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Martyn Joseph @ the GYMC

Monday, January 26, 2004

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  • Martyn Joseph

    Martyn Joseph

Written by George Evans

George is a cannon.ca contributor.

On Thursday January 15th 2004 you walk into the new, fresh, and surprisingly large Guelph Youth Music Centre. It is a unique facility with the non-profit goal of giving a musical focus to families and the youth of Guelph. The Guelph Youth Music Centre is a dynamic venue I’m sure capable of adequately hosting a relatively grand event with out being so impersonal that it washes out the intimacy of an informal performer like Martyn Joseph. You sit to see a man standing in the middle of a simply lit stage with nothing but his guitar.

Any one who knows and shares an affinity for folk music will understand the power of the simple combination of a man and his guitar. Really it all stems back to the nature of music itself. All forms of art are special. Music sticks out however because it has a unique connection to us human beings. It, like all art, has the ability to invoke images in our minds. Music has the ability, like all art, to stir emotions inducing laughter or tears. Where music is unique however, is that it is the only art form capable of eliciting a physical response from its observer. In fact dance is an art which is completely based on and linked to music. Music is such a powerful art that it is capable of spawning its own subsidiary artistic discipline. That is what I love about music. It is not just a series of sounds based on a system of movable scales and rhythms. It is a powerful communication tool and none master it so delicately as the folk musician.

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The man with his guitar does not just drive the rhythms that move humans, he articulates the stories that define us as humans. We listen to his melancholy tunes and we are made to relate to him as children, as parents, as citizens of a fundamentally flawed world, as people. His music gently speaks to every generation in that it tells the stories of our lives. Martyn Joseph, the folk musician is really a story teller and his performance style embodies that fact.

Before and between each song Joseph tells the story of what led to his inspiration and how the song fits into his life. He contextualizes each of his pieces which brings the listener that much closer. This was a particularly useful performance technique for the song, I’m a liberal back slider, which describes his recent feelings of alienation from the church. I had never heard the piece before but by the time the audience had heard the chorus once we were all singing along. The context was so clear and the audience could relate so thoroughly that everyone was joined in.

Through out the entire show, in fact Joseph worked to convey the feelings surrounding his music and incite a two way communication with the audience. He would pause and talk to audience members about his home town, his feelings about the war in Iraq, and anything else that crossed his mind. I learned the Welsh word for love during one of his conversations with an audience member, for example. Bringing the audience into his performance achieved a pinnacle when he played Strange Kind of Friend. Here he organized the audience to mimic the sounds of a Welsh evening rain shower.

Never was his communication with the audience so true and personal as it was when he maxed the intimacy and great acoustics of the venue and unplugged his guitar. The highlight of the evening was his purely unamplified performance of his song This Being a Woman. He walked through the audience playing his acoustic guitar while singing this poetic ode to love. That truly was the highlight of the evening.

It was a short show only about two hours from start to finish and it had an intermission. Yes the audience was left wanting for more which was some what satiated in his encore. Nevertheless it was clear that everyone, including myself, left the Guelph Youth Music Centre after the Martyn Joseph concert quite optimistic and satisfied.

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