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Clare: News

2013 is here! - January 25, 2013

Happy Robbie Burns Day everyone! I just uploaded Ae Fond Kiss to the music page for your listening pleasure. I have to say that 2012 was quite a year. In between getting over a serious horse carriage accident, I managed somehow to get Mistletoe Memories recorded and also did an overseas alphabet project with Roland Zoss, a Swiss composer. Zenegugeli was a great challenge and is a lovely way to learn the alphabet with some wildly exotic critters – each with its own song. Keep your eyes on the app stores as it will be an alphabet app sometime in June.

Tonight I head over to Laurel Place in Surrey to share some Robbie Burns fun with a lively group of seniors. I am very much looking forward to it!



Robbie Burns - January 18, 2009

We just came back from a great Robbie Burns Dinner in Merritt BC at the Grand. The food was wonderful, the dancers and pipers superb, the poetry matchless.
I was so happy to have two of my favorite fiddlers with me and oh how they played! Gary Comeau and Tom Neville are just a delight to work with. There were so many lovely musical moments and so many hilarious ones to. What showmen these two are. Rev, as usual was giving a great performance doing back up vocals and thumping out rock solid bodrhan and washboard percussion. I am so incredibly lucky to have musicians of this caliber to lend their considerable talent to what I love to do!
Gary, Rev and I will be doing it all again next Sunday night at Dentry's Irish Grill in West Point Grey and I'm so looking forward to it though I have to say that we will miss Tom... alas. But all the same we'll be having a great time and hope you'll join us there!

Mission - Heritage Park - July 23, 2008

We'll be singing there at 7pm... hope to see you there!

Canada Day - July 1, 2007

What a great day. Rev and Gary and Lee were awesome as always. I love playing with them. It's been so long now that I just feel as though we're one entity. Such a wonderful reception we had. I felt totally at home with the crowd... lots of familiar faces and such fun to go back each year and have a gathering again. The Letexier team were awesome with the sound - once again a very familiar feel. They've done sound for me for so many years that it is just a pleasure to get up there and experience being in their capable hands.
The whole thing just made me feel once again how grateful I am to be a singer!

La Fete St Jean Baptiste - June 18, 2007

Gary, Revellie and myself will be playing at the Bistro Chez Michel in North Vancouver on the 21st of June at 8 pm. Come on out and enjoy some great French folk music and fiddling and wonderful food and fun!

A Children's Story - June 18, 2007

The Christmas Horse
Newman was a big, beautiful, strong horse. He lived with 16 of his friends at Stanley Park. All the horses loved their job of pulling the carriages around the park but Newman loved it the best. Newman had a little secret. He wanted to be a Christmas Horse.
Every year at the end of October, the horses’ shoes were removed and they were sent to pasture in the Fraser Valley for a little rest. The horses that had been especially calm and gentle would come back for Jingle Bell rides in December. They would have their manes and tails braided, they would wear red ribbons and bells and beautiful red collar pads and halters. They’d be in the Santa Claus Parade and visit many communities for special rides for children. Sometimes even Santa rode on the carriages!
How Newman wished he could be a Christmas horse. He knew that he would look wonderful in all the special harnesses and braids. He knew he would love the jingling bells and all the children.
The problem was… Newman was a fraidy cat. He didn’t mind ordinary cars, motorcycles or bicycles, but sometimes the bicycle riders had huge swishy plastic bags full of rattling bottles. Sometimes the cars and motorcycles were just too yellow or too red. The double decker buses were definitely too red! They made hissing noises too and so did all the other buses. Newman didn’t like that at all. When he heard the hiss of the air brakes, he would jump and feel as though he needed to run away.
The park trucks were scary too. Sometimes they seemed to have big arms that went way up in the trees. It made him feel as though they could reach out and grab him. Sometimes they had big noses that went deep into the ground and made horrible sucking noises. The sweeper trucks just kept going round and round, sweeping and grinding up and spitting out piles of leaves behind them. Why did they have to do that? Cement trucks made screechy grinding noises and they had horrid, fat bellies that went spinning round and round and made Newman feel dizzy if he looked at them.
Mr. O’Sullivan owned the horses at Stanley Park. He was worried about Newman. He would shake his head and say
“I just don’t know about that horse.”
Gemma didn’t want to drive Newman. She said
“He’s a rubbernecker. He walks all round the park looking behind him all the time.”
None of the other drivers wanted to drive Newman either. They said
“He pulls too hard.”
“He’s a fraidy cat.”
“He’s scared of yellow and red.”
“He’s scared of plastic!”
Some of the other horses tried to help. Blue said
“Just relax and walk slow.” Blue loved walking slow.
Weiser snorted and said “Just walk faster!” Weiser always said that.
Some horses were very mean.
“You’ll never be a Christmas Horse. You’re too afraid.” said Silver.
A few of the other horses joined in. “Fraidy cat! Fraidy cat!” they said, snorting and tossing their heads at Newman.
But Jack understood. Sometimes he was afraid too. He couldn’t see very well out of one eye and sometimes things startled him. He nuzzled Newman and said
“Don’t worry. You’ll get there. You’re safe when you’re in harness. Just keep breathing slow and trust your driver. She’ll hold you tight.”
One day a new driver came to Stanley Park. Her name was Jane and she was very small. Newman had to put his head way down to let her put his bridle on. He liked it when she scratched him gently between his eyes and whispered softly into his nose.
Jane liked Newman. She thought his wavy mane was beautiful. She liked the way his forelock fell over his eyes. She loved his deep brown eyes and his strong shoulders. She loved the way he pranced and danced around the park. She didn’t even mind that he pulled too hard. She grinned and said
“It’s good exercise.”
When Newman got scared, Jane would hold the reins tight and speak very softly to Newman. She would say
“It’s ok Big Boy… You’ll be ok. Easy now. Easy Newman.”
Newman liked Jane’s gentle voice. He wondered how someone so small could seem so strong. But somehow it all felt better when Jane and Newman were together. Even if Newman had to pull a wagon with Silver!
Jane never let Silver bite Newman. Of course, Newman wasn’t allowed to bite or kick Silver either.
Newman missed his old partner Casper. One day Jane, Newman and Casper had been walking around the park during a big gathering of police officers. They planned to shoot 21 guns into the air and shoot two cannons as well. Jane knew that Newman would feel very frightened and so she waited a long time at the hitching post. But the cannonade and 21 guns were late. They waited and waited and finally Jane said
“We have to go. We’ll manage. I think Casper and I can keep Newman from panicking.”
Casper was a sweet old horse who had come from Alberta. He was gentle and kind and loved children. Casper had a funny way of walking but he was very, very strong. Whenever Newman started to act afraid, Casper would look at him with his deep brown eyes as if to say
“You done yet? It’s ok you know.”
So Casper and Newman and Jane set off for the Totem Poles. Jane thought if the guns went off there, it would be ok. It would still be a little bit far away. But the guns didn’t go off while they were at the Totem Poles. Again, Jane and the horses waited and waited and nothing was happening. Finally Jane said
“Ok people… we have to go. We’ll manage.” They had a carriage full of people who had come to see Stanley Park and those people wanted to get going!
Off they went. Through the trees and round the corner and there were all the policemen and all their families and cars and crowds… and cannons! Just as Newman and Jane and Casper arrived the officers stopped the traffic. Jane begged the police officers
“ Oh please let us go ahead! The horses will be much better if we go past right away.”
But there was nowhere to go – the guns were starting. Newman began to jump. He shivered and shook and danced around. Jane held the reins as tight as she could and Casper just stood like a rock and looked at Newman.
“Easy Little Man… steady darlin’. Mama loves her big brave boy. Easy Baby Boy… just take it easy.” Jane crooned and murmured to Newman and held on tight. Her arms where trembling she was holding on so hard. The guns went off once… twice… the cannons boomed once…. Twice… and then it was all over. Silence. Newman had managed to keep from bolting. Casper and Jane looked at each other in relief.
“Whew!” said Jane “My arms feel like rubber!”
“Phphrrphrrpphrrhphr” snorted Casper and looked over at Newman “You done yet?”
Newman arched his neck and began to swing his hips and prance.
“I did it! Did you see how brave I was??? I didn’t even run. Oh I wanted to! But I stayed. I didn’t run away. I must be the bravest horse in the world. Don’t you think so?”
Jane and Casper smiled.
“You’re a brave and very special boy. We love you very, very much Newman”
All the passengers laughed. Newman pranced all the way back to the hitching post.
One day Jane was out with Newman and a young horse called Flint. It was a Top Hat and Tails trip. Jane was in a black tailcoat and wearing a top hat. Jane loved dressing up. They were taking a family around the park in the “Surrey With the Fringe on Top”. It was a beautiful old carriage with spoked wheels and a fringed canopy. Newman loved driving with it. He had even been on a TV show on that carriage. Newman loved doing TV shows. He knew all about “Quiet on set” and “Rolling” He knew not to look into the camera and to pretend it wasn’t there. Dudley always looked into the camera. Dudley was such a show off!
Flint was doing well for his first “Top Hat and Tails” trip. He hadn’t ever been on the old carriages. Everyone loved Flint. He was only 6 years old and was so big and goofy. He was the biggest horse in Stanley Park. Flint walked a little funny. His hooves pointed in a bit and so when he walked, it was like an odd dance. He had to watch where he put his feet too.
This afternoon the park was very busy. There were a lot of cars lined up behind the carriage. A double decker bus came up and started to pass. All of a sudden there was a big hiss from the bus that startled both Flint and Newman. They wanted to run back to the barn but there were too many cars behind. They surged forward and Jane’s top hat flew off. She pulled hard on the reins “Whoa! Whoa!” she said sharply. The horses were looking for a space to get through and were heading straight for a parked van. The carriage would crash and the horses would be hurt. Jane leaned back and pulled with all her might. The horses skidded to a stop and the tongue of the carriage touched the tail light of the van and broke it. Off went a loud car alarm and off went the horses again! Round and round they went trying to get away from the horrible noise. The passengers had jumped out and were standing back to see what would happen. Jane knew that she couldn’t let go. There would be a terrible runaway and horses and people could get hurt. She had to hold on. That was the rule. Never let go.
Suddenly the horses saw a gap. They could go down the grassy verge beside them and run along the seawall. But the tide was up and Jane knew that if she let them try getting down there, the carriage would tip into the water. That would not be good. The water was over the horses’ heads! They couldn’t swim hitched up to a carriage. They would surely sink. But the horses didn’t know that. All they knew was… they wanted to run away. They yanked the carriage over to the side of the road, heading for the gap and the seawall.
Jane’s arms were shaking. What if she couldn’t hold on? What if the horses fell into the water? The car alarm was still blaring away and everyone was sure it was all over. But just as the front wheels kissed the curb and the horses were about to go down the grassy bank to the seawall path, the alarm went silent and the horses stopped. Down went their heads. They were exhausted too. Jane’s head went down as well! She heaved a big sigh and backed them onto the road again, making sure they were facing the right way. “Anyone see my top hat?” she asked with a shaky grin.
The passengers got back in and off they went. Except for the broken taillight… it was as though nothing had ever happened. But Newman was prancing again.
“Wow! Did you see what happened? I was so brave! There were noisy monsters everywhere. Hey Flint! Did I ever take care of you!” He swung his hips and pranced like a gallant steed. “Woo hoo!”.
Flint just shook his head and watched where he was putting his feet. “I was scared Newman. So were you. Let’s just finish the trip and then go home. I’m tired and hungry and I want to be at the barn where it’s safe.” It had been a hard day.
The summer passed and autumn came with drifting leaves and creeping fingers of fog through the tall trees. Soon it was time for the horses to go to pasture. Sean the farrier came and took off their shoes and off they went. Only the very good horses would come back for Jingle Bell rides. Newman so hoped he would be one of them. But he knew that after the two scary experiences that summer it wasn’t likely. No one would trust a fraidy cat horse. He was so sad.
Pasture was great. The horses ran around and kicked up their heels in the windy days of November. They munched on big bales of fragrant hay and drank cold clear water from a big tub.
Soon December arrived and they knew that Devon would arrive with a big truck to take the good boys back for Jingle Bell rides. Each horse hoped he would be chosen.
Back in Vancouver, Mr. O’Sullivan was deciding who should come. He and Gemma and
Cat had a meeting.
“Who should we bring in?” he asked.
Gemma said “ How about Smokie, Blue, King and Silver?”
Cat said “Jack is great and so are Bear, Ben, Weiser, Moses and Dudley.”
“Ok.” Mr. O’Sullivan said. “Those are the horses we’ll bring in.”
But when it came time to bring them in there was a problem. No one could catch Jack. No one could understand what was happening. Jack loved to work. Why wouldn’t he let anyone catch him?
What no one knew was that there had been some planning at the pasture too. Jack knew that Cat would ask for him. Cat loved driving Jack. But Jack had decided that Newman should get a chance. He told Newman. “I’m not going to let them near me. When Devon comes, stand by the fence and look really calm and relaxed. When they can’t catch me, they’ll surely take you.”
Newman wasn’t so sure. But he also knew that Jane really loved him and that she would see if they’d give him a chance. She thought everyone deserved a chance.
When Devon came for the first trip, he took Silver and Smokie, Dudley, King and Blue. He tried but couldn’t catch Jack. Silver went into the truck and as it left Newman heard him say “You’ll never be a Christmas horse. Fraidy cat!”
Newman hung his head but promised himself that when Devon came back, he would be the first one at the gate.
Back in Vancouver, they were talking about Jack.
”Why won’t he let anyone catch him” they wondered. “What will we do without him? Duke is too old and the others are too young or too silly. Todd is going to Maple Ridge Farm. We need another horse.”
Jane said “What about Newman?”
“Newman? You’ve got to be kidding. He is too afraid. He’ll never be a Christmas Horse.” they all said.
Jane shook her head. “I think he can do it.” she insisted. “He’s settled down a lot and I think he should try some simple ones in the park and maybe even at one of the malls. That is pretty easy stuff. I trust him. He’s had some problems but he’s really settling down. I’ll drive him if no one else wants to. I like that horse.”
Finally they agreed to let Newman come and try it out.
Devon went out for the second trip and in came Newman with the last few horses. Jack had given him some last words of advice. “Just relax and trust your driver, Newman. You’re always safe if you do that. Keep breathing and remember that your driver will take care of you. You know that.”
Newman nodded. He was so excited. Bells and ribbons! Braids and fancy harness and songs! It was going to be so much fun.
The barn seemed strange with only a few horses there. Silver stared at Newman through his forelock. “What are you doing here Fraidy Cat?” he snorted. “You don’t belong here.”
Newman just munched his hay and ignored him.
On the first Saturday in December the horses were bathed and braided, bowed and belled. The first Jingle Bell rides were starting. Jane fussed with Newman’s ribbons. “We’re going to Park Royal, Big Boy! You’re going to be great!”
When the trailer came to pick them up, Newman realized his partner would be Silver. Oh no! How could he work with Silver? Silver was going to bite him and say awful things. This was terrible.
Silver snickered. “You’ll never make it through the day Fraidy Cat.”
Blue whispered something in Newman’s ear. Newman put his nose in the air and gave a big horsey laugh.
“Hey! Blue says you’re afraid of cats yourself! Remember that day at the rhododendrons with the cat lady? Blue says you nearly climbed into the wagon with Jane when you saw and smelled a little kitty cat! Who’s the fraidy cat now?”
Park Royal was easy. There was a big garbage truck that made Newman dance a little but he remembered Jack’s advice. Jane was holding him tight and telling him what a good brave boy he was. And he believed her. The children on the carriage laughed and sang all day. He ignored Silver – even when he tried to bite him. At the end of the day Newman was tired and happy. He was excited to go back next week.
But next week something different happened. On Friday night Silver and Newman were harnessed and taken away on the horse trailer. It was a long drive. When they got out Newman looked around. It was dark but there were lots of twinkly lights everywhere. Music was playing somewhere beyond the shadowy trees. He could smell hot chocolate and sugary cookies. Newman shivered. This was new. He wasn’t too sure.
Jane whispered in his nose. “It’s Douglas Park Newman. You’re going to love it!” She was wearing bells too – a long green hat with a big jingly bell and a bright red tassel.
All evening long, Silver and Newman went round and round the brightly lit area, pulling the wagon full of families. There were people singing and dancing, eating cookies and drinking hot chocolate. Babies patted Newman’s nose. Newman liked babies. He was always very gentle with them – even if they poked. There was lots of cold water for the horses. Newman wished he could have a cookie but Jane said “Not for horses Newman. You’ll get a tummy ache. You get grain tonight!”
At the end of the evening the horses were taken to a different barn and stabled overnight. Silver let his lower lip dangle and stared at Newman. But he didn’t say anything. He knew that Newman was doing a good job. But he wasn’t pleased.
The next night they did the same thing and then late, late, late, they were taken back to the Stanley Park barn. What a great weekend Newman had had. He was so excited to see what would happen next.
On the third weekend in December there was another long, long trip in the morning. When they arrived, it was strange. They were by the sea but it wasn’t anything like Stanley Park. There was a straight road and lots of shops on one side. On the other side, there was a parking lot and beside that between the beach and the cars, a very strange looking road. It had two long strips of metal that were attached to pieces of wood. Newman couldn’t figure out what kind of car would drive on that.
Silver knew. He’d seen that kind of thing before and he didn’t like it at all at all at all. This was the kind of thing he’d been worrying about. He knew that he didn’t like trains, one bit, himself. What was he going to do with a panicky partner? He didn’t know how to explain it to Newman. He didn’t like Newman anyway. Newman reminded him of things inside himself that he didn’t like to think about. That was why he was so mean. If he teased Newman, maybe no one would notice that he was sometimes afraid too. Besides. Newman knew about the cat. Darn it.
So he said nothing. Let Jane figure it out. He liked Jane. She never said he was stupid like some of the other drivers did. Even though she wouldn’t let him bite Newman he liked her. That was fair. He knew he shouldn’t do that anyway and she never let Newman or any of the others bite him back either – no matter how much he deserved it. She loved all the horses.
Jane was a bit worried about the train too. She knew that both horses would be very frightened if a train came by. It was awfully close to the road where they were pulling the carriage. But she knew that she could talk them through it if they trusted her. And she knew they did. They were her Special Boys. All the horses were her Special Boys.
Sure enough, a couple of hours into the day a long, long train came by. Kevin was driving at that moment. He could barely hold them they were pulling so hard. But Kevin hadn’t worked with them for a long time and Silver and Newman didn’t know him well anymore even though he was a good driver.
“You take them Jane.” said Kevin.
“Hey! You’re twice as big as me! How do you think I’m going to manage?” laughed Jane. But she knew she could do it. Not with strong arms but with lots of loving words.
The next train that came was even longer and seemed even louder. Silver and Newman both strained at the bit and pulled as hard as they could. They wanted to run. But Jane said “No. We’re walking like gentlemen. Walk nicely. You can do it.” And they did.
Six times the trains went by that day. Six times the horses trembled and tensed but they trusted their driver and at last it was all done and Dudley and Weiser came to replace them for the evening.
“ How did you do?” asked Weiser. “Did you do like I said and just walk faster?”
“Nope.” replied Newman. “I just listened to Jane. I wanted to run but she wanted me to walk like a gentleman. So I did. So did Silver.” He pushed Silver with his nose. “It was a good day. You and Dudley will have fun tonight.”
Jane was so proud of Newman. She knew he had been very frightened but all the things he had had to face this month were making him stronger. When they all arrived at the barn late that evening, Devon was waiting with his great big new horse truck. It would hold all 10 of the horses that had to go out to pasture. Jane shook her head. It was just the kind of giant truck that Newman hated. It had lots of shiny chrome, a funny ramp with sides and even a mat that the horses had to walk on to get in. How were they ever going to get Newman into that thing?
Sean had finished taking off all the horses shoes except Newman. He was the last horse they had to get in the truck. When the last shoe had been removed, Jane led Newman outside. He looked at that big truck and then he looked at Jane.
“You can do it Newman. See? All your friends are in there.” Blue was waiting inside. He looked at Newman and winked.
Jane handed the lead rope to Devon. He walked up the ramp and turned around. Newman sniffed the ramp and looked at the funny sides. Was this truck going to eat him? The others were all inside and they looked ok.
Devon shook the lead rope gently and smiled.
“Come on Newman. You can do it.”
Newman walked up the ramp and into his spot. Devon fastened him in. Everyone was outside watching. Gemma and Cat, Mr. O’Sullivan and Sean and Jane… they were all smiling.
“Good boy Newman!” they said. “See you all in March boys!”
Devon closed the door and started the truck’s engine.
As they drove away, Newman heaved a big sigh of happiness.
Newman was a Christmas horse.

Seven Sisters - April 25, 2007

Seven Sisters
by Clare Brett

Long long ago the Earth mother gave birth to seven daughters. They lived in a land of mountains and trees and rushing rivers, bordered to the west by a great blue ocean, to the south by a sky-tipped mountain range, to the north by ice and snow and to the east by an endless plain of waving grasses. The daughters had long black hair and skin of brown like their mother Earth.
As the daughters grew up, they became restless and wanted to see what lay beyond the borders of their country. So each went in a different direction.
The first daughter gave birth to a Wolf-child who carried her over the mountain pass to where the sun burned hot and she bore children there whose skin was as dark as the night sky. The second went where the cold winds blow over the ice and snow and her children were the Seal people and the White Bear and Fox and Wolf of the north. The third went to the great ocean and she gave birth to a Whale-child who carried her far across the blue waters to the land of Dragons and she became the mother of the Dragons' children. The fourth sister travelled across the flat lands and the great lakes till she came to the shore of a mighty grey sea, and she gave birth to a Salmon-child who carried her over the water to a far away land where she became the mother of children with skin as pale as the moon. The fifth sister gave birth to a Beaver-child who carried her down into the Earth to the Water and the Rock nations and she became the mother of the creatures who swim the waters and walk the land and dig burrows. The sixth sister went up into the sky and became the mother of Eagle and Raven who carried her to live with the Sun and Moon and the Stars; and lights of all colours began to dance in the winter sky at night and they too were her children.
But when it came time for the seventh daughter to choose a direction there was nowhere left to go. So she stayed at home and her children were called Haida, Tahltan, Salish, Kwakiutl, Kootenay, Squamish, Clayoquat and many other brothers and sisters of the land of forest, mountain, river and sea.
But the seventh daughter grew lonely for the sound of her sisters laughter and songs. Then at last she knew the direction she needed to go. So she travelled deep within herself. At the innermost centre of her heart, she found fragrant threads of the memories of her sisters. She wove the threads into a blanket to wrap around herself and as she wove she sang the song of her sisters and of the beautiful land in which they had grown up.
Her sisters heard the song from far away and longed to return home. But it took many years for them to journey back and when at last they were all together they laughed and laughed for their long black hair had turned white and their faces were old and wrinkled. "Let us sit together and remember" they said " For surely we cannot run and play as we used to do." So they sat in the mountains and nodded their heads and the wild wind blew their white hair around. They wrapped their cedar blankets around their shoulders and linked their arms, sitting close and still and looking out over the land they loved.
Many years later the children's children's children of the sisters came to this land, drawn by a call inside their hearts they hardly understood. They cut down the trees and dug deep inside the earth and chained the land with tracks of steel and asphalt. They fought amongst themselves and mistreated each other and killed or drove away the native people and wild creatures who, though they did not know it, were their brothers and sisters. For they had forgotten who their mothers were.
They looked up to the mountains and saw seven high peaks nestled close together, with green trees growing along the lower slopes. They named the peaks the Seven Sisters and did not know that they were naming their mothers.

Wonderful things afoot... - February 21, 2007

Tonight at the Chai room on Broadway, I'll be singing some songs around 10pm.
March will bring a return to my beloved horses and a week at the Dublin Crossing Pub in Langley with my wonderful friends Gary (on fiddle), Revellie(on bodrhan and bg vox) and Lee (on bass and wicked humour)!
Come on out to join us for a week of fun, fiddlin and foolishness! The best of all times...
The very day after... off to the Great White North... going to see what it's like up in Yellowknife for about a month or so... adventure!

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