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Photo of James Keelaghan

James Keelaghan to Headline Gil’s Hootenanny 2020

Ottawa’s Gil’s Hootenanny will begin its second decade featuring musical legend James Keelaghan. One of Canada’s finest singer-songwriters, Keelaghan will bring his distinctive voice and masterful storytelling to this 11th annual community sing-along celebrating the stories, struggles and victories of working people.

First presented in 2010, Gil’s Hootenanny is inspired by the legacy of Gil Levine, who spent his life working for social justice and was the founding Director of Research at the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). A great lover of folk music and an enthusiastic supporter of folk musicians, Gil believed in the collective power of song to bring people together to speak up and sing out for change.

Over the years, Gil’s Hootenanny has seen increasingly larger audiences who join the headliner, other featured artists and the Hootenanny Band in singing along with new and traditional songs of hope and protest.

Gil’s Hootenanny will take place on May Day, Friday, May 1st, at 7:30pm in Clark Hall at the RA Centre, 2451 Riverside Drive. Staffed by UNIFOR members, the RA Centre is accessible, has loads of parking and is well serviced by OC Transpo.

Tickets are $10, kids are free.

Stay tuned for further information.

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Gil & Helen Levines’ Legacy

Changing the World Through the Power of Song

When Gil Levine died at 85 in 2009, three words in his obituary, “… plan a hootenanny”, were the beginning of Gil’s Hootenanny, an Ottawa tradition now into its milestone 10th year and getting stronger.

Helen and Gil Levine

Held each year on May Day, this annual celebration of the collective power of song to change the world was inspired by Gil, the founding Director of Research at the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), a great lover of folk music and a staunch supporter of folk musicians. Helen Levine, who died at 95 in October 2018, also considered herself an “old folkie”. Helen and Gil showed their love of folk music in many ways, including hosting annual hootenannies and May Day celebrations at their home for decades.

Among Gil’s favourite troubadours were Pete Seeger and Phil Ochs, and Gil’s Hootenanny always celebrates these musical legends with a song or two. Helen and Gil had a particularly strong connection to Pete. In 1957, Gil co-produced a Seeger concert in Ottawa – with friends Harvey Glatt and Max Sternthal – at a time when he was blacklisted in the US. Helen recalled that they “scraped $25 together to rent the hall, which wasn’t easy back then”. As 2019 marks the 100th Anniversary of Pete Seeger’s birth, the Hootenanny will pay homage to him with a special presentation by Steve Richer, folk singer and banjo-playing Professor Emeritus at Carleton University.

Helen and Gil’s vision of a better world included bringing people together to celebrate and share the stories, struggles and victories of working women and men. It is thus fitting that Gil’s Hootenanny has evolved into a fun, energetic sing-along event that celebrates the power of song to change the world.

Gil’s Hootenanny always takes place on May 1st. This year on Friday, May 1st at 7:30pm in Clark Hall at the RA Centre, 2451 Riverside Drive. Staffed by UNIFOR members, the RA Centre is accessible, has loads of parking and is well serviced by OC Transpo.

Tickets are $10; kids are free.

Stay tuned for further information.

An Extraordinary Evening of Song, Participation, Hope and Protest

For those who have never attended a Gil’s Hootenanny, the following review of Gil’s Hootenanny 2019 by Hollis Morgan is worth the read….

Read review: “An Outstanding 10th Anniversary Gil’s Hootenanny

Hollis Morgan, May 3rd, 2019

Gil’s Hootenanny 2020 will feature Canadian singer-songwriter James Keelaghan.

Join us on May Day, Friday, May 1st, at 7:30pm in Clark Hall at the RA Centre, 2451 Riverside Drive. Staffed by UNIFOR members, the RA Centre is accessible, has loads of parking and is well serviced by OC Transpo.

Tickets are $10, kids are free.

Stay tuned for further information.

Feature Article in “Our Times” Magazine

The Power of Song

Gil’s Hootenanny

By Kathy Kennedy   April 10, 2019

PHOTOGRAPH: JAKE MORRISON, WITH FLARE PHOTOGRAPHY

The finale at Gil’s Hootenanny is always the highlight of a joyous evening. On May 1, 2018, the rafters of Ottawa’s Clark Hall rang with the sounds of over 300 voices singing “We Shall Not Be Moved,” the African-American spiritual turned labour anthem. The hootenanny brings people together to sing songs of protest and hope, belting out their belief in the power of collective singing for change. Buzzing with optimism, the audience left for home that night singing and carrying a message of inspiration to the streets and neighbourhoods of the city.

Read the rest of this article…

An Outstanding 10th Anniversary Gil’s Hootenanny

A capacity audience sang from start to finish at arguably the best organized and best attended 10th Anniversary Gil’s Hootenanny held May 1st, 2019 at the RA Centre. As people arrived, the Hootenanny Choir (a.k.a. Just Voices Activist Choir) was singing in the foyer. This set the stage for participation in a wide variety of “songs of protest, songs of hope”. While some of the songs were new, most were quite old and had survived many iterations through the “folk process” over decades or even hundreds of years. This review will include some of that musicology. The organizers of Gil’s Hootenanny deserve praise for the breadth and depth of song selection at this anniversary event.

In the hall, while they were finding their seats, a video of past Hoots played on the big screen over the stage with concert clips and interviews of past participants. The choir and video were both very welcoming touches.

Parade of performers

The real Hootenanny began with a parade of performers marching down both aisles to the stage singing Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around, a civil rights song adapted from a spiritual first recorded by the Dixie Jubilee Singers in 1924. Resurrected by the Reverend Ralph Abernathy during the summer of 1962 when mass arrests and demonstrations erupted for the second time, he taught it one night to a mass meeting at Mount Zion Baptist Church.

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2018 Hootenanny Was Fantastic!

A sold out audience sang and clapped their way through a rollicking 2018 Gil’s Hootenanny at the Clarke Room of the RA Centre on May 1st. Everyone, audience, performers and volunteers had a great time. Here are some highlights:

A Light of A Much Brighter Kind Finale

Solidarity We Bleed

Right Here Finale

Odetta Trilogy

We Shall Not Be Moved

See you all next year. Same day. Same time. Same place.

 

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2017 Gil’s Hootenanny a Great Success

A rainy May Day 2017 did not dampen the enthusiasm at Gil’s Hootenanny.

Bringing together a wide range of talented musicians and an enthusiastic audience that likes to “sing along” made for a fine evening of “songs of hope & protest.” Video below by Andrew Hall:

Thanks to Jake Morrison for a fine album of images to remember the 2017 Gil’s Hootenanny. There are more posted on his website…