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)



Arts on the Edge 2012

ARTS ON THE EDGE : THE GALA RECEPTION Adjudicated Open Exhibitions for Established and Emerging Artists, Centre 64 from August 8th to September 1st, 2012. The Gala event was held on Friday, August 10, 2012.

Ticket sales had not been brisk so when so many last minute patrons started crowding into the gallery the organizers were caught a little off guard.  There was plenty of food but with the number of artists and patrons in the downstairs and upstairs gallery space it quickly became evident that a supply run for liquid refreshments was required. Not to worry, with super efficiency this was soon taken care of. The evening was a brilliant success with 22 established artists and 17 emerging artists exhibiting upwards to 80 pieces of art covering all aspects of the visual arts.  The organizers had a field day with giving out of awards.The members of the jazz group, The Jazz Council (Laurel Ralston on trumpet; Tim Plait on piano, Bernie Primbs on Baritone sax, Sven Heyde on drums and Joel Kroeker on bass)  had lodged them selves on the upper gallery and their music floating down on the patrons more than enhanced the Gala atmosphere of the reception.                                           With the huge number of patrons the galleries did get a little warm but that was a convenient excuse for patrons to spill out into the garden. To contribute to the “edgeness” of Arts on the Edge I submitted a piece called “Death of Down Jacket” I don’t know if I should have been embarrassed but one patron actually remembered me wearing this jacket on the ski hill many, many years ago. (click on the images for larger views)


ARTS ON THE EDGE: THE CONCERT IN THE PARK  – Coronation Park, Kimberley, August 11, 2012, 1 pm to 7:30 pm

Without a word of doubt this must be the best musical bang for the buck on the planet. $5 per head or $10 for a family for an out door concert on a beautiful August sunny day. Situated in Coronation Park  within 5 minutes walking distance of down town Kimberley it is a great setting on a great day and, best of all, with lots of great music and entertainment. While there was a sprinkling of out of town performers (Holly and Jon from the Slocan, Kiki the Eco Elf from Vernon and The Kings of Kitchener from Creston) local musicians had ample opportunities to win new fans. The opening act for the afternoon was 60 Hertz (James Neve vocals & guitar; Rob Young lead guitar; Dave Birch on bass; Marty Musser drums). This well known local band is a vehicle for the song writing talents of James Neve, the smooth lead guitar work of Rob Young and the tight ensemble vocals and arrangements of the band. As always this was a classy act that was further enhanced by Ray Gareau’s masterful balancing of the sound. The all time favourites were there (“These Old Shoes”, “Deep Water”, “Virtuality” – with that wonderful descending bass run) as well as the newer songs “Cry for You” and “Living in the Sun”. I missed not hearing “Rainland” but, as always,  it is the old story of “so many tunes and so little time”

                                   60 Hertz, a band at the top of their game.

While the next band was setting up The Off Centre Players, with a little help from the young folks in audience set out to prove that The Wolf in the three little pigs story was framed. The Wolf proved too scary for one young performer who went screaming from the scene. The script, “The Wolf – I was Framed”, was from the pen of Joanne Wilkinson.                        

Heather Gemmell and the Peaks (Heather – guitar and vocals; Paul Bouchard – drums; Ray Gareau – bass) came together for last year`s CD release concert of Heather`s recording THE ROAD. I suspect that they had been jamming and rehearsing prior to that gig. Heather still has a healthy solo career but yearns for the “edgyness“ of a full on band. That has it`s pluses but it is a shame that her great guitar riffs and voice tend to get buried in the overly amplified mix.                                                                                                     In the meantime Bill Henriksen is over there on the edge Spinning his Yarn (literally)


 and Kiki the Eco Elf (Tanya Lipscomb) was busy getting the kids to wave their hands in the air and to do “The Sillies”.                                                  

And then it was time for “a little country” with Tucks Troubadours (Larry Tuck – ukelele bass, Dave Carlson – Mandolin, Bud Decose – lead guitar and Doug Simpson on rhythm guitar) The set  included songs and tunes by George Straight, Tom T. Hall, Bob Wills (“Faded Love”), Rodney Foster (“Just call me Lonesome”) and the very un-country composer Duke Ellington (“Don’t Get Around Much any more”). There was lots of great ensemble work by the band with mandolin and lead guitar solos by Dave Carlson and Bud Decose.


Jon Burden and his daughter Holly have been touring and performing in this area for over a dozen years. Holly was not much more than a teenager when I first saw her perform and, of course, over the years things have changed. Originally they toured as Jon and Holly. Jon was the mentor and Holly the protege. Now Holly is all grown up, a mother and a mature artist in her own right so, naturally they are now billed as Holly and Jon. Their music is saturated in a blues tradition that goes way back to Bessie Smith with all stops in between. Although they have been coming to Kimberley for many years every performance is fresh and vibrant. They have a new recording under their belt and Arts on the Edge festival was an opportunity to show case the blues and original material on that disc. Jon has always done a superb job on Robert Johnston’s “Better Come In My Kitchen” but this year it was over the top with Jon’s perfectly controlled slide work, Holly’s bass and Holly’s voice soaring over the top in a spine chilling arrangement. For the young female performers in the area Holly is the role model they should all be looking to emulate. She has a great voice, stage presence, superb bass playing and a professional demeanour that should be a bench mark.   As always it was a great performance.                                      “As the sun started sinking slowly in the west” PT THE CLOWN was still busy with the kids as The Kings of Kitchener took to the stage with their special brand of quirky rock and roll. The band, from Creston, featured Mike Mitchell on suite case percussion, Ted Bryant on Guitar and Neil “O” (Ostafichuk) on bass guitar. I have a special affection for this band. Mike’s kick bass drum trunk originally came all the way from Australia with me and my family over thirty years ago. I love their weird instrumentation and off the wall interpretations of music we all know but have never really heard it played this way. This is truly Art on the Edge.             

For the published review of last year’s ARTS ON EDGE 2011 go to the JOURNALISM tab in this blog.



Heather Gemmell & The Jazz Council


HEATHER GEMMELL at the Pickled Bean Cafe (Cranbrook International Airport), Friday August 3, 2012 5pm. The weather is heating up and so is the local music scene. No sooner had I pronounced the local scene dead than things have started to happen. Heather has managed to string together a series of solo engagements and that meant no drummer. I, for one, didn’t mind. It was an opportunity to hear some of Heather’s especially fine guitar work. And judging by the audience response, airport and cafe patrons were more than happy to kick back and enjoy a more mellow version of  Heather`s rootsy/blues offerings. I have this wish list. I would like to see and hear more of Heather in a more jazzy laid back environment. I have this image of her performing with an upright bass player and a really hot soprano sax player as a perfect foil to her voice and bluesy guitar. With lots of space in the music I think it would be a really cool combination. This engagement was part of the Airport and the Pickled Bean Cafe`s Summer Artist Showcase series. Keep in mind that on most Friday evening, 5-7pm, local performers have an opportunity to play for anybody passing through the airport.Over the next few weeks Daze of Grace, Leather Britches and Tom Bungay will be performing.        

(Click on the images for a larger view)

THE JAZZ COUNCIL at Ric’s Lounge in Cranbrook, Friday August 3, 2012, 7 pm. Well, I never did get the story straight about their drummer Sven Heyde. He either got lost, was ditched by the band or he was away in a huff because the bass player Joel Kroeker and Tim Plait are leaving the band. Without the drummer Laurel Ralston (trumpet and fluegelhorn), Bernie Primbs (baritone sax) Tim and Joel soldiered on. It was not a hardship. In fact, on a couple of piano / bass duets the drummer would have only been clutter (sorry Sven). Even without the drummer it was another very civilized night of music, food and refreshments. The band kicked off the evening with a tune long associated with Armad Jamal and Miles Davis – “If I Were a Bell“ – complete with the corny, but essential, piano intro. The band and worked their way through such jazz standards as “Summertime“, “Moonglow“, “I`ve Got You Under My Skin“ and “It had to Be You“. My favourite of the evening was Luis Bonfa`s “Manha De Carnaval`(Morning of the Carnival`) from the wonderful 1959 classic film “Black Orpheus“. This is a tune definitely touched by the gods and Joel`s exploration of the melody was especially fine.

                    Keep in Mind THE JAZZ COUNCIL will be performing at the Arts on the Edge Gala at Centre 64 in Kimberley next Friday and will be giving a farewell performance next Saturday at the Studio – Stage Door for Tim Plait who is heading off to Germany and Joel Kroeker who is taking up a teaching position in Sparwood.The Jazz Council will be back in the fall with a new line up and some exciting musical adventures.




Classical Season just ended….


It was a classical music season of ups and down and I guess the outdoor concert “Music in the Mountains” was a convenient end to a somewhat rocky season. But first a disclaimer. I didn’t get to all the performances during the season. I missed the Symphony Christmas concert and I didn’t attend any of the Arts Festival performances so I guess I missed a significant chunk of what was going on. However, of the concerts that I did get to attend I think the following are worth noting.

The Diva and the Maestro – Natalie Choquette and the Symphony of the Kootenays, Key City Theatre, Saturday, October 29th, 2011, 7:30 pm

Classically trained sopranos are not necessarily my cup of tea. More often than not for me they are shrill and hard on the ear. However, Natalie Choquette proved to be the exception. She managed to take the standard diva repertoire to another level of entertainment. The premise of the concert was “A Maestro is trying to come to terms with eccentric internationally renowned divas such as “la Fettucini”, “Fraulein Wienerschnitzel”, “Nadia Camenitchaïkovskyaya”, “Mrs Osolemio” and many more…!” In an array of an extravagant costumes and interactions with members of the audience and “the maestro” Natalie played the role of all the divas in this contest of wills with the conductor Bruce Dunn.  With humour and panache she managed to work her way though the popular operatic repertoire. Of the symphony concerts I have attended over the years this was by far the most entertaining. It was unfortunate that the audience numbers were less than optimum. Of course one wonders why that was the case and possibly part of the reason for low attendance was the lack of adequate publicity. I for one had no idea what to expect from the concert and as a result I was more than pleasantly surprised by the wonderful performance. Normally I am not a fan of concerts that place a high reliance on show biz glitz to pull off a performance but for Natalie Choquette the entertainment trappings were definitely an added value.

LA CAFAMORE STRING QUARTET, Knox Presbyterian Church, Friday September 30th, 2011, 7:30

From one extreme to the other; From the entertainment values of the operatic world to the modern, super cool, amplified music of the La Cafamore String Quartet is quite a leap and it was a leap well worth taking. The featured work on the program was Steve Reich’s minimalist masterpiece “Different Trains”. This piece may have required a significant intellectual and emotional leap for audiences unfamiliar with truly modern music. Steve Reich is a modern American minimalist composer who relies on short phrases that evolve, loop and interlock in complex melodic and rhythmic patterns. It is steps away from the increasing harmonic complexity of most modern music. The piece is a programmatic rumination by the composer on train journeys in the United States and in Europe in 1939 on through to about 1950. It is a reflection of the composer’s personal recollections and war time Jewish experiences. Now here is the super cool part. As usual the publisher sends along the  manuscript for the string quartet but also includes a CD of pre-recorded train sounds, snatches of speech and another string quartet playing the loops of music that are the core of the composition. In simplistic terms “Different Trains” is an interactive karaoke experience of a pre-recorded CD performance and the amplified La Cafamore String Quartet on stage.  The overhead display of the text and the sequence of the music certainly helped keep the audience on track. “Different Trains” is a three movement work; “I: America – before the War”, “II: Europe – During the War”, “III: After the War”. The piece was featured on a landmark 1988 recording by the Kronos Quartet but to actually see and hear the piece in live performance was a some what mind blowing experience. Also on the program were pieces by those  other well known revolutionaries Beethoven, Debussy and Puccini. This was a remarkable concert.

The Selkirk Trio, Knox Presbyterian Church, Cranbrook, Wednesday April 11th, 2012, 7:30 pm.

This unusual chamber music concert of piano (Sue Gould), clarinet (Nicola Everton) and cello (Jeff Faragher) was well attended. The trio featured the music of Beethoven, the Cuban Jazz world of Paquito D’Rivera’s “Afro”; The “lively and cheeky” music of Nino Roto (of The Godfather I & II film scores); some minor pieces by the German Jewish composer Max Bruch and the exotic Serbian dances by Marko Tajcevic. The Serbian music was a complete revelation. Arthur Rubenstein was known to have played transcriptions of these compositions and his influence was very evident in Sue Gould’s lively accompaniment to Nicola Everton’s absolutely liquid clarinet playing. Nicola bounced and oozed her way through the exotic odd metre eighth rhythms of music that sounded like it came straight off the streets of Zagreb. The program was rounded out with Paquito D’Rivera’s “Danzon” and Sue Gould and Nicola Porter giving full rein to their jazz inclinations with a wonderful rendition of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day”.

So those are my top picks of the season. That does not mean there were not other performances of merit out there. The concerts by the Bisset Singers was full of surprises and gorgeous choral arrangements.  The La Cafamore String Quartet came back to Cranbrook with Nina Horvath for another wonderful performance at the Knox. The unusual combination of Carolyn Cameron on violin and Aurora Dokken on piano and organ were also featured at the Knox in February. The talented amateur vocalists had their day in the sun at the Knox performing in “Sonatina Sunday”  (see the tab PERFORMANCES / MUSIC / SONATINA SUNDAY 2012 ). The JOE TRIO gave an entertaining performance at the Key City that was billed as a Symphony of the Kootenays concert but there was no orchestra in sight. I found that a bit puzzling. And of course there was the grand finale concert “Music In the Mountains” outdoors at the St Eugene Mission Golf resort.


So despite some organizational miss-steps by the Symphony it was a season full of wonderful music. The most notable feature of the season was the significant amount interesting and varied chamber music performed at the Knox Presbyterian Church.