Sunday, May 08, 2016

Leacock "Tales and Tunes," June 3-5, 2016

Coming up fast:  Ottawa Storyteller Gail Anglin and I will be reprising our successful collaboration with the fabulous North Winds Brass at three local venues on the first weekend of June.  Gail and I will tell stories by Canada's humour hall-of-famer, Stephen Leacock, and the North Winds Brass will please your ears with a variety of tunes from Joplin, Maurer, Lamb and others appropriate to the period (broadly speaking, between the Wars).  That brass ensemble sound is really amazing!

Here are the places and times:

St. James the Apostle Anglican Church, Carp (3774 Carp Road), June 3rd., 7:30 PM

Rideau Park United Church, Ottawa (2203 Alta Vista Dr.), June 4th., 7:30 PM

St. Marks Anglican Church, Ottawa (1606 Fisher Ave), June 5th., 2:30 PM

Tickets are available at the door:$20 for adults, $15 for Students/Seniors, $10 for children 12 and under (who have a good attention span...).  Hope to see you there!

"Fun, Fire, and Smallpox … in Canada’s timber capital" (Not to mention music!) OST Tent Show, May 27-28, June 10-11, 2016

I will be joining with singers Gail Anglin and Jill Shipley and musicians Al Ridgway and Anne Hurley to provide the musical dimension for the spring Tent Show of the Ottawa StoryTellers.  To complement the colourful tales from Ottawa's past, we will be performing some classic pop tunes of the early 20th century.  OST will be pitching the big tent in four locations across the city  on May 27 & 28 and June 10 & 11.  We hope to see you there!

"At the turn of the 20th century, Ottawa was coming of age. We had one of the grandest hotels on the continent, years before the Chateau Laurier was built. We had an opera house and several fine theatres, which featured international stars, and we rivalled New York for innovative technology. This was also the world of the lumber barons, H. F. Bronson, J. R. Booth, and E. B. Eddy, with their massive stockpiles of dry timber, and nearby, the rough wooden houses of the mill and yard workers. On a fine spring day in 1900, all of this would be destroyed in hours by a fire so huge you could see the smoke in Kingston.
Early Ottawa was ravaged by fire, by disease, by scandal, yet every time, she picked herself up, dusted herself off, and, often with a laugh, carried on."
OST's travelling Tent Show, Fun, Fire, and Smallpox recounts that time in stories and music in four delightful settings across the city.
All shows at 7 Pm.
-        May 27: Cumberland Heritage Village Museum, 2940 Old Montreal Road, 613-833-3059
-        May 28: Billings Estate National Historic Site, 2100 Cabot Street, 613-247-4830
-        June 10: Fairfield House, 3080 Richmond Road (nr. Bayshore shopping centre), 613-726-2652
-        June 11: Pinhey’s Point Historic Site 270 Pinhey Point Road, Dunrobin, 613-832-1249
Tickets are $15, available at the door or by calling the venues. All venues accept cash or debit/credit cards.
Ages 14+
Running time is approximately 90 minutes plus a 15 minute intermission (with free refreshments!)
For more information, or call Pat Holloway at 613-731-1047

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Song talk #5: Trekkie’s Honeymoon

I’ve been assured that “Trekkies’ Honeymoon,” from my CD Practical Man, qualifies as a “filk song.”  In case you are not familiar with the phenomenon, here’s what Wikipedia says:  
Filk music is a musical culture, genre, and community tied to science fiction/fantasy fandom and a type of fan labour. The genre has been active since the early 1950s, and played primarily since the mid-1970s. The term (originally a typographical error) predates 1955.
I love that the name is unabashedly derived from a typo.  And yes, a song with multiple references to the Star Trek universe does seem to meet the criteria –though I have to say I never thought of the writing as “fan labour” (which sounds pretty onerous, and much too earnest for a satirical tune).  The roots of the song go deep into my childhood, when Captain Kirk and his crew first came whooshing inexplicably through the vacuum of space and onto our little black-and-white 1960s TV screen.  The original Star Trek has been in perennial reruns for so many decades, and its terms and images are so deeply embedded in popular culture now, that it is difficult to convey the excitement and wonder the series evoked for a child at the time, even when seen in shades of grey.

Years later,  the legions of fans who had kept the faith through the long, lean time after the show’s abrupt cancellation were rewarded with a chain of Star Trek movies and  Star Trek: The Next Generation, plus various spinoffs.  By that time my interest in Federation space, Klingons and warp drive had levelled off into something partly nostalgic and entirely recreational –and it had never been, dare I say, fanatical.  I would never have memorized (or argued about) the technical specs of the Starship Enterprise, or learned Klingon, or pursued a degree in Vulcan studies. For one thing, I lacked the stamina for such “fan labour.” For me, Star Trek was about fantasy, not work; still, I have to admire the energy and creativity (and labour!) that many true fans invest in fan fiction, artwork and cosplay.  (For those born before 1980, Wikipedia will tell you that “cosplay,” a contraction of the words costume and  play, is “a performance art in which participants called cosplayers wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific character.”)

The immediate inspiration for “Trekkies’ Honeymoon” was a newspaper story about the latest Star Trek cosplay wedding.  (I don’t think anyone was using the term “cosplay” at the time, but you get my drift: bridal party dressed in starship crew uniforms, with the bride and/or the groom in Klingon face prosthetics or Vulcan ears, and the ceremony performed by a Federation Admiral on a mockup of the bridge of the Enterprise.  About as far as you can get from a Quaker wedding ceremony...) 

Reflecting that “the course of true love never did run smooth,” I found my mind drawn irresistibly to what might transpire later that night, after the last shuttle had departed.  The various double entendres diverge rather sharply from the spirit and intent of the late Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, who, as far as I can tell, was a pretty decorous fellow.

Our wedding night's a Holodeck of passion
In a hotel suite rigged up like Deep Space Nine
We're in full Star Trek regalia
But the thing may be a failure
If you don't beam over here and say you're mine...

In recording the song, James Stephens, Alex Vlamis and I had a blast playing with the musical references of the Star Trek universe, and adding a Klingon chorus at critical points. The song is fun to do as a live solo number with just me and my guitar, but Alex’s brilliant piano takes it to the next galaxy.

Fortunately, most Trekkies (and recovered Trekkies) have a sense of humour.  If I could just write a dozen more filk songs, maybe I could even work up a tour of the filk circuit (comic book and sci-fi conventions, cosplay events...)  Unfortunately I think the only other one I can claim is “Aliens Are Landing In Our Yard,” and that is really more of a kid’s song.  So trying to pass myself off as a filk musician would be akin to masquerading as a polka meister, having written only “The Polka Of Death.”
So now you've got my ring on
Won't you let me be your Klingon...