Tag Archives: Georgian Shores Songwriters’ Circle

Songwriters’ Circle Moves East

The Georgian Shores Songwriters’ Circle has arranged a meeting this week in Clarksburg, to allow song writers from Meaford, Thornbury and Collingwood to attend.  This group has been going for a few years now, providing feedback and encouragement to song writers of all ages and levels of competence from other song writers who also share their songs.  No audience and no pressure, each person takes a turn with a song they have written or are in the process of writing and gets the benefit of a variety of reactions.  It’s a great resource for learning and inspiration.

As David Hawkins announces:

“The Circle has been happening only once a month – in Owen Sound. Tuesday, March 13 at 7 pm, it’s back to the twice a month schedule with a new location that will be convenient for those in Meaford, Thornbury, Collingwood and points farther east. Songwriters/lyricists/poets/performers – if you’re working on new material (or old), and want to share it in a friendly, forgiving circle of local folk, join us at the Clarksburg Retreat, 788277 Grey Road 13. Here’s a map. And a summertime picture. Please spread the word to all those who might want to participate.”

Some of these meetings have asked for participants to chip in $3 to help cover costs, but there is no standard cover.  The meetings usually end around 10 pm, with everybody going home feeling inspired.



Why You Should See Bill Monahan Concert on Sunday Night

OK, I admit this is entirely self-serving.  Bill Monahan is one of my favourite singer-songwriters, mainly because he’s me.  I relate to his songs, what can I say?  So I want you to be there on Sunday night, July 16th, when I play at the Rotary Pavilion down at Meaford Harbour as part of the Friends of The Library summer concert series.

I love being part of this series, singing in the fresh breezes coming off the bay, with a lot of people relaxing in their camp chairs enjoying the music.

So why should you be there?  Here’s one reason: if you like my writing with this blog about live music you will probably like my songwriting.  When I write articles for Meaford Live Music, my main goal is to tell stories that you the reader can relate to.  It’s the same when I write songs.  I always try to put myself in the head space of someone who is going through some kind of emotional adventure, and do it in a way that has something of a universal appeal in it.  And I try to put every song into a musical setting that suits the lyrics and is easy and fun to listen to.  I ran out of angst several decades ago, so my songs are more about you than me.

With this blog, I really enjoy telling stories of the various musicians that come to visit as well as those who are part of the deep and rich talent pool we have in this area.  I can identify with musicians and songwriters because we share the same passions.  So let me tell you a little bit of my own story.

I’ve always made up songs.  Always.  When I was a kid I’d forget them by the next day because I had no way to remember them.  I had no great ambition to learn to play an instrument so when I was a teenager I just accompanied myself on bongos, the easiest instrument in the world to play, I figured.  Later when I learned to play guitar, I would look up songs in song books that had chord charts.  I’d learn the chords and then make up my own songs using them.  Although I memorized every song I heard on the radio, I didn’t think I was musician enough to play them.  At least if they were my own songs, no one could tell me I was doing it wrong.  So I kept making up more songs, accompanying myself on rudimentary guitar.

Click on album cover to check out Joni’s first album on iTunes

I was always interested in writing about musicians too.  When I was a teenager I talked the owner of The Riverboat in Yorkville into letting me interview Joni Mitchell when she played there.  It was just before she released her first album.  I had no skills as an interviewer but she knew how to tell her story.  She told me why she had come to Toronto (to see Gord Lightfoot at Mariposa), her approach to songwriting (always write about what you know) and how to play open tunings (tuning of any kind was a revelation to me).  I submitted my story to The Toronto Telegram and it was rejected, although when her new album came out a few months later their article had the same details (to be fair, she probably told them the same things she told me).

Clink on this image to hear Kim Brown music

I was a solo coffeehouse guy until I started a rockabilly band with some friends when I was in my late twenties.  They were younger than me and much better players and I learned a lot from them.  I learned still more when I started having weekly jams at my house which ended up being attended by a bunch of great musicians.  I wanted to get into managing bands and a talented songwriter at my jams, a young girl named Kim Brown, asked me to manage her new band, called Rant & Rave.  It was a great band.  Kim sounded like a cross between Janis Joplin and Melissa Etheridge and her brother Kevin played a mean Hendrix-style guitar.

I booked the band into Toronto clubs starting at Lee’s Palace.  I got a lot of help from Yvonne Matsell, who at that time was helping Donna McCallum book blues bands at The Brunswick House.  Yvonne was amazing.  She helped local artists of every stripe. She went on to do the talent booking at a place called Ultrasound, and eventually became the artistic director of North By Northeast, the big annual talent showcase in Toronto.  Kim Brown was later signed to Hypnotic Records and released an album under the name Black AvalonKevin Brown ended up touring with former Three Days Grace frontman Adam Gontier.

Inspired by watching Rant & Rave in the studio I tried my hand at multi-track recording of my own songs and the learning experience was far superior to the finished product.

To browse BNL music on iTunes, click on image of article

I got into writing for Inside Tracks, a magazine about the Toronto music scene.  Yvonne gave me the heads up about a Scarborough band called Barenaked Ladies and I interviewed them backstage at The Horseshoe Tavern when they opened for The Jitters.  The article I wrote for Inside Tracks, in which I said how great it would be to hear them on the radio, didn’t get a lot of circulation but it gave them their first print article to add to their promo kit.

Click on this image to hear Kyp Harness music

When I was hosting an open stage at Sneaky Dee’s I was blown away by a songwriter named Kyp Harness.  We formed a management agreement that lasted several years and I founded an independent label (Amatish Music) mainly to promote his recordings, along with Sam Larkin’s only CD and a few other interesting artists.

Click on this link to hear Sam Larkin music

Writing about songwriters and promoting shows became my big thing with most of my efforts directed toward Kyp Harness, Sam Larkin, Bob Snider and Ron Sexsmith, all fascinating songwriters with something to say.  In the days before the Internet, I faxed out weekly copies of The Amatish Update to hundreds of music fans around the world.

All that was in my distant past when I moved to Meaford to start an electronics installation business called Homebuttons.  When I saw the Rotary Pavilion down at the harbour my first thought was what a great place that would be to do a concert.  I had a chance a few years later when Will Matthews asked me to play there along with another couple of shows locally, and then Roberta Docherty asked me to play at the Meaford Stomp, which I was happy to be part of for several years.  The other stage I wanted to play was the Bud Eagles stage in Memorial Park and I was able to do that just a couple of weeks ago, sharing the afternoon with Amanda Dorey.  There’s something special about playing in the open air in this beautiful environment.

It was meeting Chris Scerri at the end of 2015 that started the process that reawakened my interest in writing about music.  He had a vision of making Meaford the centre of a Georgian Bay music scene and it was a perfect fit, with Chris creating shows and me writing about them on the Internet.

But the truth is both Chris and I have our own creative ambitions.  In a little more than a year he has become locally famous as an impressive singer and now he is in demand all over the area.  Every time I listened to, interviewed, or reviewed a songwriter it fanned the flames of my own submerged ambitions and now I want more than ever to get out and have my songs heard.  I have a big box of them from fifty years of songwriting.

Being part of the Georgian Shores Songwriters Circle has been a huge inspiration that has introduced me to a lot of talented people and provided me with encouraging feedback about my own efforts.  Gradually in the past year, writing about music and making my own has captured more and more of my interest, and you’re going to be hearing more about me in the next year (even if it’s only from me).

So please come out to join me at seven on Sunday down at the beautiful Meaford Harbour.  I’ll do my best to make it entertaining.

Plus, there might be a few surprise friends show up to help me out, other songwriters I think highly of (who aren’t me).

So get there early because the spaces at the back fill up fast.  And when the Friends of The Library come around passing the hat, toss in a few coins because remember we’re all volunteers here.  It all goes to the library.

Oh yeah, and there’s one more reason you should come see my show, and this is something I’ve learned is important from watching other performers – I’m going to be wearing a cool hat.

You don’t want to be the only one in your crowd who has to admit you missed it.

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Important Cultural Landmark Celebrates Birthday with Harmony Palooza

This week the Harmony Centre in Owen Sound will be celebrating its fifth anniversary with a pair of special variety shows that showcase the many groups that have made use of the centre since it undertook its present role in the community.  The shows they’re calling Harmony Palooza will feature choirs, instrumental ensembles, dance, drama and drums.  One performance will take place on Friday, March 31st, beginning at 7 p.m. and an encore presentation will be performed as a matinee on Sunday, April 2nd, starting at 2 p.m.

Located at the former Knox Church at the corner of 9th St. E. and 4th Ave. E. in Owen Sound, the Harmony Centre was created when two churches amalgamated leaving the beautiful 150-year-old building empty.  A group of concerned citizens created a charitable organization and bought the building, transforming it into a vibrant community centre with a triple purpose of allowing a venue in which community groups can share, create and perform.  It has been a great success with around a thousand people per week making good use of the building.  Everything, from finances to building management and maintenance is taken care of by volunteers.  Through a variety of fund raisers in their five year history, the group has managed to completely re-do the roof and refurbish the building’s boiler system.

In the basement of the building there is a 190 seat dining hall which provides free dinners five days a week to approximately 100 visitors each day.  It is operated by OSHARE (Owen Sound Hunger and Relief Effort), a non-profit group made up from members of several congregations of Owen Sound churches.  Proceeds from next weekend’s concerts will go toward providing accessibility for the basement dining hall.  Although ticket prices are set at $15, which in itself is a bargain, a pay-what-you-can policy ensures that no one will be turned away.

The venue houses the Grey Bruce Suzuki School of Music and Big Sisters and Big Brothers meet there as well.

Several choirs will be part of the show.

The Georgian Bay Children’s Choir, founded in 1986 by Mrs. Marylou Tremills, allows children to experience the joy of group singing with genres that include sacred, secular, folk and world music, with an emphasis on Canadian content.

photo courtesy of John Fearnall/Good Noise

Tara Mackenzie, highly respected vocal coach and lead vocalist for the award-winning Mackenzie Blues Band, uses the Harmony Centre for several of her community music projects including the famous Rock the Sound adult choir, an a capella choir and a drum workshop.  All of these groups will be represented at the concert.

In 2015 the Fiddlefern Country Dancers, which provides monthly music, dance and dance calling workshops in partnership with the Georgian Bay Folk Society, initiated a special open stage Tuesday nights at the Harmony Centre open to musicians who like to play traditional instruments.  They will be showing off their talents as part of the show.

Once a month the Georgian Shores Songwriters’ Circle meets at The Harmony Centre to try out song ideas and get supportive feedback from fellow songwriters.  They will be represented at the big show by three regular participants, Bill Monahan , Greg Smith and John Brownlow.

Owen Sound Little Theatre, which mounts plays every year at The Roxy in Owen Sound uses The Harmony Centre as their rehearsal space.  This June the group will be presenting Billy Bishop Goes To War, a musical which tells the story of WWI flying ace and Owen Sound war hero Billy Bishop.  The production commemorates the 100th anniversary of Bishop receiving the Victoria Cross. It will be represented at Harmony Palooza with a soliloquy from the play performed by Matt Evans.

With so much happening on so many fronts The Harmony Centre represents a cultural explosion that brings together people from Owen Sound and surrounding towns to celebrate community and culture strictly for the fun of it

Be there Friday evening at 7 or Sunday afternoon at two to enjoy the celebration, which will culminate in a big singalong of Oscar Peterson’s “Hymn To Freedom” and serving a celebratory cake!

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Itinerant Troubadours Are Coming

itinerant troubadors

The open mic night on Wednesdays at Captains Corner won’t be running through the winter months but Amanda Dorey and Carey have promised to bring it back in the spring when the patio can be used again.  There are still two open mic opportunities on Wednesdays not far away, at Ted’s of course, and at The Corner Café in Thornbury hosted by Dave Russell.

Itinerant troubadors

Laurie Zwarich plays Friday at Captains Corner

Friday live music is still happening at Captains Corner and this week Laurie Zwarich is coming in from Nottawa to sing a variety of covers with a smattering of original songs.


itinerant troubadours

Shane Cloutier, powerhouse guitarist, plays The Leeky on Saturday

This Tuesday, John Marshall will be joining Chris Scerri for his open mic at The Leeky Canoe.  On Thirsty Thursdays, they feature the WKRP trio and Saturday night brings the great guitarist, and singer songwriter Shane Cloutier.

Tuesday is also the night for the Georgian Shores Songwriters’ Circle, moving back to The Marsh Street Centre in Clarksburg this week.  The gathering grows in size with each passing week so the main auditorium at Marsh Street will allow room for everybody.  The more songwriters attend, the more inspiring it is, with a wider variety of original songs and better feedback.  Last time the session was at Marsh Street, a group went down the road to The Leeky afterward to catch some of the open mic there.

There are a number of performers out there on the icy roads of Ontario as winter creeps ever closer, and they will be stopping in Collingwood and Owen Sound this week.

Graham Playford at The Huron Club on Wednesday

Graham Playford at The Huron Club on Wednesday

Folky singer-songwriter Graham Playford will be driving up from Toronto to play a Wednesday night at The Huron Club in Collingwood.

Zachary Lucky is on the road promoting his new release “Everywhere A Man Can Be”, enjoying the new experience of touring with a band.  They’ve been through the East Coast, Quebec and much of Ontario, and will be landing at The Bruce Wine Bar in Thornbury before carrying on down the road to visit Peterborough, Uxbridge, Waterloo, Oakville, Cambridge and Guelph before Christmas.

itinerant troubadours

Matt Epp and Christina Martin Saturday at Heartwood Hall

Matt Epp and Christina Martin are touring together with a busy schedule.  Last week they were in the maritimes and this week they’ll be making stops every night starting tomorrow in Montreal and stopping in Ottawa, Toronto, and Hamilton before arriving to play Saturday night at Heartwood Hall in Owen Sound.  After the Christmas break, Matt will spend January touring Germany and Christina will follow through that country in February.

Summerfolk presents Irish Mythen at The Harmony Centre

Summerfolk presents Irish Mythen at The Harmony Centre

Irish Mythen, who will be playing The Harmony Centre in Owen Sound this Saturday spreads out her dates a little more, but she has been all around the world.  A favourite at folk festivals, she toured Australia last spring opening for Melissa Etheridge and returned with her own tour later in the year. After a December stop in December at Millgrove, she’ll be back home in Halifax through January.

We can find these touring artists just down the road at some great local venues, and when they have come and gone, there will be more coming over the hills to entertain us.

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