Friday 12 April 2013

Renfrew Tales. Townsmen guitarist retires from his day job!

He Is No Longer In Town. 
Milliken Turns Out The Lights And Goes Home (To Play Guitar)

I stopped by the King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto Wednesday night on my way to the a dance performance at the Fleck Theatre (a Norwegian troupe using soccer moves to create a 55-minute dance). This was important Renfrew business, so I broke down and wore a clean shirt and a tie, and lotsa cologne. Open bar but I showed some respect and didn't let my Valley thirst roots show. The guest of honour at this high-end retirement party was for the adopted son of Renfrew and the Renfrew Valley.
It was a retirement party for David Milliken - former guitarist for the Townsmen, former editor of the Renfrew Mercury and former news editor at the Ottawa Journal. And, as of tomorrow he is the former vice president of Canada News Wire (the people who move press releases and financial statements across Canada). Great retirement party - editors of newspapers, TV station managers, bankers, fundraisers, PR people, friends of the family, and me.
David Milliken was the lead guitarist for the Townsmen, a group that at one time rivalled the Staccatos (Five Man Electrical Band), the Mandala and the Reason's Why for the record number of times they performed at the Bayview Pavillion in Cobden (and the Rec Centre back in  Renfrew).
They were one of Canada's top Rock and Roll dance bands out of Ottawa during the 60s. The Townsmen had five national selling singles, including I'm Such a Dreamer, Funny How Love Can Be, We're Doing Fine, Lion Sleeps Tonight, He's In Town. That was back in the 60s. In the 70s he ran the Mercury, married a local girl and then moved way out of town (Ottawa) never to hoist a boilermaker at the White House again.
At the time I had a weekly column in the Mercury. I lost touch with David when I moved out of Renfrew. That is, until the early 80s when I walked into Canada News Wire and asked their help in sending out across Canada a picture of a military project I was helping promote - a tank that could fire mini-cruise missiles at the Red Menace. The weapon meant to protect NATO troops in West Germany but the Berlin Wall came down before it was deployed. Dave was fascinated by the project and helped us get it into newspapers across the country, and since then we have been friends, albeit with decade long gaps in between.
Anyway it was great seeing him go out on his own terms at the age of 67. Says he is going to golf, play his music and maybe write a book. Think his band is called the Beavers - sounds a whole bunch sexier than the Townsmen.

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Group of Seven Sweet Music At The McMike This Sunday

Many years ago I helped Toronto Jazz great Tony Quarrington get access to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.  We toured the gallery together and he eventually wrote and recorded his seminal Group of Seven Suite. The gallery let him use a Group of Seven painting for the CD cover.  The suite was performed only twice at the gallery.  Now a decade later, Tony is returning to the public gallery in Kleinburg to perform it again - one time only!

Group of Seven Jazz Concert At The McMichael Gallery this Sunday, April 14.

Tony Quarrington's the Group of Seven Suite

Sunday April 14, 2013 at 2:30 p.m.
In 2001, Tony Quarrington fulfilled a ten-year dream when he recorded his eight-part Group of Seven Suite, performed that same year at the McMichael. Eleven years later, Quarrington returns to the gallery for another performance of his musical tribute to the Group of Seven.

The event will be hosted by the JAZZ FM91's Jaymz Bee who is celebrating his 50th Birthday. Musicians who participated in the Suite's original recording including Jane Bunnett, Jeff Bird of Cowboy Junkies,and Brian Dickinson, will join Tony Quarrington in this exceptional performance. The band will also feature Larry Cramer, Roberto Occipinti, Mike McClelland, and vocals by Laura Smith.

The Group of Seven Suite was inspired by the works October Gold by Franklin Carmichael and Mountain Portage by Fred Varley which are currently on view at the McMichael.

Note: Concert price includes gallery admission. A special tour of the Group of Seven works will be offered at 1:00 p.m.

Prix Fixe Menu from 12:30 p.m.
$25 (taxes & gratuity not included)
Cashew & Clive Café located on lower level
Reservations: 905.893.1121 ext. 2262

Breads: Freshly Baked Breads & Flat Breads served with butter, hummus & olive tapenade

Salads: Romaine heart lettuce with a creamy garlic parmigiano dressing, croutons and crispy pancetta OR Spinach Salad with pomegranate seeds, strawberry, Quebec chevre & Balsamic vinaigrette

Main: Fettuccini Fungi with asparagus in a butter, sage, white wine sauce with a hint of cream OR Parmagiana chicken breast with apricots bacon & goat asiago over a vegetable medley and roasted potatoes

Dessert: Brownies with Vanilla gelato

Beverage: One soft drink, One freshly brewed coffee/tea

Cost: general public: Concert Only $25, Students with valid ID $20

(Note: Prix Fixe Menu not included)
McMichael members: Concert Only $20 (Note: Prix Fixe Menu not included)

Reservation: Required

A bus to and from the McMichael will be available, departing from the Rex Hotel, 194 Queen St. West, Toronto at 12:00 p.m. and returning at 5:00 p.m. Cost: $5 per person. Registration required. 905.893.1121 ext. 2209

Tuesday 9 April 2013


 Reading Books. Playing Reporter. Talking about Literacy - Celebrity Reads in Toronto
Karlene Nation teaches a Grade 3 class to play TV reporter

 Take a book, grab your child, pull up a rocking chair and join the Karlene Nation!

Karlene Nation reads to Grade 3 students in Toronto

I wouldn't have been upset if Karlene Nation had turn down my request to give up part of her day and read stories to Grade 3 students at the Wilcox Junior School (Ada /Oakwood) this morning.

She is a busy reporter for CFTO TV but had booked today off to get ready for a special evening -- she is to receive a Woman of Honour Award tonight from the BBPA (Black Business and Professional Association). 

But, when I told her this morning was to promote literacy and reading here in Toronto and Jamaica, she was all in!

As you can see from the pictures on this page that the young kids loved meeting Karlene. Not only did she read to them but she taught them how to be TV reporters covering a car accident (the victim had a miracle on-camera recovery).

The purpose of today's event (sponsored by Grace Food) was three-fold; to encourage parents to read to their children, inspire children with a love of reading and to raise awareness for the I P.L.E.D.G.E (I Promise to Lend Encouragement to Develop Growth in Education) Program. The Toronto schools are challenging the kids (and their parents) to read more books by introducing a "Reading Race," which is a contest challenging the kids to read as many books as possible before the end of the school year. 

Author Jessica Alex

Also speaking to the children this morning was Jessica Alex (pictured left). She is the author of the children's book -- What if the World had no Colour?

Monday 1 April 2013

Parade gives assistance to the community

Five Scarborough students to receive Carnival scholarships at Seneca College

Toronto, ON, 04.01.2013The Festival Management Committee’s Scholarship Committee announced today that five scholarships have been awarded to high school students selected from Wards 7, 8 and 9 to pursue their post-secondary education at Seneca College beginning this fall.  The scholarships are part one of the methods in which the Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival festival engages the community.

The five students will receive their scholarships on Tuesday April 2 in Markham, as part of Seneca College’s Community Award Ceremony. This year’s scholarship recipients are:

Dinero Davis
Temitope Owolabi 
Joy Uhunmhansebhor 
Irina Masner
Adam Murray

The scholarships are fully funded by the Festival Management Committee (Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto) in partnership with Seneca College. Tuition assistance is given to those Scarborough high school students who are active in building on the strengths of the community, (e.g., peer tutoring or coaching in after school programs, such as breakfast club; seniors and families; and organized team sports.) This year the students will be sharing scholarships totaling $3,000.00

The students will be honoured at the Seneca College Award Ceremony that will be held at the Markham Campus, (Garden Level) 8 The Seneca Way, Markham.  The event begins at 5.30 pm and will run till 7pm.
Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto is an exciting three-week cultural explosion of Caribbean music, cuisine, revelry as well as visual and performing arts. The Carnival begins July 9th with the official free launch at Toronto’s City Hall, with events continuing throughout the month. The Grand Parade will be held Saturday August 3rd along the city’s Lakeshore Blvd.  The Festival ends August 4th with Beyond de Lime.  Scotiabank, GMC, the City of Toronto, the Province of Ontario, the Toronto Star, CTV and CP24 sponsor the 2013 Festival.

The FMC’s Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Office is located at 19 Waterman Avenue Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M48 1Y2. Contact info: Tel: 416-391-5608. For festival information, please visit

For pictures taken of the event, check out six pictures I took of the winners at:

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Media Contacts:

Stephen Weir                                                              
Festival Publicist
Tel: 416-489-5868