Even though Just Milton Folks was our hobby, and completely non-profit, we still wanted a professional “look” to help attract an audience that would support the musicians we presented.
That – and the fact that I wanted to hone my computer page layout skills – was part of the reason that I started creating brochures (to be picked up at concerts) and posters (to be put up around town). The unexpected benefit to the posters was having something for each musician to autograph, leaving us with tangible evidence that they’d really, truly been in the little hall with us!
Ted had the wonderful idea of taking a “celebrity photo” after each concert, featuring me (usually with a big silly grin on my face) with that evening’s performer. I’m glad he did, because poring over his pictures has elicited so many happy memories. Thank you for letting me share those posters, photos, and a few select memories with you.
All of these wonderful people are still making music, so please check them out. I’ve added current website addresses below each performer. Maybe find a recording from the year in which we hosted them, to see why we fell in love with them, and then see how they’ve continued to grow by finding something current. In that way, perhaps we can still do our part to support Canadian talent by finding them some new fans!
Season 1 (2004/5): https://terrytufts.bandcamp.com
Neither Ted nor I can find enough good things to say about Terry. Not only was he a huge part of Just Milton Folks’ “origin story”, but he and his wonderful musical family have become our personal friends, too. He and his wife Kathryn Briggs, and their 4-year-old daughter Beth, drove down from their home just west of Ottawa, and we booked them accommodation at the (now defunct) Fifth Wheel Motel, which boasted the best coffee and truck-stop style breakfast in town. We hadn’t yet decided to host performers in our own home, as we would in future years.
On that first concert night, we really didn’t know what we were doing, and the night itself became a learning opportunity. We set up the hall lengthwise, with Terry at one end, which meant that the barrel-shaped ceiling created a “U” shape over him, and the chairs were set up in 10 rows, 6 seats across. It worked, but from the back row (where I always sat), it was hard to see Terry’s amazing finger-work.
During the intermission we served coffee and cookies, Terry schmoozed with the audience members in the hall’s foyer, and I manned a merchandise table with a selection of Terry’s CDs. Nobody at the concert had heard of Terry prior to that night, but many of them bought his music to take home. As we loaded up 50 mugs (bought for 50 cents each from our local group home’s charity store so that we’d be environmentally conscious) to be washed at home, and stacked chairs (something our audience would eventually do – unasked and as if by magic – at later concerts), Ted and I were on a real high: the music, the audience reaction, and the number of folks who bought tickets to our next event, all boded well for a viable venture.
We knew we were going to need to build an audience. You’d think that a town of 25000 people, with no live music venue, would be full of people hungry for entertainment, but Miltonians seemed content to drive to Oakville, Mississauga, or Toronto for live shows, and it turns out that there were fewer old folkies around than we might have expected. So…. after whetting people’s appetites with Terry, I wanted to book a couple of better-known local songwriters.
For listeners of CBC Radio’s national Saturday morning shows, James Gordon was a familiar name. For more than 10 years he was the songwriter-in-residence for the ”Basic Black” and ‘Ontario Morning’ programs. One of his claims to fame was the ability to write a new topical song each week, often based on a recent quirky human interest story; hence songs like “Road Kill Hat”, “We’re Canadians and We’re Sorry”, “Sweaters for Penguins”, and “The Queen of the Bingo Palace”. There’s so much more to James though: a folk opera, songs about Canada’s history and geography, and songwriting workshops, just as a start.
During his concert for us, he played piano, guitar, and tin whistle, and we discovered that our alternate room setup with James seated along the long wall of the hall, and 4 rows of 15 seats, created incredible acoustics: sound soared up from the performer’s seat, into the barrel ceiling, and rained down over the audience.
The acoustics were also perfect for intimate story-telling, so that we were able to hear EVERY detail of James’ experience performing for a nearby naturists (nudists!) club.
James sold a ton of CD’s, and we sold enough tickets for the next concert to allow us not to be out of pocket.
Thinking back, I don’t remember what made me book Katherine. She may have been part of that Hugh’s Room Gordon Lightfoot Tribute, or she may have been recommended by Lillian Waulthier, the host of the first house concert we attended. It really doesn’t matter.
What I remember most clearly about that night was the fact that I’d had a call a couple of weeks before the concert, from a woman who had gone to high school with Katherine. She had found the link to our concert on Katherine’s website, and wanted both a ticket and to surprise her old friend.
Katherine arrived with a set list of songs she was going to play, as almost all musicians do. Our routine was to “hide” the performer in the tiny storage space that served as our green room until the audience was seated and I had completed my introduction. Katherine entered from that space into the hall, and immediately recognized her old friend in the audience. After an actual squeal of delight, she informed us that she was going to tear up her set list and just play all the songs that made her happy.
It was magic.
Katherine’s concert was to have been our last of the year. Based on its success, I had already booked another full season, this time 5 concerts which we’d pre-sell at a series discount of $90 for all 5. We had 35 people immediately commit to full seasons, but it was only February and we had several requests for “just one more” before we took a break for the summer, which is how we ended up hosting Dave Hadfield.
My connection to Dave was through his brother Chris (yes, THAT Chris – Commander Chris Hadfield the astronaut). I was part of the team that opened Chris Hadfield Public School in Milton, so had enjoyed not only several opportunities to meet Chris, but had also met their wonderful parents Eleanor and Roger, who had a farm on Milton’s southern border. Chris and Dave have often sung together, and even co-written a couple of songs, but I knew that I was only going to get ONE Hadfield brother on stage that year. Dave, who also sports the iconic Hadfield moustache, brought along his whole band, who regularly play at a pub in Barrie, when Dave is not piloting around the world: Jerry Levine (Dave’s doctor!) on rousing fiddle, Liz Levine on percussion, and Johanne Fischer contributing angelic harmonies. It was an energetic end to our first year, with many in our audience singing along to the chorus of “Canadian Tire” (which Chris also sang in space!)
It’s definitely a Canadian thing.
That first year was more fun than we could even have imagined, and there were more seasons to come.