Geoff, David and Shane on the main stage Blue Skies Fesival this July

Letters 2005


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most photos by Beth or David

2005 A busy year for us!

The festival season has been another excellent go round for us. Each was very much its own entity, with its own joys and charms. The season will come to an end for us in October, when Cape Breton's Celtic Colours Festival is over.

The summer began with Shane Simpson and Geoff Somers joining me in Orillia, Ontario, at the
Mariposa Folk Festival where we met up with many friends, both old and new. It occurs to me as I write, that this was the case at all the festivals we played at this year - happy reunions everywhere we went.

Shane, David and Geoff on the main stage at Mariposa

the Mariposa audience, Saturday evening (are you there?)

I think Mariposa has grown considerably, judging by the attendance at both the main and workshop stages. There were many highlights for me. Playing with the Paperboys was a particular treat.

The most anticipated event at Mariposa was the closing set by Gordon Lightfoot. I sat side stage for it. Lightfoot's songs were like portholes into so many moments of my own life. His songs still move me today. As a matter of fact, Gordon Lightfoot still moves me just by taking the stage. Listening took me back to the yearly Lightfoot concerts I attended at Massey Hall so long ago. There was a standing wave of thanks and loving wonder coming from the crowd for his entire performance. It was a beautiful thing to witness and I felt very lucky to be there.

David, Shane and Geoff join Gurf Morlix and Trio Bravo

Vancouver was what it always is for me, an accepting spirit and a musical awakening walking hand in hand.

Vancouver FF from the main stage

There were bandsfrom around the world to listen to. Eliza Guilkison sang songs that took you directly to the place she was planning to take you with powerful lyrics and melodies ranging from rowdy to hymn-like.

The workshops I took part in were what, in my opinion, workshops should be, an all in all affair, with everyone on stage adding a bit to the mix. The result is that each song sung is a one off on the moment, a unique melding of styles, voices and instruments, never to be heard in that particular configuration again. This is great fun when it happens and it happens at the Vancouver festival a lot.

It seems as though there were more people attending this year's festival than in any of the previous years we have been there. The legendary performer/volunteer parties on Saturday and Sunday night were inspired to say the least. This is an astonishing festival, I am grateful to have been a part of it.

behind the big stage, Vancouver

The following weekend found us in Mission BC, inland on the Fraser River. This is a lovely festival, not large by some standards, but possessing more than the critical mass in both numbers and energy. It operates on a scale that is still personal and even the main stage has an intimate feel to it. We were treated to a brilliant billet with Bill Campbell and Anne Senae, and treated royally by Michelle and crew at performer hospitality. There seemed to be no good reason to leave - ever.

At Mission we were lucky to do a workshop with Kate and Anna McGarrigle and friends - always good to hear them again.

workshop with Kate and Anna. photo by Bill Campbell

My friend Karla Mundy was there as a member of the band Cleia, and we managed a couple of songs with her. Cleia's set was a killer.

Cleia at mission

I managed to catch the main stage set of the Tuvan Throat Singers, and was amongst the mezmerised. Their music is as foreign to the ear as music can get. At the same time though it is eerily familiar. It is as though we can recognize it from some shared human memory. Night was falling as these men from the other side of the world started singing, providing a perfect moment in time.

Tuvan Throat Singers

We had one night (Friday) at the
Branches and Roots Music Festival in Ormstown Quebec. This festival put me in mind of Ayers Cliff in a way, despite a difference in topography. Branches and Roots takes place over three days, on the local fairgrounds. The buildings and setting are beautiful and the volunteers were great.

We shared the evening with Matt Large and Notre Dame de Grass. I enjoyed Matt very much, and the band was hot. It was a treat to listen to them. They did a scorching version of my song "Saturday Night". I may never play it again!

Matt Large

I saw some friends from the Townships there and got caught up on all the news. Shane and I enjoyed the set and the excellent sound in the hall. It was nice to be back in Quebec. The following evening Penny Lang and Dave Clarke were playing. Shane and I had to head on back to Ontario and join Geoff for the Blue Skies Festival and therefore missed connecting with our dear friends. I am sure their set was wonderful!

the anual Blue Skies square dance

Blue Skies Festival will always hold a special place for me, as it was the first festival I ever played. The welcome and support I received on that first visit provided me with the incentive I needed to keep going with my music, and gave me a feeling of acceptance in the music community. I can't think of a better introduction to the circuit. The nice thing was I found it just the way I left it. Blue Skies is still a place where you can't help feeling that, while you are there, all's right with the world. There are many, many people working behind the scenes to make it feel like that, and I congratulate them. They have created and sustained a unique and intimate performance place - which shows in the performances.

Our set was very moving for me. It was great to stand on that stage again and sing to so many friends. I sang a song inspired by Blue Skies, and sharing its name. I feel I owe everyone at this festival so much and hope the song paid some of it back.

David and Geoff "wipe up" back stage

After the finale on Sunday night, we went backstage and got Geoff to sing a raft of his songs to the angelic harmony of Tannis Slimman and Laura Bird. I helped out too. It was a splendid night of songs that became a splendid morning of songs. We went home when the birds began singing. It was their turn.

David, Geoff and many others join for the closing song

I was looking forward to Edmonton Folk Festival for two reasons. One - it's the Edmonton Folk Festival! and two, I'd get to play once more with Kieran, Kevin and Fats.

Fats, Kevin, David and Kieran at Edmonton FF

We'd had such a great time touring the last album, from BC to Quebec, and this was a chance to play again. As always the boys were patient with me and were the souls of kindness musically. I never get over that initial feeling when they first play, when they lock in. It gets me every time. We enjoyed our set with The Weakerthans, the writing appealing to us all. We also had the pleasure of hearing Wendy McNeill, formerly of Edmonton, now of Paris - strong songs and a stronger performance.

Wendy McNeill

For all it's size, and it is of a considerable size, you always feel connected to the audience, both on and off the stage, and the green room behind the main stage is a great place to meet and talk with other musicians and musical friends. I was presented with the Penguin Eggs Album of the Year award for Waking Hour. Kevin actually presented it to me. I could have as easily handed it back to him. The boys are all equally deserving in the win. It was an honour to receive it in Edmonton again.

The line up was stunning and there were many memorable performances. My favourite was hearing the boys from Nashville do their set, the songs themselves familiar as old friends, but always new in the playing. I think that is what I admire most in those men, their fearless ability to push the borders and make it work. - a rare gift.

Edmonton Folk Festival and the city at night

With each festival I go to, my appreciation for the opportunity to be part of such amazing musical events grows. It doesn't get any better than that.

Many thanks to all the Artistic Directors who were good enough to invite us and many thanks to all the people who came to see us.

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