Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.

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To Locate

I resist the obviousness of GPS as a tool to locate, navigate, identify.  Most interesting to me is when GPS is wrong, as in the case this spring when a K-W woman, travelling in deep fog at the tip of the Brice Peninsula, drove her car into Georgian Bay instead of the Hotel parking lot.


tap water filling the bucket I used to water my garden every day, in this dry dry summer we had

There are so many other ways to identify that have more meaning, make more sense. They pull from deeper source data to inform us about identity.  Navigation there is not by straight, measurable lines.

very simple shore cabin where I spend several summer weekends this year. This is Georgian Bay, at the mouth of the "sound" that leads to Owen Sound, where I live and work

This is Georgian Bay, at the mouth of the “sound” that leads to Owen Sound, where I live and work.

I live in a place surrounded by water.  It rains and snows more here than any other place in Ontario.  Travel by car in any direction and you’ll find a river (likely with a waterfall), a lake Great or small, a creek or stream – in less than fifteen minutes.

Jones Falls, Owen Sound

Jones Falls, Owen Sound

My mother’s family has lived here for six generations before me.  The (scots) paternal side of her family was famous for their foundry, where they made enormous propellers for lake and ocean-going ships “At one time, [Kennedy’s] supplied propellers for about ninety-five percent of marine traffic on the Great Lakes” (Grey Roots Museum and Archives).  Water people.  Industrialists.

a brass replica of a Kennedy Propeller pattern. I'm using this as reference for a series of paintings.

a brass replica of a Kennedy Propeller pattern. I’m using this as reference for a series of paintings.

Mom’s Maternal side (Pennsylvania Deutch – descendants from German refugees of the 100 years war) not so famously made ladies’ hoisery, employing 200 women at a time when women were organizing to get the vote. A great great great uncle of mine fought for the North in the American civil war; we are making a book of his letters home at the moment.  Dependable people. Steady.

It is in that factory building, on the third floor NE corner, where I have kept a painting/music studio these past eight years.

studio a couple of years ago

My parents are retired (and excellent) Highschool English teachers saturated by music, literature and art (Mom – ARCT Piano, Toronto Conservatory; Dad a painter of landscapes and literary references).  My daughter is now twenty, mostly fluent in Japanese, studying modern languages and international studies at U of Ottawa.


I had a mentor and teacher as a young music student who was fierce like a grandfather to me.  As a young man he used to play violin like Fritz Kreisler in my Great Grandmother Kennedy’s parlour for the WCTU ladies. He later played at my parent’s wedding and made both of my cellos, the first of which was just returned to me last summer after 14 years. (link to that blog if you click on the picture I believe)


Instead of studying cello at Laurier at age seventeen I chose to study Visual Art at York University.  Somehow I felt that the formal study of music would ruin my love for the pure joy of playing it.  I will never know if I was right, but I’ve also never regretted the decision.  I’ve been able to do both in my life and love them equally. Each practise informs the other I’ve found, so I teach musicians how to draw and it makes them better players.


It is this very thing that has led me to a Masters in Community Music – at Laurier, where I chose NOT to study music performance 35 years ago.  I love the way life travels us back to ourselves.



Unbelievably, I am reunited with my oldest love, after fourteen years.


I was fifteen and vague with deep introversion when we came together.  I had no real tools other than my ears and a fierce invisible longing that Named Me, so I struggled as if blindfolded.  I didn’t know how to properly approach the impossible,  let alone get through it.  Nevertheless,  he felt me through all the awkward then and he answered, full and deep, rich and old and stable, as Fathers can.

I’m not overstating things when I say he became as always as bedrock to me.  As permanent as sky.  More than anything else in my young life, he taught me that I was More.


We  stayed  together and things happened.  Impossible shook  me and took me like tumbleweed into places I had no business being, places that could so easily have trapped me,  cloistered me, shaped my forever into defeat and imprisonment.  In retrospect I can see that I was protected then by a great naivete which was the only visible edge of the longing that Named Me.

He was with me through those years, enshrined in a corner, voiced in a stairwell – a place of joining always on offer, where I could shed what I needed to and reclaim what I needed to, if I felt strong enough to meet him.

I didn’t feel strong, though, in that time.  I still thought myself a child  who ought to seek approval. I was afraid to show my teeth.

Drips from paint I threw at canvas on my studio walls splattered his belly.  I sang in a band that laughed and drank and smoked and toured.  I abandoned myself in lovers who saw, but didn’t see.


Then Ed phoned and I answered, as I’d done many times before.  I took my Always up to compare to the new girl, who had been rejected by a student, & why, what’s wrong with her.  Played new girl for twenty minutes, then picked up my Always to compare sounds,  as I’d done before.

But I couldn’t play him.  He was gone.  Tried again.  No.  And again.  Nothing.

With no warning, New Girl had claimed me over him.  I couldn’t buy her and keep him, so after two weeks of tears and trying, I traded.  Fifteen years ago.

He went to a place of silence and while he sat like a secret inside a hard case, I played New Girl.  She pushed me, like a bitch.  She made me work for every note,  she called me out on every bad habit.  She could snarl like a tiger, and scream ugly like a stuck rabbit.  She demanded that I use my teeth.

So I found my teeth, and learned how to use them.  I learned to love her, and we learned to compromise well, my sister and I.


Oh but against all odds, the man who bought my cello 15 years ago found me and offered me first right of refusal.

I said YES quickly without thinking –  knowing I couldn’t afford it, maybe I’d exaggerated value, romanticized connection.  I said yes, and months later  & five days ago Impossible came like tumbleweed and delivered him back.

There are splatters of paint on his belly.


I’m not overstating things here:  this week my fifteen-year-old self has been re-introduced to me, 36 years later, through this 1928 instrument from Germany via the hands and ears and exquisitely focused, raging love of Edouard Bartlett.

In the two concerts I’ve played since then, in the hours of practise I’ve put in I can hear that we have teeth now.  We have better tools. We have Possible, and great, sweet Beauty.  We are full to the brim with Longing… for more.

I listen to Stravinsky’s phoenix rise, and my face is wet.


This post is for Fran, and for Sue, who told entirely different firebird stories to me at different times on the same Day-of-Change.


sitting bones

This morning’s cold has made the rain weightless.  As I watch from my third floor window I can feel the pull and flow of ocean, save that it’s air – currents made visible by tiny crystals of frozen water.  The north wind, playing.

My walk at dawn was full of the promise of this; I’m glad to be in the saddle now watching it happen.


The saddle today is all about music education – not just classical, not just conventional, but real and applied like a cord that weaves through every part of life (in Austria the bricklayers sing opera as they work). I’ve got alot of ground to cover from now to Sunday evg – on familiar roads, abandoned roads, through fields, bush and escarpment on animal trails – always pulling this cord (chord?) of an idea through it all.  (I’m tempted* to play a little with this idea (like the North Wind) and pull up the Minotaur in the Labyrinth myth….)


There are models out there that answer the need for a strong, universal program for kids to learn and play music.  Every one of them needs to be altered to fit the place they will be.  Every one of them needs strong advocates on the ground, a solid team of non-competitive, collaborative teacher/player/coaches, and the clear understanding that without including and involving the parents, the community will never engage, the bricklayers will never sing on their scaffolds.


There will be some valuable breaks from the computer – practise on cello & viola & piano, learning vocal lyrics, arrangements; rehearsing & playing a great benefit gig for the Phillippines with great friends (& incredible players); hikes in the playful snow.  Through it all my heart and head will still be in the saddle here, building a good plan.  I love this work.  Love it, love it.

detail of 4'x4' painting in progress:  D-ring snaffle bit

detail of 4’x4′ painting in progress: D-ring snaffle bit

I have the bit in my teeth now and girth snug on my belly – I’m both horse and rider, and we’re off.  See you on Sunday if you live here. Have a great weekend, wherever you are,  if you don’t.  ‘Hope you get to play.

Here’s the Phillippines poster:

calm in the eye poster1(1)


*maybe later, since it would require a pretty serious re-write.  I’m not sure that the bull-headed beast is a bad thing that needs to die in this version, and not sure we need one hero (we need many). Cut or change Theseus’ motivation, re-write Ariadne’s lines, keep the labyrinth as a metaphor for accepting what you don’t and cannot know until you’ve gone the distance,  give the Minotaur an archetypal weight and purpose because we need him, there’s always a scary beast….

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prayers and tools

Kol Nidrei (arranged for cello & piano) on the stand beside The Bach Suites.  Above and to the right, a clock and the first viola John Newton made as a student (no bridge or strings – I’m honoured to keep it safe here).  Then the big black hanging fish, then my sewing machine, then the axe painting and the shovel painting.

Beside the Shovel painting, the 2000k lamp, and the light table.  On the light table the prototype windhorse prayerflag, yellow.  Continue along the east wall – a kundalini print from NYC; Crow; a framed sketch of a thinking woman bought at a Roxy Fundraiser; an almost-completed painting of a chopsaw and a teacup.  Then pliers, wire cutters, canvas stretchers, clamps, staple gun.

Closer to me a voracious ivy in the window below a green blind with a wishbone painted on it, now in silhouette.  A candle, three china teacups on their saucers, a photo of Edouard Bartlett holding a Strad; my cello in a case that Ed ordered for me;  my grandfather’s wall thermometer; a round mirror framed by the world snake, Orobouros; and before the next window my old draughting table, with lino cutting tools, pencils and ink drawing tools on it.

…and now seven technologies – I shot, cleaned in photoshop & converted to jpg, then posted it into WordPress, fb, twitter & linkedin. This is what we do now.

Mary Magdalene on the wall behind my left shoulder, surveying it all.  She stares out through three layers of technology – a painting made by Piero Della Francesca in the early Gothic era, a photograph of said painting taken sometime in the past twenty years, and a print of the photograph onto the postcard my mother found in Spain, and brought home to me.

I am getting ready to step into the rhythm of this studio – I have all day for this – rare indeed.  I will draw on the shovel painting and stretch the axe canvas.  I’ll draw the remaining symbols for the prayer flag (leopard, tiger, dragon, gurudas, Fran) and get them onto the lino block, ready for carving.  I’ll paint the small hanging sea creatures black and white, and find the correct places to put eye hooks into them.  I’ll practise my cello – long, deep practise off and on all day – to strengthen muscle, build callus, embed Bach and Brahms into my bones.  I’ll read about colour, tools, light and materials, and make notes for my exhibition/ installation proposal.

Our captive friend at the Toronto Zoo. I took out his fence (wish it were that simple).

I’ll take breaks to write letters with my pen, fold them and put them in envelopes.  On my trip to the bank I’ll take these to the post office and mail them.

I’ll teach tonight, from 5 until 8, by which time the room and I will be singing and alive in all our corners.

Happy Thursday all.

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What I get to do

Last Friday, I was part of a packed house at Georgian Shores United Church, listening to the Concert Choir sing Mozart’s Requiem.  This mass is one of my favourites – I’ve spent long long hours painting to my recording of it over and over again.  It’s a difficult piece, by any standards, but especially challenging for an amateur choir.  But This Choir, conducted brilliantly by Regan MacNay, sang it with dignity, joy, and good honest grit.  I was so moved I cried through the entire performance. I was glad to be there.

Last night I rehearsed with another musical family – I’ve been playing with them since I was 13, initially because Edouard Bartlett insisted that it be so.  Of course he was right – over the years I’ve been able to learn and perform beautiful, challenging works by Mahler, Beethoven, Strauss, Dvorak, Brahms, Bruch, and countless of other composers both classical and contemporary.  My playing has stretched and grown with the musical direction of GBS conductors – most recently my dear friend John Barnum.  The other players in the orchestra are like a family to me – deeply loved, eagerly met each time I’m able to join them.  I’m a lucky girl.

This April 28 (in 2 weeks and 2 days!!) is our 40th anniversary concert for the Georgian Bay Symphony:  Manitoulin  (Premiere), by Richard Mascall; Piano Concerto No.3, by Sergei Prokofiev – with our own brilliant Kati Gleiser; Symphony No.5, by Dmitri Shostakovich.  We’ve never tackled such tough music – but at rehearsals we’re doing well & sounding good.

I do encourage everyone who can to come – Kati is worth seeing and hearing WHENEVER you get the chance – I’m eager to hear her performance of the Prokoffieff.  Richard’s Manitoulin is big and fun and OURS – it’s not often you get to play a premiere of this stature.  The Shostakovitch is complex and brilliant – I recommend the pre-concert talks so you can hear it in context.

I also work with the GBS Youth Orchestra every Monday.  We are playing movements from Beethoven I, VII and IX (all at breakneck speed); Faure Pavane; The Death of Ase;  the Bruch Violin Concerto and the Rachmaninoff Piano concerto – all very difficult, all very fast.  This orchestra takes every corner on 2 wheels – they’re extremely exciting to play with.  Come and see us – May 30 @ Georgian Shores United (used to be called Division Street Church) in Owen Sound.

This is what I get to play this spring.  I also travel to see Yo Yo Ma and the TSO play (late May), and to Mississauga for John Barnum’s final concert with the Mississauga Symphony on May 5th.

What an incredible music season!



91 years old, sharp as a tack.

Photo by John Newton of Ed at Heinl's holding a priceless Stradivarius violin, looking cheeky.

A good instrument will always respond when pushed – it gives whatever you ask, with capacity to spare for still more intensity, more beauty, more despair, more guts, more joy more sorrow, more pity,  more more … MORE!.  The limit is only in the player’s imagination.

As Ed thought, it’s not about age, but chemistry, awareness, patience, …humour.  He championed excellence in any form, without pandering to pedigree or economics.  He could be enthralled by the dedication with which a 4-year-old tied her shoelaces, inversely as bored by a player who would not accept the challenge to imagine himself as brilliant, and work to make it so. He loved it  – crowed with laughter – when I forgot my music but played well anyway.

There were many of us who became like his instruments, and gave what he asked, and in so doing found our own true depth.  I never found the limit to his imagination, was always forgiven for not seeing the possibilities as quickly as he did, and managed to push back enough to teach him a few things in return. It was never easy by any stretch, to know Ed, but by god I respected him.  I’ve never worked harder for anyone.

The same day he passed he was read this article:

His son Paul (who read it aloud) said that Ed’s face was transformed into a sunrise:

Ah.  Finally.

He had a deep understanding of human nature, of the idea that our vulnerabilities are potentially our greatest strengths if they can be acknowledged early & with good support, challenged properly (and without cease), ignited at the right time so the slow burn never ever dies, no matter what.

Edouard Bartlett died without fuss on Saturday January 21, 2011.  He was, and always will be, the dragon I love.

Here’s a wonderful audio tribute to Ed by another of his students, Steve Ritchie.  It’s worth a listen.

Tribute to Edouard Bartlett, by Steve Ritchie, January 2011

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New Moon

They call it the ‘dark’ of the moon.  For me, without knowing much more than that about new moons, I imagine a greenhouse in the dark; a pot of seeds pushing out roots under the soil; the invisible emergence of a small thought that can grow to become The Idea That Changed it All.  It’s a very private, very personal time – when above all else, one Must listen carefully and gently to oneself.

A century-old wicker chair from an island cottage on the St. Lawrence River. This room is above the Boathouse.

I have Handel’s Passacalie playing in my mind – the string quartet played at a very satisfying wedding this past Saturday – and played and played, until every muscle in my left hand and arm was in pain.  Even days later as I type I can feel the bruising on my fingertips – and yet this is far less important than Handel, than four people gathering to make and share live music.  Last night the Youth Orchestra played through some breathtaking Respighi – thank you Richard Mascall – that I shall also learn well enough to play in my mind.  This is the kind of thing that changes the world.

Boathouse Stairs

And so it comes, the moment of the September New Moon.  I have music in my thoughts.  Four new students, all of varying levels, all fully committed to learning how to play the cello.  They will all help to build resonance in this community, and wherever they go.  It has taken some time for me to get to the stage where I could teach again – I consider it an essential service, in the great community tradition of Edouard Bartlett, Donna Steinacher and many others.  I am fully aware that to teach well one must also challenge oneself musically – and I welcome it.  Writing, playing, practise, performing, studying – ever in search of more refinement, more subtlety.

We just ate the pie from the fruit these elderberry flowers provided. While they bloomed, the flowers sparkled like lights in the firmament. What a wonderful plant!

I have also this marvelous winter light festival in my thoughts which has grown to have huge resonance for me.  The Festival is a quarter-century old, and attracts visitors from around the world now (do we know this here?  I wonder). It’s also about the light in the folks who put it together every year – passionate, dedicated, rock-solid loyal, kind and full of pure, simple fun – I’m honoured to work with them.

baby snapper (at Leith) from this past June.

I can just begin to see colour now in the leaves, and above them a payne’s grey watercolour-washed sky.  The clouds move from SE to NW, which is unusual for here.  In the garden there are seven huge blue morning glories blooming, as if in answer to stars- they glow against the dark of the cedars behind them.  All is quiet in the house – G&D lie abed, the cat is still.

My quiet thoughts have grown as I write, into a feeling that as yet cannot hold words.

Or, perhaps it can hold one. Just one word that holds great promise, and requires safe passage through the months and years ahead: