Great to see everyone yesterday!

As regular visitors to this blog know, I’ve been cooped up in the house since March 9 when I slipped on a step in front of the house and broke and dislocated my ankle. Before yesterday I had only been out for a doctor’s visit and a haircut. I’ve been putting a premium on protecting my ankle and avoiding re-injury. However, I wasn’t going to miss the opening of my painting exhibition at Yumart (for those who couldn’t make it you can see images of my paintings here).

Yvonne had a chair for me in the gallery…

Me with my little paintings Duck River and Half Past Four
Me with my little paintings Duck River and Half Past Four

….and armed with a cool beer or two, I stayed put, making sure nobody stepped on my outstretched foot. Although I couldn’t very easily wander about and mingle, it worked out OK and I think I had a chance to talk with most of the visitors.


I’d like to extend a big thanks to Y.M. Whelan for her faith and confidence in my painting, to everyone who took time out their Saturday afternoon to drop by the gallery and support my painting folly, to Scott Childs and Jill Cuthbertson for delivering my paintings to Yumart and to Stan Repar, who added hardware to the paintings when my lack of mobility made it difficult.

By the time we arrived home after the opening, my leg was telling me it still had some healing to do. I was pretty sore after an afternoon out, and it was great to lean back and elevate my leg for a while. Will I ever be glad for this injury to heal up so I can get back to some of my normal routines, and I can shed these damned crutches.

The exhibition continues until May 2. Gallery hours are Wednesday – Saturday noon until 6:00.

Down the River I go

I could listen to Cathy Barton and Dave Para sing Down the River I go Uncle Joe all day. I like the tune so much I made a painting after it.

Down the River I Go

That painting is on display at Yumart starting this afternoon as part of my exhibition of new paintings, Ways of the World.

I met Cathy and Dave last year at the Midwest Banjo Camp and learned to play some great tunes from Cathy, who is one of my favourite clawhammer players. If you ever have a chance to see these two perform live, don’t miss it. They’re fantastic players and really nice people too.

Western Plains

Here’s how Leadbelly did it…

Check out these covers…..

Pharis and Jason Romero….

Meredith Axelrod and Craig Ventresco

Trouble on 27th Street

The first problem occurred Saturday afternoon, when the work crew at what was 2 Twenty Seventh Street knocked out power to part of our street for hours by hitting power lines with their equipment.

In the past few days they also dug up the roots close to a number of healthy mature trees. I recall discussion at the OMB hearing on the Consent to Sever this property about how trees would be protected by using piers rather than normal foundations in areas near trees. Neighbours in attendance were assured that trees would be protected, and it would be possible to successfully squeeze the proposed two giant homes on the severed properties without damage to them. What happened to this plan? Orange tree protection fencing was only put up around the one large silver maple at the front of the property, and not around any of the spruces on the south side of the property nor around the white ash on the north side. We understand that approval was given early on for removal of a mature apple and a mature gingko on the property, both in fair condition, to make way for this development. I don’t know if any other trees were finally approved for removal by Forestry.


There were City of Toronto vehicles out in front of the property for much of the day yesterday. Neighbours told us work had been stopped at the site, but I have no confirmation from The City as to what that means. I wasn’t able to get out there during the day to find out first hand what was going on, because of my ankle injury. Sheila went out after walking the dogs to take a couple pictures. One of the Forestry people told her that a number of trees have to come down as they now pose a danger to homes and people. They took tops off a number of trees yesterday.

I am aware that Councillor Grimes has spoken to at least one of our neighbours already and has asked that video and photographs taken by neighbours be sent to his office.  I’m encouraged that our Councillor has been quickly responsive. I’m also very pleased to see a number of concerned neighbours have been very active reacting to the tree damage.

I welcome comments to this blog from the owners of this property, from our Councillor and our Mayor, and from neighbours who live near the property.

We’re concerned there is not enough protection for the community when the shovel hits the ground.

Time for a fiddle tune…

Here’s Chris Coole playing a tune from Henry Reed, known as Quince Dillion’s High D. He’s playing with Alan Jabbour who created field recordings of Henry Reed in the mid-60s when Reed was in his 80s. I particularly like this tune and I’ve been working on learning it on clawhammer banjo (I’ll get it down eventually, he said hopefully). This recording is from one of the concerts at the 2013 Midwest Banjo Camp. I was at the 2014 camp, and hoped to go again this year, but due to my messed up ankle I won’t be able to make the trip.

Moose Turd Pie

I came across Utah Phillips’ magnificent story, “Moose Turd Pie” on the YouTube machine. Do you know it? If now, better take a few minutes and give it a listen. It’s one of my fave stories ever…..

Since we’re on the subject of the late U. Utah Phillips, Golden Voice of the Great Southwest, here’s his lovely song about a man in love with a train – Phoebe Snow. This was on a record that came out in the early 70s called Good Though. I used to have it on vinyl. I might have worn it right out.

Here’s one more, as Utah talks about running for President…

Utah Phillips also wrote one of the most beautiful tunes I know about getting old, The Goodnight Loving Trail. Here’s a lovely version by Sara Grey and Kieron Means. Ian Tyson also did a great version, and so did Joe Ely and also Tom Waits.

Meet the other Eugene Knapik

Eugene Knapik 1913-1983
Eugene Knapik 1913-1983

I was named after my father’s older brother Eugene, who usually went by Gene. My dad was born in 1917 and Gene was born in 1913. Gene was born in Toronto (I believe my dad was born in Montreal), but my father’s side of the family came up from the United States, where, as my father told me, my grandpa played violin in “pit bands” in Chicago, made and repaired violins, and in a whole other side to his life, was in the glove-making business.

Most of my dad’s family played music. My dad played clarinet and sax, Eugene played violin and viola, I believe Billy played cello and my Uncle Harold was a piano prodigy. Uncle Eugene learned violin-making from Grandpa Louie. Maybe others in the family played as well – I’m not sure.

Gene moved to the United states as a young man. Gene and Harold married sisters Eleanor and Virginia. Gene moved to Chicago with Eleanor and Harold and Virginia moved to New York, then Paris, then back to New York (that’s a whole other story). Gene worked as a violin repairman in the Wurlitzer shop, where he met Kenneth Warren Sr. Later, after serving in the military, Gene worked with Kenneth “Bud” Warren Jr at the Kenneth Warren firm after World War II.

I should say that I knew little of Uncle Gene’s life in America, but found out more several months ago. I had watched on YouTube an interview with one of my favourite musicians, David Bromberg, in which he mentioned that he had become an authority on American-made violins, and in fact owned a shop dealing in violins and violin repairs. I decided to write to Mr. Bromberg at his shop to see if he knew of Uncle Gene’s instruments. Mr. Bromberg kindly wrote me back, saying that while he wasn’t familiar with Uncle Gene’s instruments, he was familiar with his name, having heard it on various occasions at the Kenneth Warren shop in Chicago. Mr. Bromberg passed on an email address, which put me in touch with Elaine Warren, who generously put together a package of information about Uncle Gene for me, including the picture above, pictures of Uncle Gene’s instruments and Aunt Eleanor’s sculptures, and photos of Kenneth Warren Jr in the Knapik home.

Gene and Eleanor lived in an apartment at Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard, which is now occupied by the Columbia Condo Association. I learned that they had a cat, and that they were gourmet cooks. Gene and Eleanor moved to Chesterton Indiana to the original homestead of the Graham family after whom the Graham Woods subdivision was named. They had some acreage there, near the East Arm of the Little Calumet River. Mrs Warren recalled they had a huge cooking range in the house. Elanor was known for tiny pies she backed using wild grapes from their land. She also recalled Eleanor’s visual art displayed in their home.

Gene played in a string quartet with another violinumaker from the Warren shop, Ole Steffen Dahl, who also moved to Chesterton. After Gene’s death, Elanor donated the contents of his workshop to the Stringed Instrument Repair Program at Indiana University that originated under Ole Dahl and has continued under the direction of Thomas Sparks. My unkle’s instruments were noted especially for his using linseed oil as a varnishing ingredient. As well as violins and violas, Gene also made cellos based on the “Lord Aylesford” Stradivari once used by the famous cellist Janos Starker.

I may have met my uncle when I was a young boy but I don’t remember doing so. A couple years before his death, my parents visited Gene and Eleanor in Chesterton. I understand at that time, Uncle Gene was quite ill. I’m thankful to have connected with Elaine Warren, who was able to give me a little bit of insight into my dad’s brother, after whom I was named. They’re all gone now, my father and his sister and all his brothers, but they’ve left some pretty interesting stories, and I’m sure it was from them that I received my own love of music.

Ways of the World – new paintings at Yumart opening Saturday afternoon

Fortunately, these days I paint with oils – impasto paint built up over time in layers. I say fortunately because I stopped painting for my upcoming exhibition early in the year to allow for plenty of drying time – meaning my exhibition was ready to go well before I messed up my ankle! I’m also very fortunate to have some great friends who have taken care of putting on the hanging hardware and delivering the paintings to the gallery – Stan and Scott, thanks so much for your help!

Once again I’m showing at Yumart, which is located at 101 Spadina, just below Adelaide, east side, second floor (here in Toronto for readers from elsewhere). The opening reception is Saturday afternoon, April 11, 2:00 to 5:00. I’ll be there, keeping my broken ankle safely out of harm’s way. If you have a chance, stop by and say hi.

Whiskey Before Breakfast
Whiskey Before Breakfast

The exhibition is called Ways of the World. Since my last show in May of 2014, I created a new series of 16 smallish paintings. I painted these while listening to a steady diet of fiddle and banjo tunes, and in fact the title of the exhibition and the titles of several of the paintings come directly from the Old Time music tradition (as some of you know, I’ve been immersing myself in this music in an effort to learn to play clawhammer banjo). It shouldn’t be surprising then, that some of these paintings are light-hearted, rollicking and joyful, while others are darker and melancholy.

Throughout, I worked on several paintings at once in my little basement studio. At different times I removed some and added others to the mix allowing the ideas in various paintings to inform one another in all kinds of ways. All these works were painted in sessions several days to a week apart. As usual, they’re all improvisational. I don’t make any drawings or plans for these things – drawing is painting is thinking.

Time for some button accordion music….

It’s been a while since I’ve posted button accordion music here. This morning I’d like to feature Yves Lambert. A few years ago we were lucky enough to enjoy M. Lambert and his group at the International Accordion Festival in San Antonio. He is a wonderful player and performer. Here’s a more recent taste…