Category Archives: Music

Discussion of music, usually having to do with the active music scene in Hamilton and the surrounding area.

Playing Real Good for Free

One of the pleasures of our 10-day stay in Lisbon was the quality of the street music all over the city. Best of all was a really fine ensemble from Cabo Verde playing near the waterfront, Nôs Raíz. We listened to their concert for about 40 minutes and bought a CD, which turns out to be very well produced. The woman on the left had the job of selling the CDs.

Nôs Raíz playing in Lisbon.
Nôs Raíz playing in Lisbon.

Joni Mitchell sings a lovely song called “For Free”, about seeing a street musician playing a clarinet.

And I play if you have the money
Or if you’re a friend to me
But the one man band
By the quick lunch stand
He was playing real good, for free.

Street Rapper in Lisbon
Street Rapper in Lisbon

But these days, things are somewhat reversed. A lot of musicians are playing real gigs for free, or just about. And all those downloads that pay tiny fractions of a cent? Out on the street, the busker can actually make some real cash. And sell the CDs, and get some real money.

Busking is an ancient and honorable tradition. I am reading a book about Johann Sebastian Bach, Music in the Castle of Heaven, by John Eliot Gardiner, and I came across this item on page 67: 

It is often assumed that, in addition to his singing in church, Bach, like [Martin] Luther, was a Currender, a member of those street-busking choirs in Eisenach, Ohrdruf and Lüneberg which collected charitable money…

Bass busker in London, UK
Bass busker in London, UK

We have a busker festival in Dundas, but I’m underwhelmed. The one real busker, our friend Michael Leech, who plays fiddle real good, was shooed by cops off the street playing outside the confines of the festival a couple of years ago. And he’s been chased away from the sidewalk near the LCBO on Dundurn, so there’s no music anymore outside. Just panhandlers.

Opera Singer Busking at Blackfriars Bridge
Opera Singer Busking at Blackfriars Bridge

 

Learie Mc Nicolls in Transformation at Artword Artbar

Learie McNicolls in Transformation at Artword Artbar
Learie McNicolls in Transformation at Artword Artbar

Learie Mc Nicolls confronts the demons of poverty, violence and fear in his powerful new work, Transformation: a Journey of the Soul’s Healing, at Artword Artbar, March 25 and 26, 2015, at 9:00 pm. An Artword Theatre production, directed by Ronald Weihs, Transformation combines dance, spoken word, soundscape and visual images, to present one man’s struggle to come to terms with his troubled Trinidad childhood and redeem the forgotten child inside him. The live musical soundscape is by Dale Morningstar, founder of the experimental blues-rock band, The Dinner is Ruined. Visual design is by Judith Sandiford.

Learie Mc Nicolls in Transformation at Artword Artbar
Learie Mc Nicolls in Transformation at Artword Artbar

Learie Mc Nicolls has been a key figure in the contemporary dance scene in Toronto since the 1980s. He has danced with Toronto Dance Theatre, Desrosiers Dance Theatre, Dancemakers, the National Ballet of Cuba, and his own company, Mythmakers. As a solo dancer, he has been exploring the combination of dance with spoken word, to create a powerful new form of theatrical presentation. His Toronto production, Armour, took two Dora awards for Outstanding Choreography and Outstanding Performance.
A year ago, he moved to Hamilton, where he is devoting himself to help build the contemporary dance scene here. In May, 2014, he performed Resurrection at the Pearl Company, and choreographed the dances in Artword Theatre’s second production of James Street. He has created an ongoing series of showcase dance productions at Artword Artbar called Big Dance Little Stage, featuring dancers from Hamilton and Toronto over two nights. There have been four BDLS productions, June, September and November 2014, and February 2015. He has recently opened a dance studio downstairs at Artword Artbar.

Learie Mc Nicolls
Learie Mc Nicolls

Transformation takes the dance/spoken word paradigm to a new level. Ronald Weihs as director, and Judith Sandiford as designer, pushed Learie to incorporate methods based on their approach to theatre. Together, the three of them analyzed Learie’s poems from a theatrical point of view, finding characters and situations that needed to be brought to life. Learie was fine with this, because he is also an actor.
The three collaborators also drew on their experience with Big Dance Little Stage, where Judith Sandiford improvises with projected images and musicians create soundscapes to interact with dancers. It was through BDLS that they became acquainted with Dale Morningstar, who provides improvised music for his wife, dancer Megan English. In addition to his work as a musician, Dale is perhaps best-known as co-founder of The Gas Station Recording Studio, “the hub of the Canadian indie rock sound”, now located at Gibraltar Point on Toronto Island. He and Megan now live in Hamilton.
Transformation: A Journey of the Soul’s Healing will be Artword Theatre’s contribution to the Hamilton Fringe, July 2015, with Artword Artbar as a Bring Your Own Venue.
The Artword team, Ronald Weihs and Judith Sandiford, created and ran Artword Theatre in downtown Toronto for twelve years before coming to Hamilton in 2007. Weihs and Sandiford have had long experience with one-person plays, including three by Charlie Chiarelli, Cu’Fu, Mangiacake and Sunamabeach, Allan Merovitz’s If Cows Could Fly, and Donald Carr’s The Full Nelson. Judith Sandiford has designed and lit dance productions with Meiko Ando, Michael Du Maresq, Leanne Dixon, Hedy Minten, Daryll Tracy, Bonnie Kim and Donald Carr. Artword Theatre’s original multi-cast productions in Hamilton include You Are What You Do, Langston Hughes vs Joe McCarthy, Rascals and Numskulls, Tobacco Troubadour, James Street and Scroogissimo. They own and manage the popular Artword Artbar, featuring music of all varieties, theatre, poetry and spoken word four nights a week, Wednesday to Saturday.
Transformation: A Journey of the Soul’s Healing
An Artword Theatre production
written by Learie Mc Nicolls
choreographed and performed by Learie Mc Nicolls
directed by Ronald Weihs
original music performed by Dale Morningstar
visuals by Judith Sandiford
produced and designed by Judith Sandiford
Performances at Artword Artbar, 15 Colbourne Street
Wednesday and Thursday, March 25 and 26, 2015, at 9:00 pm.
Tickets: $10