September - Listen: An Artful Pledge Update
September welcomed two of the Fab Five Festivals: Guelph Jazz Festival and Eden Mills Writers’ Festival. Each festival offers opportunities to enjoy the sounds and words of the musicians, poets, and writers who participate.
If festivals and crowds aren’t your thing, why not treat your ears to the sounds of one of Guelph’s talented musicians or groups? Check out Guelph Chamber Choir, Guelph Symphony Orchestra, Tannis Slimmon, the barber shop musings of The Over Tones, or the great stylings of The Funky Mamas. There is so much to choose from when it comes to Guelph’s music community. You can also check out the selection of local musicians at The Bookshelf.
Here's what we listened to in September.
On September 19 my two boys and I headed to Downtown Guelph on a mission. The Guelph Jazz Festival had recruited us to pedal stationary bicycles to power the sound equipment for the Youth Stage. I was thrilled to represent the Guelph Arts Council in this musically and environmentally awesome initiative, and Nathan and Daniel just thought it was cool.
In our enthusiasm we arrived quite early, and so had the chance to take in a Main Stage act. We were grooving to some fabulous globally inspired jazz-funk tunes – not quite sure yet what we were listening to – when the afternoon suddenly went from overcast to rainy to absolute downpour. When things started to get a little windy onstage, the band commented that they were used to it, being from Newfoundland. That grabbed the attention of the boys, because St. John’s was our home from 2010 until this past April. A quick check of the schedule revealed that we were listening to Ouroboros from St. John’s. At that moment I thought about the great capacity of festivals to bring artists from different places together, to learn and grow from each other. I thought about the remarkable talent that exists in both my new and my old home cities, and was delighted that they were coming together at the Guelph Jazz Festival. Still grooving, we dashed for cover and then dashed again for the Youth Stage at our appointed time.
Unfortunately, after the boys had pedaled for a few minutes, the Youth Stage was unplugged because of the downpour. Despite the rain, the intrepid and excellent young players of Guelph Jazz Links carried on acoustically. Although we may not have fulfilled our mission, Nathan, Daniel and I were thrilled to experience the Guelph Jazz Festival, both for the pleasure of listening to innovative music, and for the inspiration it will provide in our own musical journeys.
I happened to be out of province at this busy time for great listening. September is the time of Jazz Fest, the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, and other great performances by local and visiting artists. While I didn't miss the wet weather, I did miss being here for those events. So I took the long distance approach. Inspired by an enthusiastic young volunteer here at GAC, I decided to discover some local musicians whose shows I might want to attend. Besides asking for her recommendations as an insider at DISTRICT Guelph, I went on my own little discovering spree through the Guelph section of the website called unsigned.com. This is where I found myself listening to Black Cactus Killer more than once, especially enjoying the mysterious intro http://www.unsigned.com/blackcactuskiller. On musiclives.ca I had to give a listen to this band whose name I had seen around, Common Deer. I'll confess that Indie music isn't actually my favourite genre, but I really enjoyed this well-shot video, and the strings made the song for me. Have a watch on your lunchbreak and you might just feel your stress diminish a bit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbYmYnesOMI
On a more philosophical note, I recently returned to rehearsal with Guelph Concert Band after our summer hiatus, and what struck me is how quickly we forget to listen to each other. As a musician, a little rusty from a summer off, you're there looking at your music, trying to play all the right notes and get a feel for it, and you're trying very hard to do a good job. But by focusing in so tightly, you actually miss an opportunity to play better by hearing what other parts of the band are doing. Their part is different from yours, and that might seem distracting or irrelevant, but when you make room for it in your mind, it can influence the way you understand your own part, and change how you play for the better.
This idea resonates with me particularly at this point in time, having had an opportunity this month to listen to voices that are often silenced at an event called Redefinition: Arts, space and the telling of our stories, hosted at The Making Box co by CFRU and featuring a panel of six amazing speakers. The panel discussed issues of marginalized people and voices in arts spaces, and sparked a conversation that will continue, on ways to further diversify programming in Guelph. We talk so much, and sometimes it's really important to just make space and listen. So I will keep listening, and I encourage you to come out and do the same at future events.
Now that we are in the midst of an election, the theme of Engage could not be any more relevant. Please engage with the election this month, and check out our article where we share tips on how to go about it.
Engaging in the arts takes a pretty wide definition, and we encourage you to catch up on a month you may have missed, such as Join, Learn, Listen, Share, Attend. And most importantly, we want you to engage with us by telling us what the artful pledge has meant for you.