Music Cabaret for Vancouver District Labour Council at the Rhizome
Friday Night, September 28th
317 East Broadway, Vancouver. Phone: 604.872.3166.
It was the first VDLC music cabaret, held at the Rhizome Cafe. Organized by Earle Peach, donations at the door were raised for CUPE 391 Vancouver Library workers' hardship fund. I was MC for the event, and I have worked for the Vancouver Public Library for over thirty years, all but one year as a part-time employee.
Each month Earle Peach has organized a music cabaret held at the Mount Pleasant Community Centre… but that is closed now due to the Vancouver civic strike. He contacted a few months ago and asked me to MC this new event at the Rhizome.
This was an incredible night of community, labour songs and superb musicianship. I didn't know a lot of songs from the labour canon, other than “Solidarity Forever” – but this turned into an evening where I learned a lot about the labour movement, its history, and some of the players in Vancouver. And I told them all that I wished I could wrap my arms around them all, give them a big big hug, and bring them down to Library Square to meet my CUPE 391 Union brothers and sisters, and have them perform at Word on the Strike.
At the end of the evening almost $500 had been raiser for the CUPE 391 hardship fund for the Vancouver Library Workers. Here I am holding the money jar with (l-r) Phil Vernon, Dan Keeton, Todd Wong (me), Bill Saunders, Bob Rosen, Earle Peach and Barbara Jackson.
I started off by introducing myself and my accordion, and telling the audience that I was putting in my time on the picket line at Library Square. I told them about how we have a very creative and engaging picket line with musicians and knitters, flying bicycle pickets that go visit other library sites, community centres and other picket sites for CUPE 15 and 1004 Vancouver City inside and outside workers, who are also on strike. I demonstrated the songs I play on the line, and how I make my accordion sound like an organ at a hockey game…
Liz Thor-Larsen, started the evening off playing on her accoustic guitar and sing songs about being a union maid.
More Than Just Pay, are a group of school teachers that sang lively tunes about labour strife.
Sandy Cameron read a short poem then a long poem about when the Relief Camp Workers' Union went on strike in 1935, occupying the Carnegie Centre, then going On to Ottawa.
Dave Lidstone & Andrea Smith–songs
I acknowledged that Bill Saunders, president of the Vancouver District Labour Council, was in the audience and that he spoke at the Anniversaries 1907 Reconciliation Dinner – about the role that organized labour played in the Anti-Asian riots 100 year ago, and how things have changed 100 years labour with racial diversity becoming a positive issue for labour unions.
I then read a poem I had written about my great-great grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan, who came to Canada in 1896, upon the occasion of seeing a picture of him hanging on the wall of a photo exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Jen Efting– sang a beautiful accapella song.
Earle Peach & Barbara Jackson were next. I told the story of how I first met Earle on Facebook. Soon after I was driving down Clark Drive and spotted him at a bus stop recognizing his picture from Facebook. I drove around the corner to come by the bus stop, and offered him a ride. Earle and Barbara did some wonderful harmonies on their songs. Earle also leads the Solidarity Notes Choir, which has performed at Library Square and Brittania Branch libraries during the library strike.
Dan Keeton hosts a show on Co-op Radio called Union Made. He sang several songs including a Steve Earle song.
Phil Vernon has been a long time activist who now lives on Saltspring Island. He told some great introductions to each of his songs. In particular was a song titled Baruka, about supporting the labourers in Africa, where he and his partner do work.
Bob Rosen & the Gram Partisans closed the evening. Prior to introducing them to the audience, they shared with me their love for the music of Gram Parsons, Steve Earle, and I shared with them my love for Emmylou Harris' music. All the band members are teachers.
Very cool that Bill Hood is a member of this band. I first met Bill when he told me about a fundraiser that he did at Chief Maquinna School for the “Save Kogawa House” campaign. I had invited Bill to the first open house last year for Joy Kogawa House. Of course I love almost any band with an accordion!