Monthly Archives: December 2008

Christmas music on accordion on youtube

It's Christmas…. with Christmas songs in the air… on accordion.

Okay… I am guilty of playing Christmas songs on accordion.  It's a great way to create a singalong.  You can't always carry a piano with you from house party to house party.  And solo guitar or fiddle, usually doesn't allow you to play bass, harmony and lead with only just one musician.

I have been playing accordion since I was in 10 years old, and now I am 40+ years old. I have been playing Christmas songs for 30+ years.  Sometimes people groan when an accordion comes out.  More more often people smiles light up their faces, when they get a chance to singalong to familiar tunes. 

As a child, I played in an accordion band that our teacher organized.  At Christmas time, we would go out and play at senior's homes.  We would play mostly classical music, some popular songs, plus Christmas songs.

One Christmas Day in the mid-1990's, I was seen on local television when was playing Christmas songs on Granville Mall, outside the Vogue Theatre, where our Church group was giving out sandwiches and clothes to local residents.

Here are some youtube Christmas songs on accordion:

02:31 –
Dec 25, 2006 –

1 year ago –

02:23 –
Nov 11, 2008 –

1 month ago –

03:45 –
Dec 9, 2008 –

10 days ago –

“Make a wish” at the “Candle Shrine”/Scottish Shelter at VanDusen Garden's “Festival of Lights”

Today, I told my friends and work colleagues about my fantastic evening snow date at the VanDusen Gardens' “Festival of Lights.”

But did you know that there is a real Scottish presence at the VanDusen

I didn't know what a Scottish Shelter was. But it was supposed to be the site of the “Candle Shrine” where you could light a candle and make a wish – and contribute a donation to the Make A Wish Foundation.

But being known as Toddish McWong – of course I had to check out the “Scottish Shelter.”

2008_Dec 049 – photo Deb Martin

Was this the Scottish Shelter?  A sheltered rock grotto covered by tree branches would surely give some protection from the elements.  Afterall, Scots are known for being thrifty and efficient and creative people.

Nope…. no sign saying “Scottish Shelter” or “Candle Shrine.”

But on the other side of the grotto, we followed the path to the Lover's Lookout, where we crammed out of the cold with 8 other people.  I guess it was a “Swinger's Lookout.”

Then we saw a sign saying “Candle Shrine.” and we continued down the path.

2008_Dec 051 – photo Todd Wong

We found a small hut, brightly  lith with Christmas lights on the outside.  But on the inside it was lit entirely by candle light and looked warm and inviting.  My girlfriend Deb remarked to the volunteers inside that they must be in the warmest place at the event (after we visited shivering hot dog vendors, waffle vendors, and security people standing beside propane heaters).

2008_Dec 052-photo Todd Wong

Yes it really was a Scottish Shelter “built in the style of a highland cottage” in 1975

2008_Dec 054-photo Todd Wong

It looked gorgeous inside, sparkling with candles and tea lights.

2008_Dec 056 – photo Todd Wong

We used taper candles to light our tea lights… then we made wishes… and our lights were placed up on the side of the wall inside the Scottish Shelter.

2008_Dec 059

Just before we left the gardens, we discovered a small area with two statue busts.  One of them read:

David Douglas.
Scottish-born botanist
who discovered and described
many plant species during his
pioneering journeys throughout North America
during the years 1825-1833

Festival of Lights at VanDusen Gardens. The new snowfall makes it exceptional.

2008_Dec 023 by Toddish McWong

Festival of Lights at VanDusen Gardens.  The new snowfall makes it exceptional. In an amazingly romantic gesture (or amazingly stupid) I invited my girlfriend out on a snow date.  While it was wonderful to walk through the snow draped, light sparkling garden setting, it was really much too cold to be holding hands without gloves on.  So… we linked arms, or put our arms around each other as we explored this truly winter wonderland.

2008_Dec 042 by Toddish McWong

Check out the 2008 Dancing Lights display.  Imagine Christmas lights on psychotropic drugs or just simply choreographed to music.  The Dancing Lights display occurs every 30 minutes.  There is an island in the lake, and all the lights are coordinated to fast paced instrumental music sounding something similar to Manheim Steamroller.  It was cold standing and watching… so I was glad that we had already visited Santa's kitchen where I had ordered a $4 hotdog and $5 chicken fingers.

2008_Dec 044 by Toddish McWong

Guess who we met on the pathways… Santa Claus! 

This Santa Claus was very friendly.  He called out to other walkers on the path to help us take a picture, joking that they would walk away with my camera.  We visited him later inside “Santa's workshop” which is a lovely way to take a break from walking in the cold and warm up while listening to his very corny jokes.

And we made Christmas wishes at the Candle Shine located inside the Scottish Shelter.  See my article about our visit:

2008_Dec 039

We found the Gingerbread House, after initially walking down Candy Cane Lane.

2008_Dec 026

We even met Santa's elves who referred to themselves as Gnomes… and sang the Michael Buble song “Home” but sort of changed the words to sound like “Gnome.”  They were hilarious.  In this picture they are performing Elf calisthenics.
4:30 to 9 p.m. every night, December 5, 2008 through January 4, 2009 except December 25th when the Garden is closed.

  • Santa's Living Room: Dec. 5 – 24 with Santa appearances 5:30, 6:30, 7:30, 8:30 p.m.
  • Svend and Jens, our Scandinavian Christmas Elves appear nightly in the Centre Court
  • Magician David Wilson: Dec. 26 – Jan. 4, in Santa's Living Room at 5:30, 6:30, 7:30, 8:30 p.m.
  • Dancing Lights on Livingstone Lake: 15 minute show every half hour on the half hour starting at 4:30 p.m.

check out my other pictures on Flickr

Festival of Lights @ Van Dusen Gardens

Festival of Lights @ Van Dusen…

Playing For Change: Song Around the World “Stand By Me” – wonderful video very intercultural!

Every now and then, something touches your heart.  Playing For Change: Song Around the World “Stand By Me” is from the award-winning documentary, “Playing For Change: Peace Through Music”,

Somebody went around the world recording different musicians in different cities, and basically created a global music video with a universal theme. 

My neighbor Saul Miller sent it to me, after we were talking while I was shoveling snow today.  Saul suggests I create a project with different people around the world reciting a Robbie Burns poem.

Check out this video of “Stand Byu Me” on Youtube: As of today have been 1,678,297 views

Playing For Change: Song Around the World "Stand By Me"



Karen Lee-Morlang presents “Carolling Around the World” FREE music concert at Vancouver Public Library Central Branch

Karen Lee Morlang organizes some of the most wonderful FREE concerts in Vancouver.  She brings emerging talent from the UBC School of Music, and puts them on stage at the Vancouver Library Central Branch.

Carolling Around the World

Wednesday December 17
7:00 pm

Alice MacKay Room, Lower Level

Central Library

350 West Georgia Street

Karen always brings great enthusiasm to the audience and her performances and great performers with her!  One year at the Christmas concert, she even got me standing up and singing along with her!  It's hard to resist Karen's wonderful energy.  She will of course defer to the many performers with her.  But the truth is that it is she that sets the stage, and encourages others to shine.

Karen is also one of the singers in the accapella group The No Shit Shirleys.  They were one of best received performers at the 2006 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner.

Here's what the VPL website says:

The Vancouver Public Library's most anticipated annual concert bursts
with fabulous singers, spirited instrumentalists and lots of
sing-a-long carols, all hosted by Vancouver impresario and pianist,
Karen Lee-Morlang.

year's roster includes the brilliant Bruce Henczel on a variety of
percussion instruments, bringing an exciting array of world beats,
rhythms and tunes to the mix!

Here's a message from Karen.

Dear friends,

Have you ever wanted to hear some of your favorite seasonal tunes fused with the exotic rhythms of Cuba?

How about Spain, Brazil or Ghana?  Ireland?

Join the ever versatile and award-winning percussionist Bruce Henczel and the irrepressible piano diva Karen Lee-Morlang at the Vancouver Public Library tomorrow night for a free, fun and unique evening of “Carolling Around the World”.
Singalongs will be led by the hilarious baritone, Joel Klein and the lovely soprano, Katy Hedalen.

The Alice MacKay Room (Lower Level)

Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch

350 West Georgia

Date and Time:

Wednesday, December 17 at 7pm

This will be an unforgettable night, sure to lift you through the rest of the Christmas season!

Wishing you all a very Happy Holiday,

Joy Kogawa attends AGM for Historic Joy Kogawa House Society.

CIMG0189 April 2008 – Joy Kogawa holds the Globe & Mail Story about the revealing of the $500,000 anonymous donor who helped save her childhood home from demolition, to become a literary and historic landmark and a writers-in-residence program – photo Todd Wong

It's always a special feeling walking into the Joy Kogawa House.  This is the house that a six year old future Order of Canada recipient was forced to leave when Japanese Canadians were interned during WW2.  This is the house that was saved from demolition when a dedicated few led a rally by thousands of supporters across Canada.

The first Annual General Meeting was held for the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society on Dec 11th, 2009.  It was a special meeting because writers Hiromi Goto and Caroline Addison were there to give their insight and share their experiences as the Writers in Residence for the Vancouver Public Library for 2007 and 2009.

It was more special because author Joy Kogawa was present, having just flown in from Toronto to spend time with family.

Executive director Ann-Marie Metten had brilliantly organized the evening, and it had a strong exciting buzz as wine and gourmet snacks were served.  Books by Kogawa, Goto and Addison were for sale.  Board members and guests mingled with authors and the representatives from The Land Conservancy of BC, the owners of the house.

The evening unfolded with a good in depth descriptions of what it was like to be a writer in residence for the Vancouver Public Library.  Hiromi Goto and Caroline Addison freely shared their experiences and their expectations as the Historic Joy Kogawa House now prepares for their first writer in residence program to be created with author Madeleine Thien, author of Simple Recipes and Certainty.  It is somehow fitting that it is Madeleine who is the first WIR author, as she returns to the city where she not only lived before and wrote about, but also the city where the Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop first granted her the ACWW Emerging Writer's Award that was shopped to publishers and became the award winning “Simple Recipes” short story collection.  Currently I am president of Joy Kogawa House, and co-president of Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop.

During the AGM part of the evening, Ann-Marie Metten gave an update of the grants applied for and recieved and how the WIR program will unfold with Madeleine. 

The Land Conservancy of BC was proud to report that Historic Joy Kogawa House has recieved a Heritage B category from the City of Vancouver, and we can now proceed with the next steps for re-zoning and re-conditioning the house.  We hope to restore the house to what it was like when the 6 year old Joy Kogawa, her 10 year old brother Timothy and their parents were living in the house before they were sent to the BC interior to spend the next 10 year living in delapidated buildings and beet farms.

I gave a President's report that recapped events in 2008 that involved Joy Kogawa in BC, and events at Joy Kogawa House.
Here is my report:

On Feb 3rd,
Sharon Butala attended the Vancouver opera production “Voices of the Pacific Rim” with members of the Joy Kogawa House Society, and was introduced to some of the singers who had performed  the Naomi's Road opera, based on the children's novel by Joy Kogawa

Sunday Feb 24
Author Sharon Butala mesmerized the packed audience at historic Joy Kogawa House on Friday night.  The Order of Canada author talked how she helped established a writer in residence program at Wallace Stegner's childhood home in Eastend, Saskatchewan.

March 2008 – Royal BC Museum
Joy Kogawa is guest of “THE PARTY”: 150 of BC’s most interesting people


 “The Party” exhibit with some of BC's “fascinating” citizens including: (front row) founding governor James Douglas, Betty Krawcyk, Joy Kogawa, Karen Magnusson, Herb Doman; (second row): Vikram Vij, Cindy Lee, Gordon Campbell, Gordon Shrum. – photo Todd Wong

April 10 Vancouver Kids Books reading and Naomi’s Tree book launch
It was a good event for the launch of  Naomi's Tree.  So good that all the books that had been delivered in advance to Kidsbooks sold out.  When Joy performed her reading, she told the audience of children and adults that she had fallen in love with a tree.  It was a special “Friendship Tree” – a cherry blossom tree.

April 25th Kogawa House cherry tree planting + recognition of Sen. Nancy Ruth
3pm press conference, introduction of formerly anomnynous $500,000 donor (Sen. Nancy Ruth) + baby cherry tree planting


At 3:40pm, we sat inside the living room of Historic Joy Kogawa House and listened to CBC Radio One's Arts Report by Paul Grant.  Paul had interviewed Sen. Nancy Ruth, Bill Turner and Joy Kogawa for his story on how the house was saved, and how Sen. Nancy Ruth's formerly anonymous gift of $500,000 was important.  In this picture Hon. Iona Campagnolo, Sen. Nancy Ruth and Joy Kogawa.- photo Todd Wong

8pm  Music and Poetry with Joy Kogawa and Friends,
Following the music, Joy was presented with the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award from BC Bookworld Publisher Alan Twigg, Vancouver Public Library Community Programs Director Janice Douglas, and historian Jean Barman.   

Joy Kogawa accepts the award


Alan Twigg speaks of Joy's accomplishments         Joy Kogawa accepts the George Woodcock lifetime achievement award

This morning Joy Kogawa sent this email out to our Historic Joy Kogawa House Society
Dear Friends,
For a day of unalloyed happiness —
I have had many many wonderful days in my life — but this one!  It was the happiest. If ever I've felt at home…. Or felt the love that underlies all…

My friend Heather Pawsey, soprano wrote:
Last night was one of the most beautiful and profound evenings of my musical life.  Heartfelt thanks to everyone behind Kogawa House.  May it continue to rise and spread its wings.

Photo Library - 2900

Where is Joy Kogawa in this picture? 

This is the interactive photo display in front of the Royal BC Museum, in Victoria BC,  for the “Free Spirit” exhibition celebrating the 150th Anniversary of British Columbia. 

Sep 22
Kogawa House cherry tree at Vancouver city hall is given a plaque on the 20th anniversary of the Japanese-Canadian redress.
“Friendship Tree” plaque at Vancouver City Hall for the “Kogawa House cherry tree” graft – photo
Ann-Marie Metten.

Tix for Gung Haggis Fat Choy 2009 available Dec 15 – 9am through Firehall Arts Centre

Celebrate Chinese New Year's Eve and Robbie Burns 250th Birthday on the same night!
Gung Haggis 2008 Dinner 160 by you.2008 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner: Catherine Barr and Todd Wong auction off a bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label scotch- photo VFK

WHEN: January 25th, 2009

WHERE:  Floata Seafood Restaurant

#400 – 180 Keefer St.
Vancouver Chinatown

TIME:  5pm- Reception

6pm Dinner

9:30pm After Party Chinese New Years Eve Countdown.

Firehall Arts Centre Box Office: 604.689.0926
Online ticket sales also available

$60 + $5 service charge = $65
Student price is $50 + $4.50 = $54.50 (must show student high school or university ID)
Children's price is $40 + $4.00 = $44 (ages 13 and under).

TABLE OF 10 (single item)
$600 + $20 service charge.
(save $30 in service charge by ordering a table)

Tickets can mailed out or picked up in advance, or held at will call.

We have chosen to return to the Firehall Arts Centre as our ticket seller, to support them in their good work of bringing multicultural programming to the City of Vancouver, and their emphasis

Online Ticket sales available through Tickets Tonight:
click here –

All seats assigned in priority of ordering
except designated sponsor, performer and VIP tables.
If you would like to have 2 tickets at the VIP table or performer's – please sponsor it for $600.

Firehall Arts Centre
will again provide gift certificates for their upcoming productions for raffle and silent auction prizes.

PERFORMERS for 2009:

The 2009 program will feature:
Silk Road Music Ensemble
Opera Soprano Heather Pawsey + guests
debut of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Pipe Band
Robbie Burns Chinese clapper tale by Dr. Jan Walls
Joe McDonald “rapping bagpiper”
lots of special guests
a Gung Hagigs dragon dance
special celtic musicians
lots of Robert Burns poetry
lots of surprises
more to be announced


10th Annual Asian Comedy Night coming in January

Asian Canadians
can be funny too – and not just the butt of racist jokes.


10 years ago Joyce Lam got together with friends and
started the very first Asian Comedy Night, through Vancouver Asian Canadian
Theatre – which she founded.   Along the way VACT has received lots
of critical success and developed a loyal audience.  VACT is a pioneer in
pushing the opportunities for Asian-Canadian performerssuch as presenting the
classic Neil Simon comedy “The Odd Couple” with and almost all-Asian
cast, Asian-Canadian director and producers.

Check out the newest Asian Comedy Night event for January 6/7, 2009

Immediate Release



10th anniversary celebrations kicks off with

All-Star Asian Comedy Events in early January

10th Annual Asian Comedy Night – and –

7 – 10, 2009



BC (December 7, 2008) – To celebrate 10 successful years as the city’s premiere
Asian Canadian theatre company, Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre (VACT)
kicks off 2009 with two of its signature Asian comedy night events January 7 to
10, hosted by Tom Chin. First is the
return of its wildly popular Asian sketch comedy contest: Etch-YOUR-Sketchoff!#$%!!, where
amateur teams compete for applause and prizes on January 7 & 8. Following that on January 9 & 10 is the All-You-Can-Laugh: 10th annual Asian Comedy
, an all-star smorgasbord of
best and funniest professional Asian sketch comedy troupes. Both productions are
at the Roundhouse Performance
. Tickets are available online at and at the


to say, these 2 VACT productions provide a rare and not-to-be-missed showcase of
some of the best Asian comedic talent in

– alongside nearly 50 of Vancouver’s up-and-coming Asian Canadian performers and
comedy writers, all on one stage.


Etch-YOUR-Sketchoff!#$%!! Contest
gives sketch teams 2 weeks to write and rehearse at least 2 sketches, one of
which must incorporate a creative element provided by VACT that each team will
choose at random. On the first night, January 7, each group will be given a
6-10 minute set to perform their sketches in front of a live audience, where a
panel of celebrity judges will award the winner the coveted RICE BOWL trophy from the Top 3. On January 8, in a 2nd performance, the
audience will be the judge and its winner-take-all for the cash


10th annual Asian Comedy Night

is a gathering of 5 of the funniest Asian sketch comedy troupes from

Assaulted Fish (Vancouver), OPM (
The Kupps
and Hopsing’s Offspring (Vancouver)
for two hilarious performances. Also performing is stand-up comedian Jeffery Yu. The VACT Asian Comedy Night
has been a sold-out event every year and the annual show has provided a rare
showcase for various Asian stand-up comedians and sketch groups from all over
and the
As a developer of new talent, VACT had previously incubated such successful
local Asian-Canadian sketch comedy troupes as HOT SAUCE POSSE and ASSAULTED


more information please visit


Event #1 Details


Roundhouse Performance Centre


7: The Rice Bowl Competition

8: The People’s CHOYS Award

performances at

in advance, by phone (604) 713-1800 and online

$22 at
the door



Event #2 Details

10th Annual Asian Comedy Night

Roundhouse Performance Centre


9 and 10

performances at

in advance, by phone (604) 713-1800 and online

at the door



Special: The Bundle of Laughs Deal

both shows and save! Great stocking stuffers! (Until Dec. 19)

in advance, available only online (




media access please contact Joyce Lam at the e-mail address or phone number
listed below, no later than
2, 2009


(Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre) aims to produce quality plays in which
Asian-Canadians take on culturally or artistically significant roles. VACT works
to dispel Asian stereotypes by producing leading and/or supporting roles where
Asian-Canadians are depicted realistically in the performing


Racoons in Kitsilano

There are lots of wild urban animals in Vancouver.  Every now and then I see in a skunk in Kitsilano or the West End – but more likely I smell skunk. 

2008_Dec 048 – photo Todd Wong

I found this little critter beside the walkway to our Kitsilano apartment building.  It seemed oblivious to the night traffic on Cornwall St.

Tacos and Kilts in the same night

Do Mexicans wear kilts?  Do Scots eat tacos?

Every first Thursday is Kilts night at Doolin's Irish Pub.  Last week on Dec 4th, I started the evening at Burrito Bros. Taco Co. in Kitsilano.  How authentic is Burrito Bros.?  Well, they speak Spanish when they place the orders to the cook. 

My girlfriend likes it on Thursday night because tacos are $2 and Sol beer is $3.50 for “Locals Night.”  Last night wasn't Thursday, but we ended up there for dinner again with friends Julie, Marion and Craig, from the Gung Haggis dragon boat team. 

2008_Dec 043-photo D.Martin

Todd has a $2 hard taco with his Sol beer.  No sombero wearing for this Chinos-Canadian.

2008_Dec 045 – photo J. Wong/Todd's camera

Two kilted lads + two lassies.  Todd wears the ancient Fraser hunting tartan while Derrick wears a black utilikilt.  Lee and Carol are first time attendees, and I put them in the modern Fraser hunting tartans that the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team wears.  Lee is of Scottish ancestry, and she paddled with our team for the Vancouver Taiwanese dragon boat race.  Carol is Irish-Ukranian-Canadian and LOVED my Guinness with a shot of expresso vodka.

2008_Dec 047-photo Todd Wong

The Halifax Wharf Rats play sets starting at 9pm. They always play a lively mix of celtic tinged traditionals, Canadiana and folk-rock.  I LOVE their celtic version of “I Was Made for Loving You” – originally a hit by KISS.  Dawn wears a mini-kilt with a sassy lace hem.  Dawn paddled on the dragon boat team in 2004 when we raced in the Vancouver Taiwanese dragon boat race.