Writer Charlene Diehl and Jazz Bassist Steve Kirby perform at the MWG 30th Anniversary Cabaret Sat. May 12 (Leif Norman and Heather Madill Jordan)
Jazz musicians are basically speaking to one another--it's composition at the speed of conversation. You get better at talking when you talk more, and that's equally true of musicians.
—Steve Kirby, Jazz Bassist
What better way to celebrate the written word than with a cabaret that pairs words and music?
The Manitoba Writers' Guild is celebrating its 30th anniversary. From May 9 - 12 they've organized keynote speakers, readings, panels, papers and presentations examining the last 100 years of Manitoba writing.
Charlene Diehl is a writer/performer, and the Director of THIN AIR. Steve Kirby is a jazz bassist, and the Director of the Jazz Studies program at U of M. Together they are the editorial muscle behind dig! magazine, and they are performing at the Words and Music Cabaret at this week's Symposium on Manitoba Writing on Saturday May 12.
SCENE wanted to push the boundaries of these two fine artists with some probing questions:
Charlene, what's your "desert island" CD?
I migrate through various listening phases, but at the moment I would probably choose Wayne Shorter's Alegria--the arrangements are brilliant, and the range of styles keeps me fed. Shorter speaks with that sax--I think his voice would keep me company.
Steve, what's your "desert island" book?
I can't remember the name of this cookbook--but it tells you how to cook all sorts of odd stuff like cow udders. I would take that and hope for the best. (Charlene's comment: Ever the pragmatist!)
Charlene, what have you learned from writing for dig! magazine?
I've learned that you can almost always remove another 50 words, and doing so will almost always make a piece better. Seriously.
Steve, you have been hosting regular gig nights in the jazz scene. Why is that experience so crucial to jazz musicians?
Jazz musicians are basically speaking to one another--it's composition at the speed of conversation. You get better at talking when you talk more, and that's equally true of musicians. We get together at the Cool Wednesday Night Hang every week, and there's no shortage of talking going on! Not only the faculty and students in the Jazz Studies program, but other musicians who drop in, including a bunch of keen high school kids.
Charlene, what is the single most important reason to attend a writing symposium?
To me, the combination of creative work and critical reflection on that work is exhilarating. A lot of readers know what they like, but when writers get together, they have an opportunity to chew away at the strategies and decisions that actually construct those effects.
Steve, if you were to write a book, what kind would it be?
I would write about the privilege of being human--so I guess that'd be ... a mystery?
Charlene, what is the best piece of advice someone ever gave you?
I was a nighttime worrier as a kid, and my dad passed along his dad's advice to him: the things you worry about most hardly ever happen. I'm not sure that's actually true, but it's a good strategy for interrupting that vortex of anxiety that can really grab you, even when you're no longer a fearful little kid.
Steve, what is the best advice you've ever received?
Imagine the last three minutes of your life, then look back and see if you're proud of every decision you've made. I like that--it helps me think clearly.
Charlene, if you could play one instrument what would it be--and what
would your dream gig be?
I do play piano, and occasionally I pick up the trombone, an instrument I played 40 years ago (!) in school. My heart's dream is to play my own voice with more courage and less restraint, and to perform language with an adventurous jazz musician or two.
Steve, what can people expect from your performance with Charlene on Saturday?
They can expect what it's like to realize an endless summer. (Charlene's comment: Okay, maybe not only a pragmatist!)
Don't miss the Symposium on Manitoba Writing 30th Anniversary Cabaret on Saturday May 12, 8:00 p.m. at the West End Cultural Centre. Other performers include Patrick Friesen with Marilyn Lerner; Margaret Sweatman with Glen Buhr; and Tomson Highway.