Like art, my music is also a meditation, but it resonates at a different level, though the two are connected. My intimacy with both informs each in ways that would be impossible without that connection.

Chronology

I first became aware that music was something cool at age 7 when there was a buzz rippling through the neighbourhood about how The Beatles were going to play the Ed Sullivan Show (on February 9th 1964). Today, I remember that show in the same way that I remember when President Kennedy was shot, or when John Lennon was shot.

A few years later, I became interested in the guitar when some of the slightly older neighbourhood boys had formed a band and I attended many of their rehearsals. I remember a Sunday afternoon when I picked up a guitar during their break and spontaneously picked out (and recognized) the lick to Satisfaction, by The Rolling Stones. That was it. From that day forward, my mother got no peace until I had a guitar of my own to play. The first guitar I got was a classical guitar with an unattached bridge. The guitar needed to be set up, though I had no idea about that at the time. After much frustration and calls for help, I stopped trying to play the thing.

Finally, on May 26th 1970, with my friend Kevin Vogen along as a consul-tant, we went downtown to The Bay where my mother plunked down $50 for an Olson acoustic steel string guitar. Kevin taught me to play House Of The Rising Sun that day. I spent the first few years learning by watching the more advanced musicians in the neighbourhood band, which consisted mainly of Steve McFall (guitar & vocals), Kevin Vogen (guitar, bass & vocals), Erik Teose (guitar), Daniel Vermette (guitar & bass), and Kelly Arrey (drums). Another friend from the neighbourhood (he wasn't in their band) was Paul Leroux. Paul played guitar and piano, and his eclectic tastes helped steer me away from the middle of the road, a penchant that still fuels my engines today. All of these guys displayed a lot of talent and perseverance, and were wonderful role models for me. Their achievements and performances became the benchmark by which I measured success.

In the beginning, music was a struggle for me as I had poor sense of time and even poorer sense of pitch. Such limitations might have deterred some players, but not me. What I lacked in talent, I made up for in burning desire, and that kept me playing, which eventually led to making music.

After a couple years playing the Olson, I realized that I needed something better and my mother got me a beautiful Aria Spanish guitar. It had a slender neck with accurate intonation, and it served me well for many years. I also bought my first electric guitar at a pawn shop on Craig street (now St-Antoine street). This baby had four pickups all governed by a single on-off switch, a single master tone control and a single volume control.

My first public performance was at an open mic at the summer street festival on August 5th 1972 on Portage avenue in Winnipeg. I accompanied Kevin Vogen.

During my first ten years of playing, I jammed often with my musical friends and we formed some bands, none of which lasted. Except for my musical association with my best friend Sean Mooney. That persists to this day. The only problem there is that we haven't lived in the same city since 1976, which makes it difficult to get any serious music happening. Despite that, we have managed to make home recordings every few years and have had a lot of fun along the way. Early on, Sean and I formed a trio with flautist Louis Beaupré, a friend of mine from High School, and though we never had an official name for our act, we did play a few gigs.

Sean and I had the most fun in the Fall of 1978 when we hitch-hiked around the US with our guitars in tow. We played for food and tips at every opportunity, such as this one at the Morning Glory Café in Albuquerque.

I met alto saxophonist Patrick Murphy in the early 1980s when, with others, we formed an impromptu band for recording students to learn their trade. That opportunity was provided by Bogdan Zaryn, a fellow from my old neighbourhood who had become a music agent. Pat and I got along well and played together in many situations and settings for the next decade. As a duo, we busked in Metro stations and on the street during tourist season. We also had more legitimate bookings in various jazz bands and top 40 bands. It was a sobering experience the first time I found myself on stage reading a song I had never played or heard before, but it was all part of growing up and developing confidence. There were many personnel changes over the years but the people who saw the most action with us were Walter Macklin (drums) and Diane Burke (vocal, guitar, keyboards).

In the mid eighties, I met Alexandra Wolanskyj, a gifted singer who understood how to sing my songs. We made some home recordings and played a few gigs.

On Vancouver Island, I muscled my way into the Linda Walker Trio (turning it into a Quartet). We played jazz standards. We held a Saturday night gig for about six months. It was there I met Bonnie Fontaine, a local singer-songwriter. We teamed up and formed a duo called Whirlwind. We played covers, but loved to play them our way so, often, you could only recognize the song by listening to the lyrics. We found that we complemented each other as a songwriting team, she as a lyricist, me as a musical director and arranger. Before long, our rehearsals turned into songwriting sessions. In 1999, we changed our name to expresssoul and began recording a CD of our songs entitled Stirring.

In 1998, I met violinist Marjorie Koers, with whom I've played ever since. We play weddings, receptions, and special occasions of many kinds. Our repertoire includes waltzes, tangos, reels, mazurkas, standards, and gypsy jazz. We perform under the name Starlight Reverie, often with singer Rosalee Sullivan.

In 2001, I met my current life partner  Janet Strandquist while we were playing in a band backing local singer-songwriter Kerry Samick. We soon left to form our own duo called Two of Us. We mainly play cover tunes (though we both write songs) and have been playing and gigging steadily ever since.

Schooling

I took lessons during the summer of 1973 (my third year playing guitar) but I didn't click with the teacher, so I stopped going after the second lesson.

The following year, someone recommended the Frank Quinn School of Music. It was quite a distance to commute, but I went and was glad I did. My teacher's name was Michel. He was a long-haired, young (twenties) French Canadian, and thoroughly steeped in jazz. I got along well with him, yet I dropped out after three or four months because I lacked the discipline to consistently do the homework, and couldn't bear his disappoint when I arrived unprepared for my lesson. Almost a year later, I had notions of playing the saxophone and approached my uncle Henry Matthews, who was a professional jazz clarinetist and saxophonist. The saxophone didn't work out for me, but the experience did renew my love for the guitar and uncle Henry arranged for me to return to Frank Quinn's school and for Frank himself to teach me.

Frank Quinn was a jazz player in the Wes Montgomery style. He was a lefty who played a right-hand-strung guitar left handed, or a right-hand-strung guitar right handed, or a left-hand-strung guitar left handed. Once I got over the confusion caused by his switching guitars several times during a lesson, I spent several months working my way through 'A Modern Method For Guitar, Volume 1' by William Leavitt, and other guitar etude books issued by Berklee Press. Once I reached the end of Volume 1, I felt I needed a rest and stopped taking lessons.

At different times over the years, I've taught many aspiring guitarists. I love to share my experiences and help people become better players. My rates are very reasonable. Anyone in the Qualicum Beach area seeking instruction can contact me.

Influences

I consider myself a musician first, and a guitarist second. Not that I'm a great musician or anything, but my allegiance is to the music, not to my guitar playing. I greatly prefer making a good piece of music over playing a good solo. Having said that, I have spent a lot of time listening to (and soaring with) some really good players.

I love many forms of music. I enjoy playing jazz, rock, folk, bluegrass, alternative, blues, gypsy swing, reggae, and world music. I hear beauty in almost everything and I'm constantly seeking out new, fresh sources of sounds to challenge and inspire me.

I believe that music comes from the heart and that it is intensely personal, that there are as many valid unique reactions to a same piece of music as there are listeners.

The first two albums I bought (at age 13) were The Beatles Rubber Soul and Jimi Hendrix Smash Hits. Those were the first major influences on me. Soon afterwards, through my friends' influence came Chicago, Joe Pass, Steely Dan, Yes, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and James Taylor. Then over the years, I've discovered and have been influenced by Pat Metheny, Frank Zappa, Django Reinhardt, King Crimson, The Allman Brothers Band, Oscar Peterson, Pink Floyd, Miles Davis, King Sunny Adé, Led Zeppelin, David Grisman, Benny Goodman, Sade, Santana, Terrence Blanchard, Joni Mitchell, Jethro Tull, Paul Desmond, Ellen McIlwaine, Brian Setzer, Roland Kirk, Bob Marley, Simon & Garfunkel, John Coltrane, Juanjo Dominguez, Jesse Colin Young, Duke Ellington, Vince Guaraldi, The Eagles, Lenny Breau, Eva Cassidy, Bruce Guthro, Charlie Parker, Lynn Miles, Thelonious Monk, Patty Griffin, The Police, Kenny Burrell, Franz Ferdinand, and others.

 

 

All content copyright Peter Leclerc