Valdy-A smile, many songs, and a whole lotta wisdom

Valdy Home Routes House Concert, Onanole, ManitobaValdy skated into Onanole, stayed a night, delighted 48 odd fans, went for a walk, and blew out the next morning to Ashern, where 58 fans were delighted.  As Tim Cameron, the Ashern Host on this Home Routes House Concert Yellow circuit shared with me recently, “this man should get the Order of Canada“. I agree.

When we sat down over our morning coffee before he departed for Ashern, Valdy had a few really neat things to share…He speaks of his red shoes, continuity, and traditions and why “top down” won’t work. He has, through his travels, seen the seasons changing, lands changing under human hands, and honestly addresses some of our collective deficiencies in ways that are thoughtful and full of caring. He gives us his many years of experiences as a performer, and as a craftsman … Music has power in the hands of such a man.

I hope you enjoy this wonderful interview with our Canadian bard.

Rarely do you find a troubadour whose songwriting skills, mastery of the political sphere, sheer talent in musicality, and self-effacing manner come together into songs that you can’t help singing.

For almost two hours, we sang, laughed, and were treated to songs that took us into the heart of the most human of situations – from “That’s An Odd Way to Do Things” about the police working east side Vancouver to help the down-trodden, to his classic “Yes I Can”, or the delightful tribute to the very ordinary people on our planet “Stars”, this man can tell stories like very few others. In doing so, you feel like you are a canoe that’s being portaged…somewhat handled, definitely not dropped, and moving through a country-side that is full of quintessential Canada.


Outstanding 2010 principal of Canada – in Onanole

Laurie Bachewich_Onanole School Principal

Laurie Bachewich, Onanole Elementary School

Given that this is National Teacher/Staff Appreciation week, I thought that I would share some exciting news about one of Canada’s 32 outstanding school principals of Canada for 2010 who is right here in Onanole.  Are we proud!  It says a lot about small schools. As a resident in Onanole, and as someone whose entire corporate model is built around collaboration, I raise a hand in salute and tip my hat to someone who makes a practice of collaboration – Laurie Bachewich, Manitoba’s only school principal to receive this prestigious national award in 2010.  Laurie is the principal of a great teaching staff at Onanole Elementary School in Onanole, Manitoba.  Together, they rock! Innovative teaching methods, big vision, and a strong connection to community are the hallmarks of this team.

The Learning Partnership announced on January 19 that 32 outstanding Canadian principals will be honoured in Toronto in February. “Great principals build great schools.  They communicate a compelling vision, they engage their communities, they nurture their staff, and they create an environment that increases student success.”  I have been fortunate to work with Laurie over the last couple of years in my capacity as program director for Sonics and Sojourns, an annual festival of music and learning.

I would like to share four characteristics of this school administrator that stand out for me:

  1. An outstanding and un-wavering level of energy that is put out to facilitate the support of the school stakeholder quadruple foundation: students-teachers-parents-community.
  2. Laurie goes out of her way to develop and maintain strong relationships with community representatives, parents, the parent council, and others with whom she has carefully built a long-term commitment to education, educational programming, enrichment, and new opportunities for her students.
  3. Her passion for education, for doing the best that she can for her students.  And, she works within a team of educators who all share that passion, and who bring innovation, great teaching methods, and inspired learning into the school.
  4. An open and willing desire to include innovations in education in partnership with other community initiatives – the Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve, Sonics and Sojourns, and many other community initiatives.

The press release is available below for you to read.  We would like everyone in Manitoba to know of Laurie’s success.  Congratulations Laurie!!

Click here to read the press release:  Canada’s Outstanding Principals for 2010 Announced – Laurie Bachewich from Onanole, is the lone Manitoba recipient.  This press release also lists all of the other 31 recipients across Canada.  You may know some of them.

Congratulations and heartfelt thanks to those who nominated her, and supported the nomination. We appreciate your efforts to acknowledge those among us, whose dedication and passion to enrich the lives of our children and community sometimes go un-noticed. It’s also great to see the local papers like the Minnedosa Tribune covering her success.

Laurie’s achievements and recognition make me aware of some of the benefits of living in small towns. Good quality education with very low student : teacher ratios is one of them.  Living next to a national park is another. A great quality of life year-round is yet another. And, finally, having a community that supports its educators and local champions is another.

Please pass on this post to anyone who knows of Onanole, has lived in Onanole, or is a visitor to Riding Mountain National Park.  I’d like them to know about Laurie Bachewich.

I like what I read on the Manitoba Teacher’s Society web-site as a quote from Manitoba Association of Parent Councils (MAPC) president Judith Cameron…

Our teachers put a tremendous amount of effort into the learning experience for our children and they’ve become so much more than just educators,” she says. “They have become true partners with parents and other school community groups. They are part of a school-wide dynamic that sees children thrive when proper supports are put in place. Teachers and parents are working together to support classroom learning, and work closely as a team on initiatives that enhance the whole school community. It’s important that we let them know that their efforts are appreciated.”

Cameron encourages parents to take a moment ‘to say thanks to those people who help make their child’s school day a positive experience.‘ ”

Folk history with Cara Luft

It is one thing to entertain. It is another to educate. But, when a good songwriter and musician bring a sharp focus to both entertain and educate, you are in for a treat. Cara Luft did just that last night at her Home Routes House Concert in Onanole, Manitoba. Having been raised in a home in Calgary, where folk-singing was part of the family repertoire, Cara was exposed to traditional British folk-songs, the songs of family friend James Keelaghan (who has since moved to Winnipeg, and won Juno), and many other styles and genres of music. Her guitar playing and songwriting started at an early age.

Cara Luft Performs at Home Routes House Concert in Onanole

Just before Cara left for Ashern, Manitoba, another stop on her Home Routes house circuit this November (2009), I asked Cara to respond to a few questions about her artistic performance last night with about 35 people present for a Friday night in Onanole. I am sure that you’ll be delighted with some of her reflections in her interview below.  Enjoy!

Sonics and Sojourns delivers quality and incredible variety

Ticket headquarters - Sonics and Sojourns

Ticket headquarters for Sonics and Sojourns - Poor Michael's Bookshop, Art and Café

One of the things about small towns is that they often are the most amazing places to find people who choose to live there, enjoy living there, and find unique ways to be entrepreneurs, artists, or community contributors.   They are family people, singles, couples, and sometimes retired.

Onanole is no exception – as a gateway community to the national park, it harbors artists, musicians and songwriters, a talented teaching staff at the local elementary school, the world’s greatest escape artist (Dean Gunnarson), the wonderfully talented Murray Evans (Dust Poets), environmental award-winning golf course superintendent Greg Holden and many others.  These people are all presentors or providing workshops or sessions at this year’s edition of Sonics and Sojourns, a festival of learning and music.

We hope that you will be able to make it out to see some of these talented folks.  Tomorrow night (Tuesday, Sept. 22), Dean Gunnarson puts on an amazing evening of Tricks, Treats and Tales of Adventure ending in a dramatic escape from underwater at the Onanole Community Centre.   Time:  7:00 PM.  Tickets:  $10

We hope to see you at the festival!  Check out Flickr photos on our Flickr Photostream.

Opening global drumming session

In 6 days

…Sonics and Sojourns will officially launch its second festival.  Featuring arts, cuisine, workshops, and multiple unique activities, we invite everyone to find a unique experience to take part in, and celebrate with the citizens of Onanole another wonderful fall in the Riding Mountains.  Full details at the Festival website.

Navaro Franco, with Hand Drum Rhythms is back by popular demand to lead this global drumming session.  Everyone will have drums or other percussion to use as part of this unique opening experience.

Sonics and Sojourns Festival Countdown

15 days and counting….

We are getting very excited about the upcoming Sonics and Sojourns Fall Festival of Learning & Music happening in Onanole and area from September 18 – September 26, 2009.   Musical experiences, workshops, family events, an amazing new underwater escape stunt by the world’s greatest escape artist Dean Gunnarson, a Home Routes House Concert with David Bradstreet, and a closing concert by Bill Bourne & Bop Ensemble.

Opening the festival on September 18th  is a great community potluck supper and global drumming circle with Navaro Franco – fun, learning, and community experiences.

New this year – The Missoula Children’s Theatre has a one-week residency at Onanole School from September 14 – 19.  The students of Onanole will perform King Arthur’s Quest on Saturday, Sept. 19th We hope to see you there!

New deli eatery in Onanole

We’ve got a new eatery in Onanole this summer.  Sisters Quinn and Jasmin Greavett have launched an alternative to the often poor quality, fast food chains that typically accompany tourism travel routes and destinations.  As many writers and investigative journalists are uncovering, our “Fast Food Nation” does not often provide the most nutritious foods, and many of them have high food miles associated with them (imported from other countries with a high carbon emission associated with the distance they travel to get to our province).  If you are interested, you can learn more about FOOD MILES and calculate food miles for individual food items.

Quinn describes their approach, “.. .When creating our menu, we really wanted to have something that was a bit different that people would be interested in trying, and that would taste great.  We wanted to branch away from the typical burger and create a menu where each burger had a distinctive flavour.  All our burgers, sandwiches, and deli salads are home-made and we use only fresh ingredients, which we try to purchase locally.”

This is great.  The tourism industry needs more of this type of food service and entrepreneurial approaches.  It supports local producers, is better quality and nutrition, and offers alternatives to the fast food formulas and supply chains that often accompany many restaurants and chains.  We wish them well.   “…Our deli salads are family favorites and some we have created.  We basically got the menu ideas from things that Jasmin and I like, and we also did a few trial and error taste tests on people and adjusted our menu based on their feedback.  But, so far, so good!”

The following is their current menu (obviously, subject to change, as they learn and get feedback from customers).  We hope that you will try out the new Deli in Onanole this summer.


Mexi burger – a spicy beef burger served with guacamole, refried beans, salsa and cheese

Greek burger – beef patty served with feta cheese, tatziki sauce, fresh cucumber, red onion,lettuce and tomato

Canadian burger – a beef patty mixed with a sweet maple bbq sauce topped with cheddar cheese, smokey maple bacon, and fried onions

Classic burger – our most traditional beef patty lightly seasoned

Chicken burger – an all white meat chicken breast served with mayo, lettuce, tomato and onion

Veggie burger – a vegetable patty made with fresh cick peas, cous cous, spinach, cilantro and spices.

Thai Tuna burger – tuna mixed with ginger, soya, flax seeds, and carrots served with a home made teriyaki sauce

Matt Epp mellow and full of feeling at Poor Michaels

While Independence Day was being celebrated in the US, Onanole residents were treated to a double concert evening hosted by Poor Michael’s BookshopThe Concert on the Patio Series.  The 1st half featured Michelle Bouchard (Cellist) and Crystal Tait (bassist) performing Mozart and Bach pieces as a cool breeze from a rain cloud just missed us.  As the sun returned, Manitoba singer/songwriter Matt Epp picked up his well-traveled guitar and took us on a journey through his poetic songs.  From This Old House to Orphan Horse, we were treated to moments of quiet reflection to two songs in which Matt encouraged everyone to sing along.  Matt personally introduces us to this video montage from his concert, from July 4th in Onanole, Manitoba.

Matt’s music and performances can be seen in a number of places.  I like this one on YouTube, of Matt performing a Dan Frechette number, Sweet Little Things with Matt’s band.

Stephen Fearing creates memorable evening in Onanole

Stephen Fearing House Concert, Onanole, Manitoba. June 6, 2009     

Stephen Fearing House Concert, Onanole, Manitoba. June 6, 2009

Onanole, Manitoba ( Canada) perched on the southern  boundary of Riding Mountain National Park is certainly receiving its fine share of music.  Last night (June 6, 2009) was a rare delight, in which multiple Juno award-winning Stephen Fearing roared into Onanole, polished up his Linda Manzer-made guitar, put on his nails, and sped us across time and landscape.  From Nashville to Guelph, from Ireland to Newfoundland, and from vocals to instrumentals, this was a night to remember.  Perched on a stool, with about 45 rapt house concert guests eagerly and appreciatively settled in from Brandon, Neepawa, Dauphin and many other local communities, we came to listen to someone who has a passion for excellence in the ways that words and melodies come together.  Just listen to how long and loud the applause is after each song.

To be able to spend a few hours with Stephen Fearing is to be witness to a great songwriter, but it is also a delightful experience to be close to a man who is full of humour and care.  I am sure that the families, the folkies, the young musicians, and the elder musicians who were “in the house” with Stephen Fearing last night will remember this evening.  These songs bring to mind images of riding the rails, traveling the highways, entering the souls and personalities of ordinary people but through the extra-ordinary creative songwriting and musical crafting of Stephen Fearing.  And, we are fiercely happy and proud of this amazing Canadian.  And, thank goodness for the generosity of these artists, who agree to come to our homes, and make themselves accessible to perform.  There is nothing quite like live roots music. 

Audio Interview with Stephen Fearing

Listen to this short audio interview with Stephen (morning of June 7)  between Celes Davar and Stephen, which ends with his playing of a beautiful and haunting new song about a recent event off the coast of Newfoundland


Video highlights from House Concert



Link to the entire House Concert (audio recording)

The house concert is licenced under Creative Commons as an Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Canada Licence. Basically, this means that you are free to listen to it, but not distribute it, modify it, or charge anything for it.  (Please respect this.)

The Stephen Fearing Onanole House Concert (Audio)

Music is shaking (and stirring) Onanole

We’ve had a really great series of songwriters dropping into Onanole, Manitoba recently.  And, it does not seem to dropping off any too soon.  Which is really great news for anyone who follows and supports the live roots, traditional and folk scene.  On June 1, Miss Emily Brown, Sara Ciantar, James Lamb and Richard St. Onge from Vancouver put together a beautiful house concert that was quite mesmerizing – original songs, lap steel guitar, cello, accordion, voice, autoharp, and electric guitar.  

On Saturday, June 6th, Stephen Fearing joins us for a house concert.  He played the newly renovated West End Cultural Centre in Winnipeg on June 4th.  This is very special – to have a multiple Juno award winning songwriter here, in our community.  This house concert is almost sold out, by word of mouth. He will have his new CD with him.  Call 848.7443 to check for available tickets.

In addition, on Saturday, June 13, another Juno award-winner touches down at Poor Michael’s Bookshop and Café. Ken Hamm, a well-respected guitarist will be playing at 7:30 pm.  Tickets are available at Poor Michael’s at the door.

We find that the opportunity to be up-close and in a very intimate setting provides an opportunity for some moments of pure joy, awe, and spontaneity.  Great songs, unique stories, great guitar work, and putting your life on pause seems to be the order of the day when a house concert happens.  The growth of house concerts across the prairies is a recent innovation.  One of the innovators of this approach is none other than Mitch Podolak, who was the founder of the Winnipeg Folk Festival, and has created a new concept that is receiving wonderful support and kudoes – the Home Routes House Concert series.