The Hugh’s Room Live birthday bash: a night in photos
When the beloved Toronto folk and roots venue Hugh’s Room closed down abruptly in January of last year, a devoted committee of music lovers raised more than $100,000 to bring it back. It reopened just four months later, and last weekend, the rechristened Hugh’s Room Live, now a non-profit, threw itself a first anniversary bash.
Roots Music Canada’s Elizabeth Szekeres wrote Hugh’s’ comeback story for us last week. Now she brings us a photo album from the birthday bash.
The venerable bluesman Jack de Keyzer was very well received by the audience. You couldn’t help but dance in your seat to his jazzy guitar licks.
Joe Fiorito, retired Toronto Star journalist, riveted the audience with his poetry. He spoke of the city he loves, the neighbourhood that he shares with Hugh’s Room, and the little, ordinary people who live their lives there, sometimes in desperation. His writer’s voice is an exacto knife, precisely cutting away the unnecessary to show us the essence of humanity.
Likely the most in-demand session player in Toronto, David Woodhead knocked the audience’s socks off with his virtuoso playing on both the fretless bass and ukulele. He made us feel like we were in a forest rainstorm with “Red rain is pouring down.”
Poet Robert Priest, author of 24 books and widely quoted author of many alternative aphorisms, (“Resistance is Fertile”), performed some of his “Noetry” – the poetry of ideas. “People begin as dreams,” he said, “and end as memories.”
Jaron Freeman-Fox has been recently studying music in India, Tibet and Norway, so he treated us to some looping experiments with his customized 12 string Viola d’Amore, played like a fiddle on steroids with its six sympathetic strings. He also played a Cajun piece by Soozi Schlanger, “Oh Mama,” on his regular fiddle, the instrument that he inherited from his mentor, the late Oliver Schroer.
Cutting the birthday cake, with Brian Iler, Chairman of the Board of Hugh’s Room Live; Jane Harbury, publicist; and Mary Stewart, Manager.
Donné Roberts sings in Malagasy, the language of Madagascar where he grew up, but it didn’t matter that we didn’t understand the words. Music truly is a universal language, and Donné’s guitar playing is simply fantastic. Donné was joined on stage by David Woodhead, Jaron Freeman-Fox and vocalist Ugi Goh.
Donné Roberts was joined on stage by the renowned Latin Jazz singer Amanda Martinez. A lovely duet featured both artists singing in their native languages, Spanish and Malagasy, and Amanda’s composition, “Under African Skies,” painted a very special picture of her experiences working with children in Namibia: “We won’t say goodbye, cause now you’re a part of me.”
Author John Lawrence regaled the Birthday audience with stories from his book The Ward about the west of downtown neighbourhood of Toronto that hosted wave after wave of newcomers from all over the globe in the centuries past. It was most illuminating to hear how people lived during an age when newcomers were highly stigmatized and considered problematic.
Drew Gonsalves (Kobotown) and Kellylee Evans did a lovely job on their duo act. Their duet on Kellylee’s lullaby written for Drew’s baby boy was simply gorgeous. The Trinidadian lilt of Drew’s voice combined with Kellylee’s warm, soulful soprano drew in the audience, listening with electrifying silence.
HRL patrons were delighted to hear the first ever performance by the new duo, French Squeeze. Acadian tenor Jacques Arsenault sang and played accordion while mezzo-soprano Marjorie Maltais (from Charlevoix), crooned her way from “Autumn Leaves” to Brazilian Tango. “This is what pleasure sounds like,” Marjorie said, describing what brought the pair musically together.
Sheila Carabine from Dala joined with fellow guitarist Brian MacMillan to explore songs from her Irish roots. It was really atmospheric when she asked fiddler Jaron Freeman Fox and whistle player Thomas McCallum to join her.