Episode 126 – Just Milton Folks’ Swan Song

2010 – 2011 …

You’d think that our final season would be the one most vivid in our minds, yet with the exception of the first and last concerts, year 7 remains a bit of a blur.

To be fair, we didn’t go into the year knowing it would be our last. Just 2 weeks before our first concert of the season, my mom died. Providing, arranging, and supporting her care in the 4 years following my dad’s death had taken up many of our non-working hours, and even overlapped many of my working ones (I remain grateful to this day to the unbelievably patient receptionist at my place of employment for fielding what escalated into multiple desperate and less-than-coherent calls per day from my mom looking for me.) The Friday nights on which we hosted concerts were the times I looked forward to the most: a caregiver watching mom, no frantic phone calls to answer – just great music shared with friends.

https://www.jackconnolly.com/

Season 7 was supposed to start with British Columbia songwriter and preacher Jane Eamon, renowned for her deep bluesy voice and gospel style songs. Unfortunately, after having come all the way across the country, she developed laryngitis and couldn’t perform. Her whispered phone call mid afternoon sent us spinning. It was too late to cancel our 7:00 performance, so I headed to our den and fired up the computer. With the (landline) phone receiver wedged between my left ear and shoulder, I began calling my “wish list” of local musicians while simultaneously reaching out on the MaplePost folk/roots forum to see if anyone was available to perform a paid gig in Milton on extremely short notice.

The first phone call I made was to Royal Woods, but he was performing the national anthem at that evening’s Blue Jays baseball game in Toronto. Melissa McLelland was already booked, as was her partner Luke Doucet. Arianna Gillis was out of town recording. As I hung up the phone after that third call, it rang. When I picked up the receiver, the first thing I heard was a guitar intro followed by singing – not even a preliminary “hello”. When the song ended, the owner of the wonderful voice asked if that would do as an audition; if so, he could be in Milton in 45 minutes. How could I resist?

Jack Connolly was the youngest performer we had ever hosted. Interestingly, he was a new transplant to Toronto from B.C., and was working as an Anglican Church verger – a fitting coincidence to replace our B.C. preacher! Despite being a last-minute fill-in, Jack’s strong vocals, great guitar playing, interesting lyrics, and self-deprecating manner completely charmed our audience.

Jack now performs as one half of the duo Heartwood.

https://robheath.com/

Edmonton native Rob Heath was the first of a “package” of 3 performers we booked who were all managed and promoted by Marilyn Daoust. Marilyn had the good sense and foresight to send me live albums for the artists she represented, and then simply allow me to deal directly with as many of them as I wished, without any complicated contracts beyond confirming dates and a minimum fee.

Rob’s stories in song, and the unique timbre of his voice, hooked me right away, and remain some of my favourites. The positive and pragmatic “One More Day Above Ground”, and the fabulously thought-provoking “Yours Truly” have messages that are timeless. You can listen to them on the MUSIC page of his website.

In the month between Jack’s and Rob’s concerts, we sold our Milton home. No longer needing to live in close proximity to my mom, and having just completed the process of clearing out the family home, I was more than ready to downsize ours. That impulse occurred during yet another of the cyclical Ontario real estate crazes; we listed the house on October 31st, and sold it that evening. The only sign the realtor ever put up was “Sold”.

Rob was the last musician to take advantage of a bed and breakfast with us in Milton. On December 2nd, we moved into a lovely bright condo in Mississauga, with floor to ceiling windows in every room (well, not the bathrooms). No more grass to cut or snow to shovel, no more roof replacement or ongoing house maintenance to worry about… but we were no longer “Just Milton Folks”.

Our season continued despite our relocation – after all, it had been planned, booked, and sold out well before our impulsive move. I simply made sure that on concert Fridays I loaded our 60 wildly patterned coffee mugs, 3 big urns, coffee and tea into my car and took them to Burlington to work with me so that I could go straight to the hall in Milton after work with only a pit stop to pick up milk, cream, and fresh cookies. Ted would come directly from his office in Mississauga to meet me in Milton. It meant there were two cars to drive home after the event, but that’s what worked.

Edmontonian Chloe Albert and Nova Scotian Dave Gunning, the other performers I chose from Marilyn Daoust’s roster, performed for us in February and April of 2011, respectively (apparently after some kind of existential crisis in my life that had me returning to the hair colour of my youth). I wish that I remembered more about their performances, because I love their music, but somehow the new “hustle” and the rush to get home overshadowed my enjoyment of the concerts. Too bad – because clearly they made me smile.

As had been our tradition, Chloe and Dave each stayed with us, but this time in our new condo, with the benefit of a sun-filled kitchen – something our Milton house did not have.

https://davegunning.com/

https://chloealbert.com/about

I have no idea what happened to the signed posters from Chloe and Dave’s concerts, but when we turned all 7 series into photo plaques to put up in our condo guest room, they had disappeared.

There was never any question in our minds that when we ended our series it would have to be with the artist who got us started: Terry Tufts.

The “bonus concert” at the end of season 7 was a bittersweet evening for everyone in attendance. The music, of course, was stellar, but there was a sense of something wonderful coming to a close. As the last song of the series, Terry uncharacteristically chose to perform a cover: The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends”.

Really, that summed it up. We’d had 7 incredible years of music, thanks to old friends who supported us, and the new friends we made among both the musicians and our audience.

CODA: Terry and his family, who we would never have met but for that Hugh’s Room concert in January of 2004, remain close friends. He is currently working on an ensemble project creating and performing original music inspired by Canadian visual art. Please check it out here: http://thealgonquinensemble.com/

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