Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Last Waltz - West End Cultural Centre

Those of you who know me well, know that my favorite concert film of all time is Martin Scorsese's "The Last Waltz" - a documentary of the 1976 farewell performance of The Band - and some very special friends who came out celebrate with them. I routinely give it as a gift to those I think may appreciate it at the same level I do.

Last night, I was privileged to attend a home-grown recreation of this event at Winnipeg's own West End Cultural Centre - and it was a truly musically magickal night unlike anything else I have ever experienced in my life (in music or ortherwise).

I know every song, every nuance of every performance on that film - and to watch it faithfully recreated was an experience as closely akin to bi-location and time travel as I could ever imagine. There were repeated nano-seconds through the cheering and the tearing up of my eyes where I was transported to the Winterland - and my mind often held split-screen images of what was before me, and the memories of the same moments captured on film - playing side by side in near perfect synchronization in my mind's eye.

The audience, for the most part, sang along - a multi-generational ad-hoc choir of the faithful. There were a few standing ovations for various performances, but not so many that they got in the way. There were faithful renditions from the two poets invited to The Last Waltz as well - The Intro to the Canterbury Tales was read, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti was well represented by Dominic Lloyd's impassioned delivery of The Loud Prayer.

It was a recreation, not an imitation - a true homage, not a self-conscious copy, an honoring of musical ancestors in a truly spiritual way. The musicianship was stellar - these are some of Manitoba's best home-grown musicians after all - and while obviously NOT the original performers, there was a sense that the spirit of each original performer somehow was "inhabiting" the person on stage

The Boys in The Band - gritty, roots-rock power, building a firm foundation - they proudly kept the flame burning that heated up the room with a love of music, a love of musical community, and a sense of the linear heritage that is musical influence. Dressed in slightly rough and tumble vintage clothing, with a red scarf for Robbie in the second set (and a last minute fedora) , they transformed from "a band" to The Band" as soon as the first drumstick touched down.

Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, Neil Young, and Neil Diamond gave great performances. The always amazing Mark Reeves as Paul Butterfield did dynamic double duty - not only giving his own song every ounce of juice he could squeeze out, but then backing up the Man from the Muddy Waters, who declared in no uncertain terms that he, McKinley Morganfield aka Big Dave MacLean is a true blues MAN - "I spell Mmmmmm....., Aaaaaay-child, Nnnnnnnnnn. "

The Staple Singers - it takes gospel roots to truly sing a gospel song - and House of Doc (especially Matthew) took us to church with the secular hymn "The Weight". While Rebecca is not quite Mavis Staples, the passion of House of Doc's shared harmonies with The Band rained a pentecostal fire down on the crowd one song before a much needed intermission. There are two old men in Heaven - Pop Staples and "Doc" - who were smiling big looking down on us all.

It takes a certain amount of musical gravitas to "become a legend" - and if there was ever anyone born to become Joni Mitchell, Lianne Fournier is the one. With Lloyd Peterson mastering the challenge of syncopated rhythms and open tunings while seated on a piano stool, Lian sang like the Angel from Saskatchewan.

The glaringly awful exception of last night was Emmylou Harris - who should be receiving a huge apology from the woman who got up and simply sang "Evangeline" with no soul, no connection, and no emotional investment in the spirit of the event. There was no sweetness in the voice of this pretender to crown of Sally Rose.

Eric Clapton wins the "attention to detail award - right down to the guitar strap incident. Extremely solid playing - how do you impersonate God. You simply become Him.

Van Morrison stopped the show - testifying in the true Irish Gospel tradition that the Spirit of the WestEnd would live on in its new incarnation, going to a place of musical passion that made him the tallest of collected musical giants in the house, and bringing "the choir" in to share the singing of the Good News that "We Got SO-oooooo-UL" and demanded that we all turned on our Electric Light. Na -na -na -na na na na- na nah......

Dan Frechette WAS Bob Dylan. Every gesture, every facial expression, every guitar lick, every interaction with The Band. He sang in with the voice of Dylan. It was the night's most amazing "inhabitation".

The finale came far too quickly. Ronnie Woods and Ringo Star came out for the final song, and then the lights came up and it was all over but the cheering.

Who to thank for all this? the musicians? of course. Both sets - the originals AND their heirs on stage last night. But most of all - to Martin Scorsese - who captured something beautiful and magickal and powerful in amber over 30 years ago - so we could revive it and relive it at our very own West End Cultural Centre - we owe him a huge debt of thanks for his love of music and his passion for film. Has anyone told him about this event? Should we have invited him to the party - as a gesture of appreciation? Not that he would have come - but at least he would know about this gift that he, and through him, all these musicians, have given to us - that lives on in us as musicians and fans.

Long live the West End Cultural Centre. May its next incarnation be as powerful as last night's reincarnation of the Last Waltz.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thirteen Living People I'd Like to Meet.... (TT#7)

Thirteen Living People I'd Like to Meet

I need to qualify this by saying that I'm not talking about shaking hands in a receiving line - I mean 'meet - sit - talk - have a glass of beverage - shoot the breeze on a summer afternoon" - that kind of meet. I've had my fair share of meeting famous people for 30 seconds - and with a couple very rare and precious exceptions - where true conversation or communion happened - getting a cd or record signed is not "meeting" - its part of the game.

ANYWAYS..... in no particular order - (honest)

  1. Keith Richards - you knew this would be Number One. Maker of wonderous music - hedonist - family man - survivor - devotee of Dionysus to the core...
  2. George Bush - just to give him a piece of my mind. Toss in his little buddy just for an appetizer. Does the US still have a Vice President? Mr.Haliburton has been very invisible of late.
  3. Yoko Ono - a vibrant treasure in both art, music, philanthropy, and peace activism. She has had an amazing life - with a history of accomplishment that started long before she met her soul-mate. Pure Genius. Fortunately more people are waking up to her contribution to the avant-garde art movement -and to music. Her Peace Activism is her proudest badge of honor.
  4. Stephen Harper - recipient of an other piece of my mind. I got to meet his mentor Preston Manning - had to introduce him at a public event - and got to have a decent conversation about honoring the diversity of all Canadians (gay rights/minority religious rights). He listened politely. My CCF activist grandfather whirled like a dervish in his grave that I was fraternizing with the anti-christ.
  5. John Nash - because I don't think he was crazy - I think his beautiful mind saw the truth in many things and got shut down by the establishment. He was persecuted for his uniqueness (and his bisexuality and politics). Maybe Stephen Hawkins could join us for tea...
  6. James Randi - who never gets nominated as the Greatest Canadian - this peerless investigator of the paranormal toured with Alice Cooper and exposes the fraudulent who prey on the greiving and the gullible.
  7. Maxine Sanders, the first Alexandrian High Priestess. She was there at the beginning of the second wave of Wicca - and I'd love to hear her side of it. The unpublished unvarnished truth. And I would promise to not repeat a word of it. Witches Honor.
  8. Aidan Kelly - a divine madman and holy fool that released the hounds and stormed the castle, telling tales and spilling all the beans. The Chameleon of the Craft.
  9. Kaffe Fassett - the grand old man of sticks and strings. His work has inspired a revival in the fibre arts - and his designs stand up to the cruel test of enduring fashion.
  10. Van Morrison - only if he's not being cranky and grumpy - teach me all the old Irish Folk tunes you have stored up in that vast musical archive that is your mind. I would even pick up the bar tab (who needs to make the mortgage payment).
  11. Pete Seeger - to worship at the feet of the Saint - peace-maker, truth speaker, troubadour, keeper of the flame and living legend. An International Treasure.
  12. Romeo Dallaire - but we would only talk about the future of his humanitarian work - but if he wanted to talk about the past if he wanted to - he might need a break.
  13. Stephen Lewis - the greatest living Canadian. He'll be in town in a couple weeks and I look foward to hearing him speak.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

13 Things I Want to Do Before I Die (TT#6)

(and yes, I know this is late - but I at least started it last Thursday - does that count? didn't think so!)

Thirteen Things I Want to do Before I Die

Some realistic, some possible, some requiring more effort than I may be prepared to invest and some are just fantasies with very little likelihood of coming true. But then... you never know...

1. Achieve a new and improved level of overall fitness, and general healthiness. Doable - all it requires is responsible eating and moderate exercise. Once I get to that point - hopefully before I'm 50 - then I'd like to move on to #2 -

2. Run a Marathon. (stop laughing). The only thing stopping me is the desire to invest time and energy in training for it. Do-able. Possible.

3. Become a published author. Do-able - I need to finish any one of the manuscripts I have under construction, and either get published, or self-publish. (note that I did not say "international best-selling author")

4. Record a cd with Musique Magique. Do-able only if the "group mind" also wants it to happen.

5. Visit the following sacred sites: Delphi, the Hagia Sophia, the Parthenon, Macchu Pichu, the Wailing Wall, the tomb of Rumi, and Mecca. Not So Do-able given the state of the world.

6. Knit a very complex super expert highly intricate Elizabeth Zimmerman or Meg Swanson piece of lace. Preferably something I would wear. Do-Able if I really put my mind & fingers to it and accept the challenge to my knitting skills.

7. Go back to Ireland, and visit Scotland. Possible to do - but guilt about taking pleasure flights in an era of climate change is enough to make me talk myself out of it before I even pick up a tourbook. I'd love to re-visit the Irish Woolen Mills in Dublin - what an amazing place - and visit some of the great Wooleries in Scotland.

8. Master a second and third language. My French really should be better than it is, and I'd love to be conversant in Hindi, and/or Gaelic. Do-able with determination.

9. Meet any of the following people for an afternoon that involves pitchers of a cold alcoholic beverage and some serious conversation: WAIT - this is a great idea for a separate T13 list. Watch this space for an expanded answer in a stand-alone post - This Thursday, goldarn it.

10. Spend time in an Ashram in India, chanting with Krishna Das. See above point for thoughts on climate change guilt. Do-able but highly unlikely that I would ever invest the $$$ needed for this. Maybe he'll come to Winnipeg.

11. Become a recognized expert on Tarot. My passion. Own all the decks I covet, and teach classes online and in person to share my diverse knowledge of this wondrous subject. (Had to let a little ego creep in here somewhere.)

12. Listen to all the music I have on my "want list" - too numerous to mention here.

13. See a shift in global consciousness that would allow all Earth's Children to live in peace, security, abundance, happiness, and acceptance on a healthy planet. Do-able? Its up to each one of us, isn't it.

bonus points: get my Thursday 13's done on Thursday - not just "started" on a Thursday. I will do better. :)

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thursday 13 - Reasons I am More than Slightly Monarchist (TT#5)

Thirteen Things That Make Me More than Slightly Monarchist
(inspired by the Lovely Jacinthe)

Cue: Rule Britannia

1. Prince Charles was an environmentalist long before it was popular, fashionable, or socially acceptable. He took a lot of flak in the media, but held his ground and is now regarded as a brilliant cutting edge thinker who was ahead of his time. (note to self: do what I think is right, not what is popular.)

2. Elizabeth, The Queen Mother was a tremendous inspiration to my grandmother's generation during the Second Great War. She became an icon for her grace under pressure during the bombing of London, and her loyalty and love and sense of duty towards the English people was exemplary - (see anecdotal historical accounts of her refusal to leave England during wartime).

3. Her Majesty, Elizabeth II has done a great job for many years, and wears great hats. She deserves her own Academy Award just for being the Queen. (note to self: wear more hats. I love hats.)

4. Masons. Most of the male Royals (especially those of a certain age) are Masons. Funky hoo-ha. (Read about it in Vanity Fair. Picture of one of the Queen's Uncles in full ceremonial regalia as the head of the Order.) The late Duke of Windsor was quoted thus: "Said he of Masonry: " The world today does require spiritual and moral regeneration. I have no doubt, after many years as a member of our Order, that Freemasonry can play a most important part in this vital need." (Source: The Learning Kingdom; Livingston Masonic Library) To be a Mason, ask a guy who used to be a King but is still a Mason. You can't abdicate being a Mason.

5. There be Druids in Windsor Castle. At least two of them - one of whom used to hang out with another Druid (Winston Churchill) - Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince of Wales both accepted posts as honorary Druids in the Wales Gorsedd. (Sophie Moore, The Gnosis Interview).

6. A sense of history, pageantry, pomp and circumstance. As a person who loves ritual (religious and otherwise), I like the idea of having an element of governing culture (notice that I did not say government) that has a tie to the past - Royals became royal originally through battle, strength, and cunning - and earned their right to govern. The question of "how" they govern is a separate discussion. In a country where a so-called majority is determined from within the ballots cast by only 30% of the citizens who can get off their couches to vote and determine who gets elected to goven our country, I'd rather take my chances on the a winner determined by skills than by how many votes they can buy or how many special interest groups they can placate. (note to self: get more radically political)

7. They boost the tourist industry wherever they go. Worth the price of admission every time. Guaranteed to put on a show. Messrs. Liz and Chuck. assure the public their production will be second to none. And of course Henry The Horse dances the waltz! (thank you John Lennon)

8. Princess Michael of Kent is a great role model. They should have let Princess Michael tutor Diana instead sending her for protocol lessons with the Queen Mum. Prestige before Protocol. Still annoyed that I missed her book signing when she was here in Winnipeg.

9. The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) does a lot of good in the world, and isn't afraid to get her hands dirty. She is actively involved in over 200 charities and organizations. And in Scotland, she outranks her older brother! She should have been born first.

10. They made room for Camilla. A few decades too late - but she's finally where she should have been 30 years ago. Comfortable as two old shoes together, they are, Chuck and Cammi. Now they should retire to Scotland and go flyfishing or grouse hunting or whatever retired noblefolk do in their golden years - and let Prince BillyBadBoy get on with the business of ruling Cool Britannia.

11. Corgis - the ultimate secret weapon. Stealth doggies. Welsh Dwarf Dogs - made for herding dragons. Big Red Dragons. HRM Lizzie keeps 4 at all times. One for each of the Four Directions of the Druid Aerts? Could it be? inquiring minds want to know...

12. Members of the Royal Family (including those in the direct line of succession) serve in active duty in Her Majesties Armed Forces in combat zones like The Falklands & Afghanistan - and not just because they like getting medals pinned on their chests by their Mum, or Grannie, or Auntie. I challenge all members of the Canadian and US governments to send THEIR sons and daughters into active combat. (cue up the Creedence Clearwater Revival... Fortunate Son...)

13. I saw the Queen be visibly moved and very kind in her response to a very old woman on the street corner (long story) and that momentary act of graciousness has stayed in my memory as a true example of nobility. Then she smiled at me.

God Save the Queen.

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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

13 Reasons to Read my Tumblog (TT#4)

Thirteen Reasons to Subscribe to My Tumblr Page Feed

1. Links to environmental stuff I find on TreeHugger that I think people need to know about.

2. YouTube videos that I deem worthy. Mostly because they are related to music, more than likely.

3. Cool stuff I find on Russ's Tumblog, Cliff's Tumblog, or Betty's Tumblog. All very good sources of wild things that make my heart sing.

4.Poetry and important information from The Daily Bleed. You can never have enough Anarchist Poetry.

5. Poetry and inspiring stuff I collect on my Spiritual Travels. I'm not exactly a Spiritual Tourist, but I do get around, and have a steamer trunk covered with decals.

6. If I find some form of interactive Quiz that I think has a certain merit and is not just a stupid "facebookish" time-waster - you'll find it there.

7. Tasty Morsels from the Canadian News Buffet - the Mop & Pail, the National Pest, Crappy News Network, the Daily Press...

8. Quotable Quotes. Words of Note. Sound Bites through the Ages.

9. Music - videos, songs, clips, lyrics, whatever ... tunefully yours.

10. bits and bobs from better blogs near you.

11. Obituaries of prominent thinkers, doers, and other sentient be-ings

12. Pictures that tickle my fancy. And we all know how much I like having my fancy tickled. Stop that.

13. Anything else I darned well please. So there. Its my tumblog and I'll post if I want to. :) Enjoy the Day!!!!!

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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!