The August to November period of 2008 has flown by, seeing the completion of our first year in Canada, among other milestones. My music choices have been pretty stable, with my Palm-based MP3s clicking over old favorites – Great Big Sea, Green Day, various dance tracks – while I’ve been breaking out vinyl at home for a bit of change. The two most notable additions were a Canadian folk group called the Wakami Wailers, and the old “Titanic” band, Gaelic Storm. But I’ve also rediscovered a few old LP treasures.
I’ve always been fascinated by the song collecting first done by Percy Grainger, Ralph Vaughn Williams, and Cecil Sharp. It has been interesting digging into the work of Helen Creighton and her colleagues who have collected Canadian folk music in a similar way. Some are tunes that I’d heard from British singers but it is interesting to hear the indigenous songs as well. Unfortunately, Creighton books seem harder to come by, even through the public library.
We came across the Wakami Wailers while at Algonquin Provincial Park, and bought their CD Waltz with the Woods. They do an excellent rendition of Log Driver’s Waltz and the retelling of A Legend of Nanabozho is well done. The whole CD is fun to listen to, and anyone collecting Canadian folk music couldn’t go wrong by adding it to their collection.
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Or as I heard them, the Eesti NSV (SSR) Riikliku Filharmoonia Kammerkoor. I appear to own one of the last vinyl releases they made – Siin on ilus elada (It is Nice to Live Here) – which they released in 1985 but I must have purchased at a concert at Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa in 1989-90. The music is early Estonian choral and the voices are exceptional to listen to. I don’t understand a word of it – add that to all of the other music I don’t understand the words to – but it’s delightful to have on, and whether you’re actively listening or enjoying it as background music, it’s delightful to hear. The choir continues to record, and I may have to consider getting a more recent CD to get a sample of more of their music. I have a vinyl recording they did of music by Cyrillus Kreek but I don’t find that as enjoyable.
Anyone who has seen the film Titanic may remember the Irish band playing in steerage. That was Gaelic Storm and before they’d really made their mark. I picked up a copy of their first album – eponymous, favorite tune was Johnny Jump Up – soon after but never really followed them closely. My brother stopped by and had practically everything else they’ve recorded since and I was really impressed. Some of it’s traditional, but most is their own work and it’s a lot of fun. It veers a bit often towards the “my uncle is drunk, my father is drunk, my brother is drunk” end of Irish music but the lyrics are creative and the music is infectious. Tree stands out as the best of the other albums I’ve heard, but each album has its high points. Ontario connection: band member and piper Pete Purvis hails from Merrickville.