Let Yourself Be Moved

In this economic climate we may not be able to afford major concert tickets, but we can sure get out in the community and listen to our talented neighbours.

By Michelle Martin
Published April 21, 2009

Now that Susan Boyle has been viewed on YouTube over 40 million times, the inevitable dissection to pieces has begun.

Why overthink it? I (like so many others) cried when I watched her, and not because of the triumph-of-the-underdog story contrived by Britain's Got Talent producers. I cried because the sound of beautiful music, and the sight of people responding to it, is moving.

Though it's true that there is plenty about these kinds of contests to skewer, there is something to be said for any event that has everyone from jaded teens to critical grandmothers leaping to their feet to applaud a pretty voice singing a musical theatre classic, or even an unassuming tenor performing Nessun Dorma.

It is now coming out that Susan Boyle was a little bit of a celebrity in her small village, a parish volunteer who sang at local venues. What a wonderful reminder for all of us that, right under our noses, we can find good music to enjoy together. And well we should - the weather's fine, there's no excuse.

Yesterday, about 600 of us enjoyed the Bishop Ryan High School spring concert [PDf link], held at Carmen's. One of my kids sings in the choir, and another plays in the concert band. The BR Expression choir sang a well-executed medley of pop music, and the Celtic Fusion band gave us some tight jazz and blues grooves. I'll admit that tears came to my eyes.

Heck, a raggedy high school band version of "Hang on Sloopy" once made me well up, and there weren't even any of my own kids in the band. It was something just to watch them all up there, working so hard, having fun, while their peers, friends and family responded in kind to their evident enthusiasm.

Last winter my husband and I had the opportunity to attend the Voices in the Night concert held downtown at Centenary United Church (one among many of that season), where we reveled in one lovely voice after another, and where we were first introduced to the hilarious song Taylor the Latte Boy. The singer who performed it gave Kirstin Chenoweth a run for her money, indeed.

A couple of years back, we enjoyed the Dofasco Male Chorus when St. Patrick's parish hosted a performance.

In this economic climate we may not be able to afford major concert tickets, but we can sure get out in the neighbourhood. Go to a high school concert, even if you don't know anyone in high school - or an elementary school event. Get out to those church socials with music, those community theatre productions, that neighbourhood piano recital.

Open your ears to the aspiring professionals and the amateurs, the young and the old - the polished as well as the diamonds in the rough. Sing and clap along when you're invited to. Listen to them hit those high notes, and cheer their hard work and nerve anyway even if they don't quite reach them.

Let yourself be moved.

Michelle Martin lives in Hamilton. The opinions she expresses in Raise the Hammer are her own.


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By jason (registered) | Posted April 21, 2009 at 15:22:48

excellent comments Michelle! You are right on. Bravo

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By Frank (registered) | Posted April 21, 2009 at 15:36:38

I used to play and direct in those raggedy high school bands! Great times for the kids that's for sure. They deserve support. Keep an eye on the local concert listings for various events that you can get involved in for relatively small amounts of cash. Quite often they're more satisfying than the big ticket items...

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 21, 2009 at 15:45:56

on a somewhat sad note, I've heard that Pepperjack Cafe is closing down. Can anyone confirm this? I've noticed that it's closed at lunch-time for the past several days. This would be a huge loss to Hamilton's music scene.

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By FenceSitter (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2009 at 18:51:34

Pepperjacks??? Yeah, I heard it was closing at the end of May.
Hopefully someone can confirm this. I am just quoting from the grapevine.

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted April 22, 2009 at 02:19:16

I can confirm that Ken from Pepperjacks is closing the bar. But there are still lots of shows to go to there before the end of the month. Which is an important point. We have bands coming out of Hamilton or being recorded in Hamilton that are world class. Junior Boys for instance are doing an international tour and just played the stage at Coachella, the 3-day super-extravaganza of bands in Indio/Palm Springs California. For the second time. But they're the tip of the iceberg. We have tons of talent in town and more moving here all the time. I can say this with a high degree of certainty and experience.

This is a great town for music. Always has been. Best of all cover is usually around $10.

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By Hummer (anonymous) | Posted April 24, 2009 at 13:07:35

The shame belongs to city media. This time I'm not whyning about The Spec. They've improved small, local event coverage somewhat, and should be encouraged in that direction.

But I laugh and cry too when I listen to the problems at CHCH and it's corporate ownership, where local coverage consists largely of local talking heads reciting stories off the wire, with scant attention to the Hammer's street-level events. Every one of Toronto's CITY newscast used to include an "in the club" feature. Don't know if they still do that since ownership changed, but something like that is not part of Hamilton broadcasting so far as I'm aware.

Local sports coverage includes Ti-Cat scores, of course, but how often does a reporter get out to the T-ball park or the local rink? How often does local minor-league sports news hit the airwaves?

I don't listen to local radio. When I stopped it was partially because I could hear more locals on the Toronto CBC radio than in the often nationally programmed mix on Hamilton stations. How often does any commercial station in Hamilton broadcast a local concert? At any level?

Local coverage has fallen largely to CFMU and Cable 14, who provide yoeman, though amateur service. That's not a knock. Amateur is legitimate by me, but resources are limited. And yet they do a better job of covering the varied interests of local citizens than do the affiliates of national networks, and that is why audiences shift to them and internet-related media, and why advertisers are slowly following.

CHCH used to run its weekly Dance Party. CITY used to have the Electric Circus. CHCH once had Tiny Talent Time. CHCH broadcast once Junior hockey too. These shows are little more than the butt of more sophisticated jokes now, but at the time local broadcasters were important parts of the local social scene, in addition to their commercial roles. And small local businesses could afford to fill many of the advertising time-slots too.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted April 24, 2009 at 14:02:06

Yup. CH are twits. When I heard they were going to be covering last year's Victoria's Secret fashion show in NYC, I contacted them to let them know that the sets for the show were being built in Hamilton. Now how can you go wrong with a story like that? Sex appeal and a local angle! But no, they ran with a canned T 'n A story off the wire. Couldn't even get off their duffs to do a little local reporting that involved boobies. No surprise that they're going down the tubes.

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By everywhere (anonymous) | Posted April 24, 2009 at 19:26:31

CH keeps changing ownership but I learned MANY don't like this station at all. The news is fine and sometimes 5:30 live kinda like a Seinfeld show. This city is a dumping ground for fixed incomes and welfare and had gotten worse. Because of the low rent but the news could report more positive and enlighting news.
I love TO but i also like some areas of Hamilton. To earn a living here being yourself can be tough or could also be a great thing.
I don't believe in recessions but I forgot who started all this BS.
Gas prices at pumps? The media reporting "poor economic times" people holding back in fear losing their jobs? Now a circle with no beginning nor ending?
Now my P/T job may end soon too because I work for a guy(retired) but losing substancially in the stock market!
I'm cycling as sole commute and do bike repairs when needed. I'm an artist too but art sales has been down to nil over a yr but am going another direction.
I now see the cutbacks at "some" cafes and especially grocery stores.
I personally live a safer life don't smoke, cycle everywhere and eat healthy as I can, shop more at Basics/Frills.

Last...Lots of deep pockets drive the distance to get the deals
but not fair when I cycle not poluting the air, and find these products on shelf empty!

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By Diannewood (registered) | Posted April 28, 2009 at 07:35:03

Great article Michelle, I have 7 children and I consider cultural events very important. Like you I take them to all the great deals I can find. It is important to take the children to cultural events so they can learn to understand what true beauty is.

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