Feature

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.

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3 comments

  1. avatar
    Dean Verger 29 August, 2012 at 10:03

    Lynn, Ian, and Terry, have written deserving recognitions of Arthur. Now that I am gently into retirement, I can look back at all the things that I witnessed there on Bronson Ave. The main element was Arthur’s sincere belief in the music. Even before the Ottawa Folklore Centre he brought music to Carleton University.

    A few years after he and Terry opened their store Arthur hired not only musicians but also a young(er) Chopper McKinnon adding his experience and connections to a growing store and school. With a new base, and more security, Chopper then started his radio show “Canadian Spaces”.

    Just before this I opened a cafe just a few feet North of Arthur’s place, in large part because I was taking guitar lessons from his school. I had left a lesson and was walking home when I saw that a nearby storefront was locked up tight, with a For Rent sign. I walked back into the school and asked Chopper what he knew of the location. With that little bit of information, I contacted the landlord, and soon opened Rasputin’s.

    When I was ready to feature music on a stage (a 4′ x 4′ stage I had built myself, then covered with a real cowhide) Arthur gave me a stage light from the original Le Hibou, and a pair of truly huge speakers. Over the years Arthur gave me advice, and moral support.

    Arthur had to suffer many of the same problems musicians report almost monthly. He had a break-in with the store’s guitars stolen on Christmas Eve. Thankfully, they were all recovered.

    Arthur has been generous (in a responsible manner) to musicians, to the musical community, to the community he lives in. He has thought in terms of building rather than just feeding, not just here in Ottawa, but through the CFMA and the Canadian Folk Walk of Fame, throughout Canada.

    As Terry said in his wonderfully succinct manner “well-deserved”.

  2. avatar
    Doug McArthur 29 August, 2012 at 16:25

    For years Arthur for me was one of the stalwarts of ottawa – every time I came up here to play I ended up at his store on Bronson and then on Bank, all roads led to Arthur.
    Since moving to the area eight years ago I have learned much more about the man and realized what a sweet generous deal he really is. I have sat on many Estelle Klein Award nominating boards in the past and no one deserves the award more than Arthur.

  3. avatar
    Eric Kanstrup 11 February, 2013 at 17:53

    I made my first purchase at the Folklore Centre a couple of Years after Arthur started up,and started hanging around, trying out various Instruments, ended up with a used S Yari Guitar, later to be replaced wit a Martin D 35.
    When Arthur started publishing Books he inlisted my help since I was in the PrintingBusiness.I worked with Chopper and Arthur on getting the Stan Rogers Song Book Printed. I am proud to know that my Name is on thousands of the Credit Page of that book all over the World.
    I am also proud to have been among Arthurs many Friends

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