Monday, November 12, 2007

Musical delights

[John writes] We had a very musical day yesterday. In the morning I sang in the community choir at the Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Air Cadets hall. This seemed crazy to me, as I'd only had the briefest of glances at the music at a practice the week before, but I think they mostly wanted me there to fill out the bulk in the choir, make us look bigger than we are (shades of lip-singing in Grade 3).

There were only two pieces: Amazing Grace in Inuktitut, where I handled the melody okay but probably massacred the words, and a setting of In Flander's Fields where the time signature seemed to change every couple of bars. Besides which, I had to look on at someone else's music, and it was all too small for me to see. Ah, age.

I was conveniently placed between a tenor and a bass, so I just went with whichever melody line my ear was picking up at any given time, and practiced the tried and true technique of beginning each word quietly, then sliding into pitch before increasing the volume. Choir sounded good, though, no thanks to me. At least I didn't wreck it.

It was a particularly moving service, especially when we recalled the young Mountie killed in the line of duty near here (at Kimmirut) at the beginning of the week. So young, only 20 years old, to be out on duty all by himself, so far from his home in Brockville, Ont.--and among people whose language and culture are so different from his.

Then in the evening, it was off to the Fantasy Palace (no, it's not a strip club, despite the name, but a very nice little cafe), where we had a great evening of music sponsored by the local Baha'i community who were celebrating the 190th anniversary of their founder, Baha'u'llah (sort of like Christmas).

We had throat singing by two Inuit women, West African drumming by a local drum circle, an excellent jazz duo of Jamal Shirley on guitar and vocals, and Rob Aube on bass, and then my ukulele debut, playing with local favourites, the Road to Nowhere Band. I'm counting on Lorraine to attach (later) a very short and soundless video clip just to prove I was there (hiding in the back as is my wont). Lorraine said the ukulele blended in nicely with the band, but then she had to say that, didn't she.

Anyway, I'm in (delightedly so), and it's a fine band, led by Errol Fletcher, originally from Jamaica, who also writes and sings some great calypso tunes that offer hilarious social commentary on life in Iqaluit, and Heather Daley, an excellent fiddler, singer, and local music event organizer. The other two members are the aforementioned Rob Aube (electric stand up bass), and guitarist/singer Lorne Levy. Nice folks all, and durn good musicians to boot, which once again puts me in a learning position, my favourite place to be.

Our short set included See You In My Dreams and Beaumont Rag, two numbers we do in SwingBridge, and Mississippi John Hurt's classic, My Creole Belle, done in the style of Taj Mahal's Hula Blues Band (which was already one of my favourite songs on uke, and Errol has the voice to sing it).

And speaking of SwingBridge, the sound man (yeah, the event had a sound man) featured the SwingBridge cd during the breaks. Then back to Errol's for a few more hours of visiting and jamming (if only Lorraine hadn't packed her melodica away in the stuff to be shipped), before a short but cold walk home in the wee small hours.

Fascinating community, this. I'm glad to be here. Wish we had an apartment though. This hotel food is an artery-clogging killer; can't take much more of it. On the up side, my blood sugars seem to be doing better--all the walking, I imagine.

Cheers, John

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