Special Presentations

Born and raised in Powell River on the BC coast, Brian has always had a strong “sense of place” for the coast he loves.  He has worked in all of its major resource industries and as well, he has been an historical consultant, primarily to First Nations and the Federal Government, on issues concerning the historical and legal basis of Indian land rights.  Extensive research over the years into historical documentation has resulted in a deep and detailed awareness BC’s past along with many of its fascinating – and often humorous – stories and connections.  But he is also a musician and this knowledge informs some of his song writing as well as an appreciation for songs that date from that various periods of that colourful history.

He has recently combined these passions to create musically based presentations of 1-2 hours in length about BC’s history and working life that are not only uniquely engaging, perceptive and entertaining but guaranteed to add to an audience’s “sense of place”.

1.  Contact – Stories and Songs of the Relationship between Aboriginals and Europeans on the West Coast.  This mixed media presentation, combining history and law and leavened with both original and collected songs, traces the trajectory of relations between aboriginals and the whites who came to this land.  It begins with some fascinating details about first contact – for example, we know that the Spaniards and local Indians sang to each other when they met in 1792 -and proceeds to take the listener through the fur trade, the Gold Rush and subsequent betrayal of First Nations by the colonial, provincial and federal governments, to the growing appreciation of aboriginal legal rights, art and culture.  This presentation has been given at Vancouver’s KCC Playbook Salon, and twice at the Vancouver Folk Song Society.

2.  Stories of the BC Coast:  A History in Song.  Story telling and song provide colourful snapshots of the BC coast during the past two centuries of change.  Many of them are humorous, some are gritty, and they take us from the time of contact and the fur trade, through to the building of the CPR and the Great Fire, to the burgeoning forestry and fishing industries and even the rum-running trade.  And when Brian is joined by fiddle sensation Michael Burnyeat, the arrivals of various ethnic music traditions at different times of BC’s history are highlighted with some dazzling fiddle tune sets. 

Our debut presentation to a full house at the Hastings Mill Museum, (the oldest building in Vancouver) was a considered a tour de force by all who attended.  Our latest presentation (April 30, 2021), was an hour long version as a live webinar with Ships2Shores (https://ships2shores.ca/), a Federally funded organization aimed at educating young Canadians about our maritime heritage.

Performing the “Grand Hotel”, from the Phil Thomas collection of BC songs,
with Michael Burnyeat at the Hastings Mill Museum

3.  Working Life on the BC Coast: BC’s industries, with their great visual imagery, have been a source of inspiration for many modern songwriters including Brian.  This presentation features authentic songs from the forest, fishing and mining industries among others, with brief explanations of the colourful jargon-laden lyrics to help the listener appreciate the worker’s experience in those jobs.  The inaugural presentation at the 2018 Chehalis Dance Weekend at Camp Luther on the shores of Hatzic Lake was enthusiastically received by the many attendees.   On April 16, 2021, a single industry focused live webinar titled Singing the BC Fishing was hosted by Ships2Shores (see above) and some of the cross-Canada feedback included: “…fun and interesting…”, “thanks for the very nice performance and the education that went along with it…”, “…you both did a great job…”.

Queries for more information with a view to possible future presentations, are welcome.  E-mail Brian at [email protected]