My musical life seems so long ago now. I guess because it is. In the early 1990s I won a song writing contest which allowed me to play a featured stage and two workshops at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. That honor led to other performances on CBC radio, on a telethon, and a music video through Project Discovery, which I don’t think exists anymore. I have that vid somewhere, but it is likely buried in a box in the basement.
My band, Early Warning, was featured in See Magazine (or whatever it was called back then). We made the front cover – a picture of us along the railroad tracks off Whyte Avenue. I had hair down to the middle of my back and was sporting gigantic wire rim glasses. I had the mien of a middle aged hippy yearning to look like some sort of geek.
Some said we were one of the hottest bands in Edmonton at the time. We played all the venues, did our thing at the North Country Fair and started to get offers to tour. Then I hurt my voice and what began as a hiatus to heal extended into just stopping. At the time I had a family, a thriving consulting practice and with writing music, rehearsing and gigging, I had no time for much else. I was busy 15 to 20 nights per month. I was forty, not 20. I made more money consulting in one day than I did gigging three nights on a weekend, far more.
I think my band mates were disappointed, but in reality they were committed to other lives. My guitar player, Randy Reichardt, was a research librarian. Our percussionist, Andrea Rabinovitch, was a dancer first and committed to that life and then in a few years became a mother. My back up singer, Dorothy Henneveld, also had other aspirations. The only full time musician was the bass player, Jon Towill, who I called Mister Smooth. If you have seen him play you know what I mean.
I don’t regret the decision to stop, but I admit sometimes I miss the life. I miss those magical moments on stage when we hit a harmony that sent chills down our spine or when one of our instrumental leads (usually Randy’s) hit new highs and was met with thunderous applause. I miss reaching the audience with a song that touched their hearts and caused eyes to well or lips to turn up into smiles of joy.
I have always been an artist. I have published poetry and fiction in numerous publications and on radio, did my music thing (had two independent releases), and for years I have dabbled in digital art. That dabbling resulted in a few shows, one at the Citadel as part of IMPURE.
I still create. I write songs now and again. A few poems still find me when a quiet time sneaks into my life. While not as prolific as I once was, I still do the occasional piece of digital art as well. Being creative is not a hobby: it’s in your blood. Unfortunately for most artists, the practice of art and music is typically not sustainable economically unless one is willing live poor.
But to be creative and to continue to hone the gift is not really something one can just stop. It just changes. We use it in our work, our relationships, and in our personal quests for meaning and contentment. Musicians and artists generally understand the power of collaboration and co-creation. Imagine if we could collaborate like musicians do in a orchestrate in our work to end poverty and its many manifestations.
I still know my songs. I remember writing them and I have many wonderful images of performing them on stage, wonderful memories of a crowd sitting on the grass on the knoll of the Festival grounds, looking at us, listening to us, accepting our expression, our interpretations, our calling. How can one regret such rich experience?
Most people I know today did not know me back then. They have no clue about me. Sometimes they ask about my musical life, my art, my writing. I might say a bit about that past, but I don’t really like talking about it.
I would rather pluck my dulcitar from its guitar stand, sit back on my performance chair and do some finger picking while my mind searches for a lyric to gets lost in.