Farewell Michael Holt. The singer-songwriter, classical pianist/composer and cultural activist had a great send off on June 30th. He leaves Toronto after eighteen years in the city. Luke Jackson co-hosted the event, which was part of Catweazle Toronto. He also played ‘Clothes of Sand’ by Nick Drake, with Ivana Popovic on violin, towards the end of the show.
Michael Holt and The Kids (David Celia, Peter Murray and Don Kerr) played a short set which was the centrepiece of the evening. This quartet have appeared together on record several times. I hadn’t previously been impressed by a couple of songs, ‘Today’ and ‘Moisture’. But I couldn’t help but be captivated when hearing them live.
Michael Holt sung and played acoustic guitar with The Kids before switching to piano for a fairly recent song about the falsity of barroom bonhomie. This was followed by an ambitious, detailed song celebrating Toronto, which only he could have written. He played ‘Singing Part’ from his accomplished 2003 album ‘Pilot Single’ at the end of the evening. I played ‘Rather Take the Pain’, a song from the same CD, to start the guest slots.
A series of turns by a diverse collection of Toronto acts came before and after the main set. I could latch onto something in every one. Lata Swarn played a raga on sitar. Shahriyah Jamshidi improvised modally on spiked fiddle. Michael Boulger did some physical theatre. Erik Sedore treated us to some dry humour on voice and guitar. Bob Wiseman played free piano. Joan Besen played an original song worthy of Carole King. Sarah Greene played a song about forever. Ivana Popovic and David Celia also played in separate duos either side of the main attraction.
Michael will be back soon to perform and record but he will not be organizing the Festival of House Culture, The Piano Salon (now Soozapallooza), Catweazle or Eating Music. I think we can all learn something from him, either from his encouragement of spontaneity, his recordings or his attitude towards music. As for me, I’d rather take the pain.