Monday, February 28, 2011

Heading to Island life...

And so, Monday morning (well, musicians' morning!), we bid adieu to our hosts in Victoria and headed back up Vancouver Island towards Nanaimo.  Yet another beautiful day for driving!  Don had bought the new Lynn Miles CD over the weekend, and that was our soundtrack for the journey.

The Downtown/Ferry rental car drop-off was not exactly at the ferry -- or even, frankly, downtown -- which was a bit of a surprise, especially with an SUV full of gear!  But we managed to clear off one of the back seats, so the staff member could fit in and drive us and all our stuff to the ferry terminal.

Ah, the fine art of tour packing!

Alyssa = cello as backpack, purse and carry-on bag over one shoulder, Don's Hawaiian King over the other shoulder.

Don = backpack, satchel slung across chest, guitar over shoulder, both of our (oversized) suitcases strapped together and wheeling behind.

Yup, we managed to carry all our tour and travel stuff between the two of us!

At least, while we were upright...  Down at the docks, it was INCREDIBLY windy, and we each had a lot of surface area to blow around!  Good thing there were rails up, because we could have easily ended up in the freezing cold straight with a couple of those gusts.

Foot passengers are allowed on first, then they fill the centre part of the ship with cars.  Unfortunately, the cabins for the foot passengers all have giant steps into them -- we left our suitcases on deck, and felt great sympathy for the wheelchair-bound man who was left on deck with the cars in the now-wind-and-rain.  BC Ferries might wish to examine their accessibility one of these days!

Foot passengers are also allowed to get off first -- however, neither the man in the wheelchair nor us with our instruments could fit around the cars waiting to get off!  So we had to wait until the cars had cleared, then make our lonely way over the gangplank (and try to not get run over by the eager folks getting on in Gabriola!).  By the time we made our way to the parking lot, the shuttle bus to The Haven had figured all foot passengers were off, so we had to call them and get them to come back for us.  Not such a bad thing, since there probably wouldn't have been room for anyone else on it, what with all our gear!

And so, we arrived at The Haven in our "private limo", slightly cranky and sore.  This mood wore off pretty darned quickly, though, as we chatted with the receptionist, Roxanne, and took in the gorgeous surroundings (FaceBook users can see some photos on our Page -- we're going to try and upload pics to our website soon, just having trouble catching up!).  The Haven is right on the water in a little bay, surrounded by woods.  The main lodge has the dining room, a small bar and lounge.  Guest rooms, meeting rooms, and a theatre are spread throughout the property.

We did a bit of wandering to get our bearings, and then headed into the Lodge for dinner.  OH MY GOODNESS!!!  The meals there are incredible -- locally sourced food wherever possible, served buffet-style with tons of options for vegetarians like Alyssa.  In case you get thirsty or nibble-y at any time they aren't serving food, there's always a big pot of ginger tea or coffee available, plus bread and spreads out for you to make a sandwich (neither one of us got hungry between meals, but the ginger tea was certainly delicious!).  Looking around at our fellow diners, we saw quite a mix of young and old, Haven "alumni" and newcomers, with people enrolled from as far away as Texas and even Germany.

After dinner, we all headed up the hill to our first session with Victor Wooten -- kind of an introduction of what we could expect in the week, his ways of thinking about music and life, and him getting a feel of what the group was like, where we were at, and what we were hoping to get out of the workshop.

We were asked to write down (both for ourselves and for him) what we hoped to accomplish or learn in the week.  Like many, I (Alyssa), mentioned feeling stuck in a rut or plateau and wanting to find ways to break out of it.  His response was well worth the entire week's tuition for me, and allowed me to let go of my frustrations with myself almost instantly: a roadblock or plateau is just the world giving you an ENFORCED resting period.


Yes, it seems the world has been trying to give me MANY of those recently.  Maybe I should stop being mad at myself and just enjoy the rest?  Yeah, Maybe!  Baby steps...

Also introduced this evening was the concept of music and nature being the same thing, really.  Not just birdsong and banging on sticks (although those are important too), but the ways in which we react to / walk amidst both, and what is expected from us if we wish to support / be supported by either.

Musically, naturally.  Music-ally.  Nature-ally.  We're all in this together, and need to be allies if anything good is going to come of it.

Evening session over, the floor opened up to a jam session.  Well, that's what they called it... but the number of eager young bass players cranked up to eleven and hoping to impress Victor and each other with how many notes and how much noise they could cram in to every bit of space they could... a little cacophonous for us.  Kudos to Victor for sticking around and using it as another teaching opportunity -- the jam sessions in subsequent days got progressively more quiet and musical, so the lessons obviously started to sink in, eventually.  This first night, though, our poor ears couldn't take the din, so we opted to head back to our room for some wine (forgot to write it down, sorry! -- a nice BC one, though) and our beauty sleep.  After all, we had to be at breakfast for 8:00 the next morning, and we're not used to being up that early!  :-)  Even from the first couple of hours of the workshop, though, we already had lots to talk about and much to ponder and percolate.

And this was just the beginning...


Monday, February 21, 2011

Home safe!

We made it home... and are pooped.  Our no-longer-chronological tour blog will resume when we're no longer comatose.

In the meantime, however:  we LOVE Mike and Ruth!  Wonderful, wonderful people, who we hope to see again very soon.

Just wanted them to know they were appreciated.

And now... the coma.  :-)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Grand Forks -- GRAAANNNDDD Forks!

Hello, folks and folkettes,

We interrupt our (Alyssa's) anally-retentive chronological order to report -- WE LOVE GRAND FORKS!!!

What a spectacular evening we've just had!  The drive here was absolutely beautiful, if you ignore the deer massacre we witnessed en route.  (We're still very sad about that one...)

2nd Street Studio B is an incredibly gorgeous venue, and Brigitte is an incredibly gorgeous host.  There seems to be a great community here, and Brigitte and her new venue are only going to make it stronger.

We arrived mid-afternoon, gave her a call, and she was at the studio in minutes, full of apologies for not cooking us a full dinner -- are you kidding us?!?!?  Instead, we had to endure a wide array of cheeses and olives and pickles -- poor us.  :-(  How we suffer for our art...

The room sounded so good, we decided to forego the P.A.  It's part of the old Gazette building -- the community paper -- with bare brick walls and wood beams and old wood floors and a beautiful loft, where we'll be sleeping tonight.  The acoustics were incredible, and the "feel" is warm and supportive.  A flick of the clicker, and a beautiful light display illuminated the wall behind the stage, and the rest of the room was warmed with hand-crafted iron floor lamps made by her friend Angel.

Angel and her partner Mireille looked after the door and CD sales, and they were such wonderful people, we wanted to take them on the road with us!  Angel joked she wanted to be our bouncer, but the audience was so friendly, there was no need.  What a fabulous community they have in Grand Forks!

This was the very first concert in Brigitte's new studio, and our first time anywhere near the town.  Definitely not the last.  It was an incredible honour to be part of this evening.  The amount of love that has gone into this space is tangible and humbling.

Brigitte was worried there wouldn't be enough people, but ended up having to put out extra chairs.  What a nice problem to have!  We even had a couple of tiny people in the audience, both of whom behaved way better than many grown-ups we've encountered.  A bunch of folks stayed after the show for a wee visit, and we will definitely be seeing them again in September -- it's been a great evening!

But, on that note, it might be time for some shut-eye... must drive back to Kelowna in the morning!  But any of you in the Grand Forks area HAVE to visit Brigitte's open house on Feb.26 here at 2nd Street Studio B.  Beautiful place, beautiful people!

Alyssa & Don

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Working our way up the Island

Hello, folks and folkettes!

We're currently driving from Vancouver to Kelowna, so I'm racing my laptop battery, but thought we'd better get a little further caught up, before the brain hits "reset"!

A nice relaxing Sunday (Feb.6, aiyaiyai, I'm the Queen of "behind"!) at Sandra and Landon's house.  By Sunday, we had mastered their son's cappuccino maker (day one was a little less successful), so life was good.  Landon had to work once again, but the three humans and Amber spent most of the day chatting and puttering away at various chores and work.  Once Landon got home, we headed up early to our gig in Duncan.

Did I mention we were born in the wrong province???  The drive was absolutely gorgeous, despite the fog and rain that prevented us from viewing the scenery in all its glory.  Probably a good thing, or there may have been a call put in to our real estate agent...  Ocean, mountain and rainforest... followed by ocean, mountain and rainforest... followed by ocean, mountain and rainforest.  Do people who live here ever get blase about such beauty?

Sandra's mom lives in Duncan, so the four of us met up with her for dinner at... oy, this is why I should blog every day on tour -- I've completely forgotten the name of the pub!!!  So much for my restaurant report...  It was a lovely place, though, with a bunch of local brews on tap -- unfortunately, we couldn't partake as we still had to work that night!  I had a delicious vegetarian / mediterranean pizza (or rather, half of it -- the other half was taken home for lunch the next day), and Don had the BBQ chicken pizza (we had to take off early for sound check, but the other three had a much more leisurely meal).

Then we were off to the Duncan Garage Showroom.  What a beautiful little theatre it is -- nice and cosy, with great art all over the walls, and an eclectic collection of... well, collections!  From an old dentist's sink to a sculpture of the proprietor, Longevity John.  John and Georgia are such warm and generous hosts, we felt welcome immediately.  Georgia looks after the wee cafe, John looks after the music.

The venue has been put together with great care -- John says it was all done for his friend, Willie P. Bennett.  Quite the labour of love -- Willie P. would be happy to have inspired such a place.  When we arrived and started setting up, Don (being the technical geek) was practically drooling over all the equipment in the hall.  And John sure knows what he's doing on the board -- got our sounds up and sounding great in no time!

Did we mention that one of the most common comments we've heard on this tour was "I wish there were more people here to enjoy you"?  Well, this night was kind of the pinnacle of that one -- we'd have heard it a hundred times, if there had been a hundred people there.  Unfortunately, as we realized on our beautiful drive up, it was SuperBowl Sunday... AND there was a big dance happening right next door.  So our audience was... well, rather tiny.  Very enthusiastic, but... tiny.  Oh well, we had a fun evening, anyhow, and John and Georgia have given us a bunch of contacts for the next time we come out -- and we made a few new fans in the area, too.  We also got some fantastic quotes from John, so... we may not have made thousands of dollars at this gig, but we certainly would consider it a success.

The evening was videotaped as well, so as soon as we get home we'll transfer some of it on to our website so you can see us in all our lonely glory.  :-)

OK, the battery is getting low, and we still need to do a couple o' things, so we shall cover our Monday trip to Gabriola after some laptop rechargins.

Alyssa (and Don, who's busy driving right now, and keeping an eye out for coffee shops!)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Catching up on the BC backlog

Hello, folks and folkettes -- we've had the wonderful problem of having too many people to visit on our BC tour, so have been pretty terrible at blogging thus far.  Our apologies, we aren't lost in the Rockies, just swimming in socialness.  :-)

Take a quick peek at Alyssa's blog post at for a toe-dip into our time at the Victor Wooten workshop at The Haven -- there will be much more to come from that week, we're sure!

In the meantime, to keep Alyssa's obsessively chronological side happy, we'll try to get back to where we left off -- essentially, the beginning!

Spent a lovely first day in Victoria with our host Sandra and dog Amber (unfortunately, Landon was hard at work, so we had to wait for a visit with him).  We got a lovely tour of the city and discovered a tasty bakery in Oak Bay (mmm... fresh bread!) before heading back to the house for a light supper before our show.  Then it was off to Pondside!

Pondside Music is a house concert series hosted by Juliana and Douglas McCorison -- a lovely home, nestled between the ocean and a large Koi pond.  This was our first time meeting them in person, although Alyssa had played on her CD (with Don recording) several years ago.  What a delight to finally meet in real life!

We were greeted by a melange of dogs and cats, all super-friendly.  The white cat (whose name I forget, now that it's a week and a half later) attempted to set up shop inside our cajon -- fortunately she was caught in time, or she (and we) would have had quite a surprise once the concert started!

The jet-lag did have a bit of an effect on our energy, but we still had a fun time, and didn't forget TOO many lyrics.  We received many comments at break and after the show about how much fun we seemed to have playing together, so we obviously weren't as dazed as we thought we were.  :-)

"From the moment you two started to play, I could just feel the joy coming from you and filling us all.  It's so great to watch, and be a part of!" [Douglas McCorison, our host at Pondside Music]

It seemed that almost half the audience that night were musicians themselves, so we had a great time at the break chatting with everyone and trading road stories.  We have definitely gotten the impression that not many people in Victoria (or on Vancouver Island, for that matter) are local -- we've met many Ontario transplants on our travels here!

And so, our first concert in BC went very well, and we met a bunch of new friends.  Another comment which we've gotten used to on this trip has been "I just wish there were more people here to enjoy you!" -- well, we're ever-so-likely to be back in September, so tell all your friends, and there will be!  :-)

Juliana and Douglas suggested we check out the Victoria Folk Music Society, which we did the following week... but once again, we're getting ahead of ourselves.  More later, we've got a lot to catch up on and not much internet time!

Alyssa & Don

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Kicking off our first BC tour... and getting kicked back

Hello, folks and folkettes!

Yes, we are well into our first tour of the "left coast", but this is the first time we've had a spare moment to chat.

The adventure began last Monday, a few days before our Friday departure, when we discovered that, under new guidelines, my cello is now too big to be considered oversize luggage -- i.e., the airlines won't take it AT ALL.  Not that Big Blue has put on any weight, mind you, just that the rules have changed.  Surprise!  OK, nevermind, we can send it cargo.  EXCEPT... oh yeah, the cargo office closes at 5pm on Friday and our flight doesn't arrive until 9:30pm.  How be we pick it up Saturday instead?  No, the office won't open again until Monday morning.  But Monday we're supposed to be on Gabriola Island after having played two gigs with aforementioned cello.  Sorry, nothing we can do.


Call the friendly FedEx people.  If we can get the cello in to the Barrie depot by 4pm, they can have it at our friend's house in Victoria by Friday afternoon.  Although... if the truck hits bad weather at some point along its route (geez, what are the odds of a truck hitting bad weather at some point along the route in a Canadian February?), it might not get there 'til Monday...  Ship by air?  Yes, of course we can do that... FOR $986 PLUS TAX AND INSURANCE!!!

I will not panic, I will not cry, I will not panic, I will not cry...

A few tears and panic attacks and phone calls later, we finally get it organized.  We CAN ship the cello via an earlier WestJet flight, and get our dear, darling, angelic friend Sandra to pick it up earlier in the day.  PHEW!!!  This necessitates a drive to the airport the day before, but what the heck, the cello will get there!

So... Big Blue made her first solo flight on Thursday, Sandra had some quality time with her Friday, and we joined them both Friday evening.  Don's guitars also made it with us, safe and sound, despite one of the worst landings we've ever experienced (during the stopover in Calgary, where a mighty wind was blowing), and the clearly-marked "fragile" stickers being ignored as the cases got tossed on the conveyor belt with all the other luggage.

The joys of touring...  ah, the glamour!

But we're fine, the instruments are fine, neither one of us forgot anything important (well, Don forgot his deodorant, but as all you avid listeners know, "I don't like my men too clean", so that's actually a GOOD thing...)

Picked up our rental car at National, where the guy at the counter was an incredibly nice guy (honey, this ain't the Toronto airport!) who -- after chatting us up for half an hour -- handed us the keys to a nice Subaru Outback.  Nice vehicle -- at least to ride in, Don didn't hand over the driver's seat even once, but he says it drove like a charm.  :-)

And so we got to Sandra and Landon's, and were greeted by the big, beautiful Amber (golden retriever). We can't tell you how much we've missed having a dog lean into us, or rest their head on our feet.  Yes, even the slobber and loose hair have been making us very happy people, indeed!  Oh yeah, and Sandra and Landon are great too.  :-)  Better than great, they were lovely, generous hosts all weekend, and we're looking forward to another weekend with them once our workshop is finished.

Ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself...  Must get back to class right now, but will fill you in on our Saturday and BC debut at Pondside Music later on.