Vancouver Island is a pretty darn lovely place to live. So are the eclectic little islands scattered up and down the coast of my island home. It’s one of those places that just inspire soul searching and music making.
The Jan/Feb edition of BC Musician included a big long list of island venues where you can take music in. The most recent magazine gave us the scoop on island festivals galore. But sometimes the music falls into a zone between ‘performing’ and ‘consuming’. This is the place where music is all about community, making new friends and discovering your own musical gifts.
Whether you want hang out at a local pub and play some familiar cover tunes (see the venue guide for options), swap folk songs at a local art gallery, take in a fiddle camp or a blues workshop, sing labour songs at the local Museum or enter a local contest or showcase – you don’t have to wander far with your instrument (or song) of choice on the Island before you find a place to express your musical self and be part of community building at the same time.
A great example of this participatory music vibe is the Vancouver Island Music Workshop (VIMW) who offer a retreat in May and a workshop in September where the focus is music with a small “m”. “No hype, no stars, just good solid instructors”. At the May retreat they just put up a sheet for folks to offer a 90 minute seminar on any subject and a sheet to request a 90 minute seminar on any subject, and then match them up. Other than that it’s straight jamming day and night.
The goal of the VIMW is “to encourage anyone who wants to make music, to introduce everyone possible to the joy of making music, and to advance the skills of those who already play.” Basically VIMW is a weekend of musical joy in a beautiful country setting with great music, great food and lots of friends.
Fiddling around seems to be a big theme on the island(s) too. In the Comox Valley, Fiddlejam offers an opportunity for all ages and skill levels to learn and play Canadian Fiddle tunes. Most of the members are fiddlers but they enjoy an awesome backup contingent of piano, guitar, stand-up bass, mandolin, banjo and accordion.
Fiddlejam plays a variety of styles including Canadian Old Time, Celtic, French Canadian, Cape Breton and dance music. They hold Contra / Old Time dance at the Merville Hall throughout the year and members perform at the local Farmers Market, Earth Day Festival and various street festivals and market days.
A conversation about fiddling around on Vancouver Island wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Victoria Fiddle Society. These guys were a big programming feature at last summer’s inaugural FolkWest Festival at Royal Athletic Park. Their mandate is to “build community through fiddle music”. How sweet is that? Their instructors include Daniel Lapp and Qristina and Quinn Bachand.
For the songwriters, players and producers on the island there is the annual Vancouver Island Music Awards. BC Musician is super happy to be on board supporting this event. The goal of the VIMA is to celebrate the Vancouver Island music scene, support networking on the island, recognize excellence, empower Island Artists to pursue their musical dreams, and set positive example for youth. As producer James Kasper puts it – it’s all about “Making Beautiful Music Together on Vancouver Island”.
How about a great motivator for the songwriters of the island? The Cowichan Folk Guild (producers of the Islands Folk Festival) is holding the 2012 Island Songwriters Contest. They’re putting out the call for the “next great song by a great Island Songwriter” and winners receive studio time, airplay and a live performance at the 2012 Islands Folk Festival. Their 2012 theme is “Ecology and the Environment.” and songwriters are asked to share in a song what “we can do to save our planet”. Their deadline is May 31st
How about back to the Comox Valley (yup, I’m biased ‘cause I live here) for the annual Miners Memorial Weekend in Cumberland (June 21-23). This event has been going on for over 20 years and brings labour activists, historians, artists, musicians, film makers and local community members together for a celebration of local and global labour history. And they play music. Lots of it!
Miners Memorial includes a “Songs of the Workers” open mic night where musicians (amateur and professional) share labour and workers songs. Nothing warms the heart more than a group of lefties of all ages singing Solidarity Forever (sometimes in Russian) after a night of beers and music. There is lots of other music making over the weekend too including the campground and graveyard ceremony.
Here’s a list of some other cool camps, programs and retreats in the Vancouver Island and Sunshine Coast area. Take a minute to check them out. Our music lives become richer when we do more than just play or just listen. Music is also about relationships and playing to build community, raise funds, learn new (and really old) songs, share new tunes, test our skills, and follow our dreams. If you have kids who love music – send them to camp! I wish you a summer filled with musical discovery, musical soul searching and new musical friendships!