Retrospective on an Amazing Year – Opening Remarks Spirit of Rasputin’s First Annual General Meeting

by Lynn Stevenson

Welcome to our first Annual General Meeting! It is hard to believe that just over a year ago – we had our official launch on February 7th, 2010 with Lynn Miles at the Elmdale Tavern. So much has happened with our organization since then – we all have so much to be proud of!

The launch or “re-launch” to be more accurate, was a huge success – with a capacity crowd and lots of fond memories of the original Rasputin’s Café on Bronson from both the performers and the audience.

From there we went on to organize a blistering series of events:

  • concerts every 1st and 3rd Sundays
  • CKCU fundraiser courtesy of Pat Moore every 2nd Sunday
  • “Rasputin’s Beard” – new open stage for bands 4th Sunday

And if that was not enough, we hosted an Open Stage every Monday night and a Folk Jam every Tuesday night.

February concerts featured: Mike O’Reilly and Peter Dawson “warming up our winter” with fine vocals and awesome fiddle. Our own Missy Burgess concluded the month with another sold out plus show.

March came in like a lion with Michael Jerome Browne & the Twin Rivers String Band with special guests Ball & Chain and went out with several “lambs” with the splendid voices of Lindsay Ferguson and Emily Fennell. In the middle of that month we featured one of my new favourites – Chris Maclean – whom I had the great pleasure to interview and write about in more detail.

In April we not only packed in music legends Ian Tamblyn and Terry Gillespie, but hosted the Great Canadian Song-Along organized by our own Greg Kelly and Tony Turner.

Tony took the stage again in May along with Tom Lips and Rob Heath. Later we enjoyed Meredith Luce with Eric Vieweg and very interesting opener Rio Sama. The month also included Chrysalis – a terrific initiative spearheaded by Missy Burgess to encourage collaboration an engage the music community.

June started off on a wonderful high note with “Songs of Protest, Songs of Hope”, A Tribute to the late great Gil Levine. I think this may have been THE favourite for many in our group among a long list of highlights. Thanks go to Chris White and Tony Turner for their leadership in organizing this event.

Terry Tufts along with Mark Ferguson & John Geggie made Father’s Day very memorable. I had the honour of interviewing Terry as well and his album The Better Fight has gotten steady airtime in my home ever since.

Our 2010 season closed June 27th with a fine Rasputin’s Beard – I don’t have time to list all the amazing new performers we hosted during these great new events – but I must thank Hollis and Kate Morgan for pulling these together and ensuring a great show to end each month of our first season.

We had a great run at the Elmdale – but alas folkies like to listen to music more than drink beer – so we had to find a new home for the fall of 2010. We are very happy to have found it in the Westboro Masonic Hall where we not only enjoy fabulous acoustics in an amazing vintage space, but great food and drink courtesy of Sylvia Bogusis and our hard working hospitality team.

The Open Stage also moved to new digs at Whispers on Richmond Road. And the Folk Jam took its tunes to the Market and Xpresso Café on George Street. Kudos go to Sjef Frenken as well as Heather and Mark Evenchick for keeping the Open Stage alive and well and to Rick McGrath for keeping the Folk Jam humming.

During the summer months, with much hard work from Edgar Schmidt as well as our outgoing General Manager George Laing, we negotiated the legal labyrinth to achieve our current not-for-profit corporate status, developed and adopted the corporation’s first by-laws. We also made a splendid showing at the Ottawa Folk Festival – with a great booth and various fine activities throughout that rainy weekend.

Our new concert series started off with a fabulous Rasputin’s Beard featuring: The Cheapest Thrill, Lost Colt, The Overcasters, and Pat Moore’s recently reunited Maple Hill. [Man, can that woman play stand-up bass!] Julie Element took over the role of Beard host for this fine event.

Continuing our tradition of supporting the community – October featured a fine fundraiser for USC with Missy Burgess, Kate & Hollis and Greg Kelly.

While the attendance wasn’t what we hoped, Kaylen and Kelly Prescott raised the roof on the WMH with amazing harmonies that were glorious to hear. The brother and sister duo was joined by mother Tracey Brown, father Randall Prescott and Kelly’s husband Adam Puddington – who added incredible talent and texture to what is my favourite show to date in our new venue.

December saw the start of a new collaboration – the OFC Folkcast. Hosted by John Lloyd, mandolinist extraordinaire and baker to the stars – this was a new initiative for the Spirit with performers invited to come to the Ottawa Folklore Centre to videotape a song of their choice which we then upload to the internet. George Laing, Kathy Kennedy, Greg McGillis, Julie Element and I had fun coming up with a new name for this neat addition. Sincere thanks to Arthur McGregor and OFC for their guidance and support in getting this going.

January saw a sold-out show with Jenny Whiteley accompanied by husband Joey Wright. No other word for it – it was simply excellent!

And next week we will host David Woodhead’s Confabulation with special guest Cedric Smith – it should be well, “fabulous” – so if you don’t already have a ticket – please see Heather and she will set you up. You can also purchase tickets for our next three events:

  • March 19, 2011 Marie-Lynn Hammond with Tom Leighton
  • April 9, 2011 Stephen Fearing with Andy White
  • May 14, 2011 The Echo Hunters

Note the Stephen Fearing concert was listed as one of the “Top 11 for 2011” by The Citizen’s Lynn Saxberg – the event is already 1/3rd sold out – so get your tickets soon!

To conclude, the Spirit of Rasputin’s is a unique and amazing team effort – with many people to thank. I am personally very grateful to those who helped with communications – including Dan Arnott and Hazel May Lebrun last season, Greg McGillis and Kathryn Gunn this season. I have to thank Jeremy Owen for his many fine reviews, Kate Morgan for her gorgeous posters to promote our events and Hollis Morgan for everything he does on the Rasputin’s website and so many other areas. Considerable appreciation goes to our outgoing board of directors: Arthur McGregor, Rick McGrath and Chris White.

But there is one person I particularly want to thank – who is not unfortunately here to hear it. I think it is safe to say that the Spirit of Rasputin’s would not be where we are today without the hard work, leadership and determination George Laing provided. From his first conversations with Dean Verger almost 2 years ago to the sold out Jenny Whiteley show last month, George has worked incredibly long and hard for the Spirit. He was always thinking about ways to improve what we do and to support and encourage the folk and roots community in Ottawa. On a personal note, I would not have heard about the Spirit nor been part of it if it was not for George – for which I am very grateful. While George has moved on to other challenges, he has left us an amazing foundation to build upon. Hence I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank him for everything he has done for the Spirit of Rasputin’s. George, it was an honour to work with you! Everyone, please raise a glass (or a cup) to George.

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