Sunday, April 13, 2008

Melody musing

Another great night of music, this time courtesy of Anne Schaefer, Paul O'Brien, Alison Vardy and members of the quartet. Anne gave us a peek into her new upcoming CD, a "concept" album that revolves around an assortment of intriguing characters culled from her slightly quirky imagination: idiosyncratic, confessional characters, each with a markedly different feel for life. What makes this is a significant departure from Anne's last CD is the punchy, almost raucous rhythm of several of her new tunes and a kind of contrapuntal relationship between the music and lyric. Great song writer and a dry appealing sense of humour that the audience really tapped into.

Paul O'Brien hails from Birmingham, England. His parents, though, are Irish-born and bred, which as Paul explained last night has caused him some chagrin. Seems his claim of Irish roots has been met with scepticism on the part of a few Irishmen who refer to anyone of Irish descent who's not actually been born there as "a plastic". Paul described the humiliation he felt because of the term in a song of the same name (also the name of his new upcoming CD). If his new CD out next month is anything like his last it's a must buy.

I first heard Alison Vardy at the Victoria Folk Club several months ago. As the date for the annual Buddhist Centre Benefit Concert arrived I remembered the magical effect her harp work had on the audience and gave her a call. She agreed to play and from that moment on I knew we had a terrific line-up for April 12. Alison did not disappoint. Her deft and fluid fingering on the Celtic harp entranced us all.

Very gratified by the response to Nancy and I as we sang a few new tunes, in particular “Tender Mercies” by Eliza Gilkyson, a song that attempts to reconcile the feelings of hope and despair that permeate Western and Middle Eastern societies. A touching, spare piece of music that I fell in love with the moment I heard her sing it at the Edmonton Music Festival a few years back.

For more info and music by last night’s performers check out these websites:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

On the Road Again

Well, it's been an amazing few weeks...beginning with a wonderful audience at the Dancing Bean Cafe in Chemainus March 29. Normally, I shy away from playing dining rooms. Who really wants to compete with the Blue Plate Special, after all? The Dancing Bean crowd is a little different, however, in that they care as much about listening to good music as they do about eating good food (great food, in fact! try it if you're ever out that way). In short, they're warmly receptive, applauding loudly at the end of each song and listening with particular care to the softer ballads like “Patty Jane and Her Merchant Marine” and “Kelly's Boat”. Several come up to us after the gig to thank us and to chat.

First Sales

That evening was also the first time we had the CD for sale. To my enormous delight 9 discs go out the door at night’s end - fitting tribute to the purchasers’ taste, if I may say so. And as always happens when we have a good night the quartet laughes and kibitzes with the cafĂ© owner and staff before piling into one lone vehicle and heading back to Victoria with yours truly at the wheel. A rough, rainy night on the Malahat but I manage to get my charges home safely.

My Second Home

A few months ago someone told me the Victoria Folk Club has never had a CD launch - something about not wanting to give up the Open Stage and the desire by some musicians to make a killing in CD sales in one of the trendier bars downtown. Pshaw, says I. It’s my home away from home. And I can’t count the number of times someone at the club has come up and asked if I have a CD available yet. These folks gave me a chance after I came back from an enormous hiatus from the music business. Not to do the launch there would have been, well...downright churlish.

And so we do the launch at the Victoria Folk Club, Open Stage and all. And what a launch. Packed house. Friends, fans and people I’d never seen before seated up front, while people lean in from the shadows at the back. Perched near the front door table - my boy Daniel manning the CD sales counter. A broad warm warble of excitement in the air. Nervously we take the stage and within minutes I can feel the entire house sway to the rhythm of “Papa’s on the Road” and “Footloose Heart”. By evening’s end we have done some of the favourites like “This Picture of You” and “For the Sake of Always of Loving You” and added a couple of fresh tunes, e.g. a beautiful little ballad by Clair Lynch called “Sweet Heart Darlin’ of Mine”.

For the encore we pull out an old Beatles’ number which everyone loves “I’ve Just Seen a Face”, an appropriate number as I cast a quick glance at Gael seated in the middle of the pack to the left. I have studiously avoided looking her way all night to maintain focus. She smiles. I smile. The song ends and the place erupts in applause and cheers, then house lights, scraping of chairs and audience banter. It’s been a great night. Everyone can feel it. People crowd around the musicians, thanking and congratulating them.

Me, I need a glass of water and make my way through the crowd to the back. Daniel leans over and says urgently that the next time we do a CD it should be live: “You’re a great performer, Dad!” This is special. Daniel and his Dad's tastes in music are not always in accord. It’s only at that moment that it hits me that Yes, it really has been a great night after all.

And the CD sales? It seems we’ve tied a record for the most CDs ever sold by a feature. 33. Could I be happier? Don’t think so.