Some quick thoughts on the Toronto Songwriting School Getaway in St. John’s a couple weeks ago, before the memories fade completely…
As Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have no doubt told you, Toronto Songwriting School hosted a five day, four-night Songwriters Getaway in St. John’s Newfoundland a couple weeks ago. It was our most ambitious trip so far by far: first outside of Ontario, first longer than two days, first with two special guest lecturers. To our minds, it was a test-case of a more ambitious template for our Getaways. So how did it go?
In a word….smashing.
First of all, there’s the magic of St. John’s. I hadn’t been there in four or five years, during which time the city has gone from booming, rapidly-gentrifying oil town to a recession-strapped city that loses one high-end restaurant every month or so. But it’s still one of the great cities in Canada, partly because you don’t feel like you’re IN Canada. Everything from the colourful houses to the colourful people to the icebergs crouching like pristine medieval castles up and down the coast tells you you’re no longer in, say, Timmins (which has many charms, but no icebergs). It was great to re-connect with my old stomping grounds, to note what’s changed and what’s stayed the same, and to see that my old fave restaurant, Mustang Sally’s, which closed eight years ago, HAS RE-OPENED DOWNTOWN! When does that ever happen??
But I digress…
The Getaway itself was also fantastic. We opened the first night with none other than Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle giving a songwriting seminar. He promised us one hour and gave us three, during which he talked about everything from the reason songs are so important in NFLD to his co-writing experiences in Nashville to trying to fake horse-back riding on the set of Robin Hood. Informative, funny, charming. Despite the fact that I spent fourteen years on a tour bus with that dude, I was captivated.
Not to be outdone, Bob Hallett (also of GBS) closed our Getaway with a three-hour seminar of his own. A few people in the Getaway expressed concern that Bob couldn’t hold a candle to Alan’s performance, but they very quickly saw that Bob is one of the great storytellers on an island of storytellers. He walked us through some of his compositions, talked about the musical history of the island, and told GBS stories until we were crying with laughter. Also magic.
In between those two seminars were four days of food, drink, laughter, and songs – not to mention brewery tours, restaurant excursions, a trip up Signal Hill, and lots of quiet time to work on new compositions or just take in the sights. I did three songwriting lessons during that time, on topics like character development and ‘how chords work’. My lesson on character development received the highest rating possible from one of the attendees in an email thank-you after we got home: an all-caps WOW!
We have one more Getaway this November in Orillia, which is already booking up fast, and we’re well into planning our 2018 Songwriters Getaways, which will include two in Ontario, one in St. John’s and a new destination (spoiler alert!): NEW ORLEANS! Stay tuned for details…
As the thrill of the Getaway fades, we’re getting back to our very fun Original Song Workshops over the summer, and then planning a new slate of courses for the fall, including Workshops, Intermediate Lessons and more specialized themed classes. Do join us!
Until next time,