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Current page: Concert Diary 2006

Current page: Concert Diary 2006

Concert Diary 2006

Canterbury Folk Festival, Ontario

Linda Simpson writes - Oh wow - what a time that was...

If you're thinking of going to Canada - GO - IT'S BRILLIANT.

This was Chris' 60th country; he was excited; we were excited - there was plenty of joking around and high spirits as we put things into the cases and then took them out again because we'd packed too much.

It's always a juggling act because our instruments, stands, tuners, other extras and CDs take up a big part of our baggage allowance. The allowance on Air Canada was pretty generous so it wasn't too hard this time but I do sometimes wish we played smaller/lighter instruments when it comes to packing (mouth harp would be a favourite!!).We usually have a bag the size of most people's hand luggage to get our clothes in - I'll take a photo next time just to prove it!!

Anyway - we got sorted and put everything ready by the door (on the inside of course) before having dinner with a neighbour (Christine) and staying up to some ridiculous hour - knowing that we had to be up at 5am - we are daft, but what the heck...

Darrell (Cuddles) came to pick us up at 6:30am - and off we set to Manchester. Darrell's liquorice toffees got a bit of a hammering by Matt and myself (sorry Cuddles) and we had black tongues at 'check in' which was a bit amusing (to us anyway).

Just a quick 'aside'...

Chris' birthday coming up I sneaked into duty free to get some aftershave - I chose the new 'Soul' from 'Boss' but, just as I was about to get it, Chris went past and said "I still prefer 'Kouros' ". I felt a little deflated at that, and was about to put it back, when a very young, very pretty female assistant grimaced and said "Kouros? That's sooooo eighties! - get that one - you have to smell it!".

I bought the new one; shared the story with everyone but Chris; and thereafter, everything he did before his birthday (when we finally let him in on it) was quoted as being "So eighties".

Back to the story...

We had decided to sleep on the plane but it was 11am and not that easy as we were all still excited; the film was good; the food was on its way and the promise of an early gin and tonic (naughty but nice) was too much of a temptation to miss. I would like to apologise to Matt's Mum and Dad at this point, as I'm sure the thought of their son drinking gin and tonic at midday is not a welcome idea, but it's just one of the perks of the road and nothing should be missed.

We put our watches back 5 hours (which meant that we were drinking at 7am - I don't know if that's better or worse!!); watched the film; accepted whatever was on offer and seven hours later we landed in Toronto.

I have to explain here that Piers and Ineke (who own the 'Eekhoornnest where we stay when we're in Holland) have a house in Canada. These two wonderful people got hold of the organiser of the festival that we were about to play on, they offered us a place to stay and, once the gig was set, determined that we would have the time of our lives!!

We had a bit of a 'moment' when we came out into the airport to find that they were not there. We knew that they wouldn't let us down but things can happen and we were worried for a while there - but suddenly Chris spotted a familiar face, Piers was walking towards us - wondering how we got through so soon.

We carried everything out to the car (only a Buick if you don't mind) and got our first look at Canada as we went down the road to Norwich where they have a log cabin without par - and WITH swimming pool - bliss!!! We threw the luggage into the rooms and then threw ourselves into the pool - I swear there was a hiss of steam - it was hot. After dinner we were certainly ready to get some sleep so we climbed the stairs and were snoring in no time (I know I was anyway because I had a sore throat the next morning!!).

Niagara Falls

We had deliberately (and with Piers' and Ineke's blessing) given ourselves plenty of time around the concert to get over the flight, try to find new contacts, do as much sightseeing as we could and celebrate Chris' birthday in his 60th country.

I can't go into all that now or this would be a book - but Piers and Ineke took us to Niagara Falls on the Wednesday - now that was something else. We visited Indian reservations, Tim Horton's, Port Dover, Stratford, Woodstock, farmers markets and much more. Matt got to Dairy Queen just the once but that's another story. We had a swim every morning, great meals all over the place and also a few barbeques. Oh yes, and the sweetcorn was different class!! - yummy.

There had been a lot of joking, by email and on the telephone, between Chris and Ted Cominski (the festival organiser) - Chris had agreed a fee including beer and a Moose. We arranged to meet up with Ted and his lovely wife Sherry at Crabby Joe's on the Thursday to find out what we were doing. Ted was waiting outside with a pack of 'Moosehead' beer - cracked it in one go. We were impressed.

Ted is such an individual - he loves his wife, his kids, music, and this festival - after that I'm not sure what comes next but I think I got that fairly right. He also writes great songs and can tell a good tale (he is Irish after all). We arranged everything for the Saturday and he also asked if we would be interested in meeting up after the gig for a bit of a jam session - does a fish swim?

We talked about the festival and Ted told us that one of his passions was to arrange workshops - give them a title and see what happened. Matt and I were down for one each and Chris for Two (poor Chris).

Talk to any musician and ask them what a workshop is, if you get a conclusive answer can you please send it to us because we have done so many of them and not one has been the same as another!! You just take your instrument and do whatever is expected of you (if you can).

The night before we checked out the titles. Chris was on with Canadian veterans for 'Early folk festivals' and later with some younger musicians for 'Emotions'.

Matt was billed as 'mandolin' because we didn't get his name to the organisers in time for the printing of the programs. It didn't take long for us to change this to Mandy Lynne - poor Matt.

Mine was with other female performers and called 'Dreaming on a sunny afternoon'.

With Piers and Ineke as an audience Chris started rehearsing for his workshops. I daren't tell you what he was proposing to do but suffice to say, we were rolling about laughing and begging him to stop. The real thing was very different of course but we enjoyed the spoof.

Chris, being a true veteran decided to 'play it by ear' and just see what came up. I picked out three songs to do with dreaming that I thought people might join in with (Joni Mitchel's 'Dreamland', Lindesfarne's 'Meet me on the Corner' and I considered doing Neil Young's 'After the Goldrush' but when it came to it - that one got left out).

Matt just sort of floundered about, mandolin is not his first instrument and being only 22 he didn't really have much experience of famous mandolin pieces. I was trying to think of ways to get him out of it but Chris said it would 'Do him good'.

Chris at his workshop

The big day arrived and we had decided we would each support each other so we first trouped to Chris' first venue at 11:30 am. 'Early Festivals' With MaGoo and Valdy. That was a hoot - they were all used to improvising and we were treated to a very entertaining hour of 'on the spot' songs - starting with a complaint about the fact that this festival - starting at 11:30am - could be considered an 'Early' festival. I have yet to meet a musician that 'does mornings'.

Next was Matt; so we went over to his stage. Poor Matt, we should have tried to get him out of it. The other guys were all playing away, enjoying their traditional tunes as Matt played along after the first couple of verses. We didn't tell him, but his mandolin was the loudest and, as he didn't know the stuff he was playing - there were some 'interesting' notes in there!!

After about half an hour they gave in and let him get the violin out; then asked him to say something. We thought they were going to lynch him as he muttered something about being fed up with the 'plinky plonk stuff' and launched into something on the violin. They forgave him!! Can you believe that?

My turn next - with an all star cast of lovely ladies. They were all very feminine and I was reminded of my schooldays when I always felt out of place for being a tomboy. I launched into 'Meet me on the corner' and the two 'Native American' ladies did back me up with some percussion on special 'drums' - the Native American equivalent of the bodran. We took it in turns to play a song each, all very beautiful songs, performed with gentile decorum - except for my performances. I just can't help being loud and 'up front' and I hope that I too was forgiven.

Last was the 'Emotions' workshop, which was not a patch on the performance that Chris had given us the night before, but if he'd done that we probably would have been asked to leave.

I have to say that everyone was just great - there was a lot of talent, great songs, players and singers and no massive egos getting in the way of everyone having a good time. That wouldn't happen on a UK festival and it was a refreshing change for us.

We decided to take a break after the workshops before the evening performance, so off we went, first to Tim Horton's for a coffee and then back to the house for a swim and a shower before getting ready for the performance.

Ineke's brother Jerry plays banjo and we had rehearsed one song with him which was going in towards the end of the set, so the four of us gathered backstage, got changed and tuned up ready for our performance. That's when we met Don who took a lot of the photographs - he has a talent for that but he also has a wine business (it's a little different to here) and had brought us a couple of sample bottles to try, thank you Don.

We really enjoyed the guys on just before us, they were very talented and had everyone laughing, if we had been a similar act I would not have liked to follow them, but as we are different it wasn't a problem.

The main gig - photograph by Don Wolan

MaGoo was doing the linking and he did a great job as we did the 'line check' and got the monitors set. One nice touch was the ceiling fans above us, it was very hot and they really did make a big difference'. We had a great time up there, our first gig in Canada was a good one - we didn't let the side down. Jerry came on to a great round of applause - the crowd loved the fact that we had a Canadian up there with us. We finished with 'Paradise Row' and were very pleased to do an encore. It was all over much too soon and I hope we did a good enough job to get us back to Canada next year.

Thanks to Greg who came from Calgary and Bill from Wisconsin - they deserve a mention for coming so far... I hope it was worth the trip.

After the gig we said hello to a few people and then made our way down to the cellar in 'Crabby Joe's where we were joined by MaGoo, Don, Ted, Ted's son Ted, Piers and Ineke. I think there were more folks but they will have to forgive my lousy memory. We sat exchanging stories and songs - it was a lovely way to wind down and finish off a perfect day - thank you to everyone who made all the effort to put it together. I think we got home at around 4am - wrung out but happy.

I deliberately haven't mentioned all the names of the performers - you can check those out on the schedule.

Chris enjoying his birthday

The following day we were all a bit floppy - we had given so much the day before that we didn't have much energy to do anything much - we did have our swim though and drank copious amounts of coffee.

The only other thing to mention is Chris' birthday - the 'When I'm sixty four' birthday.

He did very well for presents, including a 'Davey Crocket' hat from Piers and Ineke who also took us out for a fantastic afternoon's entertainment and a lovely meal in the evening. They went to so much trouble to make it a birthday to remember and they also deserve a big thank you for making so much possible for us.

Left Arrow Saul Canal Festival, Gloucestershire Salisbury Folk Festival, Wiltshire Right Arrow