The following is a partial transcription of the show.
That’s the song “Over Queen Charlotte Sound” written and performed by our guest today, Marie-Lynn Hammond. Marie-Lynn is a Canadian song writer who is also very much a horse woman.
Marie-Lynn has had a long career in the Canadian folk music scene. Born to an English-speaking Father from Quebec and a French speaking mother, Marie-Lynn Hammond you might say is a Canadian in a very special way. And, we might add, the band that Marie-Lynn helped to found, named simply “Stringband,” is also Canadian in a very special way too.
In the article, “The Life and Times of Stringband” written by Gary Cristall, we find two rather interesting insights on the band. The first comes from Stuart Mclean who is quoted as saying:
“Like Gordon Lightfoot or Monique Leyrac, like Margaret Atwood or Robertson Davies, Stringband made you proud to be Canadian.” The second is a compliment by Cristall himself that I will quote directly from his article: “Stringband laid down the roots of independent recording in Canada; they inspired scores if not hundreds of musicians, and they left behind a dozen of the best songs ever written in this country.” We will have the link to the article posted on our new website: www.bytheloveofhorsesradioshow.ca
Link to article by Gary Cristall:
Stringband was formed in the early 1970s and thus towards the end of the folk music boom when artists such as Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Gordon Lightfoot played coffee houses in Toronto’s Yorkville district. The 60s were the days when places like The Riverboat welcomed so many Canadian and international folk artists. They were heady times.
They were also the days that saw the beginning of folk festivals like Mariposa in Orillia, the Winnipeg Folk Festival at which Stringband performed, and of course, at the end of the 60s, Woodstock. But folk music didn’t die with the end of the 60s. There was still much music to be made. Marie-Lynn’s Stringband made their first album in 1973, largely of original music and called it “Canadian Sunset.”
Let’s hear more about that time from Marie-Lynn herself. It’s my pleasure to welcome Marie-Lynn. Marie-Lynn is a song writer and performer, a writer, editor and play-write.
So, can you reminisce a little and tell me about what the 60s meant for you in terms of musical influences, and even about the time in general? I understand from the article by Gary Cristall that
It was a Sister Emma at a Catholic school where you attended who actually got you started on your musical journey. She brought in the recording of The House Carpenter by Joan Baez. Do you remember how you felt when you heard Joan Baez that first time and how it affected you?
Let’s move forward a little and we come into the early 1970s.
You were instrumental in founding the group Stringband back in the early 70s. Those were important and interesting days for not only folk music in Canada, but for Canadian music in general.
Can you reminisce a little about those days? Maybe tell us a little about some of your gigs in Coffee Houses in Toronto and across Canada? I understand Stringband performed at that iconic coffeehouse, The Riverboat, were you part of the group when it did?
Did Woodstock or its story have any influence on you?
Before we leave the 70s, I have one last question. There’s a picture in that same article by Gary Cristall of you with the other members of the band meeting PET. Can you tell us a little about what it was like to meet Pierre Trudeau that time?
Now I’d like to turn our conversation to some of your songs, and in particular songs about horses. You’ve created an entire album of songs that centre on horses. The album is entitled “Hoofbeats.” And I also understand that you had an older album that was also about horses called “Two Old White Horses.”
So it would seem you’ve had an important connection between horses and music for a while. The song I’ve chosen is your song “Emily Flies.”
Part of the reason that I find it so interesting is because on By The Love Of Horses we have talked about the benefits of equine therapy. And I think that you’ve captured in song not only the positivity that comes out of it, but also something of the magic that does so too.
Can you tell a little about how you met Emily?
The song “Emily Flies” invites us to understand not only about the girl the Emily, but also about the horse Cody. Which is neat. We are given the story in the song of these two coming together to form a team.
You tell us in the song that Cody was rescued from a feedlot and then proceeds, in a way, to rescue Emily.
Okay, let’s have a listen:
Excerpt of “Emily Flies” by Marie-Lynn Hammond:
It’s a beautiful song. And it’s beautiful to hear about the way that riding makes Emily feel.
Can you tell us a little more about the way Emily and Cody interact together and made a team?
How could you tell that Emily was “flying” when she was riding Cody?
Now, another of your songs that I’d like to talk about is called “Flying Changes.”
The challenges that we’ve faced because of the pandemic have asked us all to make flying changes, I think, and I find that there is some down-to-earth, common-sense thoughts contained in your song. So I thought we could talk a little about this song particularly with the pandemic in mind. There are some good thoughts here on our needing to stay flexible, to be able to adapt...
How are you holding up with all of the challenges that we’re facing because of the pandemic?
Perhaps you can tell us what a ‘flying change’ is in equestrian talk?
Can you tell us a little more about the horse that this song is based on?
From the song it seems he really loved you and really tried to please you?
Okay, let’s have a listen to “Flying Changes”...
Excerpt of "Flying Changes" by Marie-Lynn Hammond:
I like the way that you have layered the song. It’s about a dressage movement. But on another level, it is about life itself, isn’t it?
It seems like there is a special application that we might make for this song in view of our circumstances with the pandemic.
In terms of our responses to the pandemic, many of us are looking for new directions now. We are having to make changes to our routines and activities and often these changes are on the fly.
I particularly like the stanza that reads:
"Oh it’s just like life, you look for a rhythm
And you have to stay supple ‘cause you’ll need to bend
And sometimes you’ve got to change on the fly
But you keep moving forward until the end."
What do you think it means in life to do a flying change?
In addition to your singing and performing roles you are also a writer too.
I was moved by your piece entitled “Peace At Last” that appeared in the Chatelaine Magazine back in 2001 after the horror of September 11th. We will have the link to this article also on our website, bytheloveofhorsesradioshow.ca.
You wrote there that in the early 2000s you made a pilgrimage of sorts to find inner peace at a Maison de priere (House of Prayer) south of Montreal near Mont St. Hilaire for three days. And then you followed this, a little in the footsteps of Leonard Cohen, by going to a Buddhist monastery. You listened to a Buddhist nun who had spent twelve years in a cave, meditating. But afterward you came to realize that there was yet another place for you to find for inner peace. Can you tell me about that other place?
You speak, for example, in the article of being put onto a horse at the age of three and knowing instantly that horses were a place of peace for you. That’s a pretty profound memory. Can you tell us about that moment? Although you were a little embarrassed to admit it, you wrote of being “mystically bound to horses.” Can you tell me a little more about this feeling?
I think what the music and thought of Marie-Lynn Hammond has taught me, in part, is how all of the loves of our life can be interwoven into a life. Our life can become like a tapestry, like an old quilt that our mothers and grandmothers, or even we ourselves, have stitched together over time. Marie-Lynn’s loves of music and words and horses all seem to be beautifully woven together to form a unified vision of the life of a creative person.
I also appreciated the sentiment that you can only work with the resources and circumstances that we have at hand. You’ve got to work with the horse that you have. It’s true of a lot of things in life. You have to start, you have to work, with what you’ve got, rather than waiting for some never-coming-day when you will have more.
The other important lesson I’ve taken away is our need to be adaptable to challenges and changes in circumstance. We have, to be sure, a significant challenge to deal with right now. We need to remain calm, we need to be flexible so that we can do what needs to be done to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our communities safe and moving forward. We have at this time, to borrow Marie-Lynn’s words, a few “flying changes” of our own to do.