Category Archives: Music

A Different Kind of Folk Festival

At the Folk Festival in 2011

If 2020 had been like other years Manitobans would have been attending the Winnipeg Folk Festival in Birds Hill Park this past weekend.  The event was cancelled due to the pandemic but the Folk Festival organized a virtual concert for July 11 and encouraged people to get together outside on their yards to watch it on Saturday night. We were fortunate enough to be invited to a country property near Lowe Farm for an alternate Folk Festival evening hosted by our friends Roger and Ruth. A screen and speakers had been set up on the yard for watching the performers and listening to the music. We parked our cars alongside the grain bins. Tie-dyed sheets billowing in the breeze and a painting of a quilt on the barn gave the farmyard a ‘folkie’ kind of feel.

Before the festivities sponsored by the Folk Festival hit the big screen Roger our host favoured us with four numbers he had written himself, accompanied by two members of his family.

Roger tells us about the songs he has written

One of Roger’s songs had been inspired by a trip on the Trans Siberian railroad, another by a trip to South America and one celebrated a barnstorming baseball team from the American Negro Baseball League that came to play a game in nearby Roland Manitoba when Roger’s father was a young man. Roger’s band also shared a piece about his father’s perspective on the world when he was over a hundred years old. The evening included a fabulous meal and………….. an opportunity to explore a labyrinth that had been cut into the field behind the house. You could pick up some stones, that represented your hopes or wishes to hold as you made your way down the paths. I was all alone in the labyrinth as I wound my way through the beautiful wild prairie grasses and flowers.  I basked in the beauty of the yellow fields in the distance, the sound of the wind in the grass, and the endless blue sky above me. 

labyrinth entryAfter the music was over some of the guests engaged in games of catch with ball gloves and balls supplied by Ruth and Roger’s neighbour.  We left as the sun was going down. 

It wasn’t the same as being at Bird’s Hill Park for the Folk Festival but it was a great alternative in a setting every bit as beautiful. Thanks, Roger and Ruth. 

Other posts…………..

Knuckleball- Think Mennonite Corner Gas

Inspiration at the Winnipeg Folk Festival

Winnipeg Folk Festival- It’s Who You Know

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I was really rocking it on the elliptical trainer at the gym yesterday morning. I was listening to a new playlist of workout music I’ve compiled and the song Gloria by Laura Branigan came on.  What an inspiring beat! There were only three of us in the whole gym so I sang along, mouthing the words and fairly dancing on the boat-like pedals of the trainer.

laura branigan

Laura Branigan

Listen is my word for 2020 and one of the ways I have been trying to live up to that word is by adding lots of new content to my music library.  I downloaded Gloria after listening to an informative and entertaining podcast by Mo Rocca about Laura Branigan the recording artist who made Gloria famous. In 1982 the song stayed atop the pop charts for 36 weeks and earned Laura a Grammy nomination. 

Laura died in 2004 but just last year in 2019 her signature song earned her another claim to fame. It became the unofficial anthem of the St. Louis Blues as they made a historic comeback from last to first place in the NHL over the course of the season. Some players had been in a bar listening to the song repeatedly the night before they clinched an important victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. So after the game, the players listened to Gloria in the dressing room as they celebrated. They figured the song had brought them luck.

Some St. Louis Blues Fans even sported Laura Branigan jerseys with number 82 the year her song Gloria was a hit. 

Soon the DJ at the Enterprise Centre, home of the Blues, began to play Gloria on the speakers whenever the Blues won a game. As the team launched into a winning streak that took them to the top of the NHL standings local radio stations in St. Louis started playing Gloria regularly and soon it had become the official anthem of the team. Immediately after they won the Stanley Cup Gloria came blaring through the speakers as the team celebrated their exciting Game 7 victory. 

Last year Laura’s Gloria inspired the St. Louis Blues to give it their all on the ice and this year she’s inspiring me to give it my all during my workouts at the gym. 

Other posts………..


Word of the Year-2020

Trying to Become A Winnipeg Jets Fan

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Recognition For My Favourite Winnipeg Band

 Our son Bucky is a member of the  Winnipeg band Royal Canoe . They had two honours come their way this past week.  Their album Waver has been nominated in the recording of the year category for the Western Canadian music awards. The producer of the album John Paul Peters has been nominated for producer of the year. The awards ceremony and an accompanying music conference were to have been held in Winnipeg September 25- October 4. This year the awards ceremony will be virtual.  Royal Canoe won a previous Western Canadian music award in 2014 for their album Today We’re Believers.

Royal Canoe on the red carpet at the Juno awards in 2014- photo purchased from the Winnipeg Free Press

The band was also nominated for a Juno award in 2014. 

Royal Canoe performs with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in 2017- photo purchased from The Winnipeg Free Press

In honour of Manitoba’s 150th birthday, the Winnipeg Free Press cover story yesterday was called Sounds Like Home. It listed and described the 150 most important songs by Manitoba artists. Royal Canoe’s song Bathtubs was included in the list. You can watch the very cool video of that song here. 

Royal Canoe just before their phenomenal show on ice instruments at The Forks in Winnipeg in January 2020

In a year when touring and performing is on indefinite hold due to the pandemic, Royal Canoe has managed to garner some well deserved recognition.  In January they performed a show entirely on ice instruments to huge crowds at The Forks in Winnipeg and in May a documentary film about that performance called Glacial had its debut. 

Other posts………

Waver A New Album From Royal Canoe

So Cool


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Radiohead and Plato

My son hosts a weekly radio show and listening to it every Thursday introduces me to lots of interesting music.  Recently he played a song by Radiohead called Daydreaming. I liked it and so I looked up the lyrics. They talk about someone who doesn’t want to learn or venture out into the sun.  I found out the inspiration for the lyrics came from a story the philosopher Plato told 2,400 years ago. 

Ted Ed video of The Cave

Illustration from the Ted-Ed video of The Cave. It’s great!

Plato talks about some people who have been chained up in a cave since they were children. They can’t turn their heads. A fire behind them gives off a faint light and so when other humans and animals pass in front of the fire the chained people see images of things on the wall which they give names. These shadows seem real to the prisoners and shape their entire view of the world.

Then one of the prisoners is freed and leaves the cave to go outside. The sun hurts his eyes and he doesn’t want to believe all the new things he is seeing can be real. He is being introduced to a whole new world and it is scary but also wonderful and provides him with a completely new view of reality.  He feels sorry for his friends back in the cave with their limited ideas about the world and he goes back to them to share what he has learned. 

But they laugh and say he is crazy. The shadows they see in the cave are real, not the world he is talking about.  The prisoner who has been outside the cave and seen the sun and all the things it illuminated, can no longer adjust his eyes to see the shadow reality. The other prisoners say their companion who has seen the sunlight is stupid and blind and they refuse to allow him to free them. When he tries they get hostile and violent. 

Plato's Cave by Lalita Hamill

Plato’s Cave by British Columbia artist  Lalita Hamill

What does Plato’s allegory mean? That many people are comfortable in their ignorance and hostile to anyone who points it out? Plato spent much of his life promoting rule by philosopher kings, learned people who had read and studied and ‘seen the light’. Are those the kinds of leaders we would do well to elect?

As we go through life are we resolutely certain that we know what is right or are we open to new ideas and new ways of looking at things and doing things?  What if allowing ourselves to think in those new ways challenged the norm?  What if thinking in new ways could endanger us or cause us to lose friends or alienate family members?  Are we open to seeing things in a new light? 

Other posts………..

Laughing at the Suffering of Others

Elegant Words

Hairnets and Helmets




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Masked Portraits, An Unusual Instrument and the Sunset

If you haven’t already checked out the watercolour portraits by Winnipeg Free Press photojournalist Mike Deal you should go to his Instagram page.  Mike is painting his newspaper colleagues at the Free Press in masks.

Niigaan Sinclair-Mike Deal's Instagram

Niigaan Sinclair-  from Mike Deal’s Instagram page

Columnist Niigaan Sinclair is using his portrait as the profile picture on his Twitter page.

Grant Burr-Mike Deal's Instagram

Grant Burr from Mike Deal’s Instagram page

I loved Mike’s portrait of Grant Burr my former editor at The Carillon.  Grant now works for the Free Press and did the first story for the amazing COVID and the City feature the paper ran showing twenty-four hours in the life of Winnipeg on May 6th.  

Melissa Martin- Mike Deal's Instagram

Melissa Martin from Mike Deal’s Instagram page

Each portrait of Mike’s is very unique.  Here is the one of Melissa Martin my favourite Free Press columnist. 

Hopefully, masked people won’t remain the norm for our society, but when we tell future generations of our families about the pandemic we may want an image of ourselves in a mask as a way to explain this strange time. 

lynda barry comicsAs many of you know during the pandemic I’ve been working my way through Making Comics an instruction manual by Lynda Barry which attempts to get even the most reluctant and artistically challenged person drawing and exploring their life through sketching.  One recent assignment was to draw self-portraits of ourselves looking at an object and then write what both we and the object were seeing from our own points of view. self portrait with a maskThis was one I did.  I was at the Thrift Store where I volunteer and was sorting and pricing Christmas goods. harmochord

When I was working at the Thrift Store yesterday this instrument came in as a donation. I had never seen one like it. It is a harmochord and was made by a West German company during the 1960s.  It is kind of a cross between a harmonium and an accordion. The sound comes from the grilles on the top of the instrument and it uses a motorized blower instead of bellows. The instrument’s reeds are activated as you press the keys.  My friend Velma who is a pianist tried it out and it works. sunset condo roof topWe were sitting on our roof top last night having a glass of wine with friends and were treated to this gorgeous sunset.  Amid a global pandemic and a week of processing troubling and heart-breaking images of racism and the anger and frustration it has caused, it was nice to have a soul-satisfying moment courtesy of creation.  

Other posts……….

Sunset Walk in America the Beautiful

Musical Instrument Museum

Dave Makes a Mask and We Make a Movie

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Glacial, A Letter From the Premier and Coffee

royal canoe glacial

Royal Canoe performing at the Forks on January 31

Last night we joined the online premiere events for the documentary Glacial.  On January 31 and February 1 Winnipeg band Royal Canoe performed a concert at the Forks on instruments made of ice.  Every musical sound they made was created with ice in some way.

royal canoe by jonathan dyck

Drawing by Jonathan Dyck used with his permission

The documentary film shows how the ice for the instruments was harvested from the lake at Fort Whyte. We get an inside look at the process of the band figuring out how to design and build the instruments. We see how they rehearsed in an unheated train car down at The Forks.

royal canoe ice show

Our son with his band Royal Canoe just before their phenomenal show on ice instruments at The Forks in Winnipeg in January 2020

Prior to the documentary premiere last night, the Royal Canoe Band members interviewed the different people who helped them stage and plan and design their show.  It was a phenomenal effort by lots of really creative people.  The Winnipeg Free Press had a great article about the documentary. You can see Glacial here. 

letter from brianMy $200 cheque and a personal letter from the premier of Manitoba arrived in my mailbox yesterday.  Everyone over the age of 65 in our province received this money to help us weather the COVID-19 crisis.  I understand that some seniors are struggling financially but many of us receive pensions and no longer have to worry about house payments or the expenses of children and their educations. We have health plans to help us cope with medical expenses. I do wonder if these cheques shouldn’t have been targeted at seniors who have a lower income level and the rest given to young people struggling with job loss, late rent payments and child care stresses, but perhaps it was easier to just send them to everyone over 65.  The premier suggests in his letter that if we think others could use the money more than we can, we should donate the money to charity.  I will do exactly that!

black pearl coffeeOur bike ride yesterday morning was freezing but we did make one stop.  We were driving down Dufferin Avenue and we smelled COFFEE! We discovered the Black Pearl Coffee Company where they roast about fifteen different kinds of coffees.  Dave who is the coffee maker and coffee connoisseur at our house just had to go inside. He bought two kinds of Black Pearl Coffee for us to try. 

Other posts………

So Cool

Waver- A New Album From Royal Canoe

Cowboy’s Coffee Hour

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Music, Winnipeg

10 Things I Learned About Carole King

The gorgeous Gammage Theatre- photo courtesy of Wikipedia

I was so excited to arrive in Phoenix and find out the Broadway musical Beautiful which features songs by Carole King was coming to the city shortly. Luckily there were still a few tickets left and thanks to my husband Dave’s online savvy we managed to score some for Sunday, the final night of the show at the architecturally stunning Gammage Theatre on the Arizona State University campus.

 Carole King’s Tapestry is one of my all-time favourite albums. I love the lyrics and the music and I know every song by heart so it was a thrill to hear most of the tracks from the album performed by the very talented Kennedy Caughill whose powerful voice did justice to the legendary Carole King’s memorable hit tunes like I Feel the Earth Move and You’ve Got A Friend.

Excited and ready for the show to begin.

Although I am a big fan of Carole King’s album Tapestry I admit I didn’t know very much about her personal life or her legendary songwriting career. My knowledge about Carole King basically included two facts. She had been good friends with James Taylor and had toured with him and………… in 2015 President Barack Obama cried when Aretha Franklin sang Carole’s song You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman during the ceremony to honour Carole for her lifetime achievement in music at the Kennedy Centre. 

The program for Beautiful. Check out my new Arizona pedicure and the way this photo matches the banner for my blog.

Watching the musical I learned that……………..

  • Carole was born Carol Joan Klein in New York City in 1942.
  • Her mother wanted her to be a teacher but Carole had dreams of becoming a famous songwriter. 
  • She dropped out of college when she found out she was pregnant.
  • She got married at age 17 to fellow songwriter Gerry Goffin.
  • Gerry and Carole divorced nine years later. Gerry struggled with mental health issues that led him to be repeatedly unfaithful to Carole. 
  • Carole and Gerry had two daughters. 
  • Many of Carole’s well-known songs were written with Gerry. Their first big hit Will You Love Me Tomorrow topped the charts in 1961. 
  • Carole and Gerry were very good friends and competitors with another songwriting husband and wife duo Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. Mann and Weil wrote hit songs like On Broadway and Happy Days Are Here Again. 
  • In 1972 Carole won four Grammy awards -Album of the Year for Tapestry, Record of the Year for It’s Too Late, Song of the Year for You’ve Got a Friend and Female Pop Vocalist of the Year for Tapestry.  
  • Carole’s first performance at Carnegie Hall was in 1971. It was recorded live and later released as an album. 

Carole’s piano on stage before the show

At the end of this week, we will move into our own apartment just a few blocks from the Gammage Theatre. There is a terrific line-up of performances there during the coming month so I hope Beautiful was just the first of any number of great shows we will enjoy there. 

Other posts…………

Lessons From Leonard

Come From Away- A Musical For Our Time

The Color Purple- God In Every Living Thing


Filed under Arizona, Music

Song Versus Album Argument

My husband Dave does the driving when we go on long trips so I thought I would make a contribution by creating a playlist of music for us to listen to on our journey down to Arizona.  I recently joined a music streaming service and I downloaded dozens of songs I knew Dave would like, favourite artists of his like the Beatles, Carol King, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neal Young, Joe Cocker and other sixties greats.  

 After we had listened to the long playlist I’d created I asked Dave if he’d enjoyed the music I’d downloaded. He was brutally honest. He hadn’t.  Turns out he doesn’t like listening to individual songs, even songs he likes.  He prefers to listen to a whole album and I hadn’t downloaded any albums.  For example, he needed to hear the entire Woodstock album so he could have the whole Woodstock experience.  He wasn’t going to get that from only listening to Joe Cocker’s I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends.  

I wondered what conventional wisdom had to say about listening to individual songs rather than whole albums. I found out that there are arguments to be made for both preferences. Here are a few. 

Why listen to the whole album?

1.Because it’s the way you grew up listening to music if you were born before the digital age. It wasn’t easy to skip from song to song on an LP.  Listening to the whole album is a comforting habit. 

2. Artists put lots of thought into how they order the songs on an album and the whole album is meant to tell a story and interconnect lyrically and instrumentally.  You need to honour that. 

3. If you only listen to individual songs you might miss finding some real gems you would enjoy on an album. 

4. Listening to the whole album allows you to build a deeper connection with the artist. 

Why listen to individual songs?

1. There are usually only one or two really great songs on albums. Why waste time listening to all the others?

2. If you have a very eclectic taste in music listening to individual songs gives you more of an opportunity to listen to a wider variety of tunes. 

3. Certain songs fit with certain moods or activities.  With individual songs, you can make a playlist that is great to listen to while you do your fitness workout or when you are trying to fall asleep when you are journaling or making dinner. 

4. There is so much great music out there.  Listening to individual tunes gives you the time and opportunity to enjoy more of it. 

For our trip back home I will download some albums for Dave, but I will keep the individual tunes as well because I tend to listen to music that way and I think there are times when both ways of listening to music are good. 

Do you listen to individual songs or the whole album?

Other posts……..

Waver- A New Album From Royal Canoe

What Happens When A Woman Takes Power

The Symphony – Mexican Style

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The Beatles As a Soundtrack For Life

Last month we watched the highly entertaining version of Shakespeare’s As You Like It at the Manitoba Theatre Centre. I was intrigued with the way they had woven tunes by The Beatles into the storyline of the script. It got me thinking about the possibility of linking lines from Beatles’ songs to events and stories from my own life.

Drinking snake wine with my sister-in-law Shirley on a boat in the Li River in China

Picture yourself in a boat on a river.

My son holding my hand in a family photo

I wanna hold your hand.

My son with his grandma

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

Kissing my husband on the Great Wall of China

Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you

My husband at the John Lennon Wall in Prague

You say you want to change the world

Celebrating Christmas with good friends

I get by with a little help from my friends.

Snorkelling in the tropical waters of Fiji with my sister

I’d like to be, under the sea.

My parents with their family in 2008

All you need is love.

My husband and friend walking in Gross Morn National Park Newfoundland

It’s a long and winding road

With my first son

You were only waiting for this moment to arrive

What photos from your life might go with a Beatles song?

Other posts………..

Crossing Abbey Road

Words of Wisdom on a Wine Bottle

Seeing the Movie Yesterday

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So Cool!

waiting for royal canoe show to startWhile we were waiting for the Royal Canoe show appropriately named Glacial to start down at The Forks on Friday night I thought to myself, when my son was born who would have thought that someday I would be watching him play in a well known Canadian band performing a concert for thousands of people in a kind of glacial fortress creating music on instruments made of ice? How ‘cool’ is that?

crowd at the forks royal canoe show

The crowd at The Forks on Friday night. -photo by Les Brandt

I have to admit when our son first told us what his band was undertaking with this concert I wondered, as they themselves admitted in several media interviews, if perhaps they had accepted a challenge for something that was a little too ambitious.

les brandt set for glacial show

Instruments in ice- Photo by Les Brandt

But with lots of ingenuity and creativity and support from their friends in the music industry who helped them in a variety of ways and expert advice from ice architect Luca Roncoroni they pulled it off wonderfully.

I was curious which of the songs from their large repertoire they would perform and I was very pleased that among the wide variety of music they played they chose my very favourite tracks from each of their recordings Exodus of the Year from their album Today We’re Believers, Walk Out On the Water from Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit and Rayz from Waver

getting set up for the glacial show

The band getting set up before the show

We got down to The Forks early and had dinner with friends. inside the forks before royal canoe showThe place was packed with people enjoying food and drink before the free performance at 7 pm. royal canoe getting ready for glacial show It was neat to see families there and people from every age category out to enjoy a Winnipeg evening that was just cold enough so the ice instruments and beautiful stage set didn’t melt but not so cold that standing outside for just over an hour to listen to the music didn’t freeze your toes. 

bucky at glacial showDuring the show, the band members explained how the various instruments had been constructed and how the sounds of ice breaking, scraping and smashing had been created and recorded in the garage at our son’s home. According to a CBC article, our son’s drum pads were hooked up to guitar pedals embedded in ice blocks.  It was cool to see the ice blocks light up whenever he hit them. 

light show on buildingsThere was a light show on the walls of the Johnson Terminal behind the band and the ice set designed by Luca Roncoroni was stunning!

band toronto

Royal Canoe performing to a full house in Toronto

I’ve been to Austin Texas to watch Royal Canoe play in the South by Southwest music festival.  I’ve been to New York to see one of their shows.  We had a family reunion in Regina when Royal Canoe performed at the Folk Festival there. I’ve been to Toronto’s  Mod Club to see them perform during Canada Music Week and I’ve watched them play to a sold-out concert hall with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

concert hall royal canoe

Royal Canoe performs with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra- photo purchased from the Winnipeg Free Press

I’ve been to album releases at the Burton Cummings Theatre and seen Royal Canoe at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. I’ve watched them on the stage at the Forks in summer performing for a massive audience in a show with the Crash Test Dummies but I have to say Glacial was in a class all its own.  

moonlit night for glacial show

It was a clear moonlit night for the show. Many people had climbed up the tower at The Forks to get a better view.

It was an amazing evening. So creative and so cool!

You can watch a great video here where the band members explain how the ice instruments work and then sing Walk Out On the Water one of their hit songs. 

The Winnipeg Free Press did an in-depth feature on the show they headlined The Icemen Cometh with lots of photos.  You can read that here

Other posts………..

A Fun Evening in Toronto

Waver- A New Album From Royal Canoe

My Husband is Famous


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Filed under Music, Winnipeg