A few days ago I had a blast playing with the amazing Alan Gerber, a truly masterful artist who not only writes and sings great songs and plays sensational slide guitar, rocking boogie-woogie piano, folksy fiddle, and fine fingerpicking acoustic guitar, but is also as funny a musician onstage as I’ve ever seen. It’s no accident that legendary talent scout Leonard Chess (yes, of Chess Records!) signed him to a contract when he was just 15 back in the early ’60s! Alan and I have done a handful of gigs together and we have a lot of fun. I’m sure we’ll get to do more. And I can’t wait!
Meanwhile, last night we took in a poetry reading by Maliseet elder Shirley Bear at Gallery 101, as part of Max Middle’s excellent AB Series. I had the good fortune to have worked with Shirley at The Banff Centre for the Arts in 1995, as part of a first-nations performance art series (I was the Production Manager), which was an exceptional experience for a lot of reasons, some of which I documented here. Shirley’s part of that event was truly powerful, though I can’t share its full dimensions here. This is the poster for the residency, which was organized by Deborah Piapot and the much-missed Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew.
Shirley is also a visual artist and a few years ago while driving to Nova Scotia for a family vacation we happened on a major retrospective of her visual art at the Beaverbrook Gallery in Fredericton. I hadn’t realized how varied and excellent her work was, but found out there. And just last week that body of work just earned her a well-deserved Order of Canada.
Anyway, last night Shirley read from her book of poems Virgin Bones as well as from a novel-in-progress. Her words – like her manner – are full of both tender wisdom and sturdy power. It was a treat to see and hear her. Here’s a picture Annie took of Shirley with me and the kids.The title of this post “Lintotineh! Bemagatineh! Gesultineh!” is comprised of three Maliseet words that Shirley taught us back in 1995. They mean “Let’s sing, let’s talk, let’s dance”
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