Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Great Classical Joint Reunion: Now that it's over, a look back...

By Kate Hammett-Vaughan

Outside The Classical Joint Coffee House
Provided by Andreas Nothiger personal photo album

Friday night, October 8th, 2010. A night I will never forget. The room was packed with jazz fans and musicians, and everyone was happy. Old friends meeting, chatting, looking at old photographs, enjoying a wonderful slide show of Classical Joint memories. Beautiful.

I have been thinking about what made people so excited about the Reunion (it sold out SO quickly!) and why we (Colleen Savage, Mariken van Nimwegan and I) were each so willing to put so many dozens of volunteer hours into making this one evening happen. I am sure that Colleen and Mariken have stories of their own, but here is mine.

I arrived in Vancouver in September of 1979, and have been playing music here since 1980. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge in three decades. As a reminder, I have kept an archive of most of my musical activities over the years, and the many wonderful people and places I have encountered.  Lots of laughs, lots of learning, a little money, and a lot of love. The life of a happy artist. (I know that ‘happy artist’ may sound like a contradiction in terms,  but I can honestly say that I landed on both feet and the adventure has been wonderful for me. Not without struggle, but wonderful.)

(L-R)Kate Hammett-Vaughan, Colleen Savage, Bonnie Ferguson
By Brian Lynch

As an artist in creative music, it’s easy to feel discouraged sometimes. Despite the great efforts of organizations like Coastal Jazz and many other wonderful arts groups, the fact remains that for most of us, through the year, there are far too few gigs and even less money. We all remember a time in the ‘70s and ‘80s (and for some of the folk gathered at the Friday night reunion, the ‘60s too) when there were many live music venues filled with people who loved the music. (I still see those people at the jazz festival venues, but the vibe of a concert hall is not the same as a jazz club, and the Joint had it’s own special feeling.) Now, with only two clubs in town that pay our top-flight jazz musicians (O’Doul’s and The Cellar), it’s mighty hard to get a regular gig. And, as costs rise, it’s more expensive (and hence more difficult) for us to gather and listen to music in the last of Vancouver’s small jazz rooms. Where do musicians hang out nowadays? Where do they go to jam, to learn from each other?

This current climate played no small part, I believe, in the gathering at the Ironworks. Many of us have such fond memories of those days and of the Classical Joint. It was a haven, a gathering place for artists of all kinds. It was not expensive, the candlelight atmosphere was lovely, everyone seemed happy and relaxed. As a music venue, it was wonderful. Not always hushed, but always respectful to the artists. We felt at home there, and free to experiment and grow. The audience would come every night to see what was happening NOW!

For me, a young singer who landed at the Joint in about 1980, it was heaven. Live jazz, great musicians, people willing to share their knowledge, tell me stories, treat me as if I was a part of the family… it was a built-in community that I was able to slip into, like a favorite old coat. Warm and comfortable. I felt a part of the scene.

And the Joint was like jazz school for me. Every gig I played was an adventure and a performance exam. I had so much to learn. I will always be grateful to the many, many musicians who were so kind and patient with me. Michael Guild, Hugh Fraser, Paul Blaney, Graham Ord, Bonnie Ferguson, Colleen Savage, Al Weirtz… it’s a very long list. As I type these names I realize (again) that I had some of the greatest musicians in the land as teachers, and they became my life-long friends.

Andreas Nothiger, the proprietor of the Classical Joint, unknowingly taught me a lot as well. His patience, open-minded attitude, support of the arts, and his ability to ride out the vagaries of 20 years as the owner of the Joint showed me what it meant to be a member of a community, and how to support it. Working on this reunion concert as a co-producer with my dear friends at Coastal Jazz and Blues Society was a part of that legacy.

Candlelight tables inside the Joint
Provided by Andreas Nothiger personal photo album

Friday’s concert brought back so many memories for so many people. It was a bit like stepping into a time capsule in that wonderful candlelit room at the Ironworks. One of the things that I found particularly moving was that huge group of gifted musicians, 30 years of struggle later, all still completely in love with music and having a great time playing together, And it was marvellous to be able to shine the spotlight on Andreas, to thank the man behind the scenes who made it all possible. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without the Joint. I think a lot of people feel that way, and Friday night was a lovely way to remember it. Now it’s over. I’m tired, yes, but so happy that I had a hand in making the Classical Joint live again for just one more night.


  1. nice piece - great work Kate!

  2. Thanks again Kate, Colleen, and Mariken for a fabulous and memorable night.


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