Pat Blythe – Classics, Jazz and Blues, 1969….Mix and Match

Again I seem to running in circles while Mother Nature seems to suffer from severe indecisiveness. Dark, ominous clouds roll in, thunder and lightning key up together, sheet rain hits, cue hail and the next thing you know the sun is shining. It’s warm, it’s cool, it’s hot, it’s chilly….make up your mind. I’m not sure if I should be dressing in sandals, sneakers or boots. One thing is for sure, the plants and trees are loving it! So many rich and varied shades of green have been added to the landscape palette and the flowers just enhance it all. For all her varied moods, Mother Nature has created a most beautiful spring. Now, if the weeks would just slow down a bit….

Now, on to the music….

So, from one end of the spectrum to the other, three days after Rival Sons I found myself at Grace Church-on-the-Hill to attend a very different sort of concert. It was an exquisite evening of chamber music salted with some great jazz. I haven’t attended a concert like this since…. I can’t remember but it’s been years. What a pleasant interlude and a lovely way to spend an evening. Even the church itself was in agreement. Ensemble Vivant,  a beautiful combination, yes ensemble, of wonderfully talented musicians whose performance was almost effortless. From their website, “Since its inception over 25 years ago, Ensemble Vivant has been a pioneer in the piano chamber music world, championing exciting, innovative programming ranging from classical to Latin and other jazz styles.” Led by pianist Catherine Wilson who is the both founder and artistic director, Ensemble Vivant has been acknowledged as “Canada’s Chamber Music Treasure” (John Terauds, Toronto Star). They are recognized as a “pioneer among piano chamber ensembles”. Now in their 31st year of togetherness, Ensemble Vivant performs throughout North America and Europe and their 12 albums, beginning in 1986 with Rags to Riches to 2014’s Mysterium, are played on radio stations around the world.

Comprised of Catherine Wilson (piano), Corey Gemmell (violin), Sybil Shanahan (cello), Norman Hathaway (viola), Jim Vivian (bass) and Doug Thompson (vibraphone), Ensemble Vivant paid tribute to jazz master Rick Wilkins with guest artists Brian Barlow on a fabulous set of Gretsch drums, Guido Basso on flugelhorn and trumpet and Mike Murley on tenor and soprano sax (I do love the sax). Some classical (Fugue in g minor) to a little Latin (Tango in D) and the finale, an arrangment by Wilkins himself called Divertissement, that included American Ballad, Ragtime and Circa 1910.

Rick Wilkins Teaser – Ensemble Vivant

Sybil Shanahan and Norman Hathaway

Jim Vivian

Euterpe is the Greek mythological muse of music, lyric poetry and joy. Euterpe is also a not-for-profit, charitable musical organization created to advance the understanding and appreciation of music and it’s affect on the human organism” of which Wilson is both founder and artistic director. Their mandate is to “foster a love of great music particularly among our youth….” A passion that Wilson feels deeply and shares, encourages and promotes, planting the seeds of music and nurturing their growth. To find out more about Euterpe click here

Catherine Wilson

A huge thank  you to Ian Davies of Ian Davies Entertainment Agency (IDEA) who invited me to the concert and reintroduced me to the fantastic world of chamber music. Also Bruce Bradley of Slammin Media who pointed out a rather celebrated guest in the audience…..Canada’s favourite songbird, Anne Murray. She was very gracious in allowing a number of folks have their photographs taken with her. ….and a pleasure to meet Juno-nominated reggae artist Jay Douglas. Eddie, you missed a helluva show!

Bruce Bradley, Anne Murray, Jay Douglas

The following week or so was spent celebrating a friend’s birthday and Mother’s Day with my two sons including dinner with my youngest on Sunday night, dance classes the following week….the Electric Slide, Continental and the Cha Cha are feeling pretty good these days, working on The Picture Taker Project and a few telecom jobs. The days begin to blur and run together sometimes.

Saturday, May 20 I nipped down to the Cadillac Lounge to take in Blackdog Ballroom who never fail to please. Matt Groopie (lead guitar) and Jeff Lafort (bass) are the newest members of the band joining Michael Stanfield (vocals/guitar) and Rob de Simone (drums). Groopie, who also performs in two other bands, King Beez and Green Jelly also keeps himself busy writing, recording and booking three different Toronto clubs. There truly is no rest for the wicked…..I oughta know….

Honourable Mention….the Hard Rock Cafe on Yonge St. in Toronto closed its doors for the final time on Sunday, May 21 with the last concert held on May 17. Performers included The Carpet Frogs, Ronnie Hawkins, Gowan, The Spoons, Ed Pilling and many others. A loving send-off to a storied location that was previously home to two iconic bars, Friar’s Tavern and the Nickelodeon. A huge and important part of Toronto’s music history. Interestingly, The Carpet Frogs were formed in 1993 for the closing of The Gasworks. Oh man….if walls could talk…..

Days Gone By – Ronnie Hawkins

Cousin Mary – Fludd

Nova Heart – The Spoons

Moonlight Desires – Gowan

The 6th annual SING! The Toronto Vocal Arts Festival took place from May 11 to 20 this year. Canada’s, and I do believe North America’s, only a cappella festival, celebrates the art of vocal harmony at various venues around the city. I had great fun attending the O Canada! The Golden Age of Pop featuring Retrocity, Lorraine Segato and some of the original cast from the 1969 Toronto production of Hair including Kid Carson (my drum teacher), brothers Paul and Clint Ryan, Frank Moore, Jim Peters, John Stainton, Harriet Teear, Amber Wendelborg James and Shelley Somers along with “ringers” Roxanne Tellier and Debbie Flemming.

L-R – Rear – Frank Moore, Paul Ryan, Kid Carson, Jim Peters, John Stainton, Amber Wendelborg-James. L-R – Front – Clint Ryan, Harriet Teear, Roxanne Tellier, Shelley Sommers, Debbie Flemming

L-R – Debbie Flemming, Amber Wendelborg-James, Frank Moore, Kid Carson, Paul Ryan, (behind Carson), Shelley Sommers, half of Jim Peters

Suba Sankaran and Dylan Bell of Retrocity opened the evening with a medley of classic 1980’s pop songs by Neil Young, The Stampeders, Joni Mitchell, The Band and many others. All done a cappella with a twist with the audience clapping and singing along. Hearing Segato’s hit song Rise Up (Parachute Club) was a rush sung with the entire cast of Retrocity was amazing. Segato’s voice is a strong as ever and it was a pleasure to watch her perform. Loved her shoes too. Well known and highly respected vocal coach Elaine Overholt was presented with the Slaight Music SING! Toronto Legacy Award. With a magnificant voice, Overholt sang Corey Hart’s Never Surrender after giving a powerful, heartfelt speech about never giving up and telling us all, EVERYBODY can sing. She then joined the entire cast for the finale, a salute to the late Leonard Cohen….Hallelujah! Thank you Pat Silver for the invitation and the opportunity get a taste of something I was just slightly too young to witness 47 years ago.

Hair Reunion – Jane Mallett Theatre, May 25, 2017


Oh, and one more thing…..she’s back! The much loved Cherish Stevenson is back full-time behind the bar at Cherry Cola’s™ Rock ‘n’ Rolla Cabaret and Lounge.  After a cherish cherry colaswell-needed hiatus from her”36-hour” days, Stevenson’s beautiful smile and warm hugs are once again greeting all who enter. Located at 200 Bathurst St., Toronto, the signature red door has been a welcoming beacon for bands and music lovers for over seven years. Having owned Cherry Cola’s for over seven years, and with a newly inked 10-year lease, this is one Toronto club that’s not going anywhere.

Cherry Cola’s™ or Cherry’s, as it’s fondly called, is one of the most popular (and sexiest) music clubs in Toronto with a far-reaching reputation. Stevenson herself has been a passionate supporter of young up-and-coming bands since she opened the club in 2010. A launching pad for many including Rival Sons, Xprime (now James Blonde), Juno-nominated Courage My Love, Secret Broadcast….the list goes on. Cherry’s has made a significant impact on the local music scene. For a small club, its footprint is large!


Decorated in Victorian bordello style (all the furnishings, decor, velvet wallpaper, colour, etc. were specifically chosen by Stevenson) Cherry’s is the “go to” club for many including out-of-towners, both famous and infamous.

Cherry Cola’s™ and Cherish Stevenson, one really cannot conceive of one without the other. Drop by and say hello.



P.S. The next festival of the season is NXNE, June 16-25. Taking place at various locations and venues throughout Toronto including the Port Lands, Danforth Music Hall, Horseshoe Tavern, Adelaide Hall and Yonge-Dundas Sq. The latter will be hosting the three-day Game Land and programming for the clubs includes Passion Pit, Post Malone, Sleigh Bells, Twin Peaks and Tyler, The Creator. The Port Lands music festival runs from June 23-25. NXNE was founded in 1995 and is partnered with SXSW. To find out more about this year’s festival, click here

Click here for my little calendar of events


Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

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dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

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