Author Archive for mary

Oliver Schroer

Don’t look at what you don’t have.  Make sure your glass is half full, not half empty.  This is a stance you take in life.  It is not a random attitude.  But with just a little practise, that becomes an attitude you can easily stick to.  Let’s put it this way.  If I can think this in my present condition, I would hope that you can do the same.  I would even ask you to do this for me.  Take that stance for me and from me, and concentrate always on the positive.  ULTREIA*.

–  Oliver Schroer, fiddler, composer, musical explorer.  April 8, 2008 Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto
After a hard and positive fight to beat his cancer, Oliver left this planet on Thursday, July 3, 2008. He maintained a very busy and active recording and mixing schedule for his last projects right up to the end.  He had turned his hospital room into a little recording studio!  Every time I’d visit (I was Oli’s publicist) he’d thrust the mic into my face and say “I need you in the chorus”.  When I said no each time he’d tell me that ALL the nurses and doctors were doing as he asked!
Oliver Schroer was truly unique.  He lived his life to the full.  Always re-inventing himself and taking us all on each adventure – whether we were ready and willing – or not.  Such was his charisma and confidence that we always were!
Oliver walked the Camino Trail while playing his violin and recording along the way in some of the churches.  Camino, and all of Oli’s other recordings are available on the Borealis label.

*ULTREIA comes from Latin and it means ‘beyond’. It is a pilgrim salute implying encouragement to keep going, reaching ‘beyond’, heading onwards. So very Oli. Oliver moved out to BC and with his passion for music and young people he created two separate groups of kids learning to play stringed instruments  –  these groups were called The Twisted String.  Their ages were from 7–19. Oli understood that it was vital to keep these kids enthusiastic so sometimes they’d meet at a remote roadhouse and filling station and create “Random Acts of Violins!”When Oli returned to Ontario to undergo treatment for leukaemia and to hopefully receive a bone marrow transplant, some of his dear friends, including Holmes Hooke (Hugh’s Room’s long-time programmer), Anne Lindsay, and Steafan Hannigan created OliFiddle #1 – a three night talent-filled fundraiser that took place at Hugh’s Room on June 19, 20 & 21, 2007.  We called on some great admirers of Oliver to host a night each: Shelagh Rogers, Stuart McLean, and Jeff Goodes. All three nights were capacity crowds, and Michael Wrycraft ably introduced each night’s host.  The music was sublime. We hosted OliFiddle #2 on February 18 & 19, 2008 – a two-night fundraiser.  We invited back Shelagh Rogers and Stuart McLean for another round of hosting.  Of course they were delighted to accept.  The call went out to the BC Twisted String groups to see if any of them would like to join us.  There was immediate positive response from a great many of them. They, and parents of the little ones, were billeted by a number of willing folks.  
We organized for the Twisted String to play in the hospital’s atrium and then we took them, in the sleet, to the subway and they played on the platform waiting for a train.  We got off at every station and played waiting for next train and then at Union Station before heading to the CBC Atrium where they played, and then two of the older kids went upstairs to be interviewed on Here & Now.  
Oliver Schroer and Hugh’s Room were such a perfect fit.  He was loved by us all. His presence over these two nights meant so much to everyone. I don’t know how many times Oliver Schroer graced our stage.  I do know how much richer our lives are because of Oli.
To celebrate Oliver Schroer and his music, fiddler Anne Lindsay and Hugh’s Room created a tribute night on May 27, 2015. The line-up was terrific – James Keelaghan, Anne Lindsay, David Woodhead, Jaron Freeman-Fox, Emilyn Stam, and others – and the music unforgettable.

On June 18, 2020 Oliver Schroer would have turned 64.

Gathering to share music and memories, to laugh, to cry, and to celebrate, are central to our experience as humans. Hugh’s Room Live has dedicated itself to creating these experiences, and we all look forward to when we are able to gather once again.
Jane Harbury has been a long-time presence in Toronto music scene. She was part of the legendary Riverboat Coffee House in Yorkville, has supported the careers of many artists over the years, both legends and up-and-comers, and manages publicity for Hugh’s Room Live.

A New Chapter

I think I miss the cramped stairway down to the bathrooms the most. Or maybe the shoebox charitably called a “green room” with its autographed John Hammond promo pic and the poster for Porkbelly Futures. On the multi-act tribute nights, the famous and not-so-famous would crowd together on the clapped-out couch or overflow out to sit around the long table in the office, tuning instruments, rehearsing vocal harmonies and telling war stories as the staff sorted cutlery and Heather took last-minute box office calls. When it was time to hit the stage, there was no other route for us than through the tiered seating, while trying to avoid braining patrons with the lower bout of an acoustic guitar.

Finally on stage, we looked out at two hundred patrons on a packed night, the front row tables almost in our laps. Even the stools in the back still felt to be within arm’s reach. Social distancing was never an option at Hugh’s Room Live.

We are living in an exceedingly strange time, but that is especially so for those of us who are nourished by close encounters of the musical kind. As I write this, every live venue in Canada is shuttered. The live music rooms struggle to see the day when they will open their doors again. Performers are facing sudden and traumatic financial strain as well as the loss of that essential energy that emanates from an audience. Music lovers are starving for the intimacy and social cohesion that only in-person performances can bring. Some musicians have taken to social media, inviting us into their homes for informal concerts. Undoubtedly, some beautiful and even moving musical moments have been shared through screens in the last few weeks, but we all know what we’re missing.Hugh’s Room’s original location closed just as live music was entering an extended hiatus and I can’t help but think that this is somehow as it should be. Imagining that room, so recently alive with music, sitting empty and silent is sadder than knowing that Hugh’s is simply in transition to a new space and a new chapter in its history.

When we gather together again, we will need the community that we’ve built here more than ever, because since 2001, Hugh’s has given us something that can’t be digitized: the magic of intimate musical connection.  
Mike Daley is a Toronto-based musician, lecturer, and musicologist. His popular lecture/concert topics at Hugh’s Room Live have included James Taylor, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, and Elvis Presley. Read more about his projects at