A Live Album Called Together Tonight

Not only were the songs about our shared and unpredictable mortality, but the process of making Together Tonight was an experience in how we belong together. Many of us met as strangers, even I didn’t know a few of the people who reached out asking to sing, and everyone wondered how they would fit into the project with a concept they didn’t understand but they trusted that I knew what I was doing. One thing everyone had in common was a sense of community. And a sense of adventure.

We met over eight weeks of rehearsals. With the help of our conductrix, Miss John Copping, I conveyed my vision that the vorchestra think of themselves not really as a choir or back-up singers, but as personified feelings. Yeah, I know, pretty flakey. It was a wild ride: funny, cathartic, and thrilling.

Presenting music like this – recording performances over several live concerts – was a risky concept. Combining the songs with the vorchestra singing, punctuated with my between-song banter, was untried. The singers were of varying levels of singing ability; many are accomplished popular performers, some work in music behind the scenes, some had never been on a stage or performed before. My stream of consciousness-between-song blabbering can be delightfully hilarious, but it can also go sideways, fall in the gutter, slip over the edge, traveling into weird territory while I figure out some elusive entertaining truth. I needed to get organized, not so much scripting myself but challenging myself to follow a prepared thread. No one, including me, had been involved in a project like this before.

Between songs we talked about philosophy, songwriting, and performance. The singing parts were called things like longing, loneliness, regret, anger, understanding, celebration, strength, resilience, and death. Over the rehearsals we realized how much we all felt like outsiders and how getting together brought out a strong sense of belonging. I made notes along the way about what I wanted to talk about and hoped my subconscious would do some good creative work while I concentrated on leading the vorchestra and band through.

Over three concerts with sold-out adventurous audiences, the actual performances were mind-blowing and heart-bursting experiences. Okay, that’s a lot of hyperbole but it’s hard to explain without going over the top. The vorchestra sang their hearts out, I had something to say, the audiences went along for the ride. We were totally together. All of us belonging. That’s why we called the album Together Tonight.

…with a Vorchestra. Wait – Who’s a Vorchestra?

VORCHESTRA: well, it’s a vocal orchestra… right? It’s thirty soulful singers from my extended world of music.

This crazy thing happened when I was thinking about my music community and who to invite to sing: my music community got bigger, so big it fell off the stage and flowed into the audience of regular concert goers, past the sound booth, the bar, the kitchen, the merch table, the door, the sign posts, the newspapers, the blogs, the desks…of people who – as my friend Richard Flohil says  (as its probably a quote from some legendary figure) – “if you can’t make music, then make music happen.”

In the end mostly they’re people I’ve shared the stage with, or seen on stage, or sang on albums with, or written with, or written for, or with whom I wished I’d done one of those things.  I admire each one of them.

THE VORCHESTRA

John Alcorn is one of Canada’s premiere jazz vocalists, delivering his distinctive renditions of jazz standards on the most prestigious bandstands and concert stages across Canada. His list of citations and acknowledgements in music and theatre includes both Jazz Report (Male Vocalist of the Year) and Dora (Outstanding Music) awards. johnalcorn.com

Rosanne Baker Thornley (RBT) is an international award winning singer, songwriter who is a true advocator for songwriting. Founder of ‘The Collaborators’ a Canadian songwriting initiative, she is also Toronto curator for a very cool, global songwriting intuitive “The Acoustic Guitar Project”. As she gets ready to launch her own new album, she continues to stand behind many emerging and established artists in the songs she co-writes with them for their own projects rbtsong.com

Bunny Brown Singer. Songwriter. Musician. Movie star.
bunnybrown.com

Meryn Cadell is a writer and erstwhile performer. As a woman, he produced several albums of music, and was a well- known presence on radio and television. After spending a decade as a creative writing professor at UBC, he recently returned to his beloved Toronto and is working on a book.

Tory Cassis is a local boy. Hailing from the Beaches (not the Beach) this eternal east-ender is a musical philanderer with jazz, folk and classic soul leanings. A great admiration for songwriting craft draws him like a moth to the flame that is Arlene’s vision.

John Copping (conductrix) is a synthesist, singer, composer and arranger and the executive director of Blackball, a non- profit electronic music education program for at-risk youth and federal prison inmates. In 2016, in conjunction with Chris Brown’s Pros And Cons program, John Copping began leading bi-monthly songwriting workshops for convicts at a federal medium-maximum security institution near Toronto. The imminent release of his third album, Famous Door, is anxiously awaited by John Copping’s eleven devoted fans. John Copping is the proud parent of fraternal twins now in their 20th year. And if you come across either of them, please tell them to call their father.

Michelle Gold’s need to write songs has been a passion and a love all her life. Taken songwriting courses at Berklee, Nashville, and Toronto, she’s written musicals, radio commercials and placed songs in the top 10% of Unisong International Song Contest. Michelle is currently an Associate Partner of G & G Partnership LLP managing the Gold Entertainment Accounting Division.

Adam Faux is a Composer, Singer and Songwriter, Producer and Sound Engineer based in Toronto, and is represented by CCS Rights Management. Presently, Adam is also an MA student (music composition) at York University in Toronto, and leader of the band, The Luck Factory.

Katharine (Nabby) Gray – born in Toronto, B.Sc. from University of Birmingham, England, worked as a medical writer, and now works in the film business. Comes from a family of singers, actors, directors, but has never sung in public or in a choir. So pleased and proud to have been asked to join this amazing group and sing on a stage with the incredible Arlene Bishop.

Fergus Hambleton is a versatile singer, songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist in folk, pop and in the reggae band The Sattalites. Widely known for his captivating baritone, Fergus now brings his voice and insights in arranging and songwriting to his many teaching and producing projects. In 2015 Fergus released an album of original songs, “Written On The Wind” and is currently working on a new album with Circle 5 and an acoustic vocal project, Wood And Water. Upcoming live performances include Byrds Byrds Byrds…a tribute to the songs of The Byrds, regular appearances with the Sattalites, The Tuesday Night Club, and a number of other groups including his own jazz ensemble The Jazz Lovers Society. fergushambleton.com

Jane Harbury has been committed to the Canadian music industry for over 50 years, from managing the Riverboat, assistant to producer Brian Ahern, and booking Eastern Sound, and as the founder of Jane Harbury Publicity (JHP). Handling publicity for numerous prestigious venues, festivals, and productions, JHP has also handled publicity for a range of top recording artists including Ben Heppner, James Galway, The Chieftains, A.J. Croce, Kermit the Frog, Jack Grunsky, Marianne Faithfull, Marcus Roberts, Evgeny Kissin, John Pizzarelli, Andy McKim, David Wilcox, KellyLee Evans, and the late platinum-selling JUNO-Award winner Lhasa deSela. Harbury has received many awards for her work, and in 2011 was honoured to be named the inaugural Unsung Hero by the Canadian Folk Music Awards. JaneHarburyPublicity.com

Terra Hazelton is a true Renaissance woman. Jazz Vocalist, 2 time Canadian Screen Award Nominated Actress, Theatre Improvisor, singer songwriter, former National Radio Host, & painter. She is one artsy fartsy lady. Also of note, she’s a left handed pisces whose birthday is pi. terrahazelton.com

Hotcha! is award-winning, high-energy hillbilly swing duo Beverly Kreller and Howard Druckman, blends old-time Western, bluegrass, early swing and country gospel delivered with the energy of a runaway train. Winner of two TIMAs (Toronto Independent Music Awards) 2012 Best Folk/Roots & HNSS Live Acoustic Category.

Nanci Jandrisits has been a vocalist on and off for 50 years. She got her start at the age of 9 at the Concord Tavern on Bloor Street West, now known as Long & McQuade Music Store. Over the years Nancy has fronted several cover bands and has been a back-up vocalist for many of those in the Toronto music industry.

Joanne Ingrassia was born into a musical family who loved all kinds of music, from Italian opera and Sicilian peasant songs, to classical, jazz, hymnal, folk and rock. She enjoyed choir and piano lessons growing up, learning the fundamentals, which helped her move into writing her own songs. She enjoys playing and singing all kinds of music, and most enjoys performing in groups.

Caroly Larson {aka Lill}… (actor, director, songwriter, teacher, parent, blah,blah,blah) is extremely grateful to Arlene for helping her get of the house, where she’s bored herself limp editing 8 hours of song ideas she recently uploaded from her iphone.

Debbie Lillico-Bill is a guitar player, the writer of 3 songs (so far), a taker of piano-lessons, a U2 freak, an animal-lover (especially her dog, Johnny), a nature-loving tree hugger, and a huge Arlene Bishop fan. She played in indie bands, knockout pill, Cool Trout Basement, Tres, The G-Spots, and Holy Microphone. She is working on her solo CD project, which she hopes to have completed by 2020. It will feature guest appearances by many fabulous Canadian musicians who are not yet aware of this fact. lillicoaching.ca

Jen Long’s life has always been filled with music and song. Jen is delighted to be a part of this wonderful project.

Marc Meriläinen was born in northern Manitoba and raised in the untamed beauty of Northwestern Ontario. He is a member of the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation and is of Finnish heritage. His first NADJIWAN CD titled “Brother”, was released in 1995 and over the years Marc has released 4 more albums with many singles which have charted on the National Aboriginal Top 40, the Top 10, and have received multiple award nominations including Best Male Artist (Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards), Best Rock Album (Native American Music Awards) and Best Radio Single (Indigenous Music Awards). Marc represented the music of Ontario at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, and his scores for theatre and television include Agokwe (for which his music received a Dora Award Nomination).

Heather Morgan is the founder and president of the Gift of Garlic Foundation, a group that believe in the divinity of the tasty bulbs. Their secret signal is a subtle wave under one’s chin and the reciprocal action is to hand over a bulb of garlic. Heather is also a muso, a community-builder, a dog lover and an adventurer who opted to have Arlene Bishop write her a silly bio rather than submit one herself.

Allyson Morris is recognized as a truly astonishing talent wherever she performs, she has a rich and passionate voice that perfectly adapts to the rigorous demands of the Jazz idiom. At times employing a soulful and robust interpretation, other times a delicate and musically brilliant nuance, Allyson handles the old standards in a new way. She has recently recorded her first album with many of Canada’s jazz notables, and now is absolutely delighted to add her voice to Arlene Bishop’s Vorchestra Live!

Veteran singer/songwriter Blair Packham wears a lot of hats these days. He’s a producer, a songwriting teacher, a founder of the annual SongStudio summertime workshop with friend Rik Emmett, and he co-hosts “In the Studio,” a weekly music- based radio show on Toronto’s Newstalk 1010. Having first burst onto Canadian radio and music-video TV as the lead singer of 80s power pop band The Jitters, Blair later released two critically-acclaimed solo albums before shifting his focus to composing music for TV and films. Now, 13 years after his last release (2004’s “Could’ve Been King”), Blair has returned to the role of recording artist with a collection of clever, catchy, and at times, poignant songs, titled “Unpopular Pop,” released in mid-May 2017. Continuing to perform more than ever with his band, The Impossible Dream, Blair is already working on his next release, slated for early 2018. blairpackham.com

Born too late to be part of the 1960’s folk revival, Sue and Dwight embody the musical spirit of that time. Their unique Canadiana sound features passionate vocals and warm harmonies to convey stories about life on the prairies, in the big city, and in rural African villages. sueanddwight.com

Robert Priest is a poet, novelist, singer/songwriter, young adult author, playwright and journalist. Robert is the author of many books of poetry, several plays, a number of novels, various music CDs, 1 hit song, many columns for Toronto’s Now Magazine, and numerous pieces for CBC Radio’s hit spoken word show “Wordbeat” under the alias “Dr Poetry”. His passionate poetry for adults is wide-ranging and much praised, while his children’s poetry is more tender, underpinned with a utopian hopefulness. His recent series of novels for young adults is engaging a growing audience of adventurous readers. Priest’s plays, novels and songs, have earned him awards and recognition in Canada, as well as a growing legion of readers (and listeners) world wide. poempainter.com

Jen Schaffer is the lead singer-songwriter and acoustic guitarist of her band, Jen Schaffer and The Shiners. The Shiners are purveyors of original soulful folk/roots music with lush harmonies and heavy bass. Jen came to music via a stint as a public defender in the Appalachian foothills of Ohio, where she gained a love of alt-country songs and a heightened social conscience. jenschaffer.ca

david sereda is a singer, songwriter and composer for theatre. He is the dogfather of the Stray Dog Salons. david lives in Grey County and is one of Canada’s most distinctive voices.

Julian Taylor is a muso and band leader who’s spicy, sultry, soulfoul songwriting has been recognized with a variety of awards and nominations. Known for his warm heart and beautiful smile, Julian’s busy schedule has allowed for one special performance with the vorchestra. juliantaylorband.com

THE SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE BAND

Annelise Noronha (bass) is a producer, engineer, teacher, composer and musician. Has worked with a bunch of famous people AND a bunch of not-famous-at-all people. Has recorded and mixed in some world class studios across North America, but also has recorded a lot of stuff in people’s closets. Writes songs you may or may not know. Lives in Toronto and Prince Edward County. Slightly obsessed with her dog.

Cheryl Reid (percussion) is a Toronto based drummer and percussionist who originally hails from Halifax. She has toured all over Canada, the United States and Australia with Ember Swift. She has also performed and recorded with other well- loved and talented Canadian artists including Garnet Rogers, Jennifer LFO and Amy Campbell. Lately, Cheryl has returned to the instrument of her musical upbringing, the ukulele, teaching with Melanie Doane in several Toronto schools with her charitable organization USchool. Cheryl is very excited to finally work with Arlene in The Spirit of Adventure.

Yawd Sylvester (keyboards) is a Toronto performing songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and founding member of indie combos Wayne Omaha and The Très Bien Ensemble. He is also perhaps noteworthy as Arlene’s “other half” and as the owner of Beaster The Cat (of Toronto’s newest celebrity pet couple Beaster & Marley).

Arlene Bishop (your host) is a critically acclaimed songwriter loved for her performances combining dark songs and funny between-song observations. Easily identified by her powerful voice, memorable melodies, and unique songwriting sensibilities, fans around the world call Arlene Bishop their best kept secret. Together Tonight will be Arlene Bishop’s fifth album and her first live concert album recording. Previous independent releases are Pinky, Snarky Girlpop, Cut a Man’s Heart Out, and Twenty-Four.

…and a Vorchumentary

I’ve been documenting the development of The Spirit of Adventure since the very beginning.  As far back as four years ago I started talking to myself about the project idea as I walked through the park.  While once I would have felt self-conscious, these days everyone films everything so I was less concerned about looking conspicuous.  Each step along the way I video-documented what was happening and the rehearsals and final concerts will also be filmed.  I’m encouraging people to turn off their ringers but to take video from time to time, and then send it in to me.  It’ll be great to add other perspectives to the overall story.

The video is going to be especially important as we go into the final stretch because there are some chums who won’t be able to join us and I want them to be a part of the process.  So, we’ll figure out how to stream this stuff because (I’m thinking of you, Michael, and John, in particular) who should and would be here if they could.

Want to see where we last left off?  Check out the video series so far.

ARLENE BISHOP & THE SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE Together Tonight (Teaser!)

ARLENE BISHOP The Spirit of Adventure Rehearsal 3 Band and Vorchestra

ARLENE BISHOP The Vorchestra Hums

ARLENE BISHOP & The Spirit of Adventure Vorchestra Rehearsal #1: Sixteen singers

ARLENE BISHOP & The Spirit of Adventure: Together Tonight Preproduction Site Visit

ARLENE BISHOP & VORCHESTRA Do It Again/Something Right

Technical Credits to-date

The planning for performances and recordings start months and years before anyone sees or hears the results, and often the people who are at the beginning stand at the back of the room (metaphorically and/or really) making sure everything supports itself.  The behind the scenes crew makes it happen.  This is who has been involved so far:

THE SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE CREW

Live Album Recording by James Paul and Dave Joseph, The Rogue Music Lab
Creative Whisperer, Scott Dibble
Photography and Video by Scott Murdoch, Five by Five Photography fivebyfivephotography.com
Performances produced by Arlene Bishop/The Twelve Steves, with Lauren Atmore, project coordinator
Arrangement recordings produced by Elana Harte
featuring Arlene Bishop, Elana Harte, Kim Jarrett, and Tory Cassis
Videos produced by Arlene Bishop/The Twelve Steves
Additional videography by Owen Packham
Graphics by The Twelve Steves with additional illustrations by David John Shaw
Props by RinkyDink Display
Hummery arrangement by John Copping
The Social Capital venue coordinated by Carmine Lucarelli

Our Sponsors

While we want it to look and feel like music-making just magically happens, there are costs associated with putting a performance together…and recording a live album…and producing a documentary about the process.  Most importantly it means paying people what they deserve.

I’m likely preaching to the converted here but the truth is that most musos work several different jobs and still live very close to the poverty line.  It has nothing to do with talent or success.  It has everything to do with having our contribution being incredibly meaningful but somehow undervalued.  For me it was important to pay the singers an honorarium (bucking the tradition of always asking musicians to donate their time) and for the rehearsals everyone was fed a delicious home-prepared vegan buffet and refreshed with a beverage from the bar; the venue was also paid (another source that is often asked to donate); and the support team were compensated for their expertise.

As an independently produced project, the scale of reaching into the community and bringing so many people together means reaching out for some assistance.  I started by signing up for a micro-funding platform called Patreon and was lucky to secure the support of some generous souls for the earliest rehearsals.  The deal was that I’d create a video showing every step of the process and my patrons would automatically donate an amount per video produced.   I got great feedback from my patrons and I’m grateful for their blind support.

As the project rolled along, a greater number of singers came forward than expected, the scope of things became more obvious and some tasks needed to be taken care of by someone other than me.  (It would seem that I couldn’t be in three places at once doing four different jobs, even though I wanted to be in complete control of everything and everyone.  Ha! ) Well, I was just freaked out and tired enough to boldly ask for some corporate sponsors to come forward and holy moley thank the stars they did.  Thank you for the support of these adventurous supporters of my project.

Many thanks to:
Judy Bishop, Tom Haivarlis, Sarah Chauncey, Tania Fernandez, Shane Gallant, Kepka-Haivarlis Family, Kevin Wrycraft, Colin Buchanan, Katy Killmore, Amin Bhatia, Lianne Doucet, Anil Khera, Synthian Sharp, RP Ruzan, Sue Molyneaux, Ilana Wilner, Paul Myers and Liza Algar, Chris Blake, Joanne Riven, Angela Vink, Rebecca Roth, Terry White, Paul Evans, Nicole Colbeck, Lynn Harrison, Wende Wood, David Aaron, Shawn Edmondson, Mary Krause, Mel Ferrimond, Rogr Lee, Catherine Thompson, Jennifer Schaffer, David Kanter, David John Shaw, Ron Proulx.

These performances are possible through the generous sponsorship of these good people:
Thank you, for bringing out the best in everyone, The WYSIWYG Co.
Thank you, Bhatia Music for your tireless technical and administrative support.
Thank you to Lianne Doucett at Authenticity 101 who practices everything with integrity.
Thank you, Royce G. Charles-Dunne, for your support of independent music makers.
Thank you, Gold Entertainment Accountants for your unabiding passion for music.
Thank you, Yawd Sylvester for contributing in countless ways.