Archival Song Section

The P.G.E. Song

The first meeting at the Folk Song Circle as the VFSS was then called was at the Alma YMCA on the first Wednesday of July 1959. The five people who were responsible for founding the Folk Song Circle were Albert Cox, Jeannie (Cox) Moss, Phil and Hilda Thomas, and Rolf Ingelsrud. Of those founding members, Jeannie Moss, now 97, has dementia. She and Al Cox are the last remaining members. Jeannie perks up when she recognizes a song being sung to her and often sings along. Al Cox is presently 99 years old and is now a resident at Kerrisdale Crofton Manor.

That first meeting featured the Folk Song Circle’s resident group, the Highriggers, which consisted of Hilda and Phil Thomas with Al Cox as the main performer. This is the link to this song from 1961 called The P.G.E. Al Cox is singing the lead as a member of the Highriggers. This song was played at the VFSS 62nd anniversary (Zoom event) and a recording of the evening was sent to Mr Cox.

His daughter, Elli, reports that Al suffered a “mild” heart attack recently, from which he recovered fairly quickly, but while in the hospital for the heart attack he caught pneumonia. While in hospital, Al was shown the YouTube clips, as were various family members who have been visiting him.  His daughter says the recordings have been a huge hit with Al and all the family (and the nurses!). Al’s grandchildren did not know about the VFSS side of Al’s life and were dazzled by his singing in the Highrigger’s clip. Elli was effusive in her thanks to everyone who helped to make this possible.

[Editor’s note: The P.G.E. Song was written in 1949 by Keith Crowe. The words, music, and historical details are found in Songs of the Pacific Northwest, by Philip J. Thomas, edited by John Bartlett. The book is available in Vancouver libraries, and the VFSS is looking into the possibility of offering it for sale.]

30 Years Ago in the VFSS: Linda Chobotuck

Linda Chobotuck says she’s been lurking around the VFSS since it met in the Granville Island Community Centre. She was lured in by then-president Anna Holbech Bjarnason. [Ed.: Our records show that Bjarnason was president in 1980.]

“I grew up in a folkie family with a mother who came from a parlour-singing tradition and was an early disciple of the folk revival. Surrounded by folkies, everybody I respected as a musician was also a songwriter, so from an early age I also wrote music. I’m not very prolific, but I’ve been doing it a long time and it adds up.

“My notebook says that ‘Give the Boss his Due’ was written in October 1985, but it was certainly brewing earlier than that because the third verse was inspired by an industrial psychology course that I dropped in disgust. The whole song is basically a tribute to my father’s attitude to work; the proper relationship a responsible worker should have to his or her job. You owe your co-workers to pull your own weight, but your obligations only go so far.

“After sleeping, people actually spend most of their time working, so I am perhaps best known as a singer and writer of labour songs, the most widely recorded of which is ‘Canning Salmon,’ which I wrote while working in a cannery in Richmond.”

Chobotuck performs “Canning Salmon” on a compilation CD titled The Cannery Shed put together by Washington folksinger Mary Garvey. As for a CD of her own, Chobotuck says that’s another project for some indefinite future. Until then, you can enjoy “Give the Boss His Due,” which was recorded live at the VFSS in 1991.

50 Years Ago in the VFSS: Barry Hall

Barry Hall grew up in what was then called the [Vancouver] Folk Song Circle during the 1960s, first attending at an early age and wowing everyone with his prodigious talent on banjo. In 1964, he was asked to record an album for highly respected Folkways Records (now Smithsonian Folkways). As you can see from the album photo, he was still incredibly young at the time. According to the Folkways website, this was Hall’s only commercial recording.

The VFSS audio archives include a number of live recordings of Barry Hall, including these two blistering instrumentals recorded on October 21, 1970. The first one seems to be identified as “Mason’s Apron.” The title of the second one is not provided.

This blog is intended to initiate dialogue on this topic. I know that there are others in the Folk who know much more about Barry Hall than I do and I would welcome shared reminiscences and information in the comments.

Vision 2030

VISION 2030 Workshop: Thanks to everyone who sent in their replies to the question: What is one experience connected with the Folk that really stands out for you? Why? We’ve received some great stories and would love to hear from more of you Folk enthusiasts! We’ve extended the response window to Sunday Aug 9th – please reply to: vanfolksong@gmail.com  and put ‘VISION 2030’ in the subject line.

Cheerful Songs for Trying Times 5

Casting about for a way to share some of the good cheer and community that we experience at our Folk Song Society Wednesday evenings, I came upon a recording of a full songcircle that I made back on April Fool’s Day, 2015. Since our songcircle that would have taken place on April 1 would have been on a similar theme, it seems appropriate to share selections from that recording now.

Here is Rick Pollay singing the Wompom song from our Parodies and Silly Songs night.

Cheerful Songs for Trying Times 4

Casting about for a way to share some of the good cheer and community that we experience at our Folk Song Society Wednesday evenings, I came upon a recording of a full songcircle that I made back on April Fool’s Day, 2015. Since our songcircle that would have taken place tonight (April 1) would have been on a similar theme, it seems appropriate to share selections from that recording now.

Here is John Neilson singing his song from our Parodies and Silly Songs night.

Cheerful Songs for Trying Times 3

Casting about for a way to share some of the good cheer and community that we experience at our Folk Song Society Wednesday evenings, I came upon a recording of a full songcircle that I made back on April Fool’s Day, 2015. Since the upcoming songcircle we will be missing would also have taken place on April Fool’s (2020), it seems appropriate to share selections from that recording now.

Here is Mary Armitage singing the third song from our Parodies and Silly Songs night.

See more from Mary on her performer’s page.