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Fowke Tales

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I thought I'd share with the Hangout a bit of what I've been doing musically.  My good buddy Al Kirby (Jazzy Al) has been working on his PHD in ethnomusicology.  Last year he got together with author/story-teller/actress (and, now singer) Janet Kellough and fiddler extraordinaire Zeke Mazurek and they put together a play documenting Edith Fowke's folk song collecting in Peterborough County and they called it Fowke Tales.  Friday night and yesterday we performed it at Peterborough's Showplace and I'm including the write-up by journalist and musician Dennis O'Toole that appeared in Saturday's Peterborough Examiner:

   Fowke Tales

The Showplace Peterborough  lounge  was transformed into a bit of Ontario history last night as the 'Fowke Tales' cast cast their spell and wove a little magic out of local tales and trials of the logging days.
   This writer first saw the production last fall at Lang Century Village, and the barn that hosted the inaugural performance was undoubtedly a more rural and funky setting, but the narrative and music of the performance piece carried the day, the decades, the generational leap of the P.G.Towns
clan and their place and part in the folklore of this area, and the history of the province.
     It's a tale of logging and shantymen, and the tall pines and tales that were the stuff of legend; passed from hand to hardworking hand and brought back to hearth and home in the spring of the year, by those that were lucky enough to survive the  river log jams and deprivations of a season in the bush.
    Edith Fowke brought her enthusiasm and a tape recorder to the little crossroads store in  Douro to capture the essence of a bygone era and befriended Mary Towns, the hardworking matriarch of a not so typical Irish family, and the two worked together to compile an archive of material that would have otherwise slipped away like the first growth forest.
    The casts' support of Janet Kelloughs' 'Mary Towns' came across with all the warmth of a kitchen  assembly of friends, Zeke Mazureks' fiddle the link between Al Kirbys' banjo and Jim Yates' guitar; both singing with the simple conviction born of a hard days work and generations gone before. Jeanette Arseneaults' harmony vocals tie the rough hewn timbre of the mens' singing to an angelic  thread; and even the modern architecture of the venue gives way to the past.
    Edith Fowke survived the inevitable disdain reserved for those that believed in the honour of the working people, befriending Pete Seeger and being tarred with the same brush that  U.S. senator Eugene McCarthy so 'liberally' painted his real or perceived opponents in the 'red scare' of the late 1950's. She eventually succumbed to lung cancer, but only after giving voice to the  working people of Ontario, and helping them make their mark on the history of this province as surely as
their axes left sign on little communities like Minden, upriver from Peterborough and part of the waterchain that saw rough  lumber travel from the woods to the mills and yards of the new prosperity that is yet ours to enjoy.
   'Fowke Tales' plays today at 2pm; it's a lesson in history and music that all can enjoy; you might want to grab the kids or grand- children and catch a treat that is not likely to be repeated in the near future. There are tickets left to be had, catch this show while you can!


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Playing Since: 1977
[Teaching] [Jamming] [Socializing] [Helping]

Occupation: music teacher/musician

Gender: Male
Age: 79

My Instruments:
no-name pre-war open-back, S.S.Stewart tenor, home-made fretless, home-made open-back, RS Williams Artist open back.

Favorite Bands/Musicians:
John Hartford, Pete Seeger, Howie Burson, Mike Seeger, Tommy Thompson, Robin & Linda Williams, New Lost City Ramblers, Tom Paley, John Cohen, Red Clay Ramblers , Michael Cooney, Hedy West, Derroll Adams, Karen Dalton, Cathy Fink, Chris Coole , Arnie Naiman, Bob Carlin, Mac Benford, David Holt, Ola Belle Reed, Brian Pickell, Mac Benford, Wade Mainer, Roscoe Holcomb, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Raymond McLain, Gus Cannon, Dock Boggs.
Also some friends from southern Ontario who may not be as famous, but I learn something every time I play with them or listen to them: Jay Edmonds, Rick Baur, Dennis Delorme, Karen Taylor, Kate Jarrett, Sam Allison, Jimmy Bowskill, Ted Staunton and Teilhard Frost (who also builds wonderful gourd banjos)...

You will notice that all of these (except John Hartford, whose playing I have loved since I first bought Morning Bugle thirty years ago) are old-time banjo players, since this is the type of banjo music I enjoy playing. I have many favourite musicians who play 3-finger/bluegrass style banjo (like Al Kirby) and tenor banjo and who play other instruments, but if I put them all down the list would be too long for anyone to bother to read it (probably is anyway). I realize that some of the players I have listed are also bluegrass players, but their old timey style was what attracted me to their playing.

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Created 2/21/2007
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JIM YATES comes from a musical family. His father was a singer, he is married to a musician, his four siblings all play music, his two sons and most of his nephews and nieces are involved in music. Even the family sewing machine was a 'Singer'. He started playing music on a ukulele that a cousin forgot at his home and bought his first guitar circa 1960. Over the years he has added banjo, mandolin, Autoharp, accordion, concertina, bouzouki, mountain dulcimer and mouth harp to his arsenal. He also owns a fiddle, but plays it only in the privacy of his own home when his wife is at work and the cats are both outside. During the sixties he played folk music at hootenanies in school gyms and church basements in the Hamilton area. His introduction to bluegrass was seeing the York County Boys at the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia during the early sixties. In the wilder days of the sixties Jim also played with the fledgling Velvet Underground when they came to Hamilton's McMaster University as part of Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable. (There were no musical instruments involved. He was helping out McMaster's Arts Festival Commitee and after the concert Jim and his brother Bob played frisbee with the band members while the stage was struck. Jim says,"At least it makes a great story.") After moving to the Port Hope/Cobourg area in the early seventies, he played in several folk, bluegrass and Celtic groups and became involved with promoting acoustic music through Folk At The Forum and the Waterfront Festival. Jim teaches guitar, banjo and mandolin and has had articles and arrangements published in the Banjo Newsletter and the Autoharpoholic Magazine. His tune Robbie Burns' Day has been recorded by the Peterborough folk group Freshwater Trade and by Fiddlin' Zeke Mazurek. Jim played eclectic acoustic music with Al Kirby as part of the duo Kirby & Yates. They were later joined by the late, great Zeke Mazurek to form a trio called The North Shore Ramblers. Jim also sometimes sat in with his son, Clayton's group, the Otonabee River Boys. ***Above is the bio I was using when I first joined the BHO. These days, 2017, I am spending most of my performing time with The Maple Leaf Champions Jug Band and Nothumberland Orchestra and Choir.

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