Dispatches from the road from our wayfaring travelers.
This is the first in what I hope will be a series of posts about our trip to England. My very good friend Maria McCullough (kids’ and adult fiddle and ensemble) and I (kids’ and adult guitar and ensemble) have been invited by Folkworks, a folk music school in Newcastle, England, to attend The Hexham Gathering. We’ll be in Newcastle from May 23 to May 30.
Here’s a brief description of The Hexham Gathering.
Maria and I are very excited. This is going to be quite an event and we hope to bring back lots of songs and stories to share with you all. Please come back to this page starting on Monday, May 23 to follow our adventure.
Also, please mark your calendars for Friday, June 3 (6:00 to 7:00) and Saturday, June 4 (Noon to 1:00). Those the first First Friday celebration and first Saturday Open Jam after our return, and we plan on using those spaces to share stories, pictures and songs from our trip. Hope to see you there, if not before.
That’s it for now. Don’t forget to visit this page and please leave us a note!
I’m in the town of Cuernavaca during the two week that the Old Town School takes off from classes.
I’m concentrating on español for this trip, but if you know me, you know that music follows me close behind.
Thanks for reading. If you want to follow my further travels, please visit my blog at jasonmcinnesmusic.com.
Hasta luego, amigos.
This past week, the entire trip, the months of planning and nervous energy about my adventure here all culminated in last night’s performance. We rocked the house!
It was a good turnout for a Wednesday, 150 people or so in the cabaret-style theater so it felt nice and filled. The night before someone had asked me if I was nervous, and I joked, “Nah. I won’t know anybody in the audience!” However, when I got to the theater that afternoon, my new friend Robert who owns Cafe L’Échaudé and who showed me around last week was buying tickets for himself and his wife. I also knew some people from Geneviève’s family who I met at Easter, and Cynthia’s girlfriend Valerie, and Philippe and Arnaud and the rest of the folks who work at the theater. When they were announcing our names before we came on stage, mine even got a pretty good response of cheers from the audience. It was an interesting sign that my trip has made its small mark here in Quebec.
The show was well-documented with two photographers and a videographer, so I’ll have proof of the performance itself soon enough. Until then, here’s some pre-show anxiety and post-show glow! The theme of the show being “Rebels,” we did a lot of defiant posing.
The show itself was a ton of fun. Everyone’s performances were awesome, and everyone got to show multiple facets of their performing abilities. I can’t wait to watch the video!! I was very pleased with my performances, whether singing, guitar playing or remembering/pronouncing French. I had one slipup in Un Canadien Errant when Pierre began singing the wrong words and I lost the right ones, but we were back on by the next phrase. I had 3 people tell me that my performance of that song made them cry, so I must have done something right! Although initially I was quite disappointed that I had to learn this new French song, and that I wouldn’t get to perform my originals, I’m so proud and pleased with the way it worked out. Coming from and representing the Old Town School of Folk Music, it was fitting that I should learn a song so entrenched in the hearts of the people here. Now I’ll always have it. Music makes connections.
Maggie’s Farm tore the house down.
I can’t believe I leave today. I am already excited to come back.
Well, after two full days of rehearsal I can assure you that tomorrow’s show is going to be FANTASTIC.
I’ve got a nice clip from our rehearsal today and if it turns out I can post it on here I’ll have it up ASAP. Until then, know that everyone is talented and the music comes together easily, and then as happens in rehearsal, it stops and melts into groupspeak about how to change/fix/approve of what just happened. It’s been fun.
We have Rebel songs of all types, though the Francophone world is especially well represented. Songs about patriotism, exile, quitting your job, affairs, lying, stupidity, the world burning, television, society, God, moving on, and of course refusing to go to rehab.
It’s been a long few days of rehearsing. Time to get some rest; big show tomorrow, one night only! If you’re in Quebec, you will not want to miss it. À demain!
Easter weekend was a lot of fun. I got to know some of the girls from 5×5 a lot better.
Friday night, Cynthia and her girlfriend hosted a little dinner party for me, Geneviève, and Emilie. I loved seeing their place and being part of a group of friends close to my own age and situation. I also met Molly the cat, who is hilarious. She not only climbed the clothes-drying rack like a monkey, but also jumped inside the refrigerator to sit on the shelf, watching bottles she had knocked down from the bottom rack in the door rolling around everywhere. Along with my introduction to Ketchup-flavored Lays potato chips, we had tasty homemade pizzas on little square crispy crusts, salad and wine. Everyone was pretty nice about keeping me in the loop English-wise, and we shared much gossip and laughter and silliness. We also brought out some guitars and shared music… I am very excited to harmonize more with Geneviève and Cynthia this week!
After dinner and chocolate eggs we walked outside a little bit and then they wanted to take me out to see some nightlife. We tried to go to Sacrilège, a cool big dark bar which is apparently the place to be and which looked awesome, but it was packed so we left. We ended up at another nearby bar where we were going to have one drink and move on, but immediately after we sat down this guy came over to the table with a full pitcher of beer and glasses for all of us…. quickly followed by his five friends. This bar had regular sized pitchers, but also the biggest pitchers of beer I have ever seen in my life.
What a crazy night. A little bit of dancing amidst the crowd and lights at Le Drague next door was the perfect way to end it.
The next morning was Easter and Genevieve invited me to come to Beauce with her to eat supper with her family. Beauce is small and beautiful, and it was a perfectly gorgeous day. I met her mom and her great, funny dog Jack. She showed me around, and took me to BOTH streets in the town. We visited this old bridge near an old railroad station where she used to work,
and then we had maple sundaes at this little place that used to be a maple syrup cabin. It is maple season, and maple is EVERYWHERE! And it is verrrrry good. This sundae had a vanilla custardy base, plus maple syrup and maple chip crunchy things and a stick with maple taffy like we had in the city.
Very tasty. Also tasty: dinner at Genevieve’s grandparents’ house. Her family was lovely and the food was good. Ham, turkey, stuffing, the usual kind of Easter meal…. plus fresh scallops, from her cousins in New Brunswick! I was so happy to be there with a family, and at the end of the night, I was BEAT!
Went to bed early to rest up for today’s first all-day full-band rehearsal at the Theatre. We met Pierre Flynn, the well-known Quebecois rocker who is in charge of this show, and started the morning just talking through each number and determining keys, backup vocals, arrangements, and the flow of the show. Then after a lunch break we rehearsed all afternoon.
The actual performance space in the theatre is very nice. The stage is a good size, they have a cool lighting system and the sound is awesome. The house band is also GREAT. When we first played Maggie’s Farm, I started out the first verse alone with guitar. But when everyone else came in for the second verse, WOW! It was so exciting and really revved up my performance. The other girls’ songs are good, strong performances. Funny, tender, fierce.
Un Canadien Errant is going to be pretty stripped down, just a duet with me on acoustic guitar and Pierre on piano and backups. The French is coming along and everyone says I speak with a good accent which sounds very charming, so I’m confident on that front. However, there are a few group numbers, and as it turns out, I’m singing in more French than I expected. Here’s one of the group numbers: Le Grand Incendie by Dumas. I sing a solo part with some English at 2:30, but check out the part at 3:30 that the four of us sing in unison.
We’ll make it happen. I’m stoked after today’s rehearsal. It’s going to be a great show!
Last night since I had no plans I decided to take myself out for a good meal at a Quebecois bistro. After much deliberation I chose Cafe L’Échaudé. I ate alone at the bar, and while I enjoyed my delicious meal, I chatted a lot with the owner about music, bicycles, and the city. And that’s how I went from wandering around solo to spending my Friday night being escorted around the city by one of the premier restauranteurs and sommeliers in Quebec. He showed me a terrific view from a high bridge just behind the restaurant, and from there we walked through the city to a jazz bar called Largo (where we sat and chatted with the man pictured), and from there to a brand new hip bar and performance space called L’Cercle. Every time we entered a place, the person at the door would recognize him and say, “Why aren’t you working at the restaurant tonight?” He was a great guy and it was fantastic to be shown around by someone who knew the good places to go. What a fortunate friend to make.
This morning the sun came out in Quebec and the temperature got up to 78, and it feels like a new city. People are EVERYWHERE! I met Philippe at the Theatre to tour around today and was glad to see that he brought his two year old daughter Alexandra with him in the stroller. Going from 18 kids classes a week to zero is a big change, and I hadn’t realized how much I missed seeing kids! It was very strange however, to discover that I couldn’t quite turn on my usual kid-charm when I couldn’t speak French. By the end of the afternoon she did give me one high five and we were communicating in silly sounds and bouncing a ball back and forth. In the meantime, we strolled around, rode the funicular to uppertown, visited a park, watched people, went to the Capital Observatory for another good view, sat for a beer in the open lobby at Theatre Petit-Champlain, saw many street performers and tourists, rode the ferry across the river to Levis where they live, and got a little sunburned. Well, that was just me.
After I left them I walked myself around and checked out the big public market across from my hotel– I love those! I arrived just as they were closing, so I’m eager to go back and sample more cheeses and maple goodies.
In a little while Geneviève is picking me up to go to Cynthia’s house for dinner. Valerie and Emilie should be there as well. I am very much looking forward to another evening with those ladies! I have some chocolate eggs I picked up so I’m excited to be the Easter Bunny for them.
Philippe asked me today if I noticed anything particular about Quebecois people, and the main thing I’ve noticed is that everyone, no matter if it’s a merchant or musician, someone I’m introduced to or a stranger, seems to be intentional about making a connection with you. On the one hand I feel extremely fortunate to have found companions to share my weekend with, but on the other hand it might just be the city’s typical charm.
I’m having a restful Friday afternoon after a busy start in Quebec. I arrived late Wednesday night and Philippe, the director of the Théâtre Petit Champlain, picked me up and brought me to the Hotel des Coutellier. As soon as we got to the lobby, he reached over to a display of brochures for businesses around town and took one for the theatre, then opened it to show me this:
That’s me! It was a nice welcome.
The hotel is nice, and the best part is that every morning a magic breakfast fairy delivers a picnic basket full of pastries via a little hook outside the door.
Delicious and adorable.
After breakfast Philippe met me and we walked the short ways to the Theatre. Here are some photos along my walk. The city really does look like a little slice of Europe!
The last one is Petit-Champlain, the street that the theater is on. It seems to be a gathering place for tourists as well. The city and its people are beautiful and very welcoming. While all the locals will do their best to speak in English (which is always better than they say it will be) when asked, this feels like a very French city and I certainly wish I spoke more of it!
Once at the theater, I met everyone who works there as well as the 3 participants in Cinq Fois Cinq. We each met with Sebastien, the musical director, to practice our songs for the show. The theme is rebellious songs; I was unsure of which songs they wanted me to sing until this meeting, but it turns out that my three will be Maggie’s Farm by Bob Dylan, Rehab by Amy Winehouse, and Un Canadien Errant. If you didn’t understand that last title, it’s because it’s in French. As is the entire song. It’s an old French-Canadian folk song which you can learn more about here. It is an intimidating challenge for me, and while it’s not the same as performing one of my originals that I know by heart, it is a beautiful song and I think I am up to the task.
The staff and singers had lunch together after our rehearsals, where much French was spoken. Then Geneviève and Héra took me to run some errands and to visit Montmorency Falls, just outside the city. In early spring, the still snow-covered paths were very slushy and muddy, so we didn’t get to hike much, but the falls were great to see. The waves were very strong with all the spring thaw!
Happy to see the sun!
Geneviève & Héra are fun-loving girls and roommates who have been friends for 6 years before participating together in Cinq Fois Cinq this year. Geneviève in particular has great English and especially loves music in English.
Jumping to shake the rickety bridge!
I walked through town along Rue St-Jean on my way back to the hotel, and snacked on a bit of maple candy. To serve it, the woman poured hot syrup onto a trough full of ice. You wait a few moments, then take a tongue depressor stick, start at one end, and roll it up around the end of the stick till you have a big sticky lollipop of taffy. Yummy!
I met Philippe for dinner, and we walked further along Rue St-Jean to the St. Roch neighborhood where we ate at a restaurant with a good, lively atmosphere. According to Wikipedia, “The April 1 tradition in France and French-speaking Canada includes poisson d’avril (literally “April’s fish”), attempting to attach a paper fish to the victim’s back without being noticed.” Sure enough, our server had a paper fish on her back and they seemed to swim around to the backs of all the servers while we had a peacefully long meal.
That night the Theatre was sponsoring a rock concert at a larger venue; Wolf Parade was playing at the Imperial. It reminded me of the Metro, but much nicer. Cynthia from 5×5 was there, and while she struggles with English we were able to communicate with the help of her girlfriend and another friend we ran into who had majored in English and who, by the way, was hilarious. I had a great time hanging out with those girls. The show was packed and the best part was that unlike crowds of hipsters in Chicago, the people were VERY enthusiastic! Singing along like crazy (which I especially love at rock shows), dancing, clapping, and yes, bodysurfing. I think 12 different bodies got passed around.
Downstairs, pre-show. Not too crowded yet.
From the balcony. Lights, Camera, Action! Rock out! I was exhausted by the end of this very long day and was happy to get in the cab home. The cabbie of course was wide awake and I didn’t get inside the hotel until after we sat outside while he gave me instructions for all the things I ought to do and see in this fair city. I had a similar experience with a guy selling paintings on the street, who stuck up a conversation when he saw my guitar. People here seem to love to chat and share.
Today I was coached on my performances for the 3 songs and on my French for Un Canadien Errant. There are a few group numbers, also in French, so I may get involved with those to some degree as well. I had a little sandwich and soup in a cafe and have had a lovely relaxing time writing this post for you, dear Reader. Now I’m going to get outside to enjoy the sun– it’s 59 degrees F, which is 20 degrees warmer than it was when I left this morning!
I’d post some stuff here, but I’m using my personal blog for now. If you’re interested I have some pictures, a couple of videos and a recording or two. You can see them at jasonplaystunes.blogspot.com. Look for titles that include the phrase “My Visit with Frank and Mary Hamilton.
Hello! I’m Lindsay Weinberg, teacher of Wiggleworms, Kids Piano and Kids Voice. I’ve become quite connected in to the Old Town School in the past five years, by teaching, working at the front desk, and collaborating musically with other staff members on stages far and wide. I currently sing with Come Sunday and It’s A Girl, and while I perform regularly for kids, I’m sort of an emerging artist when it comes to the singer/songwriter world.
The Old Town School chose me to send to the Théâtre Petit Champlain in Québec, Canada to be a guest in a big program called Cinq Fois Cinq. “5×5″ is a residency offered by the Théâtre in which three selected young artists from around Québec participate in training workshops and performances with industry professionals. They perform in three thematic shows, each created and directed by a different renowned artist, which go up on stage at Petit Champlain. Finally, the fourth performance gives them a chance to play their own songs and interpretations of songs as they choose. You can read more about it on their website (in French), and see photos here, and even watch a video spot about the first thematic show here.
I’ll be a guest young artist for the 2nd thematic show. The theme of the first one was Happy Songs, and they did covers like Walking On Sunshine and Don’t Worry Be Happy. The second show, hosted by Pierre Flynn, has the theme Songs of Rebellion. We’ll be playing not just songs of political rebellion, but also music where people put their foot down in social, personal, humorous and romantic ways. It should make for a moving show and I’ve got a couple of originals that are great candidates for the theme!
I leave for Québec tonight. I’ll be there for 9 days. On the schedule: meeting Héra, Geneviève and Cynthia, the participants of 5×5; a brief radio spot on English-speaking Québec radio; struggling with all the French and putting my faith in the language of music; an adorable hotel a short walk from the Théâtre; planning the show with the house band and lots of rehearsal; a workshop with the three other ladies; the show next Wednesday April 7th; and poutine.
I’ve got a brand new Facebook page for my music (listen to my songs and be a fan!) and some new boots that were made for international rockin….
…let the adventure begin!
We spent the morning preparing for our set tonight at the Key Club, then headed to the hotel for a few hours of R & R. The energy at the Key Club was peaking as camp bands ruled the stage one by one. Literally every band had performed with intensity and precision, and every camper’s faced expressed the same sentiment: It’s great to be alive! Our band was scheduled to perform last, and we scorched through “Rainbow in the Dark” (Ronnie James Dio), our original song, and “My Hero” (Foo Fighters) in honor of Rami for making our camp experience so positive and productive. Fellow campers and counselors said their goodbyes as we prepared to head back into reality. From the moment we arrived until the moment we left, the entire Rock Camp staff accommodated to the campers’ every eccentric need. Most remarkably, they did it all with smiles on their faces and rock –n- roll in their hearts. I truly hope I get the opportunity to reunite with my band mates again someday, but I know they will keep music going in their lives and do it with a little more edge now that we’ve tasted the rock –n- roll fantasy.