2013, VIRGIL SCOTT’S MUSICIANS’ NEW YEAR
The year began with Virgil Scott’s annual Musician’s New Year at the Hollywood on Queensway. It’s always a fabulous reunion for those of us who used to see each other all the time in the old days, when the music biz was hot, and lucrative.
CARNIVAL VALOR UKE CRUISE
In February, I went on my first vacation in years – went on a “Uke Cruise” on the Carnival Valor, with a few of my uke pals. What a beautiful ship.
CELEBRATING A NEW DECADE “DECADENT TOAST AND JAM”
In May, 2013, I reached a new decade of my life, and celebrated by giving a special concert at the Dominion on Queen. The band, led by Bill King on keys, consisted of tried and true friends I’ve worked with for years, which made it very special.
The friends who showed up to celebrate with me were myriad, and there were some fabulous performances by Sam Broverman, Suba and Dylan, Grant Slater, and MANY more.
CORKTOWN UKULELE JAM
Wednesday evenings, I try to attend as many uke workshops as I can. We have a load of fun, and learn a lot!
TORONTO MENDELSSOHN CHOIR
Still singing in the choir, but not happy to have been moved to Sop.2, when High C’s still come easy. Ah well, it’s worth it because of all the beautiful music we get to sing together.
HAMPTON AVENUE REUNITES FOR SING
It was such a pleasure to reunite six of the original singers in Jazz Report Award winning Hampton Avenue, to do a 30 minute set at SING, Toronto Vocal Arts Festival. Hampton Avenue 4 members Tom Lillington, Dylan Bell, Suba Sankaran and Debbie Fleming reunited with Larry Folk and Judy Tate to sing some luscious 6 part arrangements such as A Quiet Place(originally recorded by Take 6).
JAM GRIA AT 417
Pat Murray found a lovely restaurant on the Danforth – 417 – to host a jazz jam on Tuesday evenings. It became a gathering place for some of Toronto’s finest musicians and singers for the summer months. Unfortunately this restaurant didn’t last long – it was perhaps too high-end for the funky Danforth.
Pat Murray and Debbie Fleming at the beautiful 417 on a summery Wednesday evening.
THE HOMESMITH BAR
In October, Debbie hosted “Party Night” at the beautiful Homesmith Bar, at the Old Mill Spa in Toronto’s west end.
Backing her were John MacMurchy, Russ Boswell, and the gifted young pianist, Ewen Farncombe.
Still doing what I love to do best – singing backup vocals, to make OTHERS sound the best possible. In June, Betty Richardson and I backed up the ferociously talented Cathy Young:
In November, Debbie was invited to be the one tiny bit of estrogen, as part of the celebration of Robbie Rox, at the Lula Lounge. She sang backups, and a couple of feature numbers.
THE AULT SISTERS
A continuous thread in my life is doing vocal and instrumental arrangements for the uber-talented Ault Sisters. This year they recorded an album, of nearly all my arrangements. I was in the studio to coach them a little, while they recorded. Love these ladies!!
NEW SONGS: Wrote Happy New Year for my CUJAM ukies, and got them singing it with me the first Wednesday back after the Christmas break. Co-wrote a song with Ilana Waldston – The Whatchamahoozit Blues. Ilana is a lot of fun, with some zany lyrical ideas. I crafted the music and arrangement and a lot of the lyrics. Lost in Rosedale was written after my one-woman show in July, when I got rained upon very badly on the way home. Cut through Rosedale to get back home, and got very VERY lost as I drove around for nearly 30 minutes until I found someone who could let me know how to escape the vortex. Check it out: Lost in Rosedale (cut#7) . If you scroll further down, you’ll find The Whatchamahoozit Blues with me singing it.
SOLO PERFORMANCES: Winterfolk – I performed in a Song Circle with fellow songwriters from Songwriters Unite during Winterfolk – this year for the first time at the Delta-Chelsea Inn.
Guested with the Uptown Swing Band at the Gallery Cafe in Etobicoke – fun getting back to my “big band chick singer” roots.
Songs of the 60’s at Dominion on Queen: Performed songs by Bachrach/David; Ray Charles and many more – with the able backing of the great Bill King on keys, Russ Bosswell on bass and Daniel Barnes on drums. Betty Richardson, Colina Phillips and Mary Ellen Moore got up to do BG’s in Aretha’s “Respect” and brought the house down!! What a wonderful gig this was – so many people came out to hear some good music, and wish me a happy birthday in May.
Niagara Rhythm Section, May 19th: Guested with this fabulous band at The Old Winery, and we rocked our tushies off! One of the best nights yet with this ensemble!
Songs That Got Me Here: I performed solo with my guitar and uke at the beautiful Artists’
Garden run by Susan Brown. I was part of the Plein Air series, and performed everything from Elvis to my own songs. Singing and playing by yourself without a band is very different from what I’m used to – but something to continue honing! It was a rainy night, but my audience sat under brollies, or onstage with me until the bitter end. As we packed up – God decided to let’er rip, and the rain came down in buckets thereafter. And THAT is when I got lost in Rosedale on the way home.
RECORDINGS: Sang backup vocals on Terry Kelly’s new recording project, produced by Paul Mills at The Millstream.
JAMGRIA – A new open-mic Jam has opened in the east end of Toronto, helmed by Pat Murray, and featuring a stellar trio of musicians every week, ready to back up any singer or instrumentalist who wants to sit in. Here’s a photo Bill Taylor took of me on the first night of this great jam.
JAZZ AT TEN FEET TALL: Sang a couple of Jazz gigs with Bruce Harvey and Jack McFadden at this charming east-end Toronto bistro, run by Carin Redmon and Andy. TFT had a jazz policy, that supported jazz music and musicians for nearly 10 years. Just before my third gig there, it closed down, much to the sorrow of Toronto’s jazz community.
SONGS OF THE 60’S: Performed my first “Songs of the 60’s” show at the Dominion on Queen with Bruce Harvey and Russ Bosswell in November ’11. The place was packed! It seems a lot of people want to hear well written songs from that era – written by great writers like Bachrach and David, and sung by singers like Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Petula Clark and many more.
EDO SUSHI: Sang my jazz songs at this lovely restaurant on Eglinton W. with Tony Quarrington and Jack McFadden. It was a lovely, quiet gig, and the food they provided for us was terrific!
LIVE BACKUP VOCALS: Sang BG’s for Rob Young at Hugh’s Room, and for BettyRichardson as well. Also sang backups at the Westben Festival, for Rodney Brown.
GUEST APPEARANCES: Debbie was honoured to be invited to sing at a special concert honouring Canadian
Icon, Robbie Rox. This concert, hosted by Bob Segarini, took place at the Black Swan in Toronto. Here’s a Youtube video of me singing When A Man Loves A Woman with the great band including Michael Fonfara on keys, and Terry Blersh on Guitar.
RECORDINGS: Sang backups for the new Rob Young CD, produced by Paul Mills at the Millstream. Sang and arranged backup vocals for Sam Broverman’s sensational CD project containing all Johnny Mercer tunes, and produced by Ken Whitely. Lots of horns and swinging big band material on this project, and Sam sings it all so sweetly!
ARRANGEMENTS: More vocal and instrumental arranging for The Ault Sisters. Some for Joe Sealy. One for the Satin Dolls.
HAMPTON AVENUE-4: Suba Sankaran, Dylan Bell, Tom Lillington and I – better known as the Hampton 4 – were invited by the Green Door Cabaret Theatre, to put on a show of our Christmas material in December. It was fun to get back to our slick harmonies and Christmas songs – but on the day of the gig, Suba had laryngitis and pneumonia, and was flying at half-mast. We did our best for the appreciative audience that showed up, and hope they understood that sickness was marring our performance just a tad. Suba’s beautiful smile held it all together for everyone, and we got through it! The Hampton 4 also performed Christmas songs at the Rotary Club luncheon at the Royal York Hotel, and did our wandering Carolling gigs at First Canadian Place. Check out our version of my song Christmas (W)rapping:
THE MENDELSSOHN CHOIR: After a good audition in June, I was accepted back into the choir – but as a second Soprano. This did not make me happy, as I can still hit the high C’s with the best of ’em – without sounds of strain, or wobble. After a second audition to see if I could still remain a first soprano – Noel Edison declared he feels my sound is better for the seconds. That’s the place I always feel the old cows are put to pasture. However, sitting beside Jennifer Taverner and Cher Farrell– both Elora Festival professional singers – made it far more palatable. I guess I’m lucky to still be in the choir.
This year we sang Bach’s St. John Passion at Koerner Hall; Mozart’s Mass in C; Mozart’s Requiem at the Elora Festival; Walton’s Henry V with TSO; Brahm’s German Requiem at Koerner Hall, and of course the Messiah. We also did our Festival of Carols, and our Songs for a Sacred Space – performed in the St. Paul’s Basillica on Power St. on Good Friday. I still love the the lofty experience of singing all these magnificent works with this magnificent choir, and the gestalt that happens when 160 voices are singing together. Can’t be BEAT!
NEW YEARS EVE: Performed my first New Years Eve gig in many years in Port Elgin Ontario, on the shores of Lake Huron. Jack McFadden led the band, which also included Bob McLaren on drums, John MacMurchy on Sax and Ted Gibbons on Guitar. We had a wonderful time entertaining the New Years revellers for their dining and dancing pleasure.
CHOIRGIRLZ performed at Winterfolk on the Danforth in February. Their final concert was at Plein Air in July – where they performed to a sold out crowd of fans and friends who love their harmonies and quirky songs!
JAZZ GIGS: I performed with Bruce Harvey and Jack McFadden at the Homesmith Bar at the Old Mill on March 19th. Here’s Our Love Is Here to Stay from that evening.
THE GALPALZ: Briar Boake approached me about forming a duo – and performing an upbeat repertoire of oldies in Retirement residences. Since Briar is a fine uke player, and I’m ok on guitar – we worked it out. We got a few gigs and went over very well with our audiences. It was fun – with costume changes, and new songs. Briar was great to work with. Unfortunately with all the schlepping of gear and PA, with very small financial return, we didn’t continue after about a year.
THE MENDELSSOHN CHOIR: Still in the Soprano 1 section, though our director seems to doubt that someone of my age should be able to hit the high C’s clearly and strongly. We went to Vancouver in January for the Pre-Olympic festivities. We performed under the baton of Bramwell Tovey while performing Mahler’s 8th – Symphony of a Thousand. Upon our return to Toronto, we performed The Verdi Requiem two weeks later with the TSO. We did “Last Night of the Proms” with Bramwell Tovey – this year, with a “Kate and Wills” theme – here I am with my homemade “fascinator”.
In November – another favourite of mine – Janacek Glagolithic Mass, and of course, the Messiah. TMC is now performing at the spiffy new Koerner Hall – a gorgeous acoustic space for us!
BACKUP VOCALS:Sang backup vocals for the wonderful Betty Richardson at Hugh’s Room in November.
R&B: Did my yearly stint with the Niagara Rhythm Section in May, and twice guested with Robbie Lane and the Disciples as guest singer. Please check out my version of Proud Mary, as sung with Robbie Lane and the gang.
FIRST ONE-WOMAN SHOW: Performed my first one-woman show – entitled “Coming of Age in Etobicoke”. It was a house concert, and very well attended. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it, and eagerly asked me to write a sequel to the ongoing story.
CUJAM: Still playing that uke nearly every Wednesday night at the Dominion on Queen. Here I am singing Dream a Little Dream of me, mistakes and all!
THE AULT SISTERS: Did a few vocal arrangements for this talented trio of young sisters – very enjoyable project.
Switched to Logic 8 – much better and less glitchy than Logic 4.5. Makes chart writing and song recording much easier!
ST. PAUL’S CHOIR: Resigned my position as Alto lead in the choir at St. Paul’s Bloor Street. Politics within the church hierarchy, tainted my spiritual journey, when our beloved organist/director (and former R&B and recording studio associate) Eric Robertson was fired.
CHOIRGIRLZ had a banner year. Appeared at Winterfolk, The Wellington County Library
in Harriston, Toronto Taste, Beaverton’s 125th Centenary celebration, Plein Air and Summerfolk.
MENDELSSOHN CHOIR: Performed Berlioz Damnation of Faust in February; Mendelssohn Elijah, the Proms; Berlioz Requiem and Carmina Banana at the Elora Festival; Israel in Egypt at the new Koerner Hall; Britten’s War Requiem; and of course the Messiah.
SOLO PERFORMANCES AT: Winterfolk, Statlers Cabaret, and at the Anchorage in NOTL with The Niagara Rhythm Section, and at Trane Studio with her jazz trio.
BIG VOICE TV, WITH ELAINE OVERHOLT: Arranged a chart for The Fawcett Sisters, and helped to coach them for their appearance on the show, which featured Carol Fawcett coming into her own, under the guidance of Elaine.
STAR WARS at the Air Canada Centre: Sang in a choir assembled by Susan Suchard. We were accompanied by an orchestra from Britain, and I met and conversed with emcee Anthony Daniels – the original C3PO from the Star Wars movie.
ANDREA BOCCELLI at the AIR CANADA CENTER: Sang backups for Andrea in a choir made up of members of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. It was lovely to reunite and chat with David Foster, who was accompanying Andrea.
RECORDING PROJECT: During the slow days of summer, I compiled a children’s CD/DVD for my grandchildren Sadie and Benson. I recorded some familar and some original songs as Gramma-Lama-Ding-Dong, and added the songs, and photos of the children to a DVD entitled “Special Times”. It was a favourite Christmas gift.
UKULELE: I began attending CUJAM – (Corktown Uke Jam) and learning to play ukulele in July of this year. David Newland, and Steve McNie run this very entertaining and educational evening every Wednesday at the Dominion on Queen in Toronto. I LOVE my uke!
Make Lemonade, written and arranged by Debbie Fleming is being performed by choirs all around the world. Check out some of these Youtube offerings:
For the past 5 years, around May, I travel to Niagara on the Lake to work with the award winning Niagara Rhythm Section led by Steve Goldberger. The band is made up of Mr. Goldberger on bass and vocals, Steve Grisbrook on guitar, Penner MacKay and Sandra Marynissen on percussion, Dave Norris on drums and either Roger Nyznik, Denis Keldie or Herb Nelson on keys.
What BAND! They get their groove on every time! They were playing for years at the Anchorage, and later, Corks – and are now playing at the Old Winery Restaurant in Niagara On The Lake every Saturday evening with special guests! I’m very privileged to be one of those special guests.
It’s always little bit of heaven for me to “loosen up the belt” on my favourite R&B standards for two long sets. It’s quite a fun adventure using my big voice once again, since I’ve been used to mostly “blendy” group singing and sweet jazz for so long. I love to get the audience grooving, and dancing their faces off. Can’t wait ’til next year!