Saturday, April 30, 2011

I Hear The Train A Comin': An Essay On The Grand Trunk Troubadours

Pictured are The Grand Trunk Troubadours! So named because the original troubadours of the band met while taking vocal lessons at the University of Regina Conservatory of Music, situated on College Avenue, formally known as 16th Avenue, the historical address of the Grand Trunk Railway station.

The members, from left to right, are: Bill, an addictions counselor, plays guitar and sings; Chris, a school counselor, sings plays pots and pans (our pet phrase for auxiliary percussion); Eric, a political campaigner, sings and plays the fiddle; Judy, a high school teacher, sings and plays pots and pans; Neil (self), a high school guidance counselor, plays 12 string and banjitar, and sings a bit; Baron, a landscaper, plays drums; Lillie, a provincial manager, sings and plays warm-up piano.

*Steve, not in picture, a wholesaler, plays guitar.

*Chris and Judy and Lillie, all can play keyboard. Chris can also play guitar, and Judy can also play the saxophone.

The Grand Trunk Troubadours (affectionately known as the GTT) is strictly a community service band, in the sense that it plays mostly at retirement residences, shut-in facilities, and hospitals. Officially the GTT plays pro bono, though honorariums are commonplace. One summer we played an afternoon concert for the members of a northern community who had to evacuate their homes because of the forest fires. This summer we are scheduled to perform for the members of a beach community who are still sand bagging in an attempt to save their homes from flood damage.

The GTT practices every Thursday evening through just one month, September, arranging its play list, and then gigs every Thursday evening from October through to June. GTT performances usually last an hour, are scheduled in evenings from 7 o'clock until 8 o'clock. To date as I write, I see the Grand Trunk Troubadours are booked until January of next year.

As the band typically breaks this time of year, two other groups, Friday Harbor and Seahorse, are its direct summer spin-offs. Friday Harbor plays coffee houses, Seahorse does the summer busk scene.

Here are some GTT Psychological Candies to crunch on:

  • Because of our heavy gig schedule, by late spring the GTT members get raddled. If we did not disband each summer, I doubt we'd regroup come September.

  • As a band we've no particular political adhesions. We sometimes discuss politics – we never discuss religion.

  • Our dress code is a bit campy. We always wear either black or white tops, and blue jeans are mandatory.

  • One would think that having eight members in a band would complify things. It does not; in fact, having so many members makes things simpler, in that it is not so important that everyone show up on any particular gig night.

  • Generally, the band members are congruous in their musical thinking. Specifically we do have a couple of counter patterns, our country gal (Chris) and our country guy (Bill).

  • So far in our band history, it seems 60's and 70's folk songs are never demode. Everybody loves strummers and hummers.

  • When we play in retirement communities the GTT is really just a shallow dish of eye candy. We are a musical sweet to be savored, certainly not meant as a replacement for the seniors' regular menu of exercise, reading, and socializing.

  • We, in the GTT, have been nascent since our inception. Eight years ago we were novice guitarists and wannabe singers; we are now contracted to play for a television audience.

As much as I love to busk, I love being in the band of Grand Trunk Troubadours!

I hear the train a comin'... and I hope to play and sing 'til that last train comes in!

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