Courses for Fun

 

see the Nightlife magazine interview with Craig about his courses

Discover great music ! See rare photos and film clips ! Hear intriguing tales !

Connect with fellow music lovers ! Educational fun ! No exams !

Spring 2017

MUSICAL GENIUSES AND ICONS

This survey of the careers of a dozen legends highlights their origins, inspirations, creativity, and contributions to the evolution of popular music, jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll. From dixieland to soul, from psychedelia to reggae, you will hear their songs and the stories behind them.


- Louis Armstrong
- Miles Davis
- Ray Charles
- James Brown
- John Lennon
- Paul McCartney
- producer Phil Spector
- Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys
- Bob Marley
- Bruce Springsteen
- Pink Floyd
- Led Zeppelin

Six Mondays, May 1 to June 12 (no class May 22), from 7 to 9pm, at the Cummings Centre, 5700 Westbury Avenue, Montreal, H3W 3E8. For info or to register, contact Michelle Lander at 514-342-1234 local 7216, or michelle.lander@cummingscentre.org


previous courses

GONE TOO SOON : MUSIC OF DEPARTED LEGENDS

ran fall 2016

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Janis Joplin

So many of our musical icons left us too soon.

This course shone a spotlight on legends of many genres :

- rock : Buddy Holly, Frankie Lymon, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain...

- rhythm & blues and soul : Otis Redding, Amy Winehouse...

- blues : Robert Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughan...

- country : Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, Gram Parsons...

- jazz : Bix Beiderbecke, Fats Waller, Charlie Parker..

- pop : George Gershwin, Bobby Darin, Karen Carpenter...


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Beatles in Hamburg, 1962 : photo by Astrid Kirchner

Eight Days a Week : The Music of the Beatles

ran spring 2016

click for a notice about it in the Montreal Gazette

This course, illustrated by recordings, slides, film clips, and stories, showed the evolution of the music of the Beatles. We covered the hits, Beatlemania, the British invasion, the movies, new sounds, mind expansion, and later studio experiments. Their formative years and influences, plus the post-Beatle solo careers and the group’s legacy were also presented.

We heard about the Liverpool and Hamburg days, their manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin, and great songs : She Loves You, Help !, Yesterday, I Feel Fine, Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields Forever, A Hard Day’s Night, Day Tripper, Nowhere Man, All You Need Is Love, Yellow Submarine, Paperback Writer, Get Back, I Want to Hold Your Hand, and many more.


Blueberry Hill : Music of New Orleans and Louisiana

ran fall 2015

On the banks of the mighty Mississippi, New Orleans (also known as The Big Easy), has given the world much fabulous music. Louisiana is the birth place of many stars, and its history, culture, and traditions are fascinating.

This course presents many colourful characters, such as Fats Domino, Louis Armstrong, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jelly Roll Morton, Little Richard, Mahalia Jackson, and Lead Belly.

The songs you will hear include Suzy Q, Great Balls of Fire, Sea Cruise, House of the Rising Sun, Time Is On My Side, Good Rockin’ Tonight, Cotton Fields, Hello Dolly, Rockin’ Robin, and Basin Street Blues.

Also you will hear how the Beatles, Elvis Presley, and other greats have taken inspiration and done songs from New Orleans. Let the good times roll !

topics :

- Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans ? – songs about the city and state
- When the Saints Go Marching In - dixieland
- The Midnight Special - the blues tradition
- I Found My Thrill on Blueberry Hill - rhythm and blues
- Chapel of Love - pop, gospel, cajun, and zydeco
- See You Later Alligator – rock and roll


Stand By Me : Rhythm & Blues, Motown, and Soul

ran spring 2015

Take a musical voyage from the ‘50s to the ‘70s. Learn how Ray Charles and other R&B pioneers helped to develop gospel-influenced soul music while Motown had its own sound and huge success. Hear and learn all the classics from The Twist and Please Mr. Postman, to Knock on Wood and I Heard It Through the Grapevine

topics :

- Sweet Soul Music

- Rhythm and Blues, Gospel Roots

- Atlantic Records, Ray Charles

- Motown

- The R&B Roots of the British Invasion, Rock and Soul

- Stax Records, Aretha Franklin, James Brown

- Soul Nuggets and Classics

- Funk, Disco, Northern Soul, Neo Soul


Do You Believe in Magic ? Music From New York
ran fall 2014


New York has given so much wonderful music to the world : Tin Pan Alley standards, Broadway musicals, the Cotton Club swing bands, 52nd Street be boppers, rhythm and blues combos, doo wop and girl groups, Brill Building songwriters, Greenwich Village folkies, rock bands, and more.

We will revisit a golden age of music, from early Tin Pan Alley to the late 1960s, from Sarah Vaughn and Duke Ellington to Ray Charles and the Shirelles, from Al Jolson and Billie Holiday to Neil Sedaka and the Lovin’ Spoonful, from Bobby Darin and the Drifters to Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel.

- week 1. Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, and songs about New York - “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet…As Time Goes By…if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere”

- week 2. Jazz - including Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday

- week 3. Rhythm and Blues and the Atlantic Label - including the Coasters, the Drifters, and Ray Charles

- week 4. Doo Wop and Girl Groups - including Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Dion and the Belmonts, and the Shirelles

- week 5. Folk - including Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Simon and Garfunkel

- week 6. Rock - including Brill Building writers (such as Carole King, Neil Sedaka), the Lovin’ Spoonful, and Blood, Sweat and Tears

Related concert :

February 13 and 14 (Friday and Saturday). The 18th Annual Roots of Rock and Roll Concert : Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow - Music From New York City. You will hear, to name a few, rhythm and blues (songs by Ray Charles, the Drifters, Clovers), doo wop (the Five Satins), girl group (the Shirelles, Chiffons), folk (Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Simon and Garfunkel) and rock (the Lovin’ Spoonful, the Rascals), and some old pop and Broadway tunes (George Gershwin). At the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall at 8pm. Valentine’s weekend !


THE 50th ANNIVERSARY OF THE BRITISH INVASION

ran spring 2014

Yes the Beatles, but also the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Zombies, Animals, Hollies, Searchers, Them (featuring Van Morrison), Dave Clark Five, Spencer Davis Group, Peter and Gordon, Chad and Jeremy, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Freddie and the Dreamers, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, Cilla Black, Petula Clark, Moody Blues, and more ! We’re just passed the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show—where were you in 1964 ?—when the floodgates opened to new sounds, new ideas, and a new era. It’s time to celebrate, to remember, and to feel the excitement again !

This course revisits and explains this fascinating musical and cultural phenomenon. You will hear the stories, see images and film clips, and hear the songs, including “She Loves You,” “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” “Glad All Over,” “House of the Rising Sun,” “Downtown,” “Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey,” “Just One Look,” “Groovy Kind of Love,” and “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.”

- 1. Liverpool and Beatlemania : The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Searchers

- 2. Manchester : The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits, Freddie and the Dreamers, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders

- 3. Birmingham, Newcastle, and Elsewhere : The Spencer Davis Group, The Moody Blues, the Animals, Them, the Bee Gees

- 4. Solo Singers and Duos. The ladies—Petula Clark, Cilla Black, Dusty Springfield, Marianne Faithfull—and the gentlemen : Donovan, Peter and Gordon, Chad and Jeremy

- 5. London 1 : The Dave Clark Five, the Kinks, Manfred Mann, the Zombies

- 6. London 2 : The Rolling Stones, the Who, the Yardbirds


MUSICAL HISTORY TOUR OF NEW ORLEANS, CHICAGO, and DETROIT

ran winter 2014

New Orleans Second Line (artwork by Bob Graham)

the painting is "New Orleans Second Line" by Bob Graham, from this website

Jazz, rhythm and blues, blues, soul, Motown, and a bit of gospel !


BOB DYLAN’S MUSIC AND TIMES

ran in October 2013 at McGill

- Dylan and the folk revival
- Electric bard/ folk rock
- Roots and beyond : country, blues, gospel, pop, rockabilly
- Dylan sings others/ others sing Dylan


MUSIC IN THE MOVIES

ran fall 2012

- 1. Beatle movies, from A Hard Day’s Night to Yellow Submarine

- 2. Musicals, jazz, blues, rock

- 3. Concert Films, from Jerry Lee Lewis to Santana and beyond

- 4. Films about Festivals, mostly rock, some folk

- 5. Biographical films, from Ricky Nelson to Tina Turner

- 6. Documentaries, on musicians, record collectors, and music itself

FIFTIES MUSIC : BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER

ran spring 2012

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Bo Diddley

pop, doo wop, rockabilly, honky tonk, jazz, folk, rhythm and blues

- before : where it came from

- during : what is was at the time

- after : how it’s perceived now and what use we make of it

MIGHTY SONGS : JOURNEYS AND TRANSFORMATIONS

ran in the spring 2011

What links Perry Como to James Brown, Elvis Presley to Moby, Fats Waller to the Beatles, Al Jolson to Aretha Franklin, and Leadbelly to Nirvana ? In each case, it’s a song. We will hear some very durable songs that have traveled through time, from as early as the 1800s to as recent as the 2000s, discovering their history and how they have survived and been transformed along the way. Rock, pop, blues, jazz, folk, country, and more will all be on our jukebox. Play it again, Sam !

BOB DYLAN and his ENTOURAGE

ran in the fall 2010

featuring :

- Bob Dylan’s great songs

- Beginnings : from rock and roll to Woody Guthrie

- Greenwich Village days : Dave Van Ronk, Joan Baez, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot

- Dylan’s repertoire of cover version

- Dylan songs interpreted by others : The Byrds ...

- Dylan’s collaborators : The Band, the Grateful Dead, Tom Petty ...

GUITAR GREATS

ran in the spring 2010

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1. Country Pickers : Mother Maybelle Carter, Merle Travis, Chet Atkins + more

2. The Arrival of the Electric Guitar. With the blues of T-Bone Walker and jazz of Charlie Christian + more

3. Jazz Wizards : Django Reinhart, Les Paul, Stanley Jordan + more

4. Kings of the Blues : from the early acoustic players to BB, Albert, and Freddie King + more

5. The British blues Rock of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Peter Green, founder of Fleetwod Mac and writer of “Black Magic Woman” + more

6. The Beatles as guitarists

WOMEN IN MUSIC

ran in the fall 2009

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Memphis Minnie
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Joan Baez

- Blues : Ma Rainey, Memphis Minnie, Koko Taylor, Bonnie Raitt

- Gospel & Soul : Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin

- Country : Patsy Montana, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn

- Folk : Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Sandy Denny

- Rockabilly : Rose Maddox, Wanda Jackson, Cordell Jackson

- Rock : girl groups, Janis Joplin, Deborah Harry of Blondie


THE GREAT MUSIC CITIES : NEW ORLEANS, NEW YORK, NASHVILLE

ran in the spring of 2009

1. New Orleans #1 : Louis Armstrong and dixieland jazz, plus early blues.

2. New Orleans #2 : Mardi Gras Indians, Lousiana rhythm & blues, rock & roll.

3. New York #1 : classic early recordings, legendary singers and bands.

4. New York #2 : blues, rhythm & blues and rock & roll.

5. Nashville #1 : early country and other roots

6. Nashville #2 : more country styles, plus rhythm & blues, rock and roll


PIONEERS OF ROCK AND ROLL AND ITS ROOTS

ran in the fall of 2008

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Sonny Burgess & the Pacers, 1957, Kern Kennedy (piano), Sonny at left

This course explored the story of rock and roll through genres (blues, rhythm & blues, country) that contributed to it, and some its styles (rockabilly, doo wop, British invasion, garage, psychedelic), all illustrated by the careers, music, films, and the words of 21 veteran musicians that Craig Morrison interviewed.

- 1. Blues and Country - profiling Yank Rachell (Tennessee blues mandolinist who first recorded in 1929 with Sleepy John Estes : "She Caught the Katy") ; Charlie Louvin (of country’s famous harmony duo the Louvin Brothers : "I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby") ; Hardrock Gunter (Alabama legend : "Birmingham Bounce" - one of the 50 candidates for "What Was the First Rock and Roll Record ?")

- 2. Rhythm & Blues - profiling Andre Williams (Detroit’s Mr. Rhythm : "Bacon Fat") ; Roy Head (the white James Brown : "Treat Her Right") ; Big Jay McNeely (king of the honking saxophonists : "There is Something On Your Mind")

- 3. Rockabilly - profiling Sonny Burgess and his pianist Kern Kennedy (Sun label rockabillies : "We Wanna Boogie") ; Lew Williams (the Daddy of Texas Cat Music : "Cat Talk") ; Paul Burlison (guitarist of the Rock and Roll Trio : "Train Kept a Rollin’")

- 4. ’50s Rock and Roll Styles - profiling Frankie Ford (New Orleans rocker : "Sea Cruise") ; Herb Cox of the Cleftones (New York doo wop : "Heart and Soul") ; Ronnie Hawkins (the Arkansas rocker who taught Canada how : "Mary Lou")

- 5. British Invasion and Garage - profiling Frank Allen of the Searchers (Liverpool greats : "When You Walk in the Room") ; Mark Tulin of the Electric Prunes ("I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night") ; Tony Valentino of the Standells ("Dirty Water")

- 6. Psychedelic - profiling three founding members of the Jefferson Airplane ("Somebody to Love") ; Peter Lewis of Moby Grape ("Omaha") ; Gary Duncan of Quicksilver Messenger Service ("Mona")

HISTORY OF BRITISH ROCK

ran in the spring of 2008

- 1. Roots : Skiffle, Pop, Rock, Folk, Blues. Included a presentation and performance by John "Lew Dite" Parsons, Canada’s Skiffle King

- 2. The Beatles

- 3. British Invasion. Included a performance by the Never-Be Brothers.

- 4. British Psychedelic and Prog Rock

- 5. Punk and New Wave

- 6. Brit Pop + old and new directions

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who are these guys ?

THE FAMOUS ATLANTIC RECORD LABEL : R&B, Jazz, Soul, Rock

ran in the fall of 2007

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Ray Charles, one of the greats who recorded for Atlantic in the 1950s

Ray Charles, one of the greats who recorded for Atlantic in the 1950s

One of the most important and most successful of the independent record labels that began in the years following World War II, the Atlantic label, based in New York City, created an enduring body of work. From Ray Charles, Big Joe Turner, and the r&b vocal groups, to Aretha Franklin, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Led Zeppelin, and more !

- 1. Cast of characters, early days
- 2. Blues and Rhythm & Blues
- 3. Jazz
- 4. Soul
- 5. Rock #1
- 6. Rock #2

GREAT BALLS OF FIRE ! THE FAMOUS SUN RECORD LABEL OF MEMPHIS

ran in the spring of 2007

The legendary Sun studio in Memphis is where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, B.B. King, Ike Turner, Howlin’ Wolf and many other great artists recorded, most of them for the very first time. Sun was run by Sam Phillips, whom the British rock and roll magazine Now Dig This once called "The Most Important Man in the World."

Craig Morrison began visiting Memphis and interviewing Sun artists back in the early 1980s, and shared lots of fascinating material.

- 1. Sunrise : early recordings, including blues by Howlin’ Wolf, Ike Turner, James Cotton, Little Junior Parker, and others.
- 2. How Elvis Presley invented rockabilly and where it came from.
- 3. Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and lots more boppin’ rockers.
- 4. Johnny Cash and the country side of Sun.
- 5. Gems from the vaults.
- 6. Sunset and the legacy of Sun Records.

History of Jazz

Ran in the fall of 2006.

- 1. Ragtime, Dixieland
- 2. Great Soloists
- 3. Swing
- 4. Be-Bop, Rhythm & Blues
- 5. Cool, Modal, Free Jazz
- 6. Jazz-Rock Fusion, Contemporary Jazz

Rhythm & Blues, Soul, Motown

Ran in the spring of 2006.

- 1. R&B’s Beginnings, and its Roots in Gospel, Blues, and Jazz
- 2.R&B Glory Days
- 3.Motown’s Beginnings
- 4. Motown
- 5. Soul
- 6. Soul and Funk

Introduction to Record Production

Ran in the spring of 2005.

With 10 participants, we wrote a song ("Crazy Cafe"), rehearsed it, recorded it, and had it mixed and mastered over the course of six evenings. A great experience for all concerned. This is how we did it :

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Members of the recording course, in session at Studio Fast Forward in NDG.

- 1 and 2. Songwriting Concepts, we wrote a song together
- 3. rehearsal (musical ability an asset, not a requirement !)
- 4. recording session in a studio : basic tracks and first overdubs (Fast Forward Studio)
- 5. recording of final overdubs and mixing session in a studio (Fast Forward Studio)
- 6. mastering session in a studio (Ventura Digital Audio)

Craig said : "Billy’s masterful mastering made it sound, as Phil said, like there was a blanket over the sound and he took it off. Good tune, good performance, good recording, good engineering, good (if brief) mixing, good mastering = it’s a hit ! Thanks to everyone for their contributions, talents, participation, and good vibes. It was a most memorable and most excellent experience : fun and energizing."

Ted said : "I had a great time writing, rehearsing and simply being part of this project. As Steven would say ’It was a hoot !’ As it was for many us this was my first time putting my musical skills and voice on a CD. I’ll always remember the experience."

Phil said : "I’ve been playing the CD for the teens in the treatment program. Parallels to the Barenaked Ladies were put forward. The kids (and I) find that the tune gets stuck in the hear (ear worm effect). This suggests to me that it has commercial hit potential AND the potential to be hated after prolonged exposure. 7 more songs and we’d have an album."

Other past courses have included Music of the Beatles, and many of the topics listed on the guest speaker page.

CRAIG MORRISON
is an ethnomusicologist, teacher, author, and musician
based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
7 Nights Music Communications, 2006