Author Archives: Hollis Morgan

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.

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 troubadors 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.

Through its song-writing contests and workshops, Gil’s Hootenanny has made a significant contribution to Canada’s hope and protest songbook. Tony Turner’s 2015 contest-winning song, “Harperman”, went viral in Canada and beyond. Mark Evenchick’s 2016 winning song “Believe Again” and 2017’s winner “Rise Above” by Christine Graves have become staples of their impressive repertoires.

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.

The 2019 Hootenanny will take place on Wednesday, 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.

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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“Gil’s at Grassroots”

“Gil’s at Grassroots”:
A Celebration of Original Sing-Along Songs
April 28th at 4pm

Building on the long tradition of working together to create melodies and lyrics for protest songs, Gil’s Hootenanny is hosting a free afternoon session at the Ottawa Grassroots Festival on April 28th that will feature recent, collaboratively-created, original “Songs of Protest, Songs of Hope”. Continue reading

Songwriting Workshop Inspiring Lyrics and Rousing Melodies

Over two dozen novice and experienced songwriters gathered at the Black Irish Pub on Sunday, April 8th to participate in the first of two Gil’s Hootenanny-sponsored workshops designed to create sing-along songs that share and celebrate the stories, struggles and victories of working people.

Led by singer-songwriter-teacher Jamie Anderson, the songwriters were organized into four groups and Continue reading

Eve Goldberg – A Voice for Social Justice

Eve Goldberg, the 2018 Gil’s Hootenanny headliner, is a singer-songwriter who believes that she has a unique platform “to be a voice for social justice and the power of positive change”. For Eve, this commitment not only means writing issue-oriented songs, but also, and perhaps more importantly, creating space in her performances “to help create community by being inclusive and positive”. Continue reading

Eve Goldberg: Boundless Musical Influences

Anyone lucky enough to see Eve Goldberg perform is captivated not only by her talent and charisma but also by the obvious depth of her musical background and influences.

Gil’s Hootenanny’s 2018 headliner, Eve grew up in the Boston area, where her multi-instrumentalist, activist mom took her to see folk legends such as Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Pete Seeger and Doc Watson. Eve acknowledges that as a child, she did not initially appreciate these performers, though they would later have a significant influence on her song writing and performance repertoire. Continue reading

Gil’s Legacy – Changing the World A Song at a Time

When Gil Levine died at 85 in 2009, three words in his obituary, “… plan a hootenanny”, started an Ottawa tradition that is now into its 9th year and getting stronger.

Held each year on May Day, this annual celebration of the collective power of song was inspired by Gil, who was the founding Director of Research at the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and a great lover of folk music and supporter of folk musicians. Gil demonstrated his love of folk music in many ways, including hosting annual hootenannies at home for decades. Continue reading