2014 Summer Sunday Music Series

2014 Summer City Music Series

2014 Summer City Music SeriesI’m running with my theme of ‘Curation is Creation’ and posting my lineups from previous years for the next little while.  Since my primary creative outlet is booking music, I thought it would be nice to celebrate that here.

It’s not often that I reflect on my successes, and I’m really bad at self-promotion, so it’s something new I’m trying. I’m trying to focus more on the things I take pride in than the various mistakes and mishaps that have happened with the various events I’ve worked on.  But really, these lineups are my pride and joy; I take a lot of satisfaction from looking back and surprising myself by how much I still love most of the musical lineups I’ve created.

Over the past decade, there’s really only been a year or so that I haven’t been actively booking music, and I found that year really dissatisfying and stifling.  That’s why I recently incorporated my small company, Secret Frequency, as a non-profit;  I’ll be pursuing arts grants and sponsorships, and working towards doing more and more autonomous booking at venues of my choosing.  The artistic freedom to book bands that I think are the right ones is important to me, and important to my work as an artist and curator.

Last month, I shared my 2015 Music City Summer Series, which is now underway in the Distillery District; this is the 2014 Summer Sunday Music Series, which ran June – August last year.
In case you’re wondering, yes, I like alliteration and assonance an awful lot.


Led by powerful vocalist Tamar Ilana, VENTANAS weaves in and out of upbeat Bulgarian dance tunes, Greek, Turkish and Sephardic love songs, and heart-wrenching Flamenco dances, leading captive audiences through windows into other lands and cultures.


http://www.thefoxandthemoon.com/The Fox and The Moon

An indie-folk-acoustic made up of two acoustic guitars (Chris Blachford and Kim Wexler), a mandolin (Stella Green) and wonderful harmonies which have mesmerized audiences from their first song together.


http://www.quiqueescamilla.com/Quique Escamilla

Quique Escamilla was born and raised to a family of six in the warm, tropical southern lands of the state of Chiapas, Mexico. Today, Quique Escamilla is multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and producer living in Toronto. Since his arrival in 2007, he has rapidly become a rising star on the Canadian music scene. In 2011, he was discovered by a CBC radio producer and has since become a favourite on popular CBC Toronto shows such as Here and Now, Metro Morning, Fresh Air and Big City Small World. He won a JUNO Award in 2015.


http://www.eh440.com/Eh 440

Eh440 is a mix of 5 people from 5 very different backgrounds and musical genres. Joe’s been a low bass singer his entire life, Luke’s an urban beatboxer, Janet identifies as a country/pop singer, Stacey’s soul/pop, and if that isn’t confusing enough, Mike’s even more of a musical chameleon who cites blues, folk, and “anything with a good groove” as his influences.Together they form “an unforgettable combination of crazy beatboxing, sassy rapping, killer harmonies, and fresh, urban, RnB-influenced compositions”.


http://melissapaynemusic.com/Melissa Payne

Part velvet, part gravel, Melissa Payne’s voice stands out – her playing on fiddle and guitar a demonstration in passion and graceful restraint, her songs stomp and holler like a heatbeat leaving audiences enthralled.


https://seanconway.bandcamp.com/Sean Conway

SEAN CONWAY is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist currently residing in Peterborough, Ontario. An avid musical explorer, he effortlessly blurs the bridges between the classic sounds of 60’s-era country music, early Brit-pop and doo-wop rock n’ roll with his delicate eye for detail, all the while embracing his spontaneous nature as an entertainer and musician – constantly challenging himself as an artist and performer.


http://www.davidnewland.com/David Newland

“His songwriting—which celebrates the basic, small-town, homey pleasures of things like bare feet on a gravel road, strawberry season, and autumn leaves—while universal, is precise and beautifully integrated into the music in a way that seems inevitable.” – Barry Hammond, Penguin Eggs


http://clairemorrison.bandcamp.comClaire Morrison

Folk songwriter Claire Morrison was born where two rivers meet, and makes music because she must. Spurred by a fierce devotion to beauty and tempered by sharp realism, hers are songs characterized by both light and dark, sweetness and melancholy. Breaking onto the scene in 2010 with Winnipeg-based duo Fire & Smoke, the 22-year-old poet delivers haunting solo numbers with fearless intimacy. Her rich, resonant voice can take you away and bring you home, her words can cut you deep and lift you up. Whatever the case may be, this Manitoban songstress offers up spare, stormy folk with a lot of heart.

http://www.sarahjanescouten.com/Sarah Jane Scouten

A traditionalist at heart, Sarah Jane shows her signature flair for the roots of roots music, ranging from Western-swing, honky-tonk, Cajun and Appalachian string band music and a hint of the Maritimes. With respect for these roots, she writes from her own perspective, rather than taking on a persona or copying a style, and only writes about what she knows profoundly.


http://www.kristineschmitt.com/Kristine Schmitt and Her Special Powers

Kristine’s songwriting somehow manages to sound both vintage and immediate. Brand-new tunes with an old-time urgency, you’re never quite sure if what you’re hearing was written last week or whether it’s a tune that’s been around the block a few times.


2015 Music City Summer Series

2015 Music City Summer Series

2015 Music City Summer SeriesI’ve been a music booker for a long time – about half of my life – and I’ve always considered booking music an art.  When I work on a festival or music series, it uses up all of my creative energy in the same way that writing or acting does; it satisfies my drive to create in the same way.

I never really had the right words to describe it to people until someone – I can’t remember if it was Elizabeth Fennel or Fynn Leitch – said something in an online conversation that really resonated with me: “Curation is Creation.” In those three neat words so much of what I do as a booker is explained.

I’m not someone who likes booking a big headliner to end the show – I like a lineup that works like a long mixed tape, building a feeling, shaping a mood.  I believe that music can bring together a community, can create intergenerational and cross-cultural conversations and places.  I can and do book ticketed shows, but my preference leans heavily towards free shows in outdoor venues. ((Though I’m sometimes conflicted about that, as I think audiences should understand that art costs money.))

I love giving emerging artists an opportunity; I love introducing audiences to artists or sounds that they’ve never heard before. I love working with artists who are professional and pleasant, and I take care to book acts that will treat my crew, audiences, staff, and volunteers with respect.

The lineup for my weekly Music City Summer Series is something I’m very proud of; the brief was to book a series that spoke to the multiple distinct demographics of the Distillery District, and brought Roots/Country/Folk in counterpoint to the huge amount of Jazz and Latin American/Caribbean programming that we’ve got on throughout the rest of the Summer.

These are acts that, aside from being wonderful and very skilled, I also think are lovely people; it gives me a little thrill of pleasure to see the whole lineup laid out as it is below. So here it is, The Distillery District’s Music City Summer Series, 2015:

Music City Summer Series 2015 - The Double CutsThe Double Cuts
Wednesday June 3, 2015
Toronto’s most genial Western Swing band The Double Cuts draw from a timeless repertoire that sets audiences smiling and ready to dance.



Music City Summer Series 2015 -  Dirty DishesDirty Dishes
Wednesday June 10, 2015
Bringing a shine to every venue with their beautiful harmonies and extraordinary energy, The Dirty dishes have been touring the country breaking hearts and soothing souls at festivals and events throughout Canada.



Music City Summer Series 2015 -  The Boxcar BoysThe Boxcar Boys

Wednesday June 17, 2015, 6pm
Delivering a veritable gumbo of old-style jazz and folk music, The Boxcar Boys are a joyous acoustic celebration guaranteed to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step.


Music City Summer Series 2015 -  Suzie VinnickSuzie Vinnick
Wednesday June 24, 2015, 6pm
When Saskatoon native and Folk/Jazz/Blues artist Suzie Vinnick takes the stage, she takes it from the footlights to the rafters and owns it. Her powerful presence and skillful playing has left a lasting impression on audience across the country.



Music City Summer Series 2015 -  Kristine Schmitt and the Lonesome Ace StringbandKristine Schmitt and the Lonesome Ace Stringband 
Wednesday July 1, 2015, 6pm
Kristine Schmitt is a Toronto-based singer-songwriter, specializing in material both drawn from and influenced by music from the early part of the twentieth century. Whether it’s a fifties country ballad, an old mountain tune, a salty twenties blues number, a swinging thirties jazz tune, or belting out one of her own, you’d better hang on tight!


Music City Summer Series 2015 -  Red Moon RoadRed Moon Road
Wednesday July 8, 2015, 6pm
Born in a storm on a wild Canadian lake, Canada’s most energetic and endearing folk trio brings masterful storytelling and a lush and lively take on modern roots music.



Music City Summer Series 2015 -  Miranda MulhollandMiranda Mulholland
Wednesday July 29, 2015, 6pm

Canadian virtuoso fiddler and singer Miranda Mulholland’s music has a subtle power and distinctive personality. Mixing Jazz, Folk, and Roots music seamlessly, she thrives on diversity. a member of Great Lakes Swimmers and Belle Star, her solo work reflects her skill and experience, bringing her own unique style to the fore.


Music City Summer Series 2015 -  The Young NovelistsThe Young Novelists

Wednesday August 5, 2015, 6pm
Through their rich-but-rustic sound, Toronto Roots/Rock outfit The Young Novelists deliver raw but elegant instrumentation and stacked, multi-layered harmonies.


Music City Summer Series 2015 -  Kaia KaterKaia Kater

Wednesday August 12, 2015, 6pm
An eclectic traditionalist, Kaia Kater offers a unique take on Appalachian and Canadian traditional music through banjo and voice.



Music City Summer Series 2015 -  Melissa PayneMelissa Payne
Wednesday August 19, 2015, 6pm
Part velvet, part gravel, Melissa Payne’s voice stands out – her playing on fiddle and guitar a demonstration in passion and graceful restraint, her songs stomp and holler like a heatbeat leaving audiences enthralled.



Music City Summer Series 2015 -  Patrick BrealeyPatrick Brealey 
Wednesday August 26, 2015, 6pm
Blending Folk, Country, and Blues, Patrick Brealey is filled to the brim with swagger, tenderness, and charisma. Whether through his clever songwriting or quick sense of humour, he captivates crowds wherever he performs.



Needle-Felted Owl

Needle-Felted Owl

Needle-Felted OwlA couple of weeks ago, I was up in Cobourg visiting friends, eating lots of delicious food, and attending the Shelter Valley Folk Festival‘s Annual General Meeting.  My awesome friend Lesley ((Who not only has a great and very funny blog but also is starting an excellent project called ‘Northumberland Small Time‘))had me over for brunch and crafternoon, and we took a quick trip over to The Black Lamb in Port Hope to pick up needle-felting supplies.

Needle-Felted OwlI’ve been meaning to buy some needle-felting supplies for a long time, but none of the wool stores in Toronto seem very well-stocked for that sort of thing; The Black Lamb, however, has plenty of great colours and supplies, and is pretty awesome for anyone working in wool.

I’ve only ever made one needle-felted object before – a little snow man, which I made at a Peterborough Hand-Weavers and Spinners Guild meeting – and I wasn’t really sure what I was doing, but it’s a pretty straightforward skill to pick up, at least for simple projects.

Anyway, I made a cute little owl – I think maybe it’s a barn owl. As they Needle-Felted Owlused to say in Brownies, ‘too-whit, too-woo!’


Embroidered Turtle Ornament

Embroidered Turtle Ornament

Embroidered Turtle OrnamentMy mom and sisters and I are all fans of the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre, a great charity that works to support Ontario’s native turtles.  Many native turtle species are on the ‘at risk’ list, and KTTC work to educate the public, conserve wetlands, and make Ontario a safer place for turtles.

I’m generally not a big fan of charities, but this one’s a good one, in my opinion.

Anyhow, they had a fund raiser planned called ‘The Art of the Turtle,’ and asked artists to create turtle ornaments and donate them to sell at their event.  We decided to each make an ornament for this great cause.

Embroidered Turtle Ornament
As you can see, the kittens were extremely helpful as I was working, holding the fabric so that it didn’t slip. I

I didn’t have a lot of time to get to this project, so worked on it while I was home for Thanksgiving back in October.

I’d wanted to do something sparkly to catch the light, but was more drawn to embroidery, and knew I could make something that glowed with colour.  I research some Metis and Northern European embroidery and beadwork, and got to work.

Embroidering is a nice way to spend the time, particularly if you’ve got a happy cat – or a whole clutch of happy kittens – in your lap (as long as they don’t get too interested in your embroidery floss).

Since I’m working on a dark felt, and didn’t have a good way to draw on it, I sketched out the basic pattern in white thread.

I embroidered the outline in chain stitch, one of my least-favourtite stitches to do, but one that fills space with colour pretty fast.

Embroidered Turtle Ornament
Then I began to fill in the sections of the shell; at first, I was doing backstitch, but switched back to chain stitch because it wasn’t showing the colours very well.


Embroidered Turtle Ornament
The shell, nearly complete.



Embroidered Turtle Ornament
I try to keep the back neat and tidy, but usually it just looks like a mess, especially if I know it will be hidden.
Embroidered Turtle Ornament
I cut out pieces for the head, legs, and tail from more of the green felt.
Embroidered Turtle Ornament
The kittens were helping me decide which way the turtle’s front legs should go.
Embroidered Turtle Ornament
I don’t love using glue guns for this kind of thing, but it was the easiest way to keep the layers together so that I could sew without them slipping.
Embroidered Turtle Ornament
Nearly finished!
Embroidered Turtle Ornament
The final project!

Pack Basket

Pack Basket - the rim and straps all fitted and finished!
Pack Basket - beginning the basket
Pack Basket – beginning the basket

Some years ago, I worked at the Canadian Canoe Museum; it was my best job ever, (Largely because I had amazing coworkers and it was a pretty idyllic setting.) until it fairly abruptly wasn’t (Which had to do with a lot of factors: a changing workplace setting, upheavals in my personal life, and some interpersonal stuff which kind-of created the conditions to make my perfect job awful, quite suddenly). But during the time that it was awesome, it was really awesome, and occasionally I’d have the opportunity to do something really neat.  Like weave my very own pack basket.

The Canoe Museum actually has loads of really good courses which I completely recommend – you can check out their full listing here. They’ve been carefully designed so that you can complete the project you’re working on by the end of the allotted time. As someone with more than my fair share of half-completed projects from ill-designed workshops stuffed away to be finished ‘someday,’ I have a keen appreciation for getting to finish a project with an experienced teacher and the appropriate tools.

Pack Basket - completing the base
Pack Basket – completing the base

I’d always wanted to try my hand at basketry; though it’s one of the more derided skills, it’s kind-of fascinating.  It’s relatively easy, especially when someone has pre-cut everything for you, but meditative, especially if you’re trying to work fast.  You get into a place mentally where you just focus on weaving, and on the shape that you’re creating, and you don’t think about much else except whether or not your bamboo is wet enough.

When it was finished, I wore it home on my back, still slightly damp, and so the part of the basket that rests against my back is fairly well-moulded into a shape that is comfortable for me to wear.

I know a lot of people might make this and never use it, or just have it as a decorative object around the house, but I’ve often worn it when biking down to the farmer’s market with my sisters, or to music festivals when I’ve needed to carry unwieldy things. I’ve worn it when wildcrafting – it’s a great container for wild apples, grapes, or dye plants, as it doesn’t crush its contents.

I prefer it to a knapsack – because it holds its shape, it’s easier to find things in it; the small holes in the sides let light in, so you can see what’s in the basket.  Additionally, it breathes really well – fabric knapsacks tend to press agains the small of my back, which is where I generate a lot of heat. I find that super-annoying.

However, when you do wear it, you get a lot of attention – sometimes people stop you to compliment you or ask where you got it, and others just give you that look that people give other people who are doing something noticeably different.  Most days, that’s not something that stops me, but as beautiful and useful a thing as a pack basket is, lots of people are going to give you the squint-eye if you go around using yours for its intended purpose.


Pack Basket - starting to form the shape.
Pack Basket – starting to form the shape.
Pack Basket - starting to form the shape.
Pack Basket – starting to form the shape.
Pack Basket - a few participants weaving
Pack Basket – a few participants weaving
Pack Basket - weaving finished
Pack Basket – weaving finished
Pack Basket - clamping on the rim
Pack Basket – clamping on the rim
Pack Basket - the rim and straps all fitted and finished!
Pack Basket – the rim and straps all fitted and finished!
Pack Basket - ready to be worn on the bike ride home!
Pack Basket – ready to be worn on the bike ride home!

Preserves – Mango Chutney

Preserves - Mango Chutney
Preserves - Mango Chutney
Cutting up ripe mangoes

I’ve been having a busy and stressful couple of weeks, so I’m not sure if this counts as art, but I feel like it does, so it’s going to have to do.

I’m not an expert at preserving, but it’s something we’ve been doing since I was a kid, when we would spend hot mornings at the U Pick farms, and long afternoons putting up jars of strawberry and raspberry jam.

When I moved to Toronto, I left most of my canning tools at my Mom’s house ((along with my favourite baking dishes!)), because I moved in a hurry and wasn’t sure how long I’d be staying.  So last year I didn’t do any canning at all, and very little baking.

My summers are generally very busy, since I run Summer festivals and events for a living, but I almost always find time to do some preserving when the produce is cheap and plentiful.  The trick is really to have all of the things you need ready to go, so that when you see a bushel of red peppers going super-cheap, you can take is home and be canning Roasted Red Pepper-Tomato Ketchup that evening.

Preserves - Mango Chutney
After stewing the ingredients together, you fill mason jars with the hot fruit mixture.

So last weekend I noticed that flats of mangoes were pretty cheap, and I finally got around to buying one of those Bernardin home canning starter kits, which includes the giant pot, funnel, and jar tongs (as well as some other random stuff, like a DVD on canning.). You don’t need to buy one of these, but it is a handy way to get everything you need in one shot.  It even comes with four one-cup mason jars, though that won’t get you very far.

Like a lot of older skills, people think it’s super-complicated to make preserves (or bake), but the main activities are washing – the ingredients, the tools, your hands – and peeling/cutting up the ingredients. Then you stew them up in a pot, add a few preservative ingredients like sugar and vinegar, et voila! You have jam, or ketchup, or chutney!

Yes, after that you move on to the canning process, which is usually another half an hour, and is super-anti-climactic if you think canning is complicated, but generally it means pouring your preserves into sterile jars, covering them with sterile lids, and then submerging them in boiling water for 20 minutes or so. ((This is a rough description, by no means a recipe – always check a canning site like Bernardin for proper directions! They’ve also got tonnes of really good recipes for all kinds of preserves.))

Preserves - Mango Chutney
Placing the jars in the hot water bath to sterilize and seal them.

I’ve made this mango chutney a few times; it’s a recipe I cobbled together a few years ago when I made an impulse buy of a carton of over-ripe mangoes for $3. You can find it over on my personal website; don’t mess with the spices, unless you’re adding a little extra coriander, which is my favourite bit.  Everytime I get a bite of chutney with a coriander seed, it’s like heaven.

The best part of the whole process is really that bit at the end, when you’re pulling the jars out of the boiling-water bath, and setting them somewhere to settle for the night.  Not only do you get the pleasure of seeing those lovely jars all lined up with delicious food that you made, but there’s that pleasing “Thwok!” as the lids suction down, sealing the jars.

I really like this recipe; it tastes amazing on fried foods like latkes, samosas, or a grilled cheese sandwich (seriously, try it!).  And it feels good to finally have the tools to preserve things in my own house again!


Preserves - Mango Chutney
This batch made 9 one-cup jars of delicious mango chutney!






Embroidered Sun Shade

Embroidered Sun Shade

Embroidered Sun ShadeSo I’m really, really late posting.  I’d been learning a song for the past two weeks, and was finally getting to a point where I was pretty happy with it, when I sat to record.  Listening back, I was kind-of overwhelmed by how much I hate the ukulele accompaniment; whether it’s the arrangement, or my playing, or whatever, I re-recorded it over and over, and never felt any better about it.  I kept procrastinating, hoping I’d find a way to make it work, but in the end I just had to admit defeat.

So instead of a new song I’m posting an old piece of embroidery.

It’s something I made for Cassie, when she was travelling south to take a class in Desert Ecology. Since she was going to the desert, I thought I’d make her a piece of embroidery that she could attach to her hat, kind-of in the style of the French Foreign Legion.

Embroidered Sun ShadeI’d wanted to make it a lot more elaborate than I had time to do – I run Summer events, so as the weather warms my free time dries up. I remember that I was still working on the chain of flowers as we drove Cassie to meet up with her class in Southern Ontario, and I finished it off just in time.

The finished/unfinished nature of this particular project is kind-of obvious – the placement of all of the elements is random, because the white space between them was was supposed to be busy with flowers and images and colours.

This was a while ago, before sugar skulls appeared on everything, so I’m not sure if that makes it more or less culturally appropriative, but I was trying to represent that she’d be in the desert in both the southern U.S. and northern Mexico, which is why I included it (Also, I find them fascinating and pretty).  The cactus is the universally-recognizable symbol for North American desert (even if it’s not found in all of them, Looney Tunes taught me that deserts have Saguaro cactus.), and of course, a howling wolf.

Embroidered Sun ShadeI’m most proud of the wolf; it’s probably the best-drawn and executed of anything on this piece.  I feel a bit sheepish about having embroidered a howling wolf on something, but let’s just pretend I was embroidering it ironically, okay?

Ukulele cover – ‘I’m on Fire’

Ukulele cover - 'I'm on Fire'

I’ve been sporadically playing the ukulele for a few years now since David Newland got me hooked on it, and I’ve been singing since I was a kid, like most people.  I’m starting to learn more about my singing voice, and how to do the things I want to do (like stay on key and not sound like a vocalist I wouldn’t want to listen to), and one of the methods that really helps is to hear myself recorded. Nothing really hammers home the flaws like listening to playback of your own performance!

I recorded this last weekend, as I was recovering from a bad headcold; I can’t tell if that added to or detracted from my performance. I’d recently gotten advice from my old friend and mentor Ian Osborn that I should try getting a little drunk and recording myself, to get used to my voice and to quiet that internal censor that pops up whenever I do anything that isn’t perfect.  I figured being that sick was roughly equivalent to half a bottle of wine, and it worked out all right, in addition to being a great way to shake loose some of the congestion in my head.

I recorded it using my Yeti Blue Microphone and Audacity recording software; my knowledge of recording is pretty minimal, but months ago at Shelter Valley Folk Festival I got some good advice from friend, musician, and radio producer Laurence Stevenson, who told me to set myself and my mic up in a closet full of clothes, which works really effectively as a baffle.

Having spent most of my life around some of the best professional musicians in the industry, it’s always been hard for me to put anything musical out there – but I’m going to try to do it more often.


Octopus Linoprint

Octopus Linoprint

Octopus LinoprintI’d really enjoyed creating a linoprint last year when I was working at Harbourfront Centre, and had been thinking of buying some supplies and trying it out again in a slightly less rushed situation.  While I was home a month or two ago, my mom and sisters and I went to an auction, where I was lucky enough to snag a box full of linocutting supplies – carving tools and breyers, some (very old) ink and lino.

This past weekend I finally made it an art supply store, and picked up some fresh ink and some of the newer, rubbery lino.  I sketched out an octopus and transferred it to the lino.  Unfortunately, I find that this rubbery lino is a difficult medium – it’s not so bad if you’re using it to carve lines, but if you’re carving away a lot of material, it becomes quite annoying.  I probably just need to work with it more, and learn how to work with the medium instead of struggling against it.

Octopus Linoprint

In the end, this turned out much better than I thought it was going to, but I’m still annoyed but a few things –  the octopus’ highest tentacle didn’t turn out right, even in the sketch, and a lot of the lines aren’t very clean.  I also don’t quite have the printing technique down, so I’m not getting a very clean print.

Octopus Linoprint

I may do some more work on the linocut, to see if I can clean it up and make it something that i’m happier with, and I may add some elements to the final prints with a pen or some other inks. We’ll see.

Octopus LinoprintFor now, here’s my octopus!


Sugar Skull

Sugar Skull

When I moved to Toronto, I had the vague plan to draw a postcard every week to send to my mom and sisters back home.  I’ve lived here a year, and so far I think I’ve sent three.  This is a drawing of a sugar skull or Calavera. In Mexico, they’re used as part of the Catholic celebration of the Day of the Dead. They’ve kind-of become a popular decorative design, and I’ve been seeing them pop up on things like purses and t-shirts.

I’m not necessarily the best at drawing – you can see a lot of pencil lines, and the inked lines are a bit inconsistent.  I’m fairly happy with it anyway; it was a lot of fun to draw.

Sugar Skull Sugar Skull

Sugar Skull