The Toronto Writers’ Co-operative 5th Annual Exchanging Notes: a literary cabaret
at the Alleycatz Restaurant & Jazz Bar in Toronto, January 22nd, 2013
Once a year for the past five years, the members of the Toronto Writers’ Co-operative celebrate their collective and diverse energies to perform, generally unrehearsed, with musicians and in the spirit of spontaneous creation – the exchanging of notes. It is an opportunity to work off some winter cabin fever, and a signal to the groundhog that his performance is due in a week and a half. The intention of this event is for members and guests to join together and “push the boat out”.
The event this year fell on a brutally freezing night. Many were delayed by ice-build up on the soles of their boots, including some of the musicians; but one crucial element was in place, the sound system, jacked, patched and ready. By the time we were ready there was a pretty fair house of curious people thawing out with the offerings of the bar.
Out of nineteen performances, I pulled number three, following a ‘beat’ type act with solo sax, then a truly hilarious, x-rated, cabaret act with the same solo sax. Next I knew I was on the stage with a backup I wasn’t expecting. I had a really cool stand up bass who I was expecting; a drummer who I vaguely remember musing out loud about, and this genius of chaos, the sax player, like an apparition, appeared in front of my face.
I googled “cabaret” to give me a clue on how to perform (I had an inkling), which, in essence, boiled down to, “let yourself be over-the-top”, “go-with-the-flow”, “let-it-all-hang-out”, and these guys I know were able to do that.
So with all of the above what could be more inspiring to perform in ‘spoken word’ my lyrics, Wintertime, “in four part harmony, with feeling” (Arlo Guthrie).
For a cabaret newbie such as I, it was a bit elusive to gauge the totality of the volume levels and grooves of my back-up musicians; I trusted to their experience that what the audience was hearing was what was intended. The feedback and applause answered that question. So props to David Thiessen on stand up base, Wayne Collins on sax and Isaac X on drums.
Thanks to the Co-op, the guests and Alleycatz, we had spontaneous creation!