Metropolitan Homesick Blues

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Archive for March 2009

Earth Hour 2.0 at The Paisley Town Hall.

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Scatter the Cats were well into their set as the clock wound down to 8:30 PM. Before the lights went out they finished their number and moved themselves and their instruments off the stage and on to the floor. Then someone hit the switch and the Paisley Town Hall Theatre went off the grid. We were officially part of Earth Hour 2.0.

This theatre is big and airy. Its large windows, displaying a delicate tracery were designed to let in a much light as possible. And here we were turning off the lights to let in the dark. The architects of this fine Georgian/Regency style building would be scratching their heads. 


Previously charged by solar panels, a couple of lamps trained down on the band seated on the floor in front of the now dark stage. They started playing again. Hunched over their instruments in the darkness they looked almost primitive. Their un-amplified singing carried without the support of  microphones. The audience sitting at tables, squinted through the dim glow of tea candles and stomped their feet in time to the music. There was a cozy, campfire feel to the scene.

But Earth Hour wasn’t our only reason for being there. The Celtic Music Concert featuring Scatter the Cats and later, The Thogs, was a fundraiser for the South Grey Bruce Youth Literacy Council –

The Council and their friends at Back Eddie’s – – got one local Irish and one local Scottish band together, on the same stage, all for a good cause…to raise a little awareness and much needed funds for the south Grey Bruce Youth Literacy Council.

Scatter the Cats are regional favourites of the Fiddlefern Dances in Owen Sound, Summerfolk, Goderich Celtic Festival and town halls all over the county. These five talented multi-instrumentalists switch up on banjo, flute, guitar, acoustic bass, mandolin, fiddle, bouzouki, ethnic rhythm and percussion. They are great entertainers who appeal to the Irish in all of us.

The Thogs, regulars at the Kincardine Scottish Festival, generally misbehaved while conjuring up misty Scottish moors through the songs of Robbie Burns, old folk songs and songs about the Rock. Their mandolin player was a treasure…technically brilliant and heartfelt at the same time.

While the lights were still out the Pie Auction – pies and pastry freely given by local culinary artists – were going for as high as $45.00 each. The audience was doing their bit by contributing to a good cause while conserving energy. Does it get any better than that?

When the lights came on music continued to fill the concert hall from the stage to the floor and up to the balcony. Earth Hour had come and gone but no one could really tell if turning out the lights, at that point in time, made any significant difference in our lives. If Ontario energy consumption only went down 6% as reported, what was accomplished?

What the people in the hall realized, though, was that by supporting literacy the direct benefits would give individuals the ability to read and understand for themselves what the need to protect our environment through conservation is all about.
























Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

March 29, 2009 at 9:57 PM

Posted in Home Town, thoughts, Writing


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I’m heading out on Highway 26 driving to Owen Sound and I’m Riding with the King…B.B. King, the Beal Street Blues Boy recognized by peers and fans alike as “King of the Blues.”

It’s a cold, grey Saturday afternoon. Overhead a hawk is cruising on the wind looking down on beige farm fields hoping to find some lunch. Spring melt water fills the ditches to the level of the road. Mud-caked cattle meander about absently mindedly watching cars whiz by. And on CBC Radio 2, the single note solo lines from B.B.’s hollowbody Gibson accompany me on my way down the road.

I’m going to the Opera and I’m struck by the contrast between what I’m hearing and what I’ll be seeing.

I’m going to a live performance of La Sonnambula, Bellini’s masterful Bel Canto melodrama featuring Natalie Dessay, a tiny, impish French soprano with a big beautiful voice. As I listen to B.B. King’s raspy singing of The Thrill is Gone, the comparison to what will be Dessay’s incomparable performance of Ah! Non Credea Mirarti, makes me smile.

Contrast indeed! In the space of an afternoon I will experience the down and dirty reality of the blues played and sung by a master who freely admits that guitar chords are his weakness, and then, the brilliance of a composer who writes for classically trained voices skilled at performing grand melodies with soul. The two really are one in the same.

I think back to all the times I spent listening to Saturday Afternoon at The Opera on CBC. I knew I would never – ever be able to afford the $375.00 for premium seats at the Met, let alone the cost of a weekend in New York City. I remember those long nights in the record library at Ryerson’s CJRT, combing through the Blues Section for every B.B. King disc I could find. The Blues and Opera…I love them both, eclectic as that may be.

But today, on the way to Owen Sound– I got to listen to a documentary on ‘the king’ and for a measly $21.80 (for seniors) I get to watch Live in HD, grand opera from The Metropolitan Opera Company at the Galaxy Cinema… popcorn an option.

Two for one. Times have changed.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

March 22, 2009 at 9:03 PM

Posted in Home Town, thoughts, Travel, Writing

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images3 Now that the days are longer, now that spring  has announced its intentions, the crows are  happier. They like the tree line above the  riverbank, which puts them right in my  backyard. It’s their starting point, their meeting place. They wake us in the morning and serenade us after dinner. They congregate at first light and before sunset, their gathering telegraphed by their cawing chorus calling every crow within earshot to join the clan.

Dark clusters of crows swirl overhead in perfect arcs diving for the trees with a cacophony of calls. They light momentarily, then with unsettled haste, fly off again, the beating of hundreds of wings sounding like the winter wind that ushers in a snow squall. Flock after flock, like a reverse of stars in a black night, black dots against a terra cotta evening sky, follow an invisible flight path that takes them from treetop to treetop, again and again. There is agitation in their flight, an aerial helter skelter, with seemingly no point, no plan and no apparent purpose. Just a lot of noise and a lot of energy wasted going absolutely nowhere. Stragglers struggle to catch up with the main crowd. And when they do, they dive and tumble, somersaulting in mid air as if celebrating their acceptance by the others.

Sometimes interlopers appear. Uninvited bands of crows flying in from all directions intent on intruding on territory already claimed. This is when the sky blackens as all flocks merge into a monotone mélange of movement. There is no telling who is who… who is welcome or who is being told to go. That’s when they land in the treetops to settle the battle by squawking loudly at each other until somebody leaves. Is it the winner or the loser? Hard to tell with crows.

And what does it matter? Tomorrow they will repeat the pattern, obviously never tiring of the routine. Crows know how to have fun.




Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

March 19, 2009 at 9:00 PM


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“Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer…”

Ah yes, Richard, Duke of Glouster pontificating on how good things are…or can be…or at least appear to be. And in our realm of reality, as we look forward to summer…what is it that we have to wax poetic about?

Folks up here have just about had it with winter. I’ve heard many long time residents complain that it has gone on long enough. Those that take a break down south and return are dismayed to see nothing has changed. Winter hasn’t gone anywhere.

It is cold now. Some grass is showing. Ice is back in the river. And even though spring is just around the corner, the word is – enough!

What else? Well! Tim Hortons (after much controversy) is here and thriving. Walmart (after much controversy) arrived this winter. Is it hurting local business? One look down Port Elgin’s main street will have you wondering where all the cars are…they’re in Walmart’s gigantic parking lot. Are main street merchants suffering? Some say yes. Some say I told you so.

Still, Council forges on allowing monster Drug Store chains (with much controversy) to keep building bigger. How many drug stores does a population of approximately 12,000 people really need?

The Port Elgin library opens its doors with bright, new bigger space…and debt. Fund raising is tough these days.

There’s one hell of a debate at Council, in the newspapers, on-line, in editorials, and letters to the editor about the need (or not) for a new swimming pool. Everyone has an opinion and an idea of what and where it should be. Everyone, though, takes pause with the nine million plus price tag. There’s an insightful letter to the editor about it at Read it if you live in Saugeen Shores and be amazed at what is going on and what we seem to have gotten ourselves into.

There’s not much one can do about any of this…except tough it out. Things always look better in the warm sunshine.