Adventures, Observations, Set Backs and Promotions

By John Timmins

Barbara Lynch at Hugh’s for Greenpeace

It was June 28. We were younger then, hopeful, and summer stretched out before us. We played at Hugh’s Room with 10 great artists in celebration of a new CD called Amchitka, the 1970 concert that launched Greenpeace. Now it’s September!!!

This two-disc CD, produced for Greenpeace by yours truly is available to you exclusively from Greenpeace at www.amchitka-concert.com. It’s an exceptional live concert recording and we’ve got the reviews to prove it. All proceeds support Greenpeace.

The back story: in 1970 Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Phil Ochs waived their fees and put on a concert in Vancouver to raise funds for the first Greenpeace mission to the Island of Amchitka (Alaska) to protest the testing of nuclear weapons.

Nearly 40 years later, in November 2009, with the blessing of the artists and invaluable (gratis) help from Peter J. Moore and others, we remastered the tapes (never before released) and put out a gorgeous package – two CDs and a booklet with exclusive concert photos and an in-depth narrative about the 1970 concert. And starting in October through February you can buy “three copies for $15 each” – unique holiday gifts! – at the website (above).

The June 28 concert at Hugh’s was a tribute to the three great artists on the CD. It was also a bit of a fundraiser for Greenpeace. The line up consisted of Barbara and me; Mike and Margo and other Latent Recordings stable mates like Lee Harvey Osmond (aka Tom Wilson), Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson.

Sarah Slean graced our stage. And seven-year-old Brighid Fry now has a “when-I-was-your-age” story to tell her grand children. Oh Susanna, one of my favourite singer/songwriters, joined us, as did the incomparable Mary Margaret O’Hare. Caroline Brooks of the Good Lovelies was an audience favourite and guitar playing Jory Nash was note perfect. Other great musicians helped out like John Wojewoda who played banjo and doubled up on vocals with me on James Taylor’s Riding on a Railroad. We were not note perfect (but we had fun). My old (but good) friend, Brent Titcomb, a regular with Lee Harvey Osmond, accompanied Tom, and a very nice guy whose first name is Aidan (I hope?) played a tasteful guitar for Mary Margaret and turned me on to James O’Rourke.

Everyone played one song from the Amchitka CD and one of their own. I joined Barbara, who has worked at Greenpeace way longer than I have, for her bluesy, apocalyptic New Orleans is Drownin’, written well before Hurricane Katrina. It sounded the way it was intended on Hugh’s grand piano. To view this exceptional performance, check out the video link here.

Margo and Mike invoked the spirit of Joni’s For Free as only they could, no doubt calling on their own experiences with fame and fortune. And Mary Margaret let the late Phil Ochs come through with her gorgeous interpretation of No More Songs. She is nothing short of brilliant. She does for song what magic realism does for literature and she delighted a lot of people that night.

On the other hand, Lee Harvey Osmond, the father of Acid Folk, terrified everyone in the room with his trippy commentary on Taylor’s Sweet Baby James. I loved it.

Oh Susanna did Phil proud with an emotionally powerful Joe Hill and Andy and Josh brought us a highly respectful interpretation of Phil’s Changes through a Gordon Lightfoot filter.

Hosting all of this, tying it all together, was Mia Sheard. Like any great host Mia owned the stage. Indeed, it was “Mia’s Room” that night, not Hugh’s Room. She is funny (not “wanna be” funny) and a great musician. She did Joni’s My Old Man and her own beautifully dynamic song Black Crow was really cool. Special thanks to Mia.

I don’t think anyone who was there could say that Brighid Fry’s performance of Joni’s The Circle Game did not touch their heart… I’m talking grabbin’ that heart and wrenching out a tear!

Picture this. A little girl, four feet tall, barely seen above the music stands on the stage. Long blond hair, light blue smock, tummy slightly extended in an un-self conscious way, made even smaller by the huge grand piano behind her played by the great Sarah Slean lovingly hovering above like a guardian angel. A fearful sliver of girl in this big late-night adult word absolutely radiating the love of singing in a little girl’s accent with total concentration and singing lyrics like … “And the seasons they go round and round. And the painted ponies go up and down. We’re captive on a carousel of time. We can’t return we can only look. Behind from where we came. And go round and round and round . In the circle game.”

It was a moment my friends. And if there were no tears in your eyes, you need help. Greenpeace will post this performance on the Greenpeace Canada YouTube site in the very near future. www.youtube.com/greenpeacecanada

Finally, a big personal thanks to the musicians who came out and helped Greenpeace sell over 100 Amchitka CDs. And a special personal thanks to Sarah Slean, a very good friend of Greenpeace. She was the first musician to sign on for the show early in the spring. She then agreed not only to do her version of Joni’s – Woodstock – well worth the price of admission alone, but to accompany young Brighid.

Our next show at Hugh’s Room is Thursday, November 25. Barbara Lynch and I will share the bill with Katherine Wheatley. Hope to see you there.

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