Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Vinyl Cafe - LIVE!!

Four years ago, I wrote a post about how much I love listening to The Vinyl Cafe on CBC Radio. In that post, I mentioned that I'd never been lucky enough to see a live concert. Well, this past Sunday afternoon, I finally got to be in the audience for a live show here in Winnipeg!!

Before I tell you about the concert, let me tell you how I came to be there.

The Vinyl Cafe has a large and loyal fan base - not just on the radio but also on Facebook! Stuart McLean, the host and brilliant writer/humourist/storyteller along with producer Jess Milton make regular posts to the fan page. They fill us in on what Stuart is up to on the show, on the road or anything else they think we may be interested in knowing!

A few weeks ago, Stuart posted this message: "Okay ... Stuart here .... it's Tuesday night ... I feel like giving stuff away." Two hours and well over 400 posts later he had given away some books, CD's and tickets to upcoming concerts to a few lucky fans. Some people offered to trade things for free stuff and Stuart was happy to accept a number of new treasures! He promised to be back the next week for more fun!

The following Tuesday evening, he was there and had over 400 posts in a little over an hour! I commented that I’d been a longtime fan, but had never been able to afford tickets to a concert when he was in Winnipeg or a book. I offered to trade some of my homemade chocolates for tickets! I offered some “Peanut Butter Bars in Dark Chocolate”; “Truffles” (with a hint of cherry brandy) and my newest creation called “To Sin With Love” - a dark chocolate fudge, with dried cherries, orange zest and roasted almonds! I'd also add some of my "Double Chocolate and Roasted Almond Shortbread"!" A few minutes later, he posted; "HEY DN ... we are coming to Winnipeg in a couple of weeks. You can come as my guest. send me your email address." YES!!!

So, Sunday afternoon, one of my gal pals and I headed for the Concert Hall. We picked up our tickets and to be perfectly honest, I was a bit disappointed that our seats were in the front of the second balcony. Then again, they were free and I had neglected to add that I was legally blind when I had sent in my contact info. Oh well, I was still excited and thankful to be at a live show no matter where I sat! We made our way to the merchandise table so I could give Jess the chocolates for Stuart. Besides the promised goodies, I had also included a bag of my "Black Forrest Cookies"! I mentioned that I'd hoped to be a little closer to the stage as I wasn't sure how much I'd see from that far back. Jess offered to see if there was anything better available. A few minutes later she returned with tickets on the main floor - Row 13 center! Still a bit far for my eyes but WAY better than balcony! Thank you Jess! You are awesome!!

From the moment the lights dimmed at 2:30 and the hilarious, tongue twisting T's of the intro, to the final bows at about 5:15, the packed house was thoroughly entertained with stories, banter and music!

Stuart told three stories. The first was an old favourite - "The Waterslide". One of the new ones, involved Dave making a trip to a car wash with Mary Turlington's car! There were a couple of spots where some of us in the audience got a little ahead of him in the story as we anticipated what dilemma's Dave was getting himself into. But as usual, Stuart never disappoints in finding ways to keep us visualizing and laughing so hard there were tears in our eyes as we listened to Dave's latest adventure!

The second new story was from Dave's childhood and filled with drama! A few weeks ago, Stuart had posted this tease to the story: "In those days they would always set something on the ice out in front of the Breakwater Hotel. An old car, an outhouse. Maybe a tractor or some sort of rig. They would place it there on New year's day and then take bets on when it would go through the ice ..." Let's just say that this one had us all on the edge of our seats!

Before intermission, Stuart announced that he would attempt to do 7 stories in 11 minutes in the second half. He asked the audience to write down a VC story they'd like to hear and he would do an abbreviated version of whichever ones he pulled out of a bucket! John Sheard (masterful pianist) and Dennis Pendrith (stand up bass player extraordinaire) were at the ready to provide appropriate musical accompaniment to whatever the story was! Now, I don't know whether these guys have worked out a selection of songs ahead of time for the multitude of stories that could be requested or whether it is all off the cuff. I won't spoil the fun of what songs were played, but John and Dennis's choices were truly priceless!! It took a little over the attempted 11 minutes but no one was complaining as we were all enjoying the stories, background music and the banter between Stuart, John and Dennis!.

The special musical guest was the multitalented musician/singer/songwriter Harry Manx. His music is a perfectly seasoned blend of blues and folk with an infusion of the sounds of an instrument from India called a mohan veena. In truth, I am not a fan of the music of the East, however Harry has a way of bringing just enough of its influence into his music to touch the soul and keep me listening! I thoroughly enjoyed all of his pieces on Sunday! In particular: "Bring That Thing" and "Make Way For The Living". Harry did a couple of songs on his own but was also accompanied by John and Dennis for several selections. You can hear some of his music on his site, MySpace or YouTube. He has recorded 11 CD's since 2001 and any or all would be a welcome addition to any musical library!

As well as musical bridges between segments and backup for Harry, John Sheard also did a beautiful piece from his newest CD.

An audience participation section saw several young people on stage helping Stuart display CD's and books to be given away to lucky audience members - including the youngest (a 5 year old) and the oldest (a lady of 92!). The audience was a great representation of the wide appeal of this talented group of performers - and a very appreciative audience as well!

Though I didn't get the opportunity to meet Stuart, it was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon! Thank you Stuart, John, Dennis, Harry and everyone else involved with the Vinyl Cafe and this tour! Your enthusiasm, talent, interactions with each other and the audience speak volumes for your dedication to your art! It was a true pleasure to be a part of the audience!

To purchase books and CD's from The Vinyl Cafe, check out the Store page on the VC site or Zunior. Music from Harry Manx can be purchased through sites such as Amazon or ITunes. As Stuart likes to say - books and CD's can also be purchased at sensible book and music stores everywhere!


Sunday, February 12, 2012

4 Years, 400 Posts and counting!

Four years ago this week, I made my first post on this blog. Today, I am adding my 400th post!

Looking back, I'm not sure I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew there was a lot of things that I wanted to write about and to share, but I didn't realize how much I would also learn while doing the blog!

It took me a while to get the hang of blogging. It took time for me to figure out how to use some of the blogger tools and shortcuts like learning how to do hyperlinks, add photos, spacing, etc. The spell check feature in Blogger is somewhat limited and I often found myself having to double check words through other sources. It was also a US English so didn't recognize the unique addition of the letter "u" after "o" in so many of our Canadian words such as favourite and colour. I finally realized that it was easier to compose my posts within Word and then copy them into Blogger draft and ignore the spell check within Blogger.

For the record, I am still a lousy speller - always have been and always will be. Same goes for typing! Even after 5 1/2 years of using a PC, I still can't type without looking at the keys on a regular basis. Okay, there are times that I do get on a bit of a roll and actually type a sentence or two without looking but that doesn't happen too often! Some things never change!

Every blogger has their own way of doing things. Granted all blogs are not created equal. They each have their own merits and audiences. Mine didn't have a set target audience. My tastes are too eclectic to narrow my posts to a category or two.

I've always tried to keep it real and honest by writing about the things that interest me. It may be music, humour or people that I admire or have been lucky enough to meet. It may be about a product I've found or a subject I have an opinion on. I've shared many of my life experiences - the good, the bad, the difficult and the happy experiences.

I've shared my attempts at photography in several posts and also through slideshows that are on YouTube. The pics aren't perfect by any stretch of the imagine, but hey - for a legally blind broad, they ain't half bad!! My slideshows can be viewed by clicking on the "Video's by dnsyl57" pic on the right hand side of this page or here.

More than anything, I've shared my love of food and the recipes that I've created. I'm no gourmet or food junky but I do enjoy cooking and baking up new experiments in cuisine! There are more than 70 recipes in "dn's Recipe Box" on the right side of the page. All of the recipes are my own variations and creations. They are divided into categories and hyperlinked for quick access. Hopefully, you've found at least one or two to tempt your taste buds!

You may have noticed that there is more than a couple that include chocolate!! Well, what can I say? I LOVE my chocolate! BTW, in the coming months, I'll be adding a decadently sinful chocolate dessert that I created after eating out at a local restaurant back in November!

Four hundred posts in four years is a lot actually. I wrote one a day for the first fifty days in honour of turning 50. Then slowed it down a tad to every second or third day. Later I switched to once a week. Now, at 400, I'm going to slow it down a bit more. I'll post when I have something that I want to say or share - hopefully a couple of times per month.

It's not that I've run out of things to say - far from it! It's just that there are other things that I also want to do besides write. I want to learn to use some of the software programs I have on my PC. I want to do more reading - books that is. There are recipes to try, walks to take, friends to spend time with and a life to live away from the PC!

Over the last four years, I've had tens of thousands of hits to various posts! I've had hits from well over 150 countries! To all of you who have somehow found your way to my little blog - thank you! I hope you found something you liked - that made you smile, think or tempted your taste buds! Please come back again - and invite a few friends! All are welcome!

What else is coming up? Well, I know there will be lots more recipes, stories, experiences and opinions! So, please stop by anytime - 'cause you never know what I might post next!!