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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How Pedestrian - 'County' style - Active Arts Studio, this Saturday, 3PM. Book now!

Brian Johnson captures Katherine's arrival at the A-frame

Katherine Leyton has become a name in the news this summer, as the first writer in residence at the newly restored A-frame of Al and Eurithe Purdy, on Roblin Lake in Ameliasburgh.
Purdy picnic 2014

But Katherine has been very active for some years, as founder of an innovative poetry website How Pedestrian which has been "bringing poetry to random places since 2010."

The HowPedestrian Manifesto explains the idea - it's about bringing poetry out of living rooms (and classrooms I'm thinking) and into taxis and pubs, invading everyday spaces with verse, making it a part of everyday life. "We wondered, if we literally take poetry to the street, can we figuratively make it more 'pedestrian'?" Three principles are at the basis of the project: "No-one should be afraid of poetry, there's a poet for everyone and poetry doesn't have to be serious." Love it. Do visit. Spend a lot of time...there are even a few Purdy poems there. And by September, there will be even more.

This summer, Katherine has used some of her time at the A-frame to create the Al Purdy chapter of the HowPedestrian project. She has been filming people around Prince Edward County reading Al's poetry. She has interviewed poets who knew Al talking about his influence on their writing and what he meant to them personally. Katherine has filmed Steven Heighton, Phil Hall, Robert Priest, Paul Vermeersch in the A-frame and on location around the county.
Katherine and Michele at the Al Purdy library

She has also stopped people on the streets and roads and asked them to read for her. The summer's HowPedestrian readers include  Rednersville's much-lovedvReverend Morris McLeod, Norman Hardie in his vineyard, Gesa at the Al Purdy library, David Sweet at Books&Company, several Ameliasburgh residents, and folks at Campbell's Orchards, Lola's Perogies and Hawthorne Motors in Carrying Place.

This coming Saturday afternoon, Katherine will be sharing the video she has produced this summer. Another reason to attend the APAFA fund-raiser at Active Arts Studio. Here's the link for information and booking. See you there!

Richard Turtle on 'Al Purdy at the Quinte Hotel' - performing this Saturday at Active Arts Studio, Rednersville, PEC, 3PM

Richard Turtle, well-known local actor, writer, director and journalist has performed David Carley's outstanding play 'Al Purdy at the Quinte Hotel' several times in recent years. People who have seen this performance want to see it again; those who've missed it regret it. Everyone will have another opportunity this coming Saturday at 3PM at Active Arts Studio in Rednersville.

Richard shares his special connection with this play:
"About a year after the fact, I heard that Gordon Pinsent had done a Purdy play for CBC - produced back in December 2003 - and was a bit surprised and a bit disappointed I'd missed it because I like them both, and I listen to CBC. So that one somehow slipped past.
I probably googled it at some point and discovered Dave wrote it so I got in touch and he sent me a copy. Then I read it and then it sat there for years with me wishing I could put it on somewhere.
Then I went to see C.David Johnson do the Carley-directed version at Westben (2007 I think) and that's when I realized just how well it plays.

I mean, it read well because Purdy's poems are the anchor to the whole thing but the story-telling in between them is the driver behind it, and it really does cut a broad swath through a big chunk of Canadian time and space. There's an indescribable (at least for me) quality to it that I couldn't see when I read it. But I know it's there now. As an audience member it was kinda like participating in a conversation without having to say a word. As an actor, it's much the same, except you get all the words.
Part of what I like about Purdy (and I put him in a class with Stompin' Tom in a lot of ways) is how he celebrated Canada simply by experiencing as much of it as he could. And then he wrote very concisely about it. And almost exclusively. So in a large part because of that I think he has a lot to tell us about ourselves as Canadians. He saw a lot more of it than most of us ever will.

And anyway, after a couple of false starts I got the opportunity to perform it for the first time at the Active Arts Studio last year. So very much looking forward to going back there. And maybe in the fall, exposing some area high school students to this side of Al Purdy, if all goes well.

And then there's Andy Thompson. He's a recording/sound engineer, composer, singer...genius (and that last one's just my opinion) and is also music director for George Fox as well as part of his touring band. And then a few others. So he's had a really busy summer but as luck would have it, George is playing near Ottawa August 31, so Andy will be available to run sound for the Purdy play the day before (which includes a recording of his original music score that accompanies many of the poems). I can't thank Andy enough for his contribution to this show and he really deserves a lot of credit. He is an amazing guy to work with. And he knows an awful lot about music and words."

Great play. Great actor. Great sound. Great opportunity to support APAFA.. If you've already booked Saturday's Al Purdy Aframe Association fundraising performance, you're in for a treat. If not, what's stopping you? Here's the Active Arts link. See you there!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Freezing Music and other tunes by Al Purdy - in person August 30, Active Arts Studio

Jeff Keary of the celebrated Active Arts Studio concert venue  in Prince Edward County is hosting a Purdy A-frame fund-raiser on August 30th at Rednersville's historic 1849 stone Methodist church, the one with the astounding acoustics.

The program is rich and varied, a Purdy fan's dream line-up - poetry, a play, and music.

Jazz. The jazz composer who will be featured is Gerry Shatford  whose album 'When I Sat Down to Play the Piano' (which lovers of Al's poetry will recall as not being about playing the piano, not one bit) is just brilliant. Each track on the album is titled and inspired by one of Purdy's poems.

I love the variety of musical styles and voices Gerry uses in these compositions.

Gerry explains the artistic process: "All of the tunes on this album found their genesis in Purdy's poetry, as I began by reading the poems out loud, transcribing the rhythms I discovered in the spoken phrases. I added pitches to these rhythms to create melodic motifs which became the basic building blocks for the individual compositions".

Gerry Shatford
The poems are printed on the CD liner notes, so the listener can follow the process of creation, in addition to enjoying the virtuosity and originality of the music. For example, the highly charged melody and large intervallic leaps of 'Piling Blood' seem to spring from the violent and despairing images in the poem

The astonishing variety of musical styles on the album is one of the things that appeals to me. Charlie Parker's bebop 'Blues for Alice' echoes in the bluesy 'Love at Roblin Lake', 'How a Dog Feels to be Old' is a slow bossa-nova ballad, and 'The Dead Poet' conjures John Coltrane style improvisation. Then there's 'Mice in the House' with harmonies based on Gerswin's 'I Got Rhythm'.

Folks who enjoyed hearing 'Home-Made Beer' and 'At the Quinte Hotel' at the Purdy picnic (or anyone who has ever heard these icons read) will appreciate that Jelly Roll Morton style loping rhythm is a perfect choice for 'Beer', and ebullient boogie-woogie barrel house sets the right mood for 'At the Quinte Hotel'.
Neil Swainson

A Thelonious Monk evocation with its "pungent harmonies and quirky rhythms"works well with Purdy's 'When I Sat Down to Play the Piano' (and helps to replace the unfortunate visuals I always get when I read that poem.)

'When I Sat Down to Play the Piano' is available for download, and the CD is available for purchase, at Gerry's website. Check out the link to Gerry's work  and sample. If you like jazz and the poetry of Al Purdy, you will be hooked, as was I.

Terry Clarke at the recording session

Gerry's sidemen on the CD are the well-known and loved Terry Clarke on drums and Neil Swainson on bass. At the Saturday August 30 event Gerry will be backed by Brendan Davis on bass and Dave MacDougall on the Pinnacle Music Studio grand piano.

See you here - August 30

Thanks to Ontario Arts Council and The Canadian Council for the Arts for their support.

And finally, thanks to Gerry Shatford for explaining the complexities of the creation of this brilliant album. Now go buy it, and prepare yourself for the live performance at Active Arts Studio on August 30.

Advance booking only at Active Arts Studio/Eventbrite/

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Active Arts - the Purdy place to be on August 30th

Back on September 28th 2013, fans of the work of Al Purdy who gathered at one of Prince Edward County's premier performance spaces, Active Arts Studio, were mesmerized by actor/director Richard Turtle's powerful performance of David Carley's play 'Al Purdy at the Quinte Hotel'.

At that same event folks were introduced to gifted local musician Morley Ellis and to poet Martin Durkin, author of  Steeltown for Mary, who did a reading at the Second Annual Purdy picnic last week.

Also at the picnic, Richard Turtle presented an excerpt from the Carley play. A-frame picnickers now have an idea of what's in store on August 30.
photo courtesy John Reeves

On August 30, 2014, at 3:00 PM, Richard Turtle will once again be performing the David Carley play at Active Arts Studio. Can't wait to see it again. Rumour has it that David Carley may be in attendance. Would love to hear him talk about the genesis of the work.
Katherine Leyton at the Purdy Picnic 2014

As if that weren't enough, the Active Arts bill includes the first A-frame writer in residence, Katherine Leyton, who will share insights into her summer work on Roblin Lake, and present the world premiere of the Ameliasburgh/Purdy installment of her poetry project How Pedestrian.

To round out this astonishing Purdy A-frame fundraiser in another artistic form, jazz artist composer Gerry Shatford and his trio (Gerry on piano, Brendan Davis on bass and Dave MacDougall on drums) will be performing Gerry's original jazz suite based on the poetry of Al Purdy, 'When I Sat Down to Play the Piano. An audio sampler (and CD ordering information) is available on Shatford's website.

This is DEFINITELY the not-to-miss Purdy event of 2014.
As always, proceeds go to support the work of  the Al Purdy A-frame Association.
Signed copies of some Purdy titles, copies of the A-frame anthology, and original artwork will be available for purchase.

Admission is by a $50 per person donation. Advance booking (advisable as we anticipate great interest) is available through Active Arts. Visit Active Arts Studio for booking information. See you on the 30th!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"a heart-warming moment for Literature" *

Ernestine Lahey, a Purdy scholar from the Netherlands
and husband Hans Bloemsma
Denis and I went back to the A-frame last Sunday morning to take down the tents. The place looked odd without its crowd (one count reports 103 of us, enjoying poetry and the A-frame day).

We had a word with Katherine and her mom Barb. Collected the 'Sensitive Man' empties and the garbage.

Sound guys Rob and Paul from 'Through the Cedars'

Saturday's Second Annual Purdy Picnic, last Saturday July 26, was better than we'd even hoped. Three months of planning, a tiny hard-working can-do team. Brilliant weather.

L: Bruce Sudds of Engagers, R: Alexandra M.

Al and Eurithe's A-frame.
Michele, poet-wrangler and emcee
Writer in Residence Katherine Leyton owning that stage

Poets on the A-frame stage. Well, Al and Eurithe's deck. "Hallowed ground", a couple of folks said. Visiting poets Phil Hall, Robert Priest and Stuart Ross travelled to the A-frame and astonished us with their work and their reading. The A-frame's first writer in residence Katherine Leyton shared new poems and her reflections on living and working in Al Purdy's old haunts.
Richard Turtle, actor, performing an excerpt from
David Carley's play 'Al Purdy at the Quinte Hotel'

Local poet Martin Durkin read several poems, and dipped into his newly released long poem Steeltown for Mary. Kathy Figueroa brought poems from the country north of Belleville. Local writers Louise O'Donnell (whose Shuffling into Place is my current favourite) and Janet Kellough (she of the Thaddeus Lewis historical mysteries) read poems of Al's.

the student voice - Steven Mullin
David Edward Sweet
Raconteurs. David Edward Sweet, owner of Books & Company recounted his meetings with Al Purdy. So did Ameliasburgh local Brian Way (whose ancestors built the mill which predated Roblin's Mill) - and shared a fine poem about his response to Al's work. Steven shared his student response to visiting the A-frame with his high school class.

Brian Way
Actor, director, writer, editor, journalist Richard Turtle performed an excerpt from David Carley's brilliant play 'Al Purdy at the Quinte Hotel', which he will be offering at another A-frame fund-raiser at Prince Edward County's Active Arts Studio on August 30. Here's a link to last year's event. The fine local group Station Road, composed of Conrad Beaubien, David and Michele Simmonds and Eric Pilgrim were once again generous with their time and talents.
Robert Priest

Owner Chris Hall and barman Brett French from Barley Days Brewery, which has issued a beer in Al's honour (and a mighty fine hoppy beer it is too) spoke about the brew. I wrote about it here. Warning: an extremely fine beverage, made even more so by the brewery's sponsorhip of APAFA - for every six-pack sold they donate a loonie to the Association. The brewery provided two cases of the brew, which were discretely savoured by poets and volunteers as the day ended.

Poets, and people wanting to hear them. Denis our shuttle driver (and another sensitive man) ferried well over 60 folks to the A-frame, and many more back. And to and from the PicnicPEC gourmet food truck parked at the village hall.

Thanks to our sponsors: Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Barley Days Brewery, Books & Company,  Brighton Arts Council, West City Honda, Kopamees Construction and donor artist Anne Rector. And to our partners: County of Prince Edward Public Library, Picnic PEC gourmet food truck, Through the Cedars Productions

Thanks to the team Barb, Matti, Michele and your humble scribe. Small but mighty crew.

See you Saturday July 25, 2015 (tentative date).

I'll let the photos speak for themselves. Travel back  to Saturday's sun and gentle heat on Roblin Lake.

Novelist Janet Kellough

Stuart Ross

Phil Hall
Martin Durkin

Kathy Figueroa
what's the word for a gathering of poets?

Station Road

my own sensitive man enjoying a Barley Days ale
and nosh prepared by Katherine's mom Barb

after the ball is over...silence returns to the point

*Well, you know where it's from. 'At the Quinte Hotel,' Al Purdy. First published in Poems for All the Annettes (revised edition, 1968).

Thursday, July 24, 2014

..."we must enquire the way of strangers*." Not this time!

A'burgh town hall. Park, get gourmet nosh at PicnicPEC
Take shuttle to A-frame
Ameliasburgh's fine stone Town Hall,  the hub of the village since 1874, will once again be the centre of operations for the Purdy Picnic July 26th. Parking, a gourmet food truck, and a map and schedule of events (look for Brian) are all there.

PicnicPEC gourmet food truck
Trish will feed you well - Town Hall parking lot
As we've mentioned before, there is no entrance to Gibson Road for picnic-goers. Parking is at the Town Hall (take the Honda shuttle to the entrance to Gibson, from there it's a short walk to the A-frame).

Alternative parking is along Whitney Road, near the intersection with Gibson Road but you will have missed 'start' in your A-frame pilgrimage.

the 'Wilderness Gothic' church is part of the
Ameliasburgh Historical Museum

Stuff to do in Ameliasburgh:

Have a look at the church which inspired 'Wilderness Gothic'.

See if you can find the plaque marking the location of Owen Roblin's mill.

Drop in to Ameliasburgh's welcoming Purdy Library to see Purdy memorabilia and chat with friendly staff.

signage to Grove Cemetery and the millpond which
stars in 'In Search of Owen Roblin'

Take the turn down Purdy Street to Grove Cemetery and pay your respects to 'the Voice of the Land'.

Victoria Schoolhouse - Ameliasburgh Historical Museum

Visit Ameliasburgh's outstanding Historical Museum pioneer village.

There's even a meet of the Quinte Section of the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group going on near the museum, for those who love the nostalgia of beautiful old bikes. They're a friendly bunch and would welcome a drop-in.

the unprepossessing entrance to the A-frame property
And then...come by the Purdy A-frame. The readings and music will run from 1:00 to 4:00. You are welcome any time after 11:00 AM.

* from The Country North of Belleville - Al Purdy. First published in The Cariboo Horses (1965)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

This beer oughta be worth some poems

"Warning: Contains Fart and Horse Piss".

You have to admit that as a marketing strategy, Prince Edward County's Barley Days Brewery might have wanted to think about that label a bit.

At least that would be in the ordinary beer market. But Greg Landucci's market, for this beer at least, is not the ordinary light summer ale drinker. 'A Sensitive Man' beer will appeal to folks who 'get' the literary references - for people who know and love the poetry of one Al Purdy, a national icon who just happened to spend most of his writing years in Ameliasburgh, Prince Edward County.

The well-known Purdy poem 'At the Quinte Hotel' was the inspiration for the label. You know it. The one that begins:

"I am drinking
I am drinking beer with yellow flowers
in underground sunlight
and you can see that I am a sensitive man
And I notice that the bartender is a sensitive man too
so I tell him about his beer
I tell him the beer he draws
is half fart and half horse piss
and all wonderful yellow flowers..."

If you don't know (or can't recite) the poem in its entirety you might want to view the Bravo! production of Gord Downie's astonishing dramatization of the poem (warning: violence) which ends with Al Purdy's unforgettable voice intoning those familiar lines.

Barley Days owner Chris Rogers, brewer Alex Nichols and sales manager Greg Landucci were inspired to brew the beer and offer it as a fund-raiser to the Al Purdy A-frame Association, because, as Greg says, "Al had strong roots in the County and we want to help keep his legacy alive. And let's face it, he liked his beer." Admittedly, there is a nice resonance.

Barley Days Brewery will donate $1 for every six-pack sold, to the APAFA, to support ongoing A-frame restoration, and the writer in residence program. The beer will be ready by July 25; it will be available at Barley Days and on tap at select locations.

For more information - visit the Barley Days website to find out about 'A Sensitive Man' and the line-up of other fine ales, lagers and stout.

A note about Barley Days labels. I've always appreciated that Barley Days brewery uses images by local painter Manly Macdonald on many of their labels. For 'A Sensitive Man' Greg obtained permission to use that famous Krieger caricature of Al -  plaid pants, pocket protector, huge glasses and flying white hair.

Me, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens when folks approach the bar, and ask for Greg's new ale by name.