By Tamara Levine (originally published in Our Times, April 28, 2022)

My dad didn’t just work for the union. He believed in the union and workers’ rights with all of his heart and soul, writes Tamara Levine, daughter of longtime labour activist and founding director of research at the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Gil Levine.

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Gil’s Hootenanny Presents A Tribute to Willie Dunn

Gil’s Hootenanny is proud to present a tribute to Mi’kmaq singer-songwriter Willie Dunn as part of its 2022 event. Long an icon of Canada’s folk music scene, Dunn (1941-2013) was a multi-talented artist, activist and visionary. Dunn gave voice to Charlie Wenjack’s story in a hauntingly beautiful song written 50 years before Gord Downey’s “Secret Path”. His song, “I Pity the Country”, about colonialism and anti-Indigenous racism, has become an Indigenous anthem, while “Son of the Sun” celebrates Dunn’s heritage interwoven with a plaintive cry for peace. Dunn was the first Indigenous filmmaker to direct an NFB film, “The Ballad of Crowfoot”, one of Canada’s first music videos.

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The 2022 Hootenanny Band

We Can’t Keep from Singing Along

A beloved element of Gil’s Hootenanny is the Hootenanny Band. The Band starts off the show with a procession into the hall as they sing, play, and encourage the audience to join in the music. An ensemble of musicians for whom equity and social justice are central to their songwriting and performance style, the Hootenanny Band is made up of singer-songwriters, multi-instrumentalists and vocalists who captivate and inspire the audience with their talent and energy. They are Mark Evenchick, Elage Mbaye, Arthur McGregor, Debbie Rubin, and Carmel Whittle.

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Gil’s `Grassroots` Hootenanny

A 13th Anniversary Sing ’n Jam
at the Ottawa Grassroots Festival
Saturday, April 23 at 3:00 pm

Bring your voice and, if you like, your favourite musical instrument to St. Andrew’s Hall (basement) of St. Andrew’s Church, 82 Kent Street at 3pm on Saturday, April 23rd for Gil’s ‘Grassroots’ Hootenanny so you can sing and jam along to songs of hope and protest led by the Gil’s Hootenanny Band.

Hosted by Tamara Levine and Arthur McGregor, Gil’s ‘Grassroots’ Hootenanny brings together musical friends for a rousing celebration of familiar and new songs of hope and protest that showcase the stories, struggles and victories of working people.

Gil’s Hootenanny is honoured to once again be hosting this Ottawa Grassroots Festival workshop, which provides a tantalizing taste of Gil’s Hootenanny 2022 to take place on May 1st at the RA Centre.

Masking is encouraged at Gil’s ‘Grassroots’ Hootenanny.

And, as folk music legend Pete Seeger said, “A good song reminds us what we’re fighting for”.

2018 from left: Carmen Whittle, Chris White (back row), Jen Gilbert, Sid Ameen (back row), Patricia Reynolds, Melissa Hucul (back row), Tamara Levine, Debbie Rubin, Mark Evenchick

James Keelaghan, A Student of History

Gil’s Hootenanny 2022 will feature Canadian singer-songwriter extraordinaire James Keelaghan as the headliner for its 13th Annual May Day sing-along.

James Keelaghan photo by Jen Squires
James Keelaghan photo by Jen Squires

Keelaghan is one of Canada’s finest singer-songwriters, with numerous Juno and Canadian Folk Music awards and nominations to his credit. A student of history, he is on a perpetual search for unique storylines with universal themes. Many of Keelaghan’s songs concern social justice, inspired by people and events from Canadian history. His songbook includes Hillcrest Mine, Jenny Bryce and Kiri’s Piano, songs that combine exceptional melodies with memorable lyrics that instantly connect with audiences. Keelaghan’s distinctive and remarkable voice, song-writing prowess and on-stage persona have made him a celebrated international artist.

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Gil’s Hootenanny 2022 Tickets Now on Sale

Time to get your tickets and start warming up your voice for the 13th Annual Gil’s Hootenanny, Sunday, May 1st at 2pm at the RA Centre (Clark Hall), 2451 Riverside Drive. This year’s featured performer is internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter James Keelaghan, who will bring his distinctive voice and masterful storytelling to this annual May Day community sing-along celebrating the stories, struggles and victories of working people.

Online ticket sales via Spirit of Rasputin’s website…

Inspired by the legacy of Gil Levine (1924-2009), the founding Director of Research at the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Gil’s Hootenannywas first presented in 2010. Gil and his wife Helen hosted hootenannies at their home for decades. Helen and Gil’s vision of a better world included bringing people together to share and sing about the stories, struggles and victories of working women and men. Gil’s Hootenanny continues that legacy.

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Gil’s Hootenanny: From the Archives

Gil’s Hootenanny was a feature story on the WPBS current affairs program, ‘WPBS Weekly: Inside the Stories’ in April 2021.

The 5-minute segment featured Tamara Levine sharing the history of Gil’s Hootenanny and plans for last year’s event. Tamara also spoke about her father, the inspiration for this annual May Day sing along. The PBS story included footage from past Hootenannies.

James Keelaghan to Headline Gil’s Hootenanny 2022

Gil’s Hootenanny 2022 will feature James Keelaghan, one of Canada’s finest singer-songwriters, who will bring his distinctive voice and masterful storytelling to this 13th annual May Day 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.

While the pandemic interrupted the celebratory in-person sing-along that characterizes Gil’s Hootenanny, organizers held a virtual sing-along in 2020 that was attended by over 300 people. In 2021, organizers released Singing Together Apart, a one-hour video compilation of special performances from previous hootenannies and encouraged viewers to sing along with the performers.

Gil’s Hootenanny will take place on May Day, Sunday, May 1st, at 2 pm 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.

The Protest Legacy of African American Spirituals, Part 1

The songs that emerged from the period of slavery in America had an enormous influence in shaping today’s blues, jazz, rap and much other popular music. In the first of this two-part essay, sociologist of music Stephen Richer looks at the codes embedded into spirituals that served slaves as a covert language for their activism — and getting them on the Underground Railroad.

Read “Part 1” on the Journal of Wild Culture website…

Happy Holidays from Gil’s Hootenanny

We invite you to join Maria Dunn in singing “God Bless Us Everyone”, a song that she sang with us at the Gil’s Hootenanny 10th Anniversary sing-along in 2019.

Written from the perspective of Tiny Tim Cratchit in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, Maria performed the song every holiday season for 20 years in Edmonton’s annual production of The Christmas Carol Project.

We wish everyone a 2022 rich with “kindness overwhelming as a gentle hand to hold”.