Zappa’s music I really can’t authenticate that observation. But he could be right and that may be as good a hook as any on which to hang Tuesday’s night performance. Here is some information from their web site:
What is Moulettes?
moulette /ˈmu.lət/ noun
1.(physics) a unit of force exerted by group of small objects/persons- energy exerted results in force disproportionate to their size.
2. (botany, biology) a seed, cell or embryonic vessel containing a hatchling.
3. a type of barnacle or sea mollusk, known for their resilience and traction. Free-swimming as larvae; as adults form a hard shell and live attached to submerged surfaces such as reefs, hulls and wharves.
4. a small morsel of food believed to have aphrodisiac qualities.
5. a short story or song, both factual and fantastical in its themes; a refrain, spell, sound sequence or chorus.
They are not ‘The moulettes’, their songs are ‘Moulettes’. Welcome to the multi-verse of Moulettes.
Band Members:Hannah Miller – 5 String Cello, Cellola, Vocals, Guitar, Synths, and Autoharp.
Raevennan Husbandes – Electric Guitar, Vocals, Acoustic guitars & Dobro.
Ollie Austin – Drums, Guitar, Synth, Vocals.
Jim Mortimore – Bass, Double Bass, Moog, Vocals
Here are some more images from the concert.
This was a night of very original music from a band that obviously put a lot of work into their arrangements and performance. I only have one small negative comment. The volume of the sound re-enforcement was too loud for me to really hear all the nuances of the music.
The band would like to thank Keith and the committee for arranging the concert and they would also like to thank the volunteers and the sponsors, Burrito Grill for the food and Trickle Creek Lodge for the accommodation.
An Art Rock Band deserves an “arty” finale to this blog entry – and here it is – a technicolour abstract photo of Jim Mortimore in full flight on electric bass.
11:00 am Musical Taste of the Tattoo – Free Platzl Concert
Cowichan Pipe Band
BC Regimental Band
Saturday, July 15th, 2017
09:30 am Rotary Pancake Breakfast – Centre 64
10:00 am Parade of Bands – Centre 64 to Civic Centre
5:45 pm Doors open – Civic Centre
Concession Opens – Support the Dynamiters
6:00 pm Kimberley Community Band – Civic Centre
7:00 pm Tattoo Performance – Civic Centre
9:15 pm Ceilidh / Dance with Johnny McCuaig Band
For the past 90 years the Kimberley Pipe Band has been an integral part of most major parades and festivals held in the Kootenay region and beyond. Every 10 years, since their 50th anniversary they have hosted a major music and marching performance known as a Tattoo. The 2017 Kimberley Pipe Band’s 90th Anniversary Tattoo featured a 2 hour show of music, pipes, drums and dancing; a street parade featuring over 200 drummers
FREE PLATZL CONCERT – FRIDAY 14th, 2017, 11 am
AT THE KIMBERLEY ARENA, SATURDAY JULY 15, 2017 (in the evening)
Kimberley Community Band
KIMBERLEY PIPE BAND
JAMES NEVE “On the Road to Passchendaele”
That was not the end of the festivities, the evening concluded with a kitchen party in the Arena.
Post script: Here’s something that puzzled me. I have been in Canada over forty years and as usual the Canadian national anthem was played during the evening but this is the first time in all those years that I have been at an event where they played “God Save the Queen”. I find the playing of “God Save the Queen” in Canada a little weird. That’s the British national anthem.
Mandolin music has a long European history that is usually associated with Italian Neapolitan music. When the instrument migrated to North America in the early part of the twentieth century it underwent some physical changes. The traditional round back gave away to relatively thin flat backed instruments in a number of shapes (A-Style; F-Style and others). The most famous of these North American instruments were those designed by Lloyd Allayre Loar. He was a sound engineer and master luthier with the Gibson company in the early part of the 20th century. His instruments, including the famous F5 model mandolin, are expensive ($100,000 +) and are much sort after instruments that have become associated with Bill Monroe and Bluegrass music. The mandolin “chop” that emulates the back beat of a snare drum is one of the most characteristic sonic signatures of Bluegrass music.
Now, theoretical physicists have often held sway with the notion that there are multiple simultaneous universes that can co-exist. The notion does stretch the mind somewhat but in the world of mandolin music it almost seems that it is a possibility. While the Neapolitan mandolin migrated to North America, underwent physical changes and came to prominence in the hands of unique virtuosos like Bill Monroe, a similar but different transformation was taking place half a world away in Brazil. The mandolin in Brazil probably came out of Portuguese traditions and became rooted in a musical style called Choro. Although contemporary flat backed styles of mandolin are used in Brazil the Portuguese instrument also underwent changes. An extra course of strings was added to a slightly larger body with a wider neck. The result is a five course instrument called a Bandolim (pictured below) that is tuned C G D A E.
North America has Bill Monroe; Brazil has Jacob do Bandolim. As documented in Wikipedia, he was born under the name Jacob Pick Bittencourt (December 14, 1918 – August 13, 1969). He adopted a stage name to reflect the the name of the instrument he played, the Bandolim. He has become intimately associated with Choro, a genre also popularly known as chorinho (“little cry” or “little lament”). This popular Brazilian genre is a musical synthesis of European salon music and Brazilian rhythms. As a perfectionist, Jacob was able to achieve from his band Época de Ouro the highest levels of quality. Jacob hated the stereotype of the “dishevelled, drunk folk musician” and required commitment and impeccable dress from his musicians who, like himself, all held “day jobs.” Jacob worked as a pharmacist, insurance salesman, street vendor, and finally notary public, to support himself while also working “full time” as a musician. In addition to his virtuoso playing, he is famous for his many choro compositions, more than 103 tunes, which range from the lyrical melodies of “Noites Cariocas” , Receita de Samba and “Dôce de Coco” to the aggressively jazzy “Assanhado“, which is reminiscent of bebop. He also researched and attempted to preserve the older choro tradition, as well as that of other Brazilian music styles. Outside of Brazil Choro seems to be under going a surge of interest. The Israeli clarinetist Anat Cohen has recently released a number of new recordings with the Trio Brasileiro. The trio features Dudu Maia on Bandolim; Alexander Lora on Pandiero (the driving Brazilian samba tambourine that is the heart beat of Brazilian music) and his brother Douglas Lora on seven string nylon guitar. Below is a YouTube clip of the Trio and a clip of David Benedict playing a Choro on a more familiar North American style Mandolin. Notice how different are the sounds coming from the Mandolin and the Bandolim. The mandolin seems to have a sharper, more percussive “bite” that fits so well into Bluegrass. The Bandolim seems, at least to my ear, to have a bigger, fuller sound that probably would not work in a Bluegrass setting.
So if you are a mandolin player and find the music attractive you should check out the Mel Bay publication Choro Brasileiro – Brazilian Choro: A Method for Mandolin by Marilynn Mair and Paulo Sa (MB21975BCD). The publication includes a CD.
Poscript: I sent a link of this blog entry to the Hornby Island luthier Lawrence Nyberg to find out if he had any any interest in the Bandolim. As it turns out he has been experimenting with the instrument and has posted the following on his face book page.
Introducing: The Mini-Cittern. The newest in the mando-cittern line-up. Available as a flat or carved-top. Flat-top,…
Every body has memories that float to the surface from time to time. A lot of people have fond memories of their high school and college years, and a million other times that are filled with many pleasant memories. Nostagia has become a great marketing tool and the market place is rife with commercial attempts make money from the emotion. Just stop for a minute and think of the popularity of classic rock, the numerous tribute bands and fading rock stars on their last, and final, farewell tour. I am not immune to the emotion but my favorite nostalgic musical memory has nothing to do with the pop music of my youth. Rather it concerns a particular memory from the time of my immigration to Canada. In 1971 the transport method of choice to get to Canada from Australia was by boat (or is it ship?). In those days air fares were too expensive. I traveled on the P&O ship The Oriana from Auckland (New Zealand) to Vancouver with stops in Suva (Fiji) and Hawaii (USA). The trip was laid back and leisurely and although it was a nice respite from the rigors of road travel in New Zealand to this day I cannot understand why anybody would willingly imprison themselves on a luxury cruise ship. We arrived in Suva Harbor in Fiji on Thursday May 20, 1971.The sights, sounds and smells of Suva were like something out of the past, or perhaps straight out of the pages of a Somerset Maugham short story. After a little wander around town I headed back to the ship for the most memorable part of the day at departure time in the late afternoon. I had met a couple of Canadian Engineers who had been on the islands for a few months and to a man they all expressed the sentiment that they had to get out of there or as they said “they would never leave . This place is paradise”. Similarly, I have a friend, Gordon Rae, here in Cranbrook, who had spent time in Fiji, and any time Fiji came up in a conversation he would get misty eyed and mutter – “every young man should have a Fiji in his life”. Obviously the engineers on the deck of the Oriana that afternoon felt the same way. When the Fijian Police Band on the wharf played “Isa Lei” – the traditional farewell song – there were tears running down their faces. I thought they were going to jump off the ship. If you want to hear a South Pacific farewell song at its emotional peak then there is no better way than from the deck of a ship. To this day any time I hear Isa Lei I get really choked up. Here is the song as played by the Fijian Police Band
You can check any one of many other versions on YouTube but for me the one above is the most evocative. I can still see those Canadian engineers standing on the deck of the Oriana in the late afternoon sun with the tears running down their faces as the tune wafted up from the wharf.
The high emotional content of the song is understandable. In the old days when some one left the islands it was unlikely that they would ever return. Without a doubt it is one of the most beautiful tunes on the planet – bar none.
Here is another less traditional version that was recorded by Ry Cooder. It is good but for me it doesn’t quite match the emotional content of the Fijian Police Band
Saturday April 8, 2017, 7:30pm – SWEET ALIBI at 5768 Haha Creek Road, Wardner.This is the last concert of this season’s Home Routes House Concerts.
It seems that Winnipeg is possibly the geographical center of Canada and at the same time it is the center of Canada’s musical universe. Maybe it is the cold winters that drives everybody indoors to play and appreciate music. Over the years the quality of musicians that have come out of this city has proven to be exceptional. For this last concert, the trio Sweet Alibi – Amber Rose – vocals, guitar, ukulele and a little percussion on the side; Michelle Anderson – vocals, banjo and guitar; Jess Rae Ayre – vocals, guitar, harmonica and a little percussion on the side has once again demonstrated that musicians from Winnipeg are top draw. Most of the music presented was original material written by the trio with an occasional cover of lesser known songs such as Bob Dylan’s Gotta Serve Somebody (it was a new song to me but it maybe better known by everybody else)
Gotta Serve Somebody
You may be an ambassador to England or France You may like to gamble, you might like to dance You may be the heavyweight champion of the world You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed You’re gonna have to serve somebody Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief
Also there was Khari Wendell McClelland’sSong of the Agitator. It is a song that remembers the Underground Railway of African Americans fleeing from the USA in the mid 1800s. It is a song that, with the current Moslem immigrants illegally crossing the border into Manitoba had some sense of deju vu . “Every thing changes but some things seem to just stay the same”. As per their website – ” The appeal of Sweet Alibi’s sound hinges on their ability to mix elements of folk, roots, and country, then present it in the context of a tightly-structured pop song.” I think that is true. Their vocal harmonies are strong and their spartan accompaniments take the music way outside the narrow confines of current pop/rock music. The mix of the banjo and the heavy vibrato of the electric guitar provides a unique background to their songs and takes them even further away from run of the mill pop music. Three songs that had great appeal where Dark Train, Walking in the Dark and Bodacious (a famous rodeo bull forced to retire because he was way to dangerous for cowboys to try and ride). Here are some images from the evening:
Jess Rae Ayre Michelle Anderson
So ends the marvelous musical series for this past winter. The musicians and the venues were were exceptional and the weather, at times, was a little bit of a challenge but that comes with living in the back blocks of Canada. I wish to thank the hosts, Van, Shelagh, Patricia and Gordon for opening their homes for these wonderfully intimate musical concerts and for providing the wine and treats. I am looking forward to next winter and, hopefully, another Home Routes Concert Series.