Tuning In at McMaster

Jowi with Logan Churchill, Sonia Leung and Simon Edwards Back in October, McMaster University librarian David Kidney had me out to Hamilton to speak to a gathering of his colleagues at the Royal Botanical Gardens, David Braley & Nancy Gordon Rock Garden. Not only did the idea for an event for students and alumni take root on that day but that second event ended up being hosted at the David Braley Athletic Centre right on campus at Mac this past Thursday evening.

The event was billed as "Tuning in to Canada's Stories" - part of a series of events marking Canada's sesquicentennial. It was a fascinating group in attendance: staff, students, alumni, foreign students, kids, parents - all in what might have been an imposing and cavernous gymnasium made cosy not only by the curtained tech set up but by the people in the room.

The presentation went wonderfully and I got so many great stories from attendees who came up to get their portraits taken following the event. I often say that I haven't met anyone yet who doesn't have some connection to the project - whether that's a piece that's in the guitar, a place that it's from, a place that it's been, a person who's played it or a song that's been sung on it. That was certainly the case at McMaster - even the students from Iran who had only been in Canada for a few months, with whom I connected over the Kamkars - a family of musicians from their hometown of Shiraz and with whom I'd worked on a show some years ago!

The group of students/alumni who played in the "performance pocket" of the presentation was truly extraordinary. As a professional acoustic engineer, Simon Edwards (pictured next to me, second from the right) would no doubt have been impressed with technician Hana Dampf, who managed to craft excellent sound in the normally acoustically hostile environs of a gymnasium. Simon went first and got things off to a great start. Simon joins another dozen or so people who've played Voyageur who have also appeared on "The Late Show with David Letterman". And you know Simon is a proud McMaster alumni because he's even wearing his McMaster T-shirt on his Letterman appearance from 2012!

Sonia Leung (holding Voyageur was next up. She did a wonderful rendition of a song by Lights - great playing and beguilingly airy and agile vocals. We'll have to look for her on "Colbert"!

Last up was Logan Churchill. At soundcheck, Logan changed a string on Voyageur in the amount of time it would take me to take the string out of the box. For his performance he moved the guitar to an open tuning and experimented with a variety of pull-offs, fretwork and percussive effects. The instrument was really singing and he managed a whole choir of voices out of it - fantastic and symphonic and a great finale to the performance segment.

Thanks to all three players for doing Voyageur proud and to Anne Plessl and Meggie MacDougall, who organized the event on behalf of the McMaster Libraries and the McMaster Alumni Association respectively. Thanks also to our photo station volunteers, Chris Pickard and Lori Moulden, and to the Campus Store for coming out to sell books.
And special thanks, of course, to everyone who came out to be part of the evening and part of the story of this project.

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