I’ve been spending a lot of time in Ontario lately. A few of my friends thought I moved there to live in Hamilton permanently but the truth is I’ve only gone to visit half a dozen times in the last few months. So they’re not far from the truth, I guess. Today I want to talk about one of my latest favorite gigs. I was hired by a tree service company to play the guitar while they worked on a vast private forest near Hamilton Ontario. It was one of the most beautiful and magical gigs I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing.
The forest was more like an untidy orchard or a coppice. It was used for many things–firewood, fruits, wicker, etc. Throughout history people used tamed forests like this, for reasons like feeding pigs acorns or hunting birds. In the outskirts of Hamilton, this tree service company was hired to cut back the overgrown trees and tame the forest once more after several years of neglect. The trees were neglected because the owner is no longer of an age where he can physically do the work himself, but he still needs firewood and wicker for his home projects. The tree service Hamilton Ontario company knew that they would be there for a while because the work needed to be done was quite extensive. To make their job easier and to take advantage of the beautiful forest atmosphere, they thought a guitar player would do wonders. And they were right.
They needed to get the work done before the weather turned too cold and rainy, or before snow started to fall, and so their hope was that me playing the guitar would boost their morale and help them to work faster to finish the project on time. I brought my favorite song books with me to play a wide range of different styles. While playing my guitar, I watched the arborists trim back dead branches, diagnose diseased trees and treat them, remove stumps, chop firewood and many other tasks. By far, I had the easiest job there, and they were paying me quite well. I think they were very grateful to have me because I was determined to play the guitar the best I could during every minute of their work day.
Compared to my last visit to Ontario, which was amazing and memorable, this time was a magical journey tantamount to a fantasy adventure. I truly felt like a wood elf as I sat up high on a tree branch plucking my guitar strings for a bunch of hardworking dwarves. The coppice was nearly 20 acres and very dense, but I was told my guitar music could be heard from every corner of the property. That’s probably because I played a little louder than usual. It was nice that I didn’t need to sing because we were there for three days and singing for three days straight would’ve been hard on my voice.
This may be my favorite guitar gig for many years to come, because it’ll be very hard to beat the romantic experience of playing music in a tame forest full of singing birds and grateful workers. I wish every guitar player can experience a job like this.