Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Friday, July 29, 2016


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter

Just about everybody else had left, but Helen and I were not about to. It’s not every day you get to sit around late into the night with Chad Mitchell and Mike Kobluk and Joe Frazier, “The Chad Mitchell Trio,” the very best of what Dave Van Ronk called “the great folk scare of the 1960s,” singing all their delightful old hits, some of them the songs of John Denver from when he replaced Chad in the Trio when Chad went solo.

Joe announced that he was tired and was leaving to go to bed. He was almost to the door when someone asked Mike, who is originally from Canada, to sing the haunting “Song for Canada,” written by Ian Tyson and Peter Gzowski. Banjoist Paul Prestipino and bassist Ron Greenstein and guitarist Bob Hefferan were in the process of putting their instruments away, but they pulled them back out of their cases when Mike said, “Okay. We’re in Canada. I guess I have to sing it.” [1]

Joe turned around and came back into the room. “No, you go on,” said Mike. “You’re tired. I can sing this by myself.”

“No, you can’t,” said Joe, matter-of-factly. “You can’t do your own woo-woos.”

Mike has such a beautiful voice. He does all of Ian Tyson’s Canadian songs, like “Four Strong Winds,” so feelingly. That’s the way he sang “Song for Canada,” for just a few of us tired but mellow listeners, “Lonely northern river always flowin’ to the sea…”
I, though, was listening to the baritone woo-woos of my friend, Joe, those barely audible sounds like the rippling river, supporting Mike’s flowing bass.

Sometimes your only role is to sing backup, but your woo-woos make all the difference to the song.


1] We were on an autumn “Canadian Foliage Tour,” by Traveling Troubadours, from NYC up the Atlantic coast along Canada.

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