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The Sparrow Songs: A Country Song String

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May 19, 2012 @ 8:30 pm

20$ - 22.50$

A Musical Tradition of the Old West comes back to life! The Song-String,
Lyrics formerly housed in a university archive –
these lyrics being the only remnants of an all but forgotten musical form

Created by Barbara Nichol and Tom Bellman

Performers:
Andy Maize, Lis Soderberg, Scarlett Flynn & Tom Bellman

Musicians
Aidan Mason – fiddle, mandolin, guitar
Tim Posgate – banjo
Charles James – standup bass
Neil Gardiner – piano
Tom Bellman – acoustic guitar

The Sparrow Songs is taken from a collection of lyrics housed in the archives of the State of Washington University at Tacoma. Ethnomusicologists believe that these songs are the only known remnants of what was once known as a “song-string” – an extinct musical form of the American west. The Sparrow Songs have never before been performed publicly.

Song-strings were an after dinner entertainment in which neighbours and families would gather with their instruments and set about to make a string of songs. The participants would take turns adding songs; the challenge being that each song would have to – in some way – relate to the previous song in tone or subject. Ideally, the songs would eventually form a narrative. Sometimes song-strings would develop over a period of years, and achieve great lengths.

It’s believed that this pass-time was adopted from the peoples of the American Chumash Nation, a coastal nation of 1,500 people. There is also consensus that this particular song-string was begun in the 1830s, in the region that now encompasses the city of Anaheim. To most, Anaheim is now best known as the site of the Disneyland Amusement Park.

The Sparrow Songs lyrics were included in a legacy of papers left to S.W.U./Tacoma by a Mortimer Whittall in 1974.

Creators
Barbara Nichol: Story concept, Book, Lyrics, Presenter.

Barbara is the original author and director of Beethoven Lives Upstairs, for which she won a Juno award. She has written seven books for McClelland and Stewart’s children’s house, one of which – Dippers – was shortlisted for The Governor General’s award. She has worked as a writer for the New York/International division of Sesame Street, and was nominated for an Emmy Award for her Sesame Street special: Basil Hears a Noise, which won a Cable Ace Award.
Her work for adults has included over 20 documentaries for the CBC Radio series Ideas, including three works of fiction (all of them hoaxes for April Fool’s Day.)

She wrote the film The Home for Blind Women, winner of a Genie Award for best short film. Barbara’s prose humour has appeared in various journals and she was a contributing editor at The Walrus magazine for which she has written several humour pieces. She has written and directed numerous television and radio plays and sketch comedy programs, performing in many of them. Recently Barbara performed and wrote for Judith Thompson’s production of Body & Soul.

Her current projects are a new documentary for Ideas, and a book: Some Animals You Might Like To Meet.

Tom Bellman: Composer, Musical Director
After completing music studies at Humber College, Tom spent several years in Canada and Israel writing and performing with various bands. Notable among these were the Israeli groups Habreira Hativit – an eastern music ensemble – and Zaviot, a jazz quartet he co-founded, and with whom he recorded 3 records. The last of these recordings featured the renowned saxophonist Dave Liebman.

Tom eventually found his way into a career in software user interface design, with music remaining a serious pursuit and passion. In 1994-5, he combined his music and software design skills, collaborating with Thomas Dolby and Michael Brook on the Soundscapes project at Interval Research in Silicon Valley. The collection of software “instruments”, he co-designed were exhibited at the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle.

From 2007 to 2009, Tom composed over 35 songs for productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and The Tempest, directed by Judith Thompson. Tom contributed his song “Home At Last” to Ms.Thompson’s recent productions of Body & Soul.

Cast
Scarlett Flynn (Sparrow)
Scarlett is an accomplished singer and songwriter, and co-founder of the Toronto pop band Running Red Lights (www.runningredlights.com), winners of the 2010 YouDiscover Contest, and 2011 Kensington Sound Songwriting Contest. Look for the band’s upcoming full-length album this year and Canadian tour in the spring of 2012.

Andy Maize (Tin Cup)
With The Skydiggers, Andy Maize was a central figure in a golden era of Toronto’s roots rock history, the Spadina Hotel scene in the 1980s. Juno winners and quintessentially Canadian music-makers, Maize and The Skydiggers are responsible for crafting timeless songs with a calibre of harmonies and melodies that rival any of their contemporaries. Recently, Maize has performed with the Art of Time Ensemble in their critically acclaimed reinterpretation of the Beatles’ Abbey Road at Koerner Hall in Toronto; with the Jubilee Swing Orchestra in Halifax, as well as participating in the inaugural Sleepwalk Guitar Festival.

Lis Soderberg (Joanie)
From coffee houses to symphony stages, Lis’s diverse career includes numerous recordings, songwriting awards, and countless live shows as a solo artist or backing vocalist, as well as narration for radio, film and television.  Her album “Refuge” was released in 2010, with plans to begin the next one this year, plus an upcoming project that will feature collaboration and cross-pollination with other artists.

Tom Bellman (Marcus)
After completing music studies at Humber College, Tom spent several years in Canada and Israel writing and performing with various bands. Notable among these were the Israeli groups Habreira Hativit – an eastern music ensemble – and Zaviot, a jazz quartet he co-founded, and with whom he recorded 3 records. The last of these recordings featured the renowned saxophonist Dave Liebman.

Tom eventually found his way into a career in software user interface design, with music remaining a serious pursuit and passion. In 1994-5, he combined his music and software design skills, collaborating with Thomas Dolby and Michael Brook on the Soundscapes project at Interval Research in Silicon Valley. The collection of software “instruments”, he co-designed were exhibited at the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle.

From 2007 to 2009, Tom composed over 35 songs for productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and The Tempest, directed by Judith Thompson. Tom contributed his song “Home At Last” to Ms.Thompson’s recent productions of Body & Soul.

Mortimer Whittall: Benefactor
History has left us little information about Mortimer Whittall. It’s likely that Whittall spent his childhood in California, according to records held by that state – records which preserve some details of the Whittall family. According to state documents, his older brother, Paul, died “taken by snakebite”, in 1900. Paul was then 23. Mortimer was 19.

Mortimer, whose profession is not known, married his brother’s widow in 1903. Finally, upon his father’s death, Whittall left the area, after which time there is no information concerning his whereabouts. There is no information indicating that his wife accompanied him. Mortimer died in Salem Oregon in 1974, at age ninety.  His sister, Agatha, died and was buried in Tacoma. Mortimer Whittall and his wife left no children.

Details

Date:
May 19, 2012
Time:
8:30 pm
Cost:
20$ - 22.50$
Event Categories:
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