13) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker
homeless T.O. musicians
Toronto singer Lorraine Segato, who rose to fame in the 1980's as lead singer of
the pop band Parachute Club ('Rise Up'), has again joined forces with homeless Toronto street
musicians. A CD documenting their continuing collaboration has just been
released. The story begins in 2007 when Segato,
responding to a request by the Toronto
Disaster Relief Committee, organized a concert with homeless musicians, backed
up by a reunited Parachute Club. The sold-out benefit, held at a downtown
church, was accompanied by a meal for 300 invited homeless people. Film
director Shelley Saywell attended that show. After
years of fundraising for the project, she released "Lowdown Tracks"
in 2015. The documentary was voted Canadian Audience Choice at Toronto's Hot Docs
International Festival. "Songs From the Lowdown",
the soundtrack, was released on November 22 to coincide with National Housing
Day. Segato produced the album, which features street
musicians Woody Cormier, Bruce Bathgate, Maryanne Epp,
Katt Budd, Anthony Van Zant,
and The Railyard Ghosts
performing their original music. All proceeds go to the musicians who took
part. Purchase the album at www.lowdowntracks4impact.com.
View Saywell's film at www.tvo.org.
Patti Smith's Hard Rain performance
U.S. rock poet
Patti Smith performed a faltering, but ultimately triumphant, rendition of Bob
Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" at a
ceremony in Stockholm
on December 10 to mark his Nobel Prize for Literature. Dylan's reluctance to
attend meant that Smith, a long-time friend who had already been booked to
perform at the celebration, became his proxy. The choice of "Hard
Rain", composed in 1962, was inspired. The song is based upon "Lord
Randall", an old Anglo-Scottish ballad, depicting a dialogue between a
mother and her ill-fated son. In Dylan's verses the wandering son describes a
nightmarish world full of violence, cruelty, and indifference. Striking images
abound - of gun-toting children, trees dripping with blood, dead oceans, and
poisoned waters. But the song ends on a ringing, affirmative note, with the
son's pledge to go back into the world and sing out against the darkness wherever
he sees it. An overcome Patti Smith stumbled twice on the second verse,
but after a nervous apology, she regained her poise and delivered a performance
that brought tears to the eyes of some of the elegantly-dressed dignitaries.
View it at www.nobelprize.org.
Fidel Castro: 7 musical tributes
It was a pleasant surprise to
discover a collection of Cuban songs celebrating Fidel Castro published the day
after his death in Billboard, the
venerable trade magazine for the U.S. entertainment industry. The
list, complete with YouTube links, was compiled by Judy Cantor-Navas, editor of Billboard
en Español. Some readers may have already
viewed "Un hombre que sueña",
a video released earlier in 2016 for Fidel's 90th birthday, featuring
contemporary artists Arnaldo Rodríguez,
Mayito Rivera, Laritza Bacallao, Waldo Mendoza, Lena
de la Torre, and Dayany Gutiérrez.
Another contemporary artist on Billboard's
list is rapper Baby Lores, who sports a tattoo of
Fidel on his shoulder. His "Creo (el Comandante)" was released in 2009. Nueva Trova, the "new song" movement that emerged after
the revolution, is represented by Silvio Rodríguez and Sara
Gonzalez. Silvio's beautiful "La Cançion del Elejido"
is a collage, with images and audio excerpts of Fidel. Sara Gonzalez's "El
Programa de Moncado"
shows the singer at an outdoor concert performing an adaptation from Fidel's
writings. "Que Viva Fidel" by Celina
Gonzalez (1929-2015) adds new lyrics to an old "campesina"
song. Lastly, there are two fine tributes - "Gracias Fidel" and
"Y en eso llego
Fidel" - by Carlos Puebla (1917-1989), composer of the popular ode to Che, "Hasta Siempre Comandante".
Russia mourns Red Army Choir
Flags were at half-mast across Russia
on December 26 as the country observed a day of mourning after a plane crash
took the lives of 92 people, including 64 members of the legendary Alexandrov Red Army Choir. The military aircraft went down
in the Black Sea on December 25, minutes after taking off from Sochi,
en route to Syria,
where the choir was to perform for Russian troops. The Alexandrov
Russian Army Song and Dance Ensemble was founded in 1928 by Alexander Alexandrov, composer of the Soviet national anthem. It won
world-wide acclaim during the Soviet era, and on into post-Soviet times,
performing a repertoire of patriotic Soviet songs, Russian folk songs and
dances, operatic arias, and, lately, pop tunes. During World War II the Red
Army Choir gave more than 1500 concerts at the front, singing regularly for
troops about to go into battle. Its most unforgettable song is "The Sacred
War", a symbol of Soviet resistance to the Nazi invaders that still brings
Russians to their feet. In the current international climate, it's hard to
believe that in 2007 they actually performed "The Sacred War" at NATO
headquarters in Brussels.
(The above article is from the January 1-31, 2017, issue of
People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist
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