Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Musician’s musician blog

One of the great things about playing music is that one can do it from from age 2 to 92 as the Xmas song says. I recently attended a presentation at Cosmo Music that featured the Tower of Power horn section. This legendary band began 43 years ago complete with the 5-piece horn section. Most top studio musicians have been influenced and played the Tower of Power songs over the many years.
 
Imagine yourself playing the horn of your choice 43 years from now and the experiences you would have had, playing with the world’s finest musicians, recording CD’s, LP’s? MP3’s ? And at every venue there are multiple generations of families knowing all the lyrics to your songs and the trumpet or sax players in the audience knowing every line because they play in a cover band of you. Then you must be the musician’s musician.
 
There are numerous autobiographical books about musicians like Keith Richards, Sammy Hagar and Glenn Gould. Whether it is classical or rock n roll or soul rhythm and blues there will always be legendary live musicians. May we all support their live shows and buy their music recordings. If you are reading this you realize how much great arts activity goes on in York Region and if you want more, clear a space in your home, invite a few musicians  plus an audience of your friends and host your own House Concert. And if you do not know musicians, ask me, for their are many great ones who are your neighbours.

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Research for a Song, Part 2

Back in February I posted about doing research for a song I’m writing about the Sharon Temple, and the breakaway Quaker sect that built it (it was completed in 1829).

First draft
At that point I had just sent my first draft to John McIntyre, a fellow Yorkscene blogger who’s also the curator at the Temple, with questions about certain phrases and historical details. The song is narrated by the last surviving member of the sect, Emily McArthur (1837-1924). One of the really interesting exchanges John and I had concerned the song’s chorus:

Oh we made a joyful sound, and we dressed in colours gay
We were neighbour helping neighbour in the truest Christian way
Sons and daughters standing equal in Jehovah’s holy sight
We were the Children of Peace, we were the children of light

Dilemma
Originally I wanted the last line to be “We were the children of light, we were the Children of Peace,” because the sect called themselves the Children of Peace and that’s the title of the song. But “peace” is hard to rhyme: “fleece,” “grease,” “geese” – none of those were going to work, obviously! “Increase” or “cease” seemed the best bets, but I couldn’t come up with lines using those words that made sense in context.

And I wasn’t going to resort to half-rhymes, the way a lot of current songwriters do – rhyming the vowel but not the consonant, e.g., teach/peace or meet/peace. For one thing, I was writing in the voice of an old woman who was telling her story around 1915, and writers of that era stuck to exact rhymes. And secondly, I generally do too in song lyrics, because I love the musicality of echoing the same sounds.

Solution
So I reluctantly put “Children of Peace” first and ended with “children of light,” a phrase that referenced the Quaker concept of the “Inner Light.” Putting that phrase in the mouth of my narrator was definitely poetic licence, or so I thought, though it sure was easier to rhyme!

But when I told John McIntyre, rather apologetically, about my difficulty rhyming “peace” and how I’d made up the phrase “children of light,”  he wrote back: “Actually, they seem to have experimented with this name [Children of Light] for a while in the early days. You must have sensed that!”

Research payoff
Wow! I thought. It was almost as if I’d been channelling Emily McArthur herself.  Or maybe it was just a lucky accident. But I figure it’s got more to do with the hours of research I put in, immersing myself in that time and the world of the Children of Peace – to the point that, as John said, I could “sense” or intuit things about them that rang true.

Unexpected ending
And here’s the kicker: When I’d finished the last verse, suddenly two more lines seemed to write themselves. In them, Emily says, re the departed members of the sect –

Oh may I join them once again when my soul finds its release
We were the children of light, we were the Children of Peace

So the song ends with the name of the sect now, and with the song’s title. A lovely, satisfying surprise!

………………………..

Marie-Lynn Hammond is a co-founder of Stringband, a seminal Canadian folk group, and a critically acclaimed songwriter living in York Region. In past lives she’s written plays and magazine articles and hosted national CBC radio shows. In between working on two new CDs, she freelances as an editor of both fiction and nonfiction.

Putting a price on Art

I was recently having a chat with a fellow artist and we both shared a similar view that most people don’t put much value on art these days.

Two things in particular have contributed the demise and de-valuation of commercial art – the recession and the internet.

The recession has hit many businesses hard with budget cuts and funds for better creative has suffered. The internet, although it has exponentially increased resources and exposure for art and artists alike, has also reduced their value. Because people can go online and download services, they don’t want to pay fair price to a talented, qualified professional right in their own backyard.

The unwillingness to pay fairly for art is wide spread. The market simply is encouraged to demand cheap prices for the same quality of work that was readily paid for years ago. The “I can get it cheaper” thinking has been the norm for a while now and yes, you can get it cheaper. There is always going to be someone willing to give his or her talent away out there but where is the lasting value?

We have bought into the good life for nothing mentality but it seems to be focused on the arts. Creativity and artistic expression is subjective in many ways but if it is to be purchased and marketed then shouldn’t it be valued fairly?

Business and society really needs to start or re-start respecting the arts.

A society that does not respect art and culture is morally bankrupt and is doomed to be an empty machine that cranks out joyless, cogs that leave no legacy. The price society pays is a big one.

We need to re-evaluate the arts in our society because right now the value is too low.

A Free Artistic World – My take on the vision of Nelson Mandela

Manuele Mizzi

By: Manuele Mizzi

As spring roles in, a time of new beginnings, we are reminded of those in the world who have paved the way for us.  Sharing the stage with all ethnicities and working on the arts from every racial pathway is a freedom not all have.   In two weeks, the Spirit of Mandela week will be celebrated in various ways, in many schools throughout the world. While researching this great man, I came across many interesting quotes about his thoughts on freedom and the future of the world.  His great knowledge spanned from times in South Africa when apartheid was rampant and people who didn’t look alike couldn’t collaborate with each other on any level.  Black people didn’t have rights and white people had control over most decisions being made.  Mandela spent 27 years in jail stemming from being an activist and trying to bring about change because he was under the impression that, as should be world-wide, all humans should be equal.  He said, “We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.”  Why should a child be unable to share in all of the wonders that our world has to offer just because they don’t look like their neighbour.  

I think of all the abilities I have as a musician to work with those who understand all the musics and theatre from other plains – African, Asian, South American, etc.  I wonder what my life would be like if I only knew or was familiar with the arts from a European standpoint and would I be able to grow ever?  Learning about different backgrounds and the paths which the people in ours and our neighbours pasts makes us the rich artistic beings we are today.   

After my research I read through a couple of quotes with the students in one my drama classes at school.  We talked about each and every quote and their significance to the world which Mandela knew and the world in which we know here in Canada.  The students pondered about what freedom means and were even brought back to their studies on the slaves.  One student came up to me as he was leaving the class and looked me straight in the eye and said, “That was the most interesting drama class”.  

 …”And out of the mouth of babes”.  Thank you for your dreams and hopes for the future Mr. Mandela.  I hope that these children and many more understand the message of hope and spread it like wild-fire.

 For more information please visit: http://mandela-children.ca/en/

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Celebrate Spring in Georgina!

Celebrate Spring in Georgina! Don’t miss the Inclusive Recreation Information Fair taking place at the Georgina Ice Palace from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. Featuring information about day and overnight camps, local recreation and leisure programs, swimming instruction, respite services and community programs, the event will be of interest to families who have a special needs child or youth, as well as for service providers who support them. For more information, contact Vanessa Karklins, Inclusive Recreation Coordinator, Children’s Treatment Network, at 905-305-7440 ext 237 or vkarklins@yssn.ca. For more Georgina Events visit http://ow.ly/4AfuH

Succeeding or Surviving in Music? YOU Decide…

Marie-Lynn Hammond

By: Marie-Lynn Hammond

York Region just has its first big arts conference, Arts Exposed, and I sat on a panel called “Succeeding in the Music Business.” I joked that I really ought to have been in one called “Surviving in the Music Business,” because that’s how I generally think of my career.

 But one of the other panelists pointed out that success is relative, and we know there’s only so much room at the top for the Neil Youngs, K’naans, Shania Twains and Celine Dions. So for most of us working musicians, he said, we’ll pay the rent, create some music we’re proud of, and have a core group of fans who stick with us. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

 (And, being Canadian, we’ll also get to travel thousands of kms through snow and blizzards to play to the other five people who were crazy enough to head out into the storm to hear us play. But I digress…)

 And I suppose the same goes for the other arts as well. We can’t all be geniuses — or, in the case of Justin Bieber, lucky. But many of us can make an okay, or even very decent, living as artistic creators.

 I’m currently recording a new CD, and I know it won’t get commercial airplay. I did three shows last month, to a total of probably less than 200 people. But I got an encore at each show (including a standing ovation – at an informal house concert, no less!), and I knew that I had taken those folks on a journey with my songs, from laughter to tears and back again. So am I successful? Well, I was those nights, for those audiences.

 But, okay, I’ve never gotten rich from my music. I’m far from a household word. Heck, I’m not even a hallway-closet word. Still, when I was a shy, miserable teen secretly making up songs in my bedroom, with no encouragement and no sense of whether I could even sing in tune, if someone had told me that I’d eventually have a listing in the Encylopedia of Music in Canada (http://is.gd/oclkan),  I’d have told them they were nuts. So given that, I guess I have succeeded. Like I said, it’s all relative.

 So what about you? What’s your definition of success in the music business? Join in and share your thoughts!

…………….. 

Marie-Lynn Hammond is a co-founder of Stringband, a seminal Canadian folk group, and a critically acclaimed songwriter living in York Region. In past lives she’s written plays and magazine articles and hosted national CBC radio shows. In between working on two new CDs, she freelances as an editor of both fiction and nonfiction. www.marielynnhammond.com

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Classical Music is Alive with Youthfulness

John Ebata

By: John Ebata

There are times when one is tired and drags themselves out to an event expecting the worst or an average musical performance. Last night started that way as I attended a high school performance at the Toronto Waldorf School called ‘On the Wings of the Arts.’

First the string orchestra performed Haydn’s Symphony #1 in D major. Then they were joined by a small choir ensemble to perform Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria.’ As I sat beside world-renowned tenor John MacMaster , sitting to protect the recording microphone set-up beside us from the crowd, I was thinking this is very unusual to have high tech at the Waldorf School where the thought is for student performances, photography and recording is generally forbidden with the thought being the performances should be remembered in mind not in technology. So I figured something special must be up.

 Onstage there was a real harpsichord, real string orchestra and choir and all enthusiastic students. The music became riveting, movements started and ended, solo sopranos Clarisse Tonigussi and Jenna  Pattison had the audience jaw dropped with amazing vocal technique then violinist Beatrice Hodgkins and cellist Lucas Dawson rode contrapuntal lines against the vocal melodies. As conductor Tony Browning closed off the final chord over an hour had passed in what seemed just minutes and the audience rose to its feet giving a long, looooong standing ovation.

 As a performer of any of the arts, one realizes the ultimate high when performer reaches out with their craft and touches the audience. These young vocal students under the choir direction of Patricia MacMaster and accompanist Catherine Maguire acted as one wing with Mr. Brownings orchestra as the other wing to let the audience hearts soar to the beautiful music. BRAVO.

 What does Haydn’s Symphony sound like? Take a listen here:

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