Arthur McGregor, 2012 Estelle Klein Award winner
For any performer that has been on the Canadian folk scene for more than a couple of years the name Arthur McGregor will be synonymous with a friend in Ottawa that may have booked them into a gig, enabled a last-minute guitar repair, sold them some strings at a discount or just taken them out to lunch.
Arthur has done many things over the years from running folk clubs, programming folk festivals, organizing community sing-a-longs and pub carolling, taking an active role in his neighbourhood and of course running the Ottawa Folklore Centre for some 36 years.
Here’s what a few other folks had to say when I asked them to comment on Arthur’s role in the folk community.
Lynn Miles: “Arthur McGregor is a good and kind man. He has helped me countless times with rent paying employment, deals on guitars, loaned instruments, and great chats. He has had the dubious responsibility many times over the years of informing hopeful wide eyed customers that the violin they found in the yard sale is in fact not a real Stradivarius, even though it says so right on the inside label. His life-long commitment to acoustic music is evident in every corner and inch of the Ottawa Folklore Centre. He is so well deserving of this award. Congratulations Arthur.”
Ian Tamblyn: “For many years I viewed Arthur McGregor’s management of the Ottawa Folklore Centre as one might a Factor of a North West Company post. Certainly there was the Scottish name, and a certain carefulness with money that was essential to management of a folklore centre. There was also the shop itself – an unlikely outpost on Bronson Avenue which persevered through the years, sometimes in spite of itself. With a clang of the door there were the comings and goings of the voyageurs of the local and national folk scene – the winter soldiers, looking for a set of strings, a kazoo, a guitar repair, the whereabouts of a gig, or simply shelter from the cold.
And while other “folklore centres” in Montreal, Toronto and Thunder Bay went the way, the Ottawa Folklore Centre continued on its way with the addition of a music school, a publishing arm, indeed, as other aspects of the folk scene seemed to be withering, Arthur, Terry and the OFC expanded and dare I say it- prospered.
It was during the Bronson period of the OFC that I came to see other aspects of Arthur that illustrated a great generosity of spirit that had little to do with being a factor or the miracle of making money at a folklore centre. At a time when music publishing was disappearing in Canada, Arthur published several books of contemporary folk songs, and fiddle tunes. Many a guitar player in Canada learned Fogarty’s Cove or Foxglove from Arthur’s publications. He hired a host of Ottawa musicians to teach at the Ottawa school of music, some who desperately needed a gig and some who were otherwise desperately unemployable!
Arthur’s generous spirit touched me as well during the”Bronson period”. One day I got a call from Arthur. He had decided to commission a mural of my song Woodsmoke and Oranges for the south wall of the Folklore Centre. It was a complete surprise and a wonderful gesture. The mural lasted for years then, gradually surrendered to the buildings’ vines, and sun. Several years later a woman wrote me a letter saying that she had learned the melody of Woodsmoke and Oranges as she drove by the mural each day and gradually memorized the melody off the wall. The memory of the mural will last forever.”
Terry Tufts: “Estelle Klein? Arthur McGregor? But he doesn’t even look like her….ok there was that one party…. Seriously, can’t think of anyone more giving or more deserving.”
So here’s to you Arthur! All of us in the Canadian folk community salute you. No one is more deserving of this award.