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.
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.
Maria Dunn and Maria Hawkins will be the 2019 headliners for the 10th Annual Gil’s Hootenanny, Wednesday, May 1st at 7:30pm at the RA Centre (Clark Hall), 2451 Riverside Drive. Affectionately dubbed “the Marias” by Hootenanny organizers, Dunn and Hawkins will share the stage, alternating songs in a musical conversation that will be intimate & fun with the added element of audience participation – a tradition for this annual sing-along event.
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, who died in October 2018, hosted hootenannies at their home for decades.
Passionate about preserving the spirit of folk music, twice Juno-nominated Maria Dunnis often compared to Woody Guthrie for her keen social awareness and her melodic, unvarnished songs about the lives of working men and women. Her stint as a volunteer DJ in community radio encouraged Dunn to listen widely to master songwriters, singers and instrumentalists of folk and roots music. Becoming an avid fan of live music, Dunn began writing her own music in the mid-90s, drawing deeply on the folk tradition of storytelling through song to honour the resilience and grace of “ordinary” people, past and present.
Ottawa’s Blues Lady Maria Hawkins is a much-beloved performer in Ottawa, and is well known as the co-creator of “Blues in the Schools”, which garnered the W.C. Handy Blues Award. Hawkins has also earned a United Way Community Builder Award for her work with local charities, the NAC Award for Artistic Excellence, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal for 25 years of inspiration to Canadian youth. Hawkins’ music is influenced by a deep respect for indigenous peoples and passion for peace and justice, and is informed by many facets of her background, including her black, Mi’kmaq and Acadian ancestry.
Pete Seeger was among Gil and Helen’s favourite troubadours. As 2019 marks the 100th Anniversary of his birth, the Hootenanny will celebrate Pete with a special presentation of his legacy by Steve Richer, folk singer and banjo-playing Professor Emeritus at Carleton University. The Hootenanny Band will open the evening with a selection of new and traditional sing-along music. The Band comprises members of the Elizabeth Riley Band – Carmel Whittle, Jen Gilbert & Patricia Reynolds – with Debbie Rubin and Mark Evenchick.
Helen and Gil’s vision of a better world included bringing people together to celebrate, share and sing about the stories, struggles and victories of working women and men. Gil’s Hootenanny continues that legacy.
Tickets ($10, kids free) are now available online and can be purchased (cash only) at Octopus Books, 116 Third Avenue. For additional information visit Facebook.
element of Gil’s Hootenanny is the entrance march. The performers
promenade into the hall singing, playing and encouraging the audience
to join in the music. For the Hootenanny Band, leading the entrance
march is a natural extension of their identity. Equity, social
activism and social justice are central to their song writing and
performance style, and they are all singer-songwriters,
multi-instrumentalists and vocalists who captivate and inspire
audiences with their energy
Three members of the Hootenanny Band are musicians from the Elizabeth Riley Band:
Gilbert, acoustic guitar, vocals: Jen
grew up in the Ottawa Valley in a music-loving family. While Jen’s
original music is heavily influenced by the chord progressions and
traditions of old-time country music, she loves and plays all styles
of music. Outside of her music-life as a member of the Elizabeth
Riley Band, Jen is a mom, an educator, and a songwriter.
Reynolds, electric guitar, vocals: Patricia
has been playing and singing since her childhood on Manitoulin
Island. Her musical influences range from classic country and
bluegrass to rockabilly to traditional and contemporary folk music.
She enjoys playing and jamming – with Elizabeth Riley Band, Local
Colour, Just Voices choir, and musical friends.
Whittle, stand up snare, percussion, harmonica, guitar, vocals:
Carmel is an
Irish and Mik’maq visual artist, musician, song writer &
activist who hails from Newfoundland. Currently a filmaker,
community outreach and Indigenous Liaison at Gallery 101, she is
also a community organizer and co-ordinator for the Indigenous
Artists’ Coalition ‘No Borders Art Festival’. She loves to
experiment with sound and create instruments from found objects to
create songs of loss tragedy and love.
Jen, Patricia and Carmel will be joined by musical friends Debbie Rubin and Mark Evenchick for the 2019 Hootenanny Band.
Rubin is a vocalist and banjo
player who has been a key Gil’s Hootenanny organizer for many
years. She is part of the group Local Colour and also the Ottawa
Simcha Band, Sing n’jam and Keep on Singing. A
retired teacher from Algonquin College, Debbie is also
Evenchick was the winner
of the 2016 Hootenanny songwriting contest. His love of music
started when he was 13 and learned three chords on his sister’s
guitar. Those few chords led Mark on a decades-long musical voyage
that includes performing, songwriting & recording.
2019 Gil’s Hootenanny will take place on May 1st
at 7:30 pm at the RA centre (Clark Hall), 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 available online and can be purchased (cash only) at Octopus
Books, 16 Third Avenue. Tickets
are $10; kids free.
Ten years after her first performance at 2010’s Gil’s Hootenanny, Maria Hawkins is returning as a headliner for the 10th Anniversary event. Long considered Ottawa’s Blues Lady, Maria has been a well known and much-beloved performer in Ottawa for decades, and is recognized for her dynamic and confident stage presence. Maria Dunn and Maria Hawkins, affectionately dubbed “the Marias” by Hootenanny organizers, are the headliners for this annual May Day sing-along event.
What Maria’s legion of fans might not realize is that her music is informed by the intersection of many facets of her background, including her Mi’kmaq and Acadian roots. Maria can also trace her family back to “released slaves from Sir John Hawkins”. Given her ancestry, it’s no wonder that Maria’s music is informed by a deep respect for indigenous peoples and a passion for peace and justice. Her repertoire at Gil’s Hootenanny will include a song of “thanks to first nations who helped bring slaves to Canada through the underground railway”.
Maria is well known as the co-creator of “Blues in the Schools”, bringing music to classrooms across the nation’s capital. This program garnered Maria the W.C. Handy Award for bringing together 200 students from 28 schools to play in the largest blues band ever, with help from local musicians. According to Maria, “It was some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done”.
Less well known is Maria’s work with dozens of local charities, which earned her a United Way Community Builder Award. Maria has won numerous other awards, including the NAC Award for Artistic Excellence. Maria is particularly proud of her Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal for 25 years of inspiration to Canadian youth.
Gil’s Hootenanny is delighted that Maria will once again be bringing her voice and her message of hope, gratitude and strength to Gil’s Hootenanny.
The 2019 Gil’s 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 ($10, kids free) are available online and (cash only) at Octopus Books, 16 Third Avenue.
A true preserver of the spirit of folk music, one of Gil’s Hootenanny 2019 featured artists, twice Juno-nominated Maria Dunn (www.mariadunn.com), is often compared to Woody Guthrie for her keen social awareness and her unvarnished songs about the lives of working men and women. Maria Dunn and Maria Hawkins, affectionately dubbed “the Marias” by Hootenanny organizers, are the headliners for the 10th Anniversary of this annual May Day sing-along event.
years as a volunteer DJ in community radio (1987-2000) encouraged
Maria to listen widely to the master songwriters, singers and
instrumentalists of folk and roots music. Discovering their
recordings and becoming an avid fan and supporter of live music in
her community, she absorbed the important messages of compassion and
human struggle that have always been central to the writings of folk
artists from Buffy
Ste. Marie to
the time she began writing her own music in the mid-90s, Maria was
learning to draw deeply on the folk tradition of storytelling through
song to honour the resilience and grace of “ordinary” people,
past and present.
keeping with Pete
words (1994), “The
key to the future of the world is finding the optimistic stories and
letting them be known”,
her latest recording, Gathering,highlights
stories of love—not songs of romantic love, but songs of family,
community, humanity and the love that fires our actions to make the
world a better place. The songs range from historical and narrative
to personal and immediate, inspired by social justice stories both
global and local.
The 2019 Gil’s 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 ($10, kids
free) are available online and (cash only) at Octopus Books, 16 Third
and Roses” is a feature of the
repertoire. For 2019’s Hootenanny, this historic song will take on
a special significance, as it was a favourite of Helen Levine, who
died at 95 on October 24, 2018. Helen and Gil Levine, for whom the
Hootenanny is named, hosted hootenannies in their home for decades.
daughter, Tamara Levine, explained that her mother understood the
power of collective singing within social and political movements.
Coming out of the successful 1912 textile strike by immigrant women
workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the message in “Bread
and Roses” resonated with
Helen, a long time feminist with a wide interest in social justice.
“Bread and Roses”,
an anthem of both the women’s and the labour movements, demands not
only fair wages for women (bread), but also dignity, respect,
education and culture (roses).
attributes her mother’s love of “Bread
and Roses” to the “simple
yet strong image of the bread for survival and roses for beauty”
that illustrates Helen’s belief in ‘the personal is political’.
The song also speaks to her commitment to the advancement of equality
for women in all aspects of society.
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.
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.
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.
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
We Shall Not Be Moved
See you all next year. Same day. Same time. Same place.